Be Thankful for Thanksgiving If I Could Do It Again – We should be thankful for and plan as if our loved ones will always be here, but we should know they may not be here next Thanksgiving. What is the one thing they would like for you to do for them? If you will do that one thing, you will have no regrets. When asked, ‘If I Could Do It Again …’ you will be able to say, ‘I would change nothing. I did it well. I went because I wanted to and I was joyful.’
Be Thankful for Thanksgiving If I Could Do It Again
By Pastor Delbert Young
Be Thankful for Thanksgiving If I Could Do It Again
Scriptures: John 5:1, Deuteronomy 16:13-16
Thursday will be Thanksgiving Day in the USA. I am certain that we will all connect with our family and friends and sit around talking about and remembering the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Right? We all take time to be thankful for and remember how the Pilgrims suffered so we can have what we have today. Right? Thursday will be a day we all take time and reflect on how thankful we are for life and all that we have. Right? Isn’t that what everyone does on Thanksgiving Day? I wished.
Does anyone really do that? Don’t we really just get together, watch football games, be with family and friends, eat, and maybe go to the mall? We should be thankful for all we have. Instead we want more stuff. The day after Thanksgiving is the largest shopping day of the year. That should tell us how much America thinks about the Pilgrims and giving thanks. Some of us love the day and some of us complain about and hate the intrusion and have to be forced to attend the Thanksgiving feast.
The day before Thanksgiving an elderly man in Phoenix called his son in New York and said to him, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough. We’re sick of each other, and so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.” Frantic, the son called his sister, who exploded on the phone. “Like heck they are getting divorced,” she shouted, “I’ll take care of this.” She called Phoenix immediately and said to her father. “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” The man hung up his phone and turned to his wife. “Okay, honey. The kids are coming for Thanksgiving and paying for their own flights.”
Does anyone really stop and be thankful for everything on Thanksgiving? It’s a great opportunity, but the rush and business of the day usually robs the opportunity to be thankful for life. God’s children are supposed to be thankful people, but often we are not thankful even when things are going our way. The Lord God had miraculously delivered the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, miraculously opened the Red Sea, miraculously given them manna every day (except the Sabbath), and miraculously given them drink from a rock. They lived miraculous supernatural lives, but were they thankful? They should be thankful for all God did for them, but no. They grumbled. They complained. And, what did that get them? It got them a life of wilderness wandering. Had they been thankful and grateful they would have only had a short journey and would have entered their Promised Land and abundant life. See, the difference of the abundant life and a wilderness life is thankfulness. THERE IS A POWER IN THANKSGIVING. Be thankful for Thanksgiving.
Allow me to ask you a question. On a scale of 1 to 10, how thankful and grateful are you? Are you a grateful, thankful, and joyful person, or are you a depressed, grumpy, sad, mean, sour, and ungrateful Christian? Most of us would probably tend to grade ourselves high, but I hear more complaining than thanking. Which do you hear the most?
We are programmed to equate our level of thankfulness and gratitude to how well things are going for us. Of course, that is not what the Bible teaches.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 IN every thing give thanks: for this is THE WILL OF GOD in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Notice that Paul said to give thanks “IN every thing,” not for every thing. Why is God’s will that we “give thanks in every thing”? It’s because complaining feeds our problems and allow them to overwhelm us and make us miserable.
Psalms 77:3 I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah.
Have you ever seen a happy complainer?
Dr. Dale Robbins said, “I used to think people complained because they had a lot of problems. But I have come to realize that they have problems because they complain. Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. It amplifies frustration, spreads discontent and discord, and can invoke an invitation for the devil to cause havoc with our lives.” The more we complain about anything the bigger and worse it becomes.
Giving thanks and being grateful is the high ground and wins every time over complaining. You cannot be unhappy and complain when you are thankful and grateful. Be thankful for something. It is impossible. I challenge you to go one month without complaining. Ok, let’s start with one day. When you find yourself complaining about something, stop and give thanks instead. You will find your life being blessed and your life will begin to shine like a star in the heavens.
Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing,
Philippians 2:15 SO THAT you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
THERE IS POWER IN THANKSGIVING. That is why it is God’s will that you give thanks in everything. It is so you will live the real high life – the abundant life – in the supernatural dimension. Have you looked at this world lately? People are depressed. They are hopeless and sad. They need to see a shining face and a bright star to give them guidance. Our region doesn’t need any more depression. It needs shining stars. You can be the star over Bethlehem. Thankfulness makes us a shining star. Be thankful for Thanksgiving.
