Recently, my brother Nimal, who was formerly a ship’s captain and is now a lay Pastor in our church, shared the Word of God in one of our services. In that sermon he expressed his appreciation and thanks to me for being the first in our family circle to accept the Lord Jesus & for holding on to that commitment in the midst of much opposition. The end result, he mentioned, was that he and eventually our entire family, came to salvation. I was so glad that after all these years he still remembered and was thankful.
We live in a world where gratitude is often not expressed and help given is easily forgotten. Undercutting and backstabbing seem to be the order of the day! That brings me to the main thought in my sermon.
Proposition: Develop a heart of thankfulness
In this sermon, I would like to challenge you to be thankful for 3 things.
1) Be thankful for God’s goodness to you
In Deuteronomy 8, God reminds His people of how He had looked after them in the wilderness. He reminds them of the manna that He fed them with (Deuteronomy 8:3) and how their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell up (Deuteronomy 8:4). From Deuteronomy 8:6-9, God then paints a beautiful picture of all the blessings and wealth that awaited them in the Promised Land. From verse Deuteronomy 8:11-18 however, He warns them not to forget His goodness, once they begin to enjoy those same blessings. He says, “Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11) and warns them in verse 17, ‘you may say to yourself,” My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me”. In fact, the word ‘forget’ is mentioned 3 times and the word ‘remember’ once, in that portion of scripture.
It amazes me how easily people forget God’s blessings. So often He blesses them when they cry out to Him but they don’t have time for Him thereafter. I have prayed with people for suitable employment but once they get the blessing, their office work, and not God, gets all their time and commitment. I have prayed with others for healing but once their health is restored, they go after worldly pursuits with no time for God! Sad, but often true!
Another way we forget God’s goodness is that in spite of all His blessings, we look at others blessings and begin to grumble at what we think we lack, in comparison. For many years God was Israel’s King and provided for the Nation. However, in 1 Samuel 8, Israel unashamedly asks for a human King of their own, to keep pace with the Nations around them. They were asking for trouble and boy, didn’t they get it! They forgot God’s goodness.
Compare also how Solomon responded with much humility to God‘s promise for success offered to him in 2 Chronicles 1:7-12, asking only for wisdom and knowledge to lead the people of Israel (2 Chronicles 1:10). In 1 Kings 11:3-6 however, we sadly see that in later years, Solomon’s heart turned to other gods (1 Kings 11:4) and that he did evil in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 11:6). He forgot God’s goodness.
Illustration: At our small group meetings, an elderly brother I knew who passed on to glory, would often testify about the day God saved him and the blessings that followed, and then request us to sing the old hymn ‘Heaven came down and glory filled my soul’. He was always thankful for God’s goodness in his life.
Illustration: I am reminded of another Gospel song that I learned a long time ago titled ‘Remind me O Lord’. It fits well with what this sermon is all about. The chorus went as follows.
Draw back the curtain of memory, now and then,
Show me where you brought me from, and where I might have been,
Remember I’m human and humans forget,
So, remind me, remind me, O Lord.
Let’s be thankful for God’s goodness to us.
2) Be thankful for others’ goodness to you
A senior Manager brings a younger person under him and imparts all his wisdom and skill to the younger employee. After gaining all the experience needed, the younger person undercuts the Senior Manager and grabs his position. A young lady invites a friend going through trouble into their home for a season, to help her through her trauma. She begins an affair with the friend’s husband and the family is devastated. How often we hear stories like this. It reminds us that we need to cultivate thankfulness in our lives and not forget what others do for us.
As much as people may like to brag about it, nobody makes it on their own. Along the way, there have been people who have invested their time, wisdom, advice and skills in us. People have given us a helping hand when we needed it badly and that served as the catalyst needed for us to succeed. But, how often we forget them! I can think of so many people who have helped me along life’s journey and in the progress of my ministry. I remember my aunt Rita who was the first to take me to a church, which led to my salvation, a lady named Beryl who was the first to disciple me and our Founder Pastor Dr Colton Wickramaratne and his dear wife Susanne (now gone to glory), who gave me amazing advice and trusted me with ministry responsibilities. My Senior Pastor, Dishan Wickramaratne and his wife Jayani have been a tower of strength to our family and ministry; so too the Pastoral staff I serve with. I can go on naming others but it will be a long list! Maybe you too are thinking right now of someone who has impacted your life. Well, it just might be a good time to thank them by giving them a call or sending them a ‘thank you’ card. A special gift may well be in order! For some of us, this may be a great season to honor our spiritual leaders. It is truly sad that the only words Pastors hear from some believers are words of criticism. Thankfully, most people are appreciative of the Pastor’s efforts. The poem ‘Bring me all your flowers now’ tells us to thank and appreciate people while they are alive and not when they are dead and no longer able to hear or receive our words or acts of appreciation!
