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Why Thanksgiving Changes Everything Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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November 24, 2022 1:00 am

Why Thanksgiving Changes Everything Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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November 24, 2022 1:00 am

The Bible tells us to give thanks in everything. Does this mean we must be thankful for illness or loss? In this message, we learn why the Bible’s command to be thankful makes sense even when we don’t understand our circumstances. We can be content with what we have every day of the year. 

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Erwin Lutzer

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The Bible tells us, in everything, give thanks. Does this mean being thankful for illness or loss, or being grateful for having no job? Today, why the Bible's command to be thankful does make sense, even when, to us, it doesn't.

Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Wind with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, I wonder if God feels stunned when we fail to give Him thanks. Well Dave, you do remember the story that Jesus told about 10 lepers who were healed, and as they were walking away, only one returned to give thanks to God.

What a commentary of the human heart. In my own life, I've discovered that even though I don't give thanks to God for evil per se, if I sin, I don't thank God that I sinned. But at the same time, we can even give thanks to God for the way in which He will use evil.

I'm thinking, of course, of Joseph, who said to his brothers, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. I say in all sincerity that the message that we're going to be listening to today can be transforming. I've discovered that if I thank God rather than keep asking Him, it gives me a whole new perspective and it changes everything. Let's listen. We're so glad that you have gathered together here today and my theme is why Thanksgiving changes everything.

At the end of this message, I intend with God's help that you would leave here today with an entirely different perspective of your problem, your need and wherever you are at because Thanksgiving changes everything. All of us know that for the most part, we are complaining people. Complaining is a national pastime. We complain about the economy. We complain about circumstances, our health and most of all, we complain about others who aren't nearly as good as we are and they are complaining about us. Complain, complain, complain. How do we change that? One way might be for us to find someone who's worse off than we are and that's not difficult.

You remember the old line? I complained because I didn't have any shoes until I met someone who didn't have feet and that ended my complaining. You're in a situation where perhaps you are looking for work and you can't find any and you're frustrated and you are tired and then you're watching television and you see that a tidal wave has come and washed away a village and you're looking at some children who are newly orphaned. Their mother and father are dead and they are weeping and you say to yourself, you know, maybe I still have lots to thank God for. That's one way to become thankful.

But the biblical way is quite different. What the Bible teaches is that we need the faith to believe that there is a plan and even in the midst of darkness, there is some light and therefore we can be thankful because the Bible says in everything, give thanks. First of all, a word of introduction regarding the meaning of the word thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and praise are often used interchangeably in scripture, enter into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise.

But there is this difference. Usually when we think of praise, we think of us doing it together and we think of praising the attributes of God, his faithfulness and so forth. Usually thanksgiving has more to do with the specificity of our circumstances, what it is that we are enduring and the situations that we find and it is oftentimes very individual. We individually give thanks. Now my text today is found in the fourth chapter of the book of Philippians. Philippians chapter four, I want you to turn to it for these few moments. I want us to see how our perspective can be changed if we understand what Paul is saying here.

Remember, he's not in some very good circumstances. He's in prison in Rome and he's writing an epistle of joy. But in Philippians chapter four verse four, he says, rejoice in the Lord always. And then in case you didn't get it, sometimes we as preachers are criticized for repetition, but God wants us to repeat it because he knows we need it. Paul says rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known onto everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything.

Wow. But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ. Three words in verse six. In everything by prayer, that is the general way in which we voice our requests to the Lord, and supplication. Now that word speaks about you spilling out your soul to God. Hebrews chapter five verse seven says that when Jesus was in Gethsemane, it says that he poured out his soul with prayer and supplication.

That's when you are desperate and all of us should be desperate because only desperate people pray. And that's when you spill it all out to God with supplication. But you add thanksgiving. You add thanksgiving. And the reason for that is because thanksgiving is a much broader theme in scripture. And if you don't add the thanksgiving, very probably no peace will come to your heart. Now in order for us to understand thanksgiving, I think I need to spend a few moments giving what I would consider the theology of thanksgiving.

And then we'll see how it changes our perspective. The theology of thanksgiving. You see, thanksgiving honors God because through thanksgiving we are affirming the power of God.

See, most Christians look at it this way. I will thank God for the good things, but not the bad things that happened to me. I will thank God when I am promoted, but I will not thank him when I'm demoted. When I walk out of that office and I'm told that my job is over, I'm not going to thank God for that. I'm going to thank him if the boss says you are promoted. So what we do is we say I thank him for the promotions but not the demotions. I thank him for health, but I will not thank him for cancer. I thank him for good relationships, but I will not thank him for difficult relationships. And so what we do is we have this theory of thanksgiving that we thank God only for good things. But that's not biblical.

