Today Pastor Choi continues his series on gratitude. After recapping his past three sermons, he points out three blessings of being thankful: Christ’s peace, effective prayers, and God’s deliverances. He exhorts God’s people to stay thankful so that they may be in the will of God.
Following is a summary of his sermon:
Three Blessings Not to Miss 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Let’s read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (bolded in bulletin) one more time in unison: 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
We cannot be in the will of God without giving thanks. Anyone who wants to be in the will of God must be thankful. If we are not thankful for whatever reason, we are not in the will of God. To be thankful is also a command of God. That means if we are not thankful, we are disobedient to God. Anyone who wants to be obedient to God must master and practice it all the time: be thankful in all circumstances.
I would like to recap the messages I preached so far on gratitude. First, I made a distinction between the two words ‘thankful’ and ‘grateful’: grateful is to be appreciative of something good that happened. Thankful covers more: it is an intentional act of trusting God even in adversity.
Next, I talked about what helps us to stay thankful: worship. Worship is the key to staying thankful because it shifts our focus from ourselves to God. Even when we have nothing to be grateful for in our lives, in worship we can remain thankful for God’s attributes—that God is good; His mercies endure forever; His faithfulness lasts from generation to generation.
Last time, I talked about ten lepers who were all healed by Jesus. Only one came back to Jesus to thank. The lesson for us is not to put off the opportunity of giving thanks both to God and to people.
Today, I am going to talk about three blessings that we will miss out on if we are not thankful.
In our Methodist teachings, we believe in two means of God’s grace: that is, two ways/channels through which God’s blessings flow unto us. We call those ‘means of grace’ sacraments. There are two sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (communion). Each time we partake in these sacraments, we are blessed.
Personally, there’s one more sacrament. You may want to call it a personal means of God’s grace. A personal way of receiving God’s blessings. It is thanksgiving. If I don’t do this, I miss out on God’s blessings that are lavishly poured out unto me. My lack of thankfulness, in fact, blocks the flow of divine grace in my life: like the lid of a cup would keep the water from freely flowing into the cup. Now, if you agree with me so far, then we can proceed.
In the Scripture, I can identify three blessings that we will miss out on if we are not thankful in any circumstances. They are: the peace of Christ, effective prayers, and God’s miracles. Let’s think about them one by one.
Colossians 3:15-17 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Look at verse 15. Thankfulness is equal to the peace of Christ in our heart. Giving thanks is the foundation of God’s peace. No thanksgiving means no peace. Please note here that Paul the apostle is not merely talking about any kind of peace (not human peace, not the world’s peace, nor the peace money can buy), but Christ’s peace. The peace that only Christ can give. The peace that the world cannot give, understand, or take away. God’s promise of such peace is given to those who are thankful. Please note here in verse 15 the semi-colon ‘;’ between the two sentences: in Greek grammar, by separating the two sentences with the semi-colon, the author further explains in the second sentence what he means in the previous sentence. In other words, the preceding sentence is not complete without the following sentence. Sometimes, the author repeats the same thing twice in a different way to emphasize the point.
Here, the apostle tells us that without the second sentence we cannot have the first sentence and vice versa. In other words, only those who are thankful in all circumstances can have the peace of Christ and only Christ’s peace helps us to be thankful even in bad circumstances. Please also note here that Christ’s peace is a gift from God to which we are called. God has called every child of God to receive this gift of peace in their hearts. It is God’s will for us to have it, keep it, and use it as an umpire to rule in whatever we do and say.
I am sure every one of us wants that peace of Christ to dwell in our hearts: the peace that surpasses all understanding and the peace that transcends all circumstances. How can we have it? By being thankful. E.g. Before my college entrance exam, my heart was in turmoil until one night God flooded it with thankfulness. For the next two weeks until the day of exam, I was in total peace.
Experiment with the following this week: Try to be unthankful (or even grumpy) all week-long and see if you can still have Christ’s peace in your heart. I bet you can’t. On the other hand, try this one, too. Try to be thankful in everything this week, and see if you have God’s peace in you all the time. I bet you will. Let’s move on.
Philippians 4:6-7 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Thankfulness is a key to effective and answered prayers. If you want to enhance your prayer life, bring your requests to God in thanksgiving.
Look at verse 6. What’s the best antidote to your spiritual infection called “worries”? It’s prayer. People of God have tried this medicine for thousands of years and proved it works. Prayer cures/kills our worries. In fact, Christ commands us to regularly practice two things as a means of curing our worries: prayers (for self) and supplications (for others).
Let me share with you a secret of prayer that would make your prayers and petitions far more effective than before. That is, “Wrap them up with thanksgiving.” In other words, present your prayers with thanksgiving. Many of us, when we pray, bring our requests to God like a shopping list. We ask Him, “God, please do this and that for me. Amen.” How about wrapping them up or “sandwiching” them with thanksgiving? Why don’t we begin our prayers with words of thanks for what God has done for us and our family? E.g. One night I decided to pray differently than usual. So, I started with thanksgiving for all the things God has done for me in my entire life. It was a long list for over 50 years of life. For the next hour, I was totally immersed in thanksgiving and my heart was overflowing with gratitude. My soul was in heaven. By the time I wanted to bring my prayer list, I didn’t have to. I felt God already heard and knew what I needed.
One more point here on supplications: when you make a plea on behalf of your loved ones (especially prodigal ones), do not intercede against them. In other words, do not start the prayer like this: “Lord, my son has been very bad, you know. He hurt so many people.” Instead, intercede with thanksgiving. Begin with one thing or two that you are thankful for him no matter how small they may be: like, “Lord, it’s been a while since I heard from my son, but he called me once on Mother’s Day long time ago, and I am still grateful for that.” Then, move onto your petitions. The point is to wrap up your prayers and petitions with thanksgiving. You will see the difference.
Here’s another thing you can try this week: Whenever you pray to God, wrap up your requests with thanksgiving. See what happens.
Psalm 50:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
23 “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me;
And to him who orders his way aright
I shall show the salvation of God.”
Once again, here we see giving thanks to God is directly related to God’s deliverance. When you thank God, it prepares the way of God’s salvation for you. Thankfulness precedes God’s deliverance. Do you want God to rescue you from troubles? Do you want God’s miracles in your life? Then, offer your thanksgiving to God. Thanksgiving is like cleaning your living room before you invite the President of the U.S.A. to your house. Do your part of being thankful and God will do His part of delivering you from your troubles.
Here are a couple of people who have experienced that: Jonah and Jesus.
First, Jonah. He was stuck in the belly of the big fish in a complete darkness and covered with salt water and seaweed. He stayed there three days. He was miserable. Read Jonah chapter 2: in verse 9, he thanked God in the midst of his misery and in verse 10, immediately; the fish spat him out onto the dry land! His thanksgiving paved the path for salvation.
Jonah 2 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, 2 and he said,
- “I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
9 But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the Lord.”
- Then the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land.
The other person who experienced God’s miracle after thanksgiving was Jesus: He fed 5000 people with five loaves and two fish.
John 6:11 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated;
Notice the sequence of actions: Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, and then God’s miracle happened. You will see over and over again God’s miracles done this way: thanksgiving followed by deliverance.
Do you want to be thankful? Then, do not rely on your feelings, because they may never come. Rather, learn to use your will power to be thankful to God in all circumstances. Begin with small thanks and do it more often every day until it becomes a part of you. Practice makes perfect.
Why thankful? Because it prepares the way to have Christ’s peace, effective prayers, and God’s miracles.
Be thankful in all circumstances. It is God’s will for you.