I want to challenge you today to be thankful for life. Turn your complaining into thankfulness. If you own one Bible, you are blessed, because a third of the people in the world do not have access to a Bible. If you awoke this morning with more health than illness you are more blessed than 1 million people who will not survive the week. If you have never experienced the pangs of starvation you are more fortunate than 500 million people on earth. If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, twenty dollars in your pocket and a place to sleep you are richer than 75 percent of the world.
Nearly everyone here knows Richard Wible. He meets you in the foyer every Sunday morning with a smile on his face along with the greeting team. I asked Richard if I could use him for an illustration and he let me. Well, Richard has been diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctor’s plan is to remove the upper half of his right lung. We are not certain yet that it’s God’s plan. We are believing for a miracle. Richard has gone through this with a thankful spirit. He refuses to get negative. He thanks God that it was found early. He continues to meet you at the front door every week. Richard is a great example of IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS. He is thankful for his wife, family, life, and church. He has taken the high ground. He refuses to allow circumstances to dictate his thankfulness.
We need to be thankful for the gift of life and all the wonders and things that it contains. Husbands we need to be thankful for our spouses and we need to tell them. We certainly don’t mind telling them when we are not thankful. She is the best thing that ever happened to you. Husbands imagine how your marriage would improve if you came home with some flowers and a card and told your wife how thankful you are for all she does. Instead of focusing on the things that aggravate you, take the high ground and focus on the things for which you are thankful. It will change your marriage and your perspective of your wife.
Wives, your marriage would improve if you told your husbands how much you appreciate him. You certainly don’t mind telling him when he does things you don’t appreciate. Instead of focusing on the dirty socks and dirty underwear and dirty other things, focus on what he does for you and the things for which you are thankful. I will never forget coming home one day from work and Judy telling me how much she appreciated my taking care of her. She told me, “You have taken care of me well.” It will change your perspective of your husband.
Parents, we need to be thankful for our children and tell our children how thankful we are for them. Do you know that I was the first person in my family for several generations to graduate high school and college? One day my mother told me how proud and thankful she was of me. That was nearly 40 years ago, but I remember it like yesterday. The impact of thankfulness is powerful. My dad lived with us for a while after my mom died. Once he and I were sitting and talking and he told me how thankful he was for Judy and me. Then he told me how thankful he had always been for me because I had always been a good boy and never caused them much grief. Parents, don’t just yell and punish your children. Tell them how thankful you are for them. It’s powerful. They will remember your doing that forever.
Children, can you image how your lives would change if you were truly thankful for your parents? Listen, as a parent and grandparent, your expressing gratitude and thankfulness for what your parents sacrifice for you will multiply what you are given. What we usually hear is, “Give me… Give me… Give me…” Or, “I need…, I need…, I need…” Or, “I want…, I want…, I want…” Seldom do you thank us or express gratitude. If you would, you would get much more. There is power in thankfulness. Let me tell you this story. Jack and Max are my two oldest grandsons. Jack is 6 and Max is 5. I often hear, “Ahdaddy, will you buy us something?” But, the other week I came home from California and both of them had sent me a gift. They made me a picture and put a dollar in it for me. How cool was that? You can imagine what I will do next time I buy them something. We respond to thankfulness because thankfulness if powerful.
We need to be thankful for our jobs and for our employers. How would it be if instead of grumbling and complaining about your job and boss, you took your employer a gift and a note thanking them for the opportunity they gave you to work for them? Thank them for the salary they pay you that gives you the ability to pay your bills. Thank them for the benefits you are given. Tell them you appreciate them and are thankful for them. What kind of effect do you think that would have on them when it came time for your next raise, or the next time you asked off? There is power in thankfulness.
We need to be thankful for our church and for the people in our church. Do you know how the apostle Paul began his letters in the Bible? Let me show you.
Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you…
1 Corinthians 1:4 I always thank God for you…
Ephesians 1:16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you…
(NLT) Philippians 1:3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.
Paul made sure that he let the people in the churches know that he was thankful for them and appreciated them. I try to take every opportunity I can to thank our volunteers at Life Gate, but that still isn’t enough. We give them a volunteer appreciation banquet every year just to make certain that we let them know how thankful we are for them. Let me tell you right now that I am thankful for every person here. I get around some preachers and they grumble and complain about their congregations. You will never hear me do that. I am so very thankful for you. You don’t have to come here, but you do and I thank God for each of you. And allow me to say this as I am on the subject. Were you to leave Life Gate tomorrow, I would still be thankful for you and all you have done for the kingdom of God while you were here. That is the way we have always been. People think we talk bad about people who leave us. We never have and we never will. I thank God for every person who has ever come here. There is power in thankfulness.
