We sat around the table, looking at the “Poor Man’s French toast,” which was bread fried in a little margarine, sprinkled with a bit of sugar. It wasn’t often we had the luxury of an egg to dip the bread in, or syrup to pour on it. We had other versions of meals we laughingly labeled as “Poor Man’s…” but the French toast was a favorite.
Like so many people, I had married my husband while a good portion of his paycheck was going out for custody–the punishment for letting your emotions rule your head, having children, but not the years with the Lord to have learned to lean on Him when the times got tough. Kids, then divorce, was followed by financial chaos. Eventually ruin came closing in on a second marriage. Too little income, too much outgo. It is the reality of existence for many people, and it certainly was for us.
Mother and Daddy were aware things were tough, but Mother was about as tight-fisted as one who lived through the great Depression could be. She never got over the frugality of spending a penny more than she needed to. To give to a child (so, we were adults, but always a child, as any parent knows), even one in their thirties, was not her way. For some reason, though, she decided one Christmas to be generous. As we sat around her floor, they opened the presents we had made for them. Fortunately, crafts were beautiful and welcome gifts, and we “made” the most of the situation (pun intended). Mother usually considered clothes the best gift she could give, with perhaps a small toy put in to make a child happy.
The last gift she gave us was an envelope: I opened it, (my husband was glad to let me), and I looked at the check. It was for $1,000. Had it been for $10,000, I could not have been more shocked, as Mother (as stated) did not waste money. I’m sure she worried I would spend it on something frivolous! It took a moment to sink in, then I burst into tears–the outpouring of an accumulation of stress, instantly and emotionally being relieved by the simple numbers on the paper. I sobbed for so long, as I look back, that I’m sure Mother was well-rewarded for her generosity. I’ve never forgotten the moment, the gift, or the gratefulness in our hearts as we accepted what she had given us.
We have just come through another Thanksgiving season, when the majority of Americans hopefully remembered that we have been blessed beyond most nations–and knew Whom to thank for the bounty we enjoy. Shared before, it always brings another memory, one which we did for awhile, then let slide by the wayside, always intending to get back into the habit.
You see, our minds are so busy that what is important today, and what we are sure we will remember for years to come, is gone by next week. Our family realized this, so one Thanksgiving we began our “Thanksgiving Jar.” Every time something wonderful happened, we wrote it down and folded the paper, putting it in the jar. As the year passed, the jar got more and more full. By the next Thanksgiving it was to the top, and now we were ready to read what was written on the pieces of paper. One after another we drew the notes out, and in turn, read them. We laughed, we cried, we remembered, and we praised the One from whom all blessings flow! And–as we had thought–most of the blessings had been forgotten, fallen under the weight of life and the day to day crises that come. It was the most blessed of all the Thanksgivings we had ever had.
Have you every thought of doing that? A grateful heart is one of the most joyous character traits one can have. That is probably why Paul said, “in whatsoever situation I find myself, I have learned to be content.” He was so grateful for the gift of salvation that he never got over it. Being thankful comes from a heart of humility–which God loves. When we are saying “Thank you,” we are saying that the one who has given us something has favored us when we feel there are a world of people more deserving.
Get your notebooks, your pen, a comfy chair, and something to drink. Then go to http://www.trbc.org/sermon-archive, and click on the sermon for Sunday, November 26, 2017. Jonathan Falwell of Thomas Road Baptist Church preached on A Heart of Thankfulness, and as you watch, let the Holy Spirit fill your soul with gratefulness that God has offered YOU the opportunity to become one of His adopted children! If you have someone to watch it with, listen to the beautiful music, and sing along with the congregation. Be thankful you have a way to watch the service, hearing, intelligence, eyes to see, and a God who loves you enough to die for you!
The Heart of Thanksgiving Pastor Jonathan Falwell
Being commended for a job—even one that is expected of you (like mowing grass or cleaning a room!)—leaves us with a sense of gratefulness that someone has noticed and appreciated our effort. Can you give an example, realizing we’re doing it, not for boasting, but to make a point?
Sunday we finished the last hours of four days traditionally known in America as the “Thanksgiving holiday.” These days were hopefully filled with an abundance of food, family, and thankfulness for blessings of the past year. If you were not able to be with friends or family, our hope is that you were still able to spend time thanking God for His kindnesses to you as this year has passed. Possessing a grateful heart is one of the important characteristics of one who wants to be genuine as a Christ-follower. Paul gives us much guidance in the short book of Colossians, knowing if we set our mind to be more aware of, and thankful for, our blessings, we will pass on a joyous legacy.
Focal Passages: Colossians 3:12-17.
Think About or Discuss:
The Heart of Gratitude
- Read verse 12. We often hear the word “intentional” used today. What are the characteristics that Paul encourages us to be “intentional” about, in this verse? If you’re by yourself, keep a notebook handy for your answers.
- What is the connection between the qualities listed in the verse (which might differ according to your translation), and the trait of being thankful? The deeper question is, what is the foundation upon which being thankful is set?
- What is the relationship between gratefulness and humility? Explain how you see it.
- Read verses 13-14. No one is perfect, including you! What list of sins could Jesus recite against you, if He wanted to? Have you asked for forgiveness? What is the analogy between you being forgiven by Christ (undeservedly so, like the rest of us), and you forgiving those who antagonize you?
- In verse 14, another action is intentional; what is it? What are some ways you can “put on” love? Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Why in Col. 3:14 does Paul call love the “bond of perfection”? How is that linked with 1 Cor. 13:4-8a?
- Who does the world encourage you to put first? Why is that contrary to the Word of God?
- Read verse 15. How do you attain God’s peace? How can you let it rule in your heart? Why is that important?
- Everyone has friends who do not know about or care about God. Why is it important to maintain most of your fellowship with believers? How are some ways you can love an unbeliever but not let them influence you?
- Why does Paul add “and be thankful” at the end of this verse? How does Peace and Thankfulness go together?
- Read verse 16. As you look back at the previous four verses, how many of the actions that are addressed are “intentional”? What do the words “put on,” “let,” “do,” and “be” have in common?
- Read Ephesians 4:14-16. Why would the world want to take you down in your faith? What is the goal in verse 15? What is God’s purpose for us in 16b?
When was the last time you saw a two-year-old throw a fit when someone was dressing him? It is typical behavior as they learn to express the desire to “do it myself!” We should be so adamant about “putting on” the word of God, taking it in, and teaching ourselves to be more and more aware of the reality of all the characteristics until we do them as naturally as breathing. When your soul wells up in “Thank You!” to God, does that one time express your gratefulness? Certainly, it is good. But you can teach yourself, no matter your age, to remember to thank Him more than just one time when He has shown Himself involved in your needs. What has He done for you today? Did you say thank You? Yesterday? At some point during Thanksgiving, did you have some time set aside when you listed some of those things you are so very thankful Christ did for you this year?
Paul encourages us to incorporate gratefulness into our lives, so that no blessing comes our way without immediate thankfulness going up to God. Did you realize, in question 3, that thankfulness goes hand in hand with humility? Think of royalty, or movies where there are servants who labor long and hard to do their employer’s bidding. Do they usually hear “thank you”? No. It was the expectation that the service would be done to please the one who hired them. Do you say thank you to your spouse or friend for working all day, doing jobs around the house, or keeping meals prepared? Begin with those small things that show you realize you don’t deserve all the time and effort made on your behalf; your children will eventually see the “attitude of gratitude” and copy it. Soon it will become habitual, and you will carry it outside your walls into the world—and show them the difference as a true Christ-follower!
Key Verse: Colossians 3:17: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (NKJV)
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