Christmas 2017 – Introduction Let Us Be Thankful This Christmas
1 Chronicles 16: 8 - 12
We can forecast our future faithfulness based upon whether we gravitate toward grumbling or we’re growing in gratitude for God’s amazing grace. We’re faced with a dilemma in this regard because most of us are natural born grumblers. Many of us whine more than we worship and we gripe more than we express gratitude. The purpose of Chronicles is to explain the events of history and to set the record for families as they re-entered the land of promise. The Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized the presence and power of God, was brought back into the centre of life. For a long time, God had not been front and centre in the life of Israel. I suspect that some of us have drifted spiritually as well. It’s time to get the Lord back as the focal point of our lives. After the Ark was brought back, the people presented “burnt offerings” and “peace offerings” to God. Burnt offerings were the highest expression of worship as the entire offering was consumed. After the peace offerings were made, part of what was offered went to the Almighty, part went to the priests and the final portion was given to families for a 3 day Thanksgiving feast. David “blessed the people in the name of the LORD and distributed to all Israel, both men and women, to each a loaf of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.” Because David made these offerings, he was entitled to eat this Thanksgiving meal by himself but instead he shared it with “each” man and woman. They ate bread, a portion of meat and some fruitcake. They did more than just eat: “Then he appointed some of the Levites as ministers before the ark of the LORD, to invoke, to thank, and to praise the LORD, the God of Israel.” This praise was intended to be jubilant – lyres, harps, cymbals and trumpets were used. Their music was filled with thanksgiving: “Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.” David put a worship team together and they helped the people do 3 things - • Pray – “to invoke.” • Praise – “to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” • Proclaim – “to thank.” “Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!” The idea is that we come to God with extended hands that are empty. “Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!” Once we grasp all that God has done, we can’t help but break out into song. “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!” We pray, we praise and then we proclaim our thankfulness. The word “thanks” appears 6 times in this passage. v.34 serves as a summary of the entire song of praise: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” We throw thanks to God because of His great goodness and His everlasting love. 1 Thessalonians 5: 18 - it is God’s will that we “give thanks in all circumstances.” It’s easy to forget how much the Lord has done for us. We can remember to complain but forget when it comes to having gratitude for His grace in our lives. v. 36 “Then all the people said ‘Amen’ and praised the Lord.” That means that we’re all to be praise participants, not just the musicians up here. So let’s all stand and let’s all pray, praise and proclaim… • In Christ Alone • Forever Does anyone know what the fastest growing religion is in the world? It’s not Islam or Christianity. The symbol of this rising faith is not the crescent or the cross, but a rand, pound or dollar sign. This expanding belief system is radical consumerism and it promises power, pleasure, and fulfillment even as it demands complete devotion. The consumer culture we live in claims that the material things we long for will lift us above our current circumstances. At the very heart of consumerism is dissatisfaction and discontentment. “We are constantly searching for the one thing that will satisfy us. Yet each time we trust the promises of our possessions, more barriers are raised between our true selves and God’s plain command to love Him above all things. It’s not that we necessarily want more – it’s that what we want is something we can’t buy.” We all know we need to become more thankful. As I’ve thought about why it’s hard to be thankful, I realized that it’s because we’re not content enough. We could say it like this: If we want to be truly thankful we must become consistently content. On one hand, it’s much easier to give thanks for what God has given to us. It’s another story all together to be content with what we don’t have. It’s far easier to complain and be in conflict than it is to live a contented life. Society is trying to sell us stuff all the time…and it’s not all that difficult to do because we’re so unsatisfied with what we have. Would you agree that discontentment is our default setting? The worldwide marketing machine spends billions to make us unhappy with who we are, with what we have, with how we look and with what we do. At its core, most advertising is designed to make us ungrateful and to feed our greed. “As an advertiser, it is your job to create discontentment inside the psyche of your prospects, and make them desire the change that you’re offering.” So - We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like. In order to become more content we must become more thankful and the way to become more thankful is to become more content. In order to do that, we must dispel the myth of more. Luke 12: 15: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Here Jesus strongly contradicts the values of our culture. If you have a covetous character, then no matter what you have, it will never be enough. Your stuff will never satisfy. Your relationships will never be good enough. You will always want something that you don’t have. If we want to be truly thankful we must become consistently content. The Cure for Coveting Philippians 4: 10 - 13 The cure for coveting is to learn the secret of contentment. We can predict how thankful we will be by looking at how content we’ve become.
1. Being Confident that God is in Control v. 10a Remember that Paul is in prison, chained to guards, and he breaks out into rejoicing. Everything is under God’s sweet sovereignty and because His ways are always wise we can find contentment in every condition. That’s why a complaining spirit is ultimately against God. If you’re struggling with discontent today, it may well be because you are not allowing God to be God. Just as God’s people brought the Ark back into the centre of their lives, we too must have God at the centre. He’s in charge and He is working all things together according to the counsel of His divine will. Write this down: If something else is at the centre of your life, you will never be satisfied. Friends, as bad as things get, as disappointed as you might be, let’s not question the truth that God is in control. Don’t forget that the very first temptation in the Garden of Eden involved Satan sowing seeds of discontent in Eve’s heart. Once she doubted God’s goodness, it was a short step down the slippery slope of sin. We might not have everything we want but if we have Christ we have everything we need. 2 Peter 1 :3: “He has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” In addition, some of you are not experiencing contentment simply because you are looking in other places for that which only God can provide. Isaiah 