Will Give Thanks to You, O Lord
ome years ago on a rainy day, kind of like yesterday, I was getting out of my car at the bank, and while fumbling with the umbrella, ran into one of my parishioners in the parking lot. My comment was, "It's a good day for ducks." He responded, "Every day is a good day for me!" "How's that?" I asked. "I have survived lung cancer and heart by-pass surgery, and every day, sunshine or rain, is a glorious gift of God to me." he said. What an attitude! Furthermore, as I saw him often over the years, he lived out his attitude with a life of gratitude. Later he was on the committee for designing a Christian Life Center. Some wanted to skimp on things, especially the kitchen, but "Mr. Grateful Christian" spoke up and said, "I'll donate and have designed a complete professional stainless steel kitchen with all the extras!"
Truly thankful people not only say that they are grateful, but they are happy to express their thankfulness in giving of their time, talents, and of their tithe too. God has given them both a realistic assessment of their present situation, and a glorious hope for their future. They see the reality of the storms of life, but they also feel the promise of the rainbow.
Our Old Testament text comes out of a bad time for the Children of God. Yet, in the midst of gloom, God promises a fantastic future when a "...shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse." (Isaiah 11:1, NRSV). The Messiah will eventually come in God's own season, and those who look for that promise will find salvation in grateful living. Then in Isaiah 12: 1, we hear the expression, "I will give thanks to you, O Lord..." (Isaiah 12:1). Because of that salvation through hoping, there is the natural expression of thanksgiving.
Sure, the Christian community is sometimes seemingly over populated with pessimists, but think of the joy they miss. They miss the rainbows after the rain, or if they happen to notice it, they are more concerned with the physics than the promise. Some even give money to the church but usually grudgingly and never with much joy. Like "Chicken Little" they are convinced that "The Sky Is Falling!" and don't miss any chance to spread the bad news.
However, the good news is that the number one reason that members give to their church is out of gratitude to God for blessings and hope. That statistic, borne out in many repeated surveys, is a very hopeful sign for the church. It says that the vast majority of believers are joyful givers indeed, and have a positive attitude about the future. Sure, as our New Testament lesson observes, all the material things that we currently see will one day be thrown down and not one stone will be left upon another. That is a realistic assessment of the future, but the things that are spiritual will last forever, and that is good news. Our text is also saying that we should not go after folks who dwell on the doom, and forget the dream. Our sight is better focused on those who are positive as we beware of the doom, gloom, folks. Luke 21:18 and 19 sums it up best, "But not a hair on your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls."
So, if we have decided to be counted among those fleshing out the thankful life, how do we live? We have already used all the right words: "positive," "hopeful," "grateful," "thankful," and have hinted about the true test of the abundant life, "giving."
Giving is critically important as our faith develops and matures because it allows us to deal with the main thing that controls our lives, money. We work hard for our money and it is hard to just give it up to God.
But notice that it is not hard to give it up for us. We are Spendthrifts when it comes to the stuff we want. Among the characteristics that might make us a redneck, according to Jeff Foxworthy live and in person at the Fox Theater last week, was: The nine thousand dollar stereo, the ten thousand dollar bass boat, the twenty thousand dollar Camaro. All stuff with a price tag. Also, you might be what he calls a sophisticated person if you exchange these name brands for Mercedes and Pierre Cardin. But let me hasten to point out that spiritually there is no condemnation on Comaros or Mercedes, it's the heart's desire that matters. If God is numero uno, and all this stuff is way down the priority list, it is just fine to name your poison.
One of the saintliest and richest people we know has a closet containing: one suit, one pair of shoes, two pair of pants, a jacket, and three shirts. That is his choice. But the true mark of Christ likeness in him is that it doesn't seem to bother him at all that folks who work for him have closets full of expensive clothing, and garages containing luxury edition pick up trucks, and Saabs. Neither would it bother him if for some reason he decided to jazz up his wardrobe, because his glory is in the Lord: His priorities are in order.
The gospel for us today is that God can take rednecks, sophisticates, spendthrifts, misers, billionaires and paupers, and give them joy amid the temptations and terrors of life. That Joy is Jesus. The Christ who is the fulfillment of the promise made through Isaiah in the long ago; The Christ who will meet us there in heaven when his final promise will be kept.
You see, giving gives us a foretaste of that glory in the now. Giving is a little bit of heaven. Sure, all of us have things we want and need, but the promise of God is that when those things find their secondary place to our joy in the Lord, then all of the things we need will be added unto us. I have never known a tither who was not able to echo this text from the heart: "I will give thanks to you, O Lord!"
John Templeton, founder of the Templeton Mutual Funds, was to speak at a convention of investment advisors. Few knew that he is a devout believer, but they all new that he had made millions for himself and for others. In his remarks he made this statement, "Let me share with you the number one investment that I have found." Naturally there was breathless silence, and Mr. Templeton continued, "The greatest investment that I have found is the Tithe." There was stunned silence again, and then some looking around, and continued silence. Do you suppose that any of those investment experts carried the message back to Pottsbury, and Hortense, and Mayberry, that the greatest investment, the one that will show the highest results in this life, and the greatest dividend in the next, is the tithe from a warmed heart?
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor