St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

A Refresher Course On Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Sermon on Ephesians 5:20

Text: Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are many things that you do not have to teach a child. They do many things by the instinct that God has created them with. For example, the infant knows, when something to eat is offered, that they open their mouths. They don’t have to be taught to do that. There are things that they just naturally know how to do. Then, there are things that they should know how to do, but you have to teach them. An example of this is saying “Thank you.” It should be one of the most natural things for a person to do. Yet, how many times don’t parents stand behind their children and, after they have been given something, remind them to say “Thank you.” This morning, as we gather around God’s Word, we are going to take a refresher course on saying “Thank you.”

As we study this verse, we are going to begin at the back of the verse. It says that we are to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Without the work of Jesus Christ, there would be no reason for giving thanks, at all. That is because, without Jesus, we would still be in our sins. There are so many sins that we are guilty of committing. Think of all of the times that we have complained about what we do and do not have. How many times haven’t we been wasteful or careless with the things that we have been given? God’s law is clear when it comes to these situations. They are not character flaws. They are sins. God is equally clear about what every person deserves because of those sins. All who dare to sin against God deserve to spend their eternity apart from God, suffering in the eternal torments of hell. If we were left in our sins, there would absolutely be no reason to be thankful. Each and every day would be full of misery.

However, we have reason to give thanks because of our Lord Jesus Christ. God saw that there was no way that we could ever change our situation. So, in his great love for us, Jesus came to the earth to be our Rescuer. His life was one of perfection. For example, he did not waste the blessings that had been given. We think about the fact that after Jesus fed the 5,000 men plus women and children, he sent his disciples out to collect all of the leftovers, so that nothing would be wasted. There are many instances of Jesus thanking his Father. That life of perfection was lived for us. Then, to pay for our sins, Jesus went to the cross, where he was punished for every single sin that you have ever committed, that I have ever committed, that the world has ever committed. His blood has washed us clean. By his resurrection, we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven. Since this is true, we know that eternal life waits for the believer. We thank God in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation, the faith, and the eternal life is ours. We certainly have every reason to be thankful.

Having reminded us of the reason that we are thankful, the apostle Paul reminds us where our thankfulness is to be directed. We are to give thanks “to God the Father.” As we grow nearer to the Christmas season, we are reminded of the gifts that are given. Oftentimes, there is a label on that gift that tells you for whom that gift is intended. On that same label, there is usually a “from,” as well. It tells you where that gift came from. This is something that we need to be reminded of from time to time. It is so easy, when we look at the things that we have, to think to ourselves that we have earned all that we have. It is ours because of the sweat of our brow. To an extent, that is true. Yet, who gave you the ability and the strength to do the work required to obtain what you have? That came from God. Everything that you have comes from God. James writes in his epistle, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) As we go through this refresher course on saying thank you, we are reminded to whom our thanks are to be directed. We give thanks to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When we pause and do some thinking, we would all have to say that we have been greatly blessed. First of all, look at the ways that we have been blessed spiritually. All of our sins were forgiven through the saving work of Jesus Christ. Faith that accepts the blessings of what Jesus has done was created in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We have God’s Word and the Sacraments to strengthen our faith. We have the blessed assurance that eternal life is waiting for us. We have truly been blessed. If that was all that we had, we would have to say that we have been greatly blessed. Yet, in his love for us God has blessed us with many physical blessings. As we have finished the harvest, we are thankful for the crops that were brought in. We are thankful for the paychecks that we get. We have nice homes to live in. We have plenty to wear. We have more than enough to eat. We could spend hours listing all of the blessings that come from God for which we give thanks.

I would ask you to take a little closer look at our sermon text. It says, “Giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We give thanks not just for all of the good that happens in our lives, but for everything. This would also include, what we might consider, the bad things. We are to give thanks for everything. You might be thinking to yourselves that seems almost impossible to do sometimes. I would like to remind you of the words that Paul wrote in Romans 5:3, “(We) glory in our sufferings.” Why would Paul say that? It was because he knew that God was with him. He also wrote of the confidence that we can have: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Even the worst things are there for our benefit.

For example, I believe it might be difficult for that any of us would look at the current situation we have in our country with the Corona virus and look at it as a blessing. There are so many people who have been sickened by it. Many have lost their lives. How can it be a blessing? Allow me to offer a few blessings that can come from it. God is giving us new ways that we can show our love for him by showing love for others, as we seek to keep each other safe and healthy. We have the opportunity to check in on each other to see how everyone is doing. Perhaps, we have a renewed appreciation for having the ability to come together to worship God in our church building. As we see sickness around us, we are reminded that there is only one real place where we can draw our hope and our confidence. This virus ends up moving us closer in our relationship to God. When we see every situation through the lens that God works everything for our good, we can indeed give thanks for everything. Because of this knowledge, we can wake up every morning with the words of Psalm 118:24 on our lips: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Finally, as we review giving thanks to God, we are reminded of when we are to be thankful. It only makes sense that we would be thankful today. After all, it’s called “Thanksgiving Day.” But is that it? No. Paul reminds us: “Always giving thanks.” This thanksgiving is to be a constant. We don’t want to restrict our giving thanks to God to just one day a year. We want to give thanks to God always. What does that look like? Obviously, part of giving thanks to God is going to him in prayer and, instead of just asking for things, thanking him for all that he has given to you. Just prior to our text, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19) It doesn’t matter if you are a great singer or couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. As we sing to God from a thankful heart, it is beautiful music to his ears. Ultimately, giving thanks to God is done by living for him. We want everything we do to praise him. Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Our thanksgiving is something that we want to do all the time.

Today is Thanksgiving Day. Yet, maybe you woke up this morning and thought, “This is Thanksgiving Day. Why cannot I feel more thankful to the Lord?” It is my prayer that, as we have gone through this refresher course on giving thanks, we have been helped with that question. We see that we have every reason to give thanks, because of what Jesus has done for us. We are reminded that all that we have comes from our loving Father. Because he loves us, we can truly be thankful for everything. We ask that he would continue to give us that heart that gives thanks to him. Dear Christian, as you think of God’s love for you, it is my prayer that we are “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.