We need to be thankful to God and for God. Inside of every person is a desire to be thankful. It’s often suppressed, but it will come out even in atheistic people.
Harriet Martineau was an atheist. One morning about this time of year, she and a Christian friend observed a beautiful sunrise. As Harriet saw the sun peaking over the horizon, the frost on the meadow, and the brightly colored leaves painting the hillsides, she was filled inside and said, “I am so thankful. I’m just so grateful for it all.” Her believing friend asked, “Grateful to whom, my dear?”
God has created us to give thanks because THERE IS POWER IN THANKFULNESS. In the Old Testament, it was mandatory to give God a “thanksgiving offering,” but in the New Testament, thanksgiving to God should flow like a river from a thankful heart. How is your heart today? Is it grateful and thankful? WHEN IS THE LAST TIME YOU THANKED GOD FOR YOUR LIFE AND YOUR BREATH?
How do we change from being an ungrateful thankless person into a grateful thankful person? It’s simple. We develop a daily discipline of thankfulness.
Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, GIVING THANKS TO HIS GOD, just as he had done before.
Let me tell you this story about Daniel. He had a daily discipline of giving thanks to his God and because of that he had become extremely successful. Daniel had experienced some horrible things, yet he learned to GIVE THANKS IN ALL THINGS. His county had been conquered, city destroyed, family killed, he had been made a eunuch, yet he continued to give thanks. Because of thankfulness, he had become very wealthy and powerful. Thankfulness brings success. THERE IS POWER IN THANKFULNESS. Some men were jealous of Daniel’s life and position in the kingdom. They came up with a plan to remove Daniel. They had the king make a decree that anyone who prayed to any god other than the king would be thrown into a lion’s den. Daniel was well aware of the decree, but because of his discipline to be thankful, he prayed anyway. You know the story. He was seen praying and was thrown into a lion’s den. However, the Lord shut the mouth of the lions and Daniel was delivered. Afterwards, the king decreed that Daniel’s God was the real God and then the king blessed Daniel.
Daniel 6:28 So DANIEL PROSPERED during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
What lion’s den are you facing today? Is there something about to devour you? Shut the mouth of the lion with thankfulness. How is your marriage? Be thankful for it. How are your children? Be thankful for them. How are your parents? Be thankful for them. How is your job, finances, health, etc.? Be thankful for them. THERE IS POWER IN THANKFULNESS.
Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet who had opportunity to enjoy his financial success while he lived. Once a newspaper reporter came up to him and said, “Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word; Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, “Really, I certainly wasn’t aware of that.” The reporter cynically reached down into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred-dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, “Here’s a hundred-dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now, you give me one of your hundred-dollar words.” Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred-dollar bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put If you could have Thanksgiving again with one person, what would you do differently between that Thanksgiving and the time the person passed away. We posed that question to several people and interestingly nearly each person had one thing they would do differently. However, every person would spend more time. Time is the thrust of holidays. It is to bring us together to spend time together and to stop our preoccupation with the cares of the world, and force us to spend more time with people. Even Jesus went to feasts. He went even though he had so much to accomplish in such a short time (Joh 5:1).
John 5:1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.
There are many references to Jesus attending different feasts. At this particular feast, Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. If it were important for Jesus to attend feasts with family and friends, how much more important is it for us?
Deuteronomy 16:13 Celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing floor and your winepress.
Deuteronomy 16:14 Be joyful at your Feast – you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.
Deuteronomy 16:15 For seven days celebrate the Feast to the LORD your God at the place the LORD will choose. For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.
Deuteronomy 16:16 Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed:
The Lord expects families and friends to get together and feast. Father God so wanted all of his family together on a regular basis that he expressed that desire in his law. Three times a year his family was to come to his house (temple) and feasts. These were the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover), the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), and the Feast of Tabernacles.
We continue today with three major family times every year. We enjoy Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Two of those come from religious and spiritual thrusts – Easter and Christmas. One comes from a different approach – Thanksgiving. There are two points from this passage that I want to talk about for a few minutes.
- Men Must Appear
It has always been interesting to me that the Lord said “. . . all your men must appear before the Lord your God.” I always felt like the reason he said it that way was because the men wouldn’t come if it wasn’t a command. They would be to busy feeding the camel or laying on the couch watching a football game. I know that I would have avoided most of our family gatherings except my wife told me I “must appear.” Do you know that some of us would never get together with our family and friends if it wasn’t for events like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and funerals? It is from that position that I want to talk today about Thanksgiving.