We don't thank God for only good things. George Matheson who was a Scottish pastor who was blind. Imagine being blind and he's taught by his sister actually who read all of his books and so he went to university and he became a pastor.

Basically memorized his sermons, memorized all of the songs in the hymnal, and wrote some himself. He said that he was rebuked when he began to realize that he thanked God for his roses, but he didn't thank God for his thorns. He thanked God for the good things but not the blindness. And then he began to realize he needed to thank God for that too because he says it was my tears that brought me to God and it was he who wrote, oh love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.

I give thee back the life I owe that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer fuller be. He thanked God also for the blindness. Now I'm not saying we should thank God for evil.

Last week because I spoke on abuse several couples came at least two and said our children are in an abusive relationship, maybe of an abusive marriage relationship. We don't say, oh we thank God for that. What we do though is we thank God that even in the midst of this he's going to give wisdom, he's going to give strength, his grace and his mercy is going to come and like an elastic band be strong enough to cover the need and we believe that even here we shall see the redemptive grace of God. That's the way you give thanks when you're confronted with an issue such as that. So what Thanksgiving done is it extols first of all the power of God but also the wisdom of God.

It means that we believe God does what is best. Now here's a challenge. Have you ever wished that you had God's power? Have you ever said to yourself I wish I had God's power for 24 hours, what changes I would make in this world. I would eradicate hunger, I take care of evil, imagine being God for 24 hours. That's what we say to ourselves.

But here's something for you to think about. If in addition to having all of God's power, if you also had God's wisdom you would leave things as they are. Now that takes a lot of faith to believe but oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out. If you believe in the God of the Bible you believe that there is a plan. There is a plan.

God does not do evil but God is using evil for an eternal perspective and that leads me to the third attribute namely his providence. Wasn't it even Shakespeare who said that there is a destiny that shapes our ends rough-hued as we may. In other words we have some wiggle room within the destiny but at the end of the day there is an overriding destiny that shapes our ends.

But we don't have to take it from Shakespeare we have to take it from God who works all things after the counsel of his own will. Wow you believe that there's a hidden plan. Now we don't know all the details for sure but we don't have to know the details in order to trust that God knows what he is doing. Just because we don't know what the hidden plan is and all of God's purposes doesn't mean that there can't be any and one of the things that you cannot do is to say that God doesn't care and we know that that's not an option because when Jesus died on the cross for sinners on behalf of sinners and for us when Jesus did that we know that God cares but we go on believing even though we do not see clearly what his purposes are. Now do you understand why whosoforeth praise glorifieth me?

What we are saying when we praise God is we're thanking him for his power, we're thanking him for his wisdom, we're thanking him for his providence and for his goodness and all of that. Now think with me 16th chapter of Exodus don't turn to it because you know the story. The Israelites are there in the desert and they are complaining. They don't like the desert heat, they don't like the food, food you know and later on they're going to complain again because they get the same thing, manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner and then you know let's have a bedtime snack.

Well how about some manna? So they are complaining, they are complaining. And what does God say to Moses? God says that they are not complaining against you, their complaints are against me.

Why? God's power led them into the wilderness, it was according to his wisdom, according to his goodness, according to his intentions, they were there by the will of God. And you today, you sought God, he gave you the job that you have, your vocation, he put you in the situation that you are in and you are complaining and God is saying it's not just against your circumstances, I led you into these circumstances, your complaint God says is against me. And that's why the Bible says in everything give thanks for this is the will of God concerning me God says, for this is the will of God, we give thanks to God. And so what we understand is that our complaining, our rebellion is really against God.

Now you say well does this mean that we simply collapse into a kind of fatalism, a kind of pacifism that says well whatever will be will be? No, no you remember that prayer? Remember that prayer says oh Lord help me to change the things I can and to accept the things that I can't and to know the difference? That's a paraphrase of a very important prayer that we ought to pray. We change what we can but when you're in circumstances that you can't change, when there's nothing that you can do about those circumstances you accept them but don't accept them from your boss, don't accept them from your mate, you accept them from God because God is powerful, God is wise and God is good and you believe him and that's why it says who so offereth praise glorify of me. Now praise honors God but look at what it does for us. Now your Bibles are open to the text here. You'll notice it says and I can't help but begin at the beginning of the section that we read, rejoice in the Lord always.

