Thankful for What ?!?
A Sermon for November 28, 2021
Veterans Memorial Chapel
By Ch Jim Odell
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for November 28, 2021. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
During the recent pandemic, a hypochondriac sat in his house alone, feeling sorry for himself, and rehearsing his list of perceived physical woes. One day he received in the mail a card from his healthcare giver, announcing their new telehealth phone program. He thought he would give it a try. He dialed the number on the card and got a recording asking him to leave his name, patient number and phone number, along with a brief but detailed description of his ailment. A specialist would call him back in about an hour. The hypochondriac left a message labeling all his woes in detail till the phone finally beeped and announced there was no more space for his message. A little over an hour later, his phone rang. “Hello” a voice said on the other end, “I am calling in response to your telehealth request. We have heard your concerns and have a solution to your situation. My name is Jack from the Acme Casket Company, we would like to make an appointment for you to be measured for a casket as soon as possible.”
Now, while my story is fictitious, negative thinking often leads to exaggeration of aches and pains, disabilities, and even can lead to an earlier than expected death. Our topic today is an antidote to this kind of negativity. Be thankful to God for how He provides, even in tough times.
In the spring of 2020, we braised for a forty-five day “lockdown” to control and thus eliminate a virus. Now it is the fall of 2021, and the virus is still hanging in there, and we are all still taking our precautions to either not get it, or not spread it. Politics has degenerated into name calling and fault finding. Inflation is in the news again. Social unrest is growing. Violence is on the upswing. What is there to be happy about, much less be thankful for?
I believe this passage has several considerations about hard times from which we can find a reason for giving thanks. Let’s look at this passage in Deut. 8:1-18. When Moses uses the term “Remember,” he is using it like we use the term “Thankful.” Many OT scholars believe that David may have been the one who combined “gratitude” and “offering” into a single compound word “Thanksgiving” (literally “offering thanks”) to form a Hebrew word which was Anglicized into our word “Thanksgiving.” See Psalm 100:4. So when Moses says “remember” in this passage, he is telling us to “be thankful.”
In this passage, Moses is telling the children of Israel, just before they entered the Promised Land, to remember (be thankful) to God for both the blessings of the land, and the blessings of the wilderness. I want to emphasis the wilderness blessings as we consider the passage.
First, note how we are to be thankful for the wilderness experience itself, because it is God who “led you all the way in the desert these forty years” (8:2). Hardships did not accidentally fall on the people, but God had a plan to teach the children of Israel to trust Him. This type of trust only comes by leading His followers through hard times. Remember how Satan chided God in Job 1:9-11 claiming Job trusted God only because God was blessing Him. Take away the blessing and “he will surely curse you to your face.” Of course, Job did not, but that is a sermon for another day.
Second, God is teaching us to understand that this world is not just the acquisition of physical things, but the building of humble and trusting individuals who understand that “man does not live by bread alone” (8:3). Man is more than physical. We need to learn “the word of God” to really view this world correctly and thrive in it.
Thirdly, the wilderness was an opportunity to see God provide for His people. In the wilderness, God fed the Israelites with “manna” and provided water. Their shoes and clothes did not wear out (8:3-4, 15-16). In the same way God provides what we need each day. But we often are too busy complaining and reminiscing about the “good old days,” or what we wish we had, and we forget the blessings He is showering on us each day. By being thankful, we begin to, as the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” And as we do so, our complaints begin to diminish, and our entire being, physical, psychological, and spiritual begins to revive and thrive.
Fourthly, the Lord will ultimately reward His followers by “bringing you into a good land” (8:7ff). While we many see that “good land” in various ways in this life, we are promised a “perfect land” with Him forever in the next life. That is what following God is all about, preparation for the next life. If we are grateful for what He provides here and now, we will enjoy it even more. If we complain about our lot, we will lose that joy now in this world.
Fifthly, we need to learn, we are not trudging through this wilderness alone. Moses points out that when things go well, we need to praise Him for His blessing, because He is doing it, not our hard work or good minds (8:17). Conversely, we do not or will not look back over the desert experiences in our lives and say, “It was my strength or my fortitude that got me through those hard times.” We did it by God’s grace alone.
So as we think about blessings at this Thanksgiving season, let us remember to give thanks for the hard times and hard things as well as the good. It not only will help you grow spiritually, but also help you both physically and psychologically.
CH Jim Odell