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. Most of us will gather with family and, once there, we will be thankful. Being thankful for people is the very core of the American Thanksgiving holiday. It was the core in 1621 at what we call the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts. One hundred and two people had sailed from England to the New World. Fifty people remained alive after the first year. Very likely all would have died had it not been for the “Red Man” – the Native American. Their assistance provided shelter and food. They taught the pilgrims to hunt, fish, plant American corn, build places for shelter, etc. The first Thanksgiving was fifty pilgrims being thankful for ninety Native Americans.
Yet, strangely connected with that first Thanksgiving was the grief over those who had died. Though fifty remained alive, fifty-two had died. It was a strange blend of Thankfulness for the family and friends alive, but hurting grief because of the loved ones that had died. Holidays begin to take on more and more of that flavor as we age. This Thursday our family will get together and experience Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for my family. I will smile and laugh with my wife, children, grandchildren, relatives, and friends. But I will be grieving at the same time because my mom and dad will not be there. In fact, this year the father of my brother-in-law, who has been coming to our Thanksgiving feasts for the past thirty years, passed away one week before Thanksgiving. I ministered his funeral the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There is a strange link between being thankful and grief. The truth of the matter is that some of us will have dear loved ones to die this year. That’s not a happy thought, but it is the truth. This will be the last Thanksgiving for some loved ones. One more thought is that it could be the last Thanksgiving for some of us.
I found myself focusing on this strange component of Thanksgiving this year as I began preparing for this lesson. I began thinking about my loved ones who have passed on. “If I Could Do It Again . . .” what would I do differently? If I had known that a Thanksgiving was the last Thanksgiving together, what would I have done differently before they passed away?
The year was 1992. Mom and Dad had come to our house for Thanksgiving. I didn’t know it would be the last Thanksgiving I would have with mom. Fibrosis had attacked her lungs took her breath and energy. She would give out by simply taking a shower and drying her hair. She tried to help my wife cook, but was unable. She lay on the couch and began crying. I knelt down beside her and talked with her for a long time. Mom had not been faithful to the Lord for many years. She had been injured in church and avoided that pain. Somehow in our conversation, all that came up and I was able to pray with her. I went and bought her and dad a Bible the next day. She read it every day from then until she died.
We began going to the doctors and it appeared she was improving. Then we had the blizzard of 93 in March. I was to go to Trinidad at the end of March and do some ministering. I drove to Miami and then flew to Trinidad. My drive took me close to mom and dad’s house. I needed something that I had left there and told mom that I would stop by to pick it up on my way to Miami. I got off one exit before I normally would and went a different route to their home. When I got there, mom and dad were not home. They had driven to the normal exit ramp I would have taken and were there waiting for me. Mom knew my “hurry-up” nature and she was trying to save me some time. I thought that might be the case so I went to that exit and found them. She apologized and explained. I told her that I had planned to visit with them for a few hours, but now I would just go on. In some weird way it was sort of like a punishment to her. I knew the one thing that made mom the happiest was my taking time to visit her. She loved it when I would come and sit and talk and visit. Instead of going back and visiting, I thanked mom and dad for bringing me the item, hugged and kissed them, and got in my car and drove to Miami. That was the last time my mom was able to talk to me. I was in Trinidad a few weeks later when my wife called and told me that mom had been taken to the emergency room and placed on a ventilator. I got there as quickly as I could, but the ventilator would not allow mom to talk to me. She died a few days later.
“If I Could Do It Again . . .” I would have gone back to her house from that exit ramp – forget Miami, Trinidad, and everything else. I would have stayed those few hours. I would have taken time and done the one thing that made my mom happy. Had I known the Thanksgiving of 92 would be her last Thanksgiving, I would have been a little more thankful for her. How about you? “If You Could Do It Again . . .” what would you do?
My dad came to live with us a few years after my mom died. His health was deteriorating. His blood sugar would go up and down. We kept a watch on his blood pressure. He had a slight tremor in his right hand from Parkinson’s disease, but that never seemed to be that disabling. We were told by his Neurologist that he needed to exercise – walk, button his shirts etc. Those simple tasks became very difficult to get my dad to do. He wanted to sit in his chair and watch TV all day. So, I would bring him to work with me and he would make laps in our sanctuary pushing his walker around. Sunday mornings were always a ritual. He had gotten to where he couldn’t get his T-shirt over his head, or button his shirt. I would make him fight with his clothing thinking I was helping him. I remember once he got hung-up with his T-shirt over his head and another time when he lay on his back on the bed for an hour attempting to button his shirt. He kept telling me he couldn’t help it and I kept telling him that he could if he would practice as the doctor had said. I would express frustration by impatiently buttoning his shirt and poking his shirttail into his pants and buckling his belt. He needed a Neurologist closer to us. We changed doctors. It was then that I found that dad actually had Dementia which is a mental deterioration of the ability to physically function. Dementia will actually cause people to forget how to use their fingers or walk or think. Eventually it can cause a person to forget how to swallow or the heart to forget to beat. That is what it did with my dad. My dad was one of the gentlest patient people I have ever known. He and I were opposites in that regard. He was so patient with my mom. There are so many funny stories of my dad and his patience with my mom. All dad ever asked of me was to have patience with him. I didn’t do very well.
