"Giving Our Thanks: Is That Natural?"

I’m loving the snow -- and I’m amazed at the people who are hating it on principle.  I mean, it’s covering the grass and dusting every limb, but not sticking to the pavement, so what’s not to love about it?  All of the beauty, and none of the shoveling -- that’s pretty much Winter Heaven, isn’t it?

With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I should probably should have started with just saying, “Happy Thanksgiving!”  But I kinda wanted to start by giving you a bit of a litmus test about your basic, baseline level of thankfulness.  Was your reaction to my love of snow positive, thanking God for His provision?  Was your reaction neutral, rolling your eyes and thinking that I’m a flake each week?  Or was your reaction negative, thinking about how much you don’t look forward to the coming of winter?  Where did your own heart tend to naturally take you?

Remember that this week isn’t really about turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce out of a can.  It isn’t even really about warm fellowship with friends and family.  It’s supposed to be about actually, consciously giving thanks to God together -- not just as an individual or as a household, but as a nation.  That was the original intent, but we’ve diluted that down to being amorphously thankful about our plentiful food... which we’ve then diluted down even further to just eating too much food.

So when you wake up on Thursday morning, when you sit down to eat at your Thursday meal, when you interact with your Thursday companions, and when you go to bed on Thursday night, are your thoughts going to be about turkey and decorations and expectations?  Or are they going to be about giving thanks to God?

An FCCer mentioned to me that last week’s sermon was the most sarcastic sermon that she’d ever heard... while another FCCer wondered if I was being sarcastic or just disoriented... so another FCCer suggested that I try to be just a little bit more sarcastic this week.  So for the first half of the sermon this Sunday, we looked at ways to avoid being thankful.

We can make sure that we grumble and complain and argue, finding something to pick at, rather than things to be thankful for.

We can remind ourselves of all of the stuff that bothers us -- keep an ongoing record of wrongs done to us, a mental tally of life’s disappointments.

We can work to view things (and people) in their most negative light, using the most negative, demeaning, dismissive words to paint life with.

We can distract ourselves with trivialities, or memories of past pains, or fears of future pains, or with the “opiates de jour,” so that we never really appreciate the blessings that God is showing us right now.

We can take horrible care of ourselves,, overwork ourselves, not get enough sleep or healthy food, and make sure that our run-down physical states assure that our mental and emotional states and responses will remain unhealthy.

And we should absolutely de-prioritize spending time in prayer with the God who loves us so very dearly.

Commit to those ways of living, and you’ll do a great job of keeping yourself from falling into being naturally thankful.  Of course, that’s the opposite of how God wants us to live and designed us to live. 

In Ephesians 5, Paul told us to avoid trying to escape life’s pains, and instead be filled with God’s presence in your life, no matter what your circumstances. 

We should interactively praise God with one another, reminding one another just why we love Him in the first place. 

And we should make sure that we give real, genuine thanks to God in every single situation -- not because our situation is always good, but because our God is always good.  If we give thanks that way, then it’s coming from our redeemed character, our new internal nature, and not from our hard work or external circumstances -- and that’s what really honors God.

Commit to those ways of living, and you’ll be hard-pressed to fall into the sorts of grumbling, complaining, arguing, etc., that confine us to the dark hole of thanklessness in life. 

It all comes down to the simple truth that we humans always naturally live out our core natures.  So what do you want yours to be like?  How can you apply all of that to a week like this one...?