Sunday, November 27, 2005

Always Thankful

Intro.: There was once a good king in Spain called Alfonso XII. Now it came to the ears of this king that the pages at his court forgot to ask God’s blessing on their daily meals, and he determined to rebuke them. He invited them to a banquet which they all attended. The table was spread with every kind of good food, and the boys ate with evident relish; but not one of them remembered to ask God’s blessing on the food. During the feast a beggar entered, dirty and ill-clad. He seated himself at the royal table and ate and drank to his heart’s content. At first the pages were amazed, and they expected that the king would order him away. But Alfonso said never a word. When the beggar had finished he rose and left without a word of thanks. Then the boys could keep silence no longer, “What a despicably mean fellow!” they cried. But the king silenced them, and in clear, calm tones he said, “Boys, bolder and more audacious than this beggar have you all been. Every day you sit down to a table supplied by the bounty of your Heavenly Father, yet you ask not His blessing nor express to Him your gratitude.i

Read: Philippians 4:12-23


Trans: Today we stand at the crossroads.

  1. Last week was Thanksgiving.

  2. This is the final sermon from Philippians

  3. And it is the first Sunday of Advent.

  4. In the next few minutes we will bring those three milestones together as we explore thankfulness.

T.S. Philippians 4:12-23 illustrates the need for believers to be thankful for what God has given to us and for what God has done for us.

  1. Be thankful for what God has given

(Ill.) I think my oldest memory of Christmas is the gifts. Now, some fifty years later, I know that Christmas is not primarily about giving – but giving is a part of our tradition. Amazingly, having said that, Christmas is about giving – not our giving, but God's giving.

    1. This includes the things he has given

      1. Paul has learned to be grateful for all that God provides. The financial support offered by the Philippian church is a wonderful demonstration of God's grace.

(Ill.) Things have been a part of Christmas giving from the very beginning. Gerald Ward tells a wonderful story about the three wise men who followed the star to Bethlehem. It seems that one of them was a young man, and in his youthful idealism he looked for a King. He carried gold, a fitting gift for royalty. Another was middle-aged, and to satisfy the deep questions that disturbed his maturing mind, he longed to find God. His gift was frankincense with which to worship God whom he hoped to find. The third was aged, with many a sin-stained year behind him; he longed to discover a Saviour. Feeling that his Saviour must be a sufferer, he took with him a gift of healing myrrh.ii

      1. Sometime we try to minimize the giving, becomes it becomes too big part of our lives. But we don't ever want to forget that giving was also a part of the very earliest Christmas.

    1. This includes the people he has given

      1. Paul is very much aware that God's gifts are not only “things

      2. God's gifts also includes the people that he puts in our paths

      3. Most of the things that God allows to come our way, come by way of people. Epaphroditus is the example in today's passage – but it was the people

      4. Certainly he is aware of Epaphroditus' role in bringing the Philippian church

      5. As we saw last week, though he disappointed in the current relationship of Euodia and Syntyche, he is thankful for their contribution to his ministry

(Ill.) As I look around here this morning, I find myself much like Paul. - thankful for the contribution you have made to my ministry. As I look around, I remember the way you have been involved in my life. I look at each of you and remember conversations, I remember moments of the last 3-1/2 years. I am grateful for all that you have contributed to Sandra's and my life over that time.

(Appl.) As you move through this holiday season, don't forget to be thankful for all that God has given you. Whether it be the things that are yours or the people that God has allowed to be part of your life. God has allowed these things and these people to shape your life. You are who you are because God has been at work in your lives – and, this holiday season, we need to be grateful for those things and people God has used.

  1. Be thankful for what God has done

(Ill.) The word “Christmas” is derived from two words – Christ and mass. Originally the mass, before it came to refer the practice of receiving the Lord's supper, was the final movement in a worship service. Christmas is first of all a time for worship of the one sent for us.

(Ill.) Sometime ago, while pastoring my first church in La Farge, WI, shortly before the lunch hour the local National Public Radio station had a program that read current novels. One Fall they read a novel that has ended up being a classic novel for young adults – Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time. This famous author wrote, “When we celebrate Christmas we are celebrating that amazing time when the Word that shouted all the galaxies into being, limited all power, and for love of us came to us in the powerless body of a human baby.”iii

    1. In the NT, God began in work with Christmas, and it continued when we find Jesus Christ on the cross.

    2. But even then it was not done. Look at his prayer in verse 19 - “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”iv

    3. God is still at work accomplishing all that he wants done. In our lives individually, in the church, and in the world.

(Appl.) Take time this week to look around you. What has God done for you? What is God doing in your life now? Take time to thank God this holiday season for his work in your life.

Conclusion: Let me conclude with one more comment.

  1. I hope that thankfulness was part of your experience this thanksgiving.

  2. I trust that thankfulness will be a part of the remainder of your holiday season.

  3. But a thankful attitude is not unique to Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  4. My real prayer is that we each can develop an attitude of thankfulness that continues into the new year and does not stop.

  5. May we learn to always be thankful for what God given to us – whether they be things or people. And may we learn to be always thankful what what God is doing in our lives.


iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiiMadeline L’Engle in Water, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 199). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

ivThe Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Php 4:19). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

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