This morning we open 2 Thessalonians. We are only going to do the first three verses.
2 Thessalonians 1:1-3 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right...
Wow! Notice the timing. This Thursday is... Thanksgiving. These verses are about thanksgiving. Am I slick, or what?
Paul’s first letter was delivered to the Thessalonians. I suspect, Timothy took the letter to them. Then, Timothy brought back a report to Paul. This second report brought out gratitude in Paul! So, Paul sits down to write a second letter to the Thessalonians. This second letter bursts out in thanksgiving.
You know the feeling. People you care about are doing well! People you have worked with in the past are just fine. For example, a kid I worked in my youth group in Sherman, Texas, last week was elected to the Texas State legislature. I feel proud. I am thankful. Paul’s feelings for the Thessalonians brought out this wonderful sentence. “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right...”
It is right to give thanks, to God, for each other.
This morning I am going to focus on those three words... as is right. This morning is going to be a reflection on what I have learned about being thankful, in my, 45+ years of preaching. I have shared some of these thoughts with you before, over the years. Sometimes, you are required to listen to a preacher reminisce.
Here are my thoughts on thankfulness... as is right.
1) Thankfulness opens the gates of glory.
Greg Anderson shares a story of a depressed man in his book “Living Life on Purpose”. This man’s wife had left him. He had lost faith in himself, in other people, and sadly, in God. He found no joy in living. One rainy morning this man went to a small neighborhood restaurant for breakfast. Although several people were at the diner, no one was speaking to anyone. Our miserable friend hunched over the counter, stirring his coffee with a spoon. In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting, "Momma, why don't we say our prayers here?" The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, "Sure, honey, we pray here. Will you say the prayer for us?" And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the diner and said, "Bow your heads". Surprisingly, one by one all the heads went down. The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands and said, "God is great. God is good. Now we thank you for our food, Amen." That prayer changed the entire atmosphere. People began to talk with one another. The waitress said, "We should do that every morning." "All of a sudden," said our friend, "My whole frame of mind started to improve. From that little girl's example, I started to thank God for all that I did have and stop majoring in all that I didn't have. I started to choose happiness".
You can hear the little girl’s prayer in Paul’s opening words...
2 Thessalonians 1:1-2 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When we are grateful, we allow God's glory to begin to flow. It is like opening a window into a stuffy room. Keeping the window closed in our hearts, keeps God from sharing his glory in our lives. But, thanksgiving opens the windows of our soul for the glory of God to enter. Gratitude brings the glory inside!
The first thing I want to share about what I have learned about thanksgiving is... Thanksgiving opens glory... as is right.
Here is another one I learned
Lee Hovel tells a story about when he was 12 years old. “I’d wanted a baseball glove for a long time. I had saved some money toward buying it. But it was going to be a long time before I had enough money. Then, out of the blue, my grandmother surprised me with the glove. It wasn’t my birthday or anything. Just, bam, here is the glove. As soon as I got it, I ran out to show my friends. I did not say thank you to my grandmother. When I came back in my mother was there… to bust me. I could tell I was in for it. Then, my mother told me a piece of theology that has stuck with me ever since. When you don’t say thank you, you value the gift, over the giver.
2) Forgetting to say thanks, values the gift over the giver.
When we receive gifts from God or from anyone, our lack of gratitude says we are so focused on the gift that we devalue the giver. We must not be so focused on the thing, that we forget the one who gives us things.
2 Thessalonians 3:16-18 Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Important theology: value the giver... as is right.
3) There is a direct connection between thanksgiving and faith.
In the opening chapters of the book of Joshua, the children of Israel have finally moved into the Promised Land. They followed the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River on dry land. 40 years earlier, they entered the wilderness by crossing the Red Sea on dry land. Now, in Joshua chapter 4 they have left the wilderness by crossing the divided waters of the Jordan River. When the entire nation had crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God tells Joshua to do an odd thing.
Joshua 4:3-7 “Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight. That this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it (the ark of the covenant) passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So, these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever."
We build faith in our young by recounting, in thanksgiving, the acts of God in our lives. We need to retell our stories of faith over and over. Our kids learn both thanksgiving and trust in our God from our stories. Tell your story of faith to a kid.
Recounting our faith story is to be thankful and to build up our faith. It is a cycle. The more we recount, the more faith we have, the more faith we have, the more thanksgiving we offer, which leads to more faith, which in turn produces more thanksgiving… to infinity and beyond!
Faith and thanksgiving are connected... as is right.
An odd reason to give thanks. I doubt you will see this one coming.
4) Thankfulness is our job as priests.
We believe in the priesthood of all believers. We do not have clergy or laity. That is why we all participate, men, women, children; everyone in our services. We believe we all have access to the throne of God. Each of us are priests to God.
One of the main jobs of a priest is to offer sacrifices. All the priests in the first covenant offered all kinds of sacrifices on altars. They offered lots of animals in thanksgiving. But, we as priests of the second covenant, to it differently…
Revelation 8:3-4 And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
What? Our prayers of thanksgiving rise before the throne of God as incense. Wow! God smells my thanksgiving and is pleased!
We are priests who offer thanksgiving as sacrifices... as is right.
5) “Thank You” opens a clearing. “You’re welcome” enters it.
I enjoy this metaphor. I think there is a process here that is important. When someone does something for another and then the recipient says, “Thank you”, there is an opportunity for sharing an opening. There is a chance for a real connection. But, the response to the thank you is important.
If the response is, “No problem.” The clearing is closed.
If the response is, “Don’t mention it.” Then, you don’t connect.
If the response is, “No worry.” Then there is no joining in the clearing.
But, if the response is, “You are welcome.” There is a stepping into the clearing.
If the response is, “My pleasure.” Then there is a completion of the cycle.
If the response is, “Thank You!” This enhances the connection.
Any of these can be ruined with sarcasm. Apathy is, always, a show-stopper. The sincere thank you and you’re welcome is amazing.
It works with God as well.
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The act: God chose the Thessalonians to be firstfruits
The response: always give thanks to God
The completion: obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ
Act + Thank You + You’re Welcome = Connection.
We connect through gratitude... as is right.
This leads to my next observation.
6) Look for beauty, not ugly in each other.
People are gifted in different ways… look for the gift. Look for what is right; what is good; what is beautiful, in others. Notice beautiful eyes, not defects. Look for the good they do, rather than the glitches in their character. Every person is made to be an image of God in his Temple. Look for the replication.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
Paul could have reprimanded them for their problem – which we will get to in a few weeks - but he praised God for their faith and love!
When we are observant for the beauty and give thanks... it changes who we are and our relationship with each other... as is right.
One last one...
7) No whining in the kingdom of God’s grace.
We have been invited to participate in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus gave His life to create a new kingdom. We, in baptism, join his kingdom. We then live in the kingdom. In the kingdom there is: grace; there is purpose, there is hope!
Listen to Ephesians, where Paul expounds the blessings in the kingdom...
Ephesians 1:2-16 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places...
-to be holy and blameless before him.
-adoption through Jesus Christ,
-redemption through his blood,
-the forgiveness of our trespasses,
-making known to us the mystery of his will,
-to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
-In him we have obtained an inheritance,
-hope in Christ to the praise of his glory.
-the gospel of your salvation,
-sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
With all these blessings we share in the kingdom, we should never whine... only fall on our knees in praise... as is right.
2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right...
Los Alamos Church of Christ
November 18, 2018