Abounding in Thanksgiving

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It’s not uncommon for us to celebrate Thanksgiving with lists of what we’re thankful for. I’ve been seeing people doing it on Facebook since November started. Our lists can be long, detailed and impressive, but I read passages like Colossians 2:6-7 and I realize if a lack of thankfulness is the problem then a list isn’t the solution. Lists, while nice, are still a far cry from “abounding in thanksgiving.”

An article I recently read suggested that you should begin your Thanksgiving sermon series in October, when people still have time to think about Thanksgiving. By the time the actual holiday rolls around they’re already thinking about Christmas. I’ll admit, preaching on Thanksgiving might have been more fun than preaching on death, but I’m not sure a longer series would have been the answer.

This sermon went really well and I think people are excited about the series. There are a couple factors that I think really helped this one and I’m hoping will keep the momentum going until we’re all eating leftover turkey sandwiches.

1. I kept it positive. It would be really easy to berate people for their lack of thankfulness. “God does and does for you and this is the thanks he gets!” It’s hard to hear the reaction of the crowd, but they really loved it when I cited the statistic about average churches in America and told them they were above average (and I really believe they are). That kind of positivity goes a long way to keeping the crowd with you.

2. They contributed to the message. I’ve recently begun sending out two weekly “Connect@KCC” emails. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve asked people to tell me what they’re thankful for. While I didn’t use any of those in this message, I did use some of the responses in my Facebook post and an email to promote the message. My next message, from Colossians 3:15-17, will use several of their responses.

Sermon prep was interesting with this one. I started with an old sermon I intended to retread, but I just wasn’t “feeling it.” I ended up writing a completely new message. When I started the sermon I didn’t see the whole “trees/roots” illustration, it just sort of developed during the writing. I actually had a really nice illustration for that in the “built up in him” part, but I got ahead of myself while preaching and didn’t get back to it.

No . . . vember

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NovemberAny way you look at it, November is a pretty bleak month. For thirty days nothing much happens. There’s no sudden burst of colors like in October. There’s no anticipation of snow like in December (in fact, November snow seems to be more dreaded than anticipated). Thomas Hood, a British humorist once wrote:

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –

This seems to me all the more reason to celebrate Thanksgiving in November. We don’t have the distractions of the summer, the changes of the fall or the busyness of the Christmas season to keep us from focusing on what we’re truly thankful for. It is completely up to us to fill the month with thanksgiving.

Paul tells us that thanksgiving is a gift that overflows out of our lives into the lives of others.

I’ve been looking at some passages in the Bible about thanksgiving. There are times in Scripture where we’re commanded to give thanks, to put the time and effort into recognizing that our blessings come from God and give him the credit and the glory for all that we have received. But I’ve also noticed something else. We’re not only called to be thankful, we’re called to bring thanksgiving into other people’s lives as well.

I’m not talking about the holiday, of course. There’s more to making people thankful than inviting them over for turkey, all the fixings and a big nap (though that’s not a bad idea either). In 2 Corinthians Paul tells us twice that thanksgiving is a gift that overflows out of our lives into the lives of others. That thought should inspire us to be all the more aware of the good that God has provided us and the way it can impact the people around us.

In [truth]2 Corinthians 4:15[/truth], Paul writes about the message of Jesus, the forgiveness of our sins and the promise we have of eternal life. Then he continues and writes, “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” The hope we have in Christ isn’t something we hoard away for ourselves, it should overflow out of our lives and burst into the lives of others, bringing them to that place where they truly know what they are thankful for.

Later, in [truth]2 Corinthians 9:11[/truth], Paul writes about the way we give of ourselves to others and to God. Not just our money, but our lives. He says, “Your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” In verse 12 he writes, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God.”

In November everyone wants to know what you’re thankful for. There will be those who will commit to a month’s worth of Facebook posts, searching themselves every day for something else for which they are thankful. It’s a great exercise for us and it definitely can result in a more thankful outlook on life. But perhaps the greater question isn’t about what you’re thankful for but about who will be more thankful this month because of you?