Rev. David Holwick  ZN
First Baptist Church                                          
Ledgewood, New Jersey                                        
November 22, 1992                                     
                                                          Colossians 3:15-17

                            THE GIVING OF THANKS

  I. In plenty or in want.

      A. Giving thanks in plague time.

         It was 1636, in the midst of the darkness of the Thirty Years' War.
         A German pastor, Martin Rinkart, is said to have buried five
            thousand of his parishioners in that one year.
         This was an average of fifteen funerals a day.
            His parish was ravaged by war, death, and economic disaster.
         In the heart of that darkness, with the cries of fear outside
            his window, he sat down and wrote this table grace for his

         'Now thank we all our God \ With heart and hands and voices;
         \Who wondrous things hath done, \ In whom his world rejoices.
         \Who, from our mother's arms, \ Hath led us on our way
         \With countless gifts of love \ And still is ours today.'

         Here was a man who knew thanksgiving comes from love of God, not
            from outward circumstances.

      B. Just fifteen years earlier the Pilgrims had celebrated the first
            Thanksgiving in America.
         They, also, were acknowledging their gratitude to God for his
            "countless gifts of love."

      C. Whether expressed in the joy of plenty or the agony of desperation,
            it is a good thing to give thanks to God.           Psalm 21:1

          1) God commands it.                              Colossians 3:15

          2) Jesus often gave thanks to God.               Matt 14:19; 26:26

          3) It is central to worship (music & praise).

          4) To enjoy Christian liberty we must be thankful.

 II. What God requires for true Thanksgiving.

      A. Costly thanks.

          1) Thanksgiving often involves sacrifice.            Ps 116:17

              a) Jewish offerings of thanksgiving.             Lev 7:12

              b) According to giver's resources.               Lev 5:11-13

              c) But no less.  David & Araunah.                2 Sam 24:24

          2) Our verbal praise is sacrificial.                 Heb 13:15

              a) Correct praise requires effort.

      B. Clean thanks.

          1) Sacrifices must meet God's conditions.          Lev 22:29

              a) No imperfections allowed.

                  1> He rejects those that are imperfect.    Lev 26:31

              b) Give our best to God in worship.

                  1> Do simple things well rather than great things poorly.

          2) Have clean hands and a pure, obedient heart.    1 Sam 15:22

              a) With sin in our life, God cannot hear our thanks.

              b) Genuine humility and sincerity.   Amos 4:5; cf Luke 18:9-14

              c) Rejoicing spirit.                           2 Cor 9:7

          3) Reconciliation with fellow Christians.

              a) We cannot be close to God if we are far from his people.

              b) Is God blasphemed because of our actions?   Rom 2:24

      C. Continual thanks.
          1) Praise is a way of life.

              a) "Without ceasing."                           Eph 5:20

                  1> King David offered thanks day and night.

                  2> Levites had round-the-clock shifts at temple.

              b) Maintain a daily record of what we are thankful for.

                  1> And not just a list of what we are lacking!

          2) Be a living sacrifice.

              a) We are the only gift we can give, because all else is
                    from God.                 Jam 1:17

              b) 17th-cent. English poet Richard Crashaw:

                   "We ourselves become our own best sacrifice."

III. What our Thanksgiving reveals about us.

      A. Thanksgiving is an evidence of faith.

          1) Lone leper gives thanks.                         Luke 17:11-19

          2) Lack of faith and spirit of ingratitude go together. Rom 1:21

      B. Thanksgiving reveals the depth of our fellowship.

          1) NT word "eucharistein" implies intimacy with person thanked.

              a) Used at last supper.

              b) Root meaning is "grace."       (as in, table grace)

          2) We must have God's grace in our hearts to properly thank Him.

              a) Our willingness to offer genuine sacrifices of praise is
                   evidence that we consider the Lord worthy of all our
                   sacrifice and thanks.            Rev 4:9-13

              b) Too often we take God, and those around us, for granted.

 IV. How thankful are we?

      A. Thanks for hard times, in plague times?

          1) Do we take time to thank God when it is easy?

          2) Are we able to thank Him when it is hard?

      B. We should be thankful for the greatest gift of all - salvation.

         The sun had just risen on a hot August day in 1944 in the small
            village of Plelo, in German-occupied France.
         The 15-year-old boy did not know why he and the other citizens
            of Plelo had been lined up before a firing squad in the
                middle of the town square.
         Perhaps they were being punished for harboring a unit of
            Marquisards, the French underground freedom fighters.
         Perhaps they were merely to satisfy the blood lust of the German
            commanding officer who, the evening before, had routed the
               small group of Marquisard scouts.
         All the boy knew was that he was about to die.

         As he stood before the firing squad, he remembered the carefree
            days of his early childhood, before the war, spent roaming
               the French countryside.
         He thought about all he would miss by never growing up.
            Most of all he was terrified of dying.
         How will the bullets feel ripping through my body? he wondered.
         He hoped no one could hear the whimperings coming from deep in
            his throat every time he breathed.

         Suddenly, the boy heard the sound of exploding mortar shells
            beyond the limits of his little village.
         Rapidly moving tanks could also be heard.
         The Germans were forced to abandon the firing squad and face a
            small unit of U.S. tanks.
         The twenty American GI's were led by Bob Hamsley, a corporal in
            Patton's Third Army.
         A Marquisard captain had asked Hamsley for help.
         After three hours, fifty Nazis were dead, and the other fifty
            were taken prisoner.

         In 1990 the town of Plelo honored Bob Hamsley on the very spot
            where dozens of the town's citizens would have died if not
               for him.
         The man who initiated the search for Hamsley and the ceremony
            honoring him was the former mayor of Plelo, that same 15 year
               old boy.
         He had determined to find the man who saved his life and honor
         It's hard to forget your Savior.

 Major source for sermon:  "The Sacrifice of Praise," by Richard Dinwiddie,
   Christianity Today, November 20, 1981, pages 40-41.          #2367

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Copyright © Rev. W. David Holwick, 1999

First Baptist Church; Ledgewood, New Jersey

This document last modified November 18, 1999