Let's pause there. You rejoice not because of what is happening to you necessarily. You don't rejoice in the pain and the hard things. They're not the source of your joy, in fact as we mentioned they're oftentimes the source of our complaint but rather what you do is you rejoice in the Lord. Now if you're here today and you're investigating Christianity or maybe you're a visitor, maybe you're a regular attender but you do not know Jesus personally. You may be religious but you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You can't understand that phrase because it is only when we know him personally, when we can come into his presence, when we connect with him and we know that we're connecting with him because he's forgiven our sins and we belong to him forever, it is in that set of circumstances we rejoice in the Lord.

We rejoice in who he is and we rejoice at times when rejoicing seems to be the last thing in the world. We as Christians should be like an oasis in the desert. I've been in a desert, I've been in the Sinai Peninsula many years ago.

You go day after day and then suddenly you see some trees and because you see trees you know that there is an oasis there because there must be hidden streams feeding that clump of trees and there are hidden streams feeding it. Very same way. Your circumstances at work in the office are just like everybody else's but you're not overcome by them. You don't complain like the others.

Why? Because you have a hidden source of strength and faith and you rejoice in the Lord always. That's what the text says. Now then also it says let your reasonableness be known unto all men. Reasonableness we could also use the word patience. Let your patience be known to all men because you see you don't always have to get your way.

You don't always have to win. The stress is off because you have resources, inner resources, you know God and so as a result of that you can be patient and then you'll notice it says do not be anxious about anything. Well I have to read that again. Does it say that?

It does. Don't be anxious about anything. You say anything? I don't know. I'm just reading the text.

It includes your circumstances, your health, your relationship, your future. That's what the text says and then it says with prayer and supplication and appreciation, thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. It doesn't make sense. You should be tied up in a knot just like everyone else should be.

You should be filled with anxiety like all of the people of the world should be filled with anxiety and you're not. So it surpasses all understanding and Paul says it may keep your heart and your mind in Jesus Christ. It guards actually.

It guards it. You know as a pastor I've discovered in my own life and I've certainly discovered in the lives of others as they have shared with me that committing our burdens to the Lord is not easy because the moment we do that we want to take all of our anxieties, all of our worries back upon our shoulders. Now there are times when we are responsible for our situation and we have to take appropriate steps but as you and I know there's so much that happens in the world today over which we have absolutely no control and worrying does not change anything. I want to give this advice to you from the very bottom of my heart. When you are in a tight place give thanks to God. Give thanks to God for your situation. Thank him and you'll be able to begin at least to see life from his point of view and the greater we see God and the more we see of him of course the smaller our worries, our concerns become.

Let this transform your life. Be thankful in everything. Give thanks for this is the will of God concerning you. So many people say pastor Luther I'm looking for God's will. I understand that but today we heard exactly what God's will is. In fact right now you can begin to give thanks to God for everything.

Look at your circumstances, fall on your knees and give him thanks. It's time once again for you to ask pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. When to apply a well-known Bible verse.

That's Laura's question today. She says I've referenced 1 Corinthians 10 13 in dealing with many of the trials of life. It reads no temptation has seized upon you except what is common to man and God is faithful.

He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear but when you are tempted he will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. I recently heard this passage quoted to a woman whose husband was dying of cancer. Then at a conference I heard that if we give it to someone who is grieving it is taking this verse out of context. Can you please elaborate and in referencing this passage does it need to be in the context of idolatry only?

Excellent question Laura. First of all let me say that in context it is referring to idolatry and sexual temptation and what an encouraging verse it is to know that there is no temptation that has taken us but that others have experienced it and they've gone through it and they've gone through it successfully because God has provided a way of escape. Sometimes when people are in the midst of temptation they're not looking for a way of escape but God has provided one. If we're looking for it we do not have to continue to stumble into that temptation over and over again. Now having said that I think yes in a general way it does apply to other issues in the Christian life. I suppose one could say to a woman who's lost her husband who's wondering how she is going to be able to cope and whether or not she is going to be tempted to fall into various sins that this verse indicates that that is not necessary because God is going to provide for her also a way of escape and that other women have gone through this and they've made it and so you can too but I would agree that it is a secondary application and not the one that is explicitly in the text.

But you know sometimes God uses his word in a broader sense and from that standpoint we can say regarding any trial that comes to us that there is no trial and that's the way in which the word temptation is used here in this verse that any trial that God brings us to no matter what it is he grants grace that we might be able to bear it. So let's take that home with us today and be encouraged no matter what we face. Thank you Laura and thank you once again Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you find God's roadmap for your race of life. In a bad economy it's harder to feel grateful. Even so let's not forget Philippians chapter 4 and rejoice in the Lord. Next time on Running to Win you'll hear more insights on being thankful even when everything's gone wrong. Thanks for listening, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-01 16:04:02 / 2022-12-01 16:12:26 / 8

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