November 15, 2015

          This month we will celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday in which we traditionally enjoy a turkey dinner with all the fixings, gorging ourselves until we can barely move, and then possibly enjoy either a long nap or a football game.  Oh yeah, and somewhere in there we are supposed to give thanks.  In today's society, however, it seems giving thanks is usually secondary to 'asking for more'.  Because bigger is better, and last year's model is just so 'yesterday'.  After all, so and so has the new one.  And I just can't be seen in this old thing.  That brand is so not cool, and I would rather die than have to carry that purse one more day.   I need more room to keep this stuff!  A bigger house, a bigger garage!  Oh Lord, you know I need it!   It is difficult, if not downright impossible, to truly give thanks without having contentment first.  And so that is the subject of today's message. 

          How can a person sincerely give thanks to the Lord for His blessings, if they consider His blessings not good enough?  Thank you Lord for my truck, but I really wish it was that new 2016 model I saw sitting on the car lot yesterday.  Thank you Lord for my home, but it needs repair, and I really wish I had that one on the other side of town where the classy folks live.  Thank you Lord for this beautiful day, but I really wish I was spending it in my favorite vacation town.  I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.   These days it is all about instant gratification.  "I want" replaces "I need".  But what do we really need?  As I read in our last Scripture reading (1 Timothy 6:6-11), we should be content with the basics.  And the Lord has promised to always supply these.  As Paul told the Philippians (4:19), "the same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."  Notice he said 'needs'.  He did not say 'wants'.  Not that God never gives us those little extras, or doesn't want us to be happy.  But He is not like the exasperated mother who gives in to her screaming child that throws themselves on the floor in the store because they want a certain toy or candy.  When he says in the Bible that we should be as little children, this is NOT what He is referring to!  He does not reward selfishness or greed. 

          Our Lord is generous, but He expects us to be also.  The Bible says "God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others." (2 Corinthians 9:8)  And I do commend this church for all of the sharing that you do.  Especially during the upcoming Christmas season we really pull together on multiple outreach projects to make sure that both adults and children have enough food, as well as some of the other items we take for granted.  We send a shoebox to children who have very little and they are overjoyed and filled with thanksgiving.  If all we got for Christmas was what was in one of those shoeboxes, would we be as thankful?  Would we be content that we didn't get everything on our Christmas list? 

          So often we confuse material things for love.  'If he loved me, he would buy me this' becomes our way of gauging how much our significant other really cares, or how much our parents care, or even how much God cares.  God loves us so much that He left heaven to be born as one of us, and suffer an agonizing death, so we could live in heaven with Him for eternity.  But that is not enough.  We want our blessings here and now.  This instant!  Enter the prosperity preachers.  And boy do they prosper!  They prosper off your greed and your want for more, and more, and more.  They fill the pews, and their own pockets.  "You can have it all!" they claim.  That big car, big house, and heaven too!  You can, but out of those thousands upon thousands looking for that promise, how many will actually find it?  For the Bible says, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."  (Mark 10:25)

          And again, it is not a sin to be rich.  There are many examples in the Bible of godly men and women whom the Lord blessed with an enormous amount of wealth.  But if you look closely at their lives and their faith, it wasn't because it was wealth that they were after.  They loved God - wealth or no wealth.  They served Him no matter their circumstances.  Job lost everything but never cursed God.  And God rewarded him with twice as much in the end.   My message today isn't that it is wrong to have money.  Money is not the root of all evil.  It is THE LOVE OF money that is the root of all evil according to the Bible (1 Timothy 6:10).  Satan has kept many a soul from seeking God by lining their pockets.  Who needs God when they have unlimited cash and credit, and the latest and greatest of everything? But our Lord said, "what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"  (Mark 8:36)  And even King David, who was rich by society's standards, said, "Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked."  (Psalm 37:16) 

          There is a small church in Morris, who had a pastor they liked very much.  But he has moved on to a bigger and better assignment.  There might come a day when the district moves me as well.  However, I am content to be here and serve this small congregation.  I am content to work 40 hours a week at another job so I can say like Paul did to the Thessalonians, "Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you."  (1 Thessalonians 2:9)  I love this church and the people in it.  I love giving to this church of my time and talent - and my resources.  This is what brings me contentment and joy, and fills my heart with thanksgiving.  I pray that you would find the same contentment and joy in surrendering your life to the Lord, for when you do, you will truly have a heart filled with thanksgiving as well.