My last Thanksgiving with my dad was in 1998. We had gone to the home of one of my wife’s sisters. I remember fixing dad’s plate and drink. He ate chicken and dumplings. He loved chicken and dumplings. He had a good time. He loved being around people and talking. It was after that Thanksgiving that we found dad had Dementia and there were no more Thanksgivings with him. “If I Could Do It Again . . .” I would be gentle with him. I would be patient with him. That was all he ever asked me to do for him.
Most likely we all have someone with whom we wish we could do something differently. The sad thing is we can’t. I wish I could go back to my mom’s house and spend those few hours sitting at her table and talking and listening to her voice. I wish I could gently button my dad’s shirt and patiently buckle his belt for him, but I can’t go back and do it again. However, what I can do is be thankful for the time I am given now. I can enjoy the Feast of Thanksgiving with people I love. I can discover the one thing they need from me and do it. I can do better at that and be a better person. The scripture said, “. . . Three times a year all your men must appear . . .” Instead of making it a thing that we are forced to do, why not do it from our hearts? Why not do it for the people we love and that love us?
- Be Joyful
Deuteronomy 16:14 Be joyful at your Feast – you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.
Isn’t it sad that God has to tell us to be joyful at feasts?
The scriptures give us a list of people with whom we should be joyful. It speaks about family – your sons and daughters, people we work with – menservants and maidservants, – our pastors and ministers – Levites, those “aliens” that we all have in our families and “aliens” that seem to come (I don’t know about your family, but we have aliens in our family), and those who have lost parents and spouses – fatherless and the widows. Sometimes it is difficult to be joyful with these people. Sometimes it’s not fun being around some of those heathens. But that too should be joyful to the believer. It is a perfect place to allow our lights to shine. It is a perfect place to penetrate the gates of hell. Our families should be beacons at these events and that should bring us joy.
There is another reason that it’s not easy to be joyful. It’s difficult to be joyful if we have recently lost a loved one. It will be difficult for my brother-in-law to be joyful this year. It will be difficult for some of you to be joyful because of the grief you recently experienced. However, that grief should be a part of the joy. What I mean is that we can talk and reminisce about those days when those we are grieving over were here. We can laugh at funny memories. We can cry at sad and precious memories. But we can be thankful for all the times we had and all the memories we have of them.
I want to close with one more story. I try to cast the vision for Life Gate the second Sunday of every year. I want everyone to know where we are wanting to go and what we are wanting to accomplish for the year. This year we planned, for the first time, to have a grandparents’ Sunday on Grandparents’ Day. A lady in our church thought that was a great idea especially since she was not certain about her grandmother’s spiritual condition. She called her grandmother the next week and invited her to Grandparents’ Sunday that we would be having that September. The grandmother said she would come, but a few weeks later a spot was discovered on one of her lungs. Her grandmother died not long after that. We buried her this year. The skit that we did today was birthed from that event. A sister of the lady in our church called looking for a recipe for a dish that their grandmamma always brought to Thanksgiving. My point is that we should plan as if our loved ones will always be here, but we should know they may not be here next Thanksgiving. What is the one thing they would like for you to do for them? If you will do that one thing, you will have no regrets. When asked, “If I Could Do It Again . . .” you will be able to say, “I would change nothing. I did it well. I went because I wanted to and I was joyful.
Here is the way I would like to close our time together today. We have our candle altar. If you would like to light a candle in memory of a loved one that has died and will not be at your Thanksgiving feast this year, please do. Take a moment and be thankful for that life. At the same time make a commitment to find the one thing that a person you love needs from you and do it.
it in his pocket and said, “Thanks.”
He’s right! The word thanks is certainly a hundred dollar word. In fact, I would say it is more like a million dollar word. It’s one word that is too seldom heard and too rarely spoken and too often forgotten. If we would all adopt an attitude of thanksgiving into our lives – our lives would be changed. It’s Thanksgiving and there is power in thanksgiving.
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