- In 1 Samuel 23:1-12, David saved the people of Keilah from the horrors of being captured by the Philistines. In response, the gratitude they showed him was that they were ready to hand him and his followers over to King Saul.
- Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s cupbearer’s dream favorably in Genesis 40, but the man showed ample ingratitude by forgetting Joseph (Genesis 40:23).
- Barnabas befriended Paul as a true brother when others were wary of Paul’s conversion story (Acts 9:26-28). Although Barnabas was the lead partner initially in their joint ministry, we see him stepping back, to allow Paul’s ministry to flourish (Read through Acts chapters 11 through 15). Sadly, when a conflict arose between them about John Mark’s commitment (Acts 15:36-40), Paul I feel (others may not agree with me), could have been more gracious in accepting Barnabas’ decision, which was later shown to possibly be correct (2 Timothy 4:11). As a result, they went their separate ways and a great ministry partnership was broken!
Illustration: I read an inspiring article by the famous pop singer Gloria Estefan in a Readers’ Digest magazine. In the article, Gloria showered words of appreciation on her first grade school teacher who helped her adjust to school life, overcome bullying and to learn English as a new student. Gloria even went a step further and made arrangements once for her teacher to attend a concert she was performing at in the teacher’s town!
Let’s be thankful for the goodness others have shown to us.
3) Be thankful for our family’s goodness to us
How often we take our spouse, children, parents and other family members for granted. We forget what they have been to us through their love, faithfulness and commitment. It is said that our home is the place where we are loved the most but where we sometimes get hurt the most! Being thankful and being appreciative is one of the ways we can stifle Satan’s strategies to invade our homes.
In my ministry I have seen relationships between family members crippled through a lifetime over a plot of land, an inheritance that seemed to favor one member over another, and over finances and bank accounts. Some people harbor grudges for years because they have not been invited for a family function!
The Bible has many stories of dysfunctional situations in families, two of which are shown below.
- Absalom’s ingratitude towards his father David, resulting in his attempt to usurp the throne. Read through 2 Samuel chapters 14-15.
- Abraham lying about his wife Sarah, not once, but twice, to save his own skin (Genesis 12:12-13, 20:1-2, 11-13). Talk about being heroic! I wonder how our wives would react if we did the same to them!!
Let’s learn to thank and appreciate our family members!
Husbands: Remember the girl you met at the altar, the one who bore your child and has stood by your side faithfully. Be thankful. Why not express your thanks in a new and romantic way? The Kenny Rogers song says,
Buy me a rose, call me from work, open the door for me, what would it hurt.
Wives: Remember the man you fell in love with and swooned over. Be thankful for what he has been to you. A little gray hair or extra weight need not bring negativity to your feelings!
Children: Be thankful for the mother who bore you inside of her; the father who has sacrificed so much for you. Listening to the song ‘No Charge’ will definitely help if you are struggling in your relationship with your parents! And please, don’t put pressure on them that they can’t bear. I guess that works both ways!!
Parents: Be thankful for the children God has blessed you with. Remember the joy they brought you in the growing up years. (My children are 10 and 7 years and I treasure the adventures I have with them). Children may have their ups and downs and sow some ‘wild oats’, but it’s our love, prayers and understanding that will carry them through.
Siblings: Be thankful for the years and times you had together in days gone by.
Widows/Widowers: Remember your deceased spouse with pleasant memories and a thankful heart. Maybe you can write your thoughts down. Think of the joy of meeting them in Heaven one day.
Illustration: My father had a massive stroke at 62. He lived for 4 more years but his paralysis got worse gradually and he eventually lost his speech. When he passed away, trying to comfort my mother who had to attend to all his needs for 4 long years, I insensitively said that maybe it was best that he was taken at that point. Her reply shamed me. She said that she would rather be thankful to still have him around with all his limitations, than to lose him.
I realize that some reading this may not have had too great a family experience. Maybe you are divorced or separated and struggling alone as a single parent. Maybe you’ve been through an abusive family situation. Ask Jesus to make life meaningful for you once again and He will come through for you. That may sound rather simplistic but it is so true. He is a Savior who brings restoration into lives!!
Make this a week of being thankful to God, to others and to your family members. Make it a season to remember the goodness you have received. God bless you!!
If you have been blessed by this sermon, I would love to hear from you. You can leave your comments below or send me an email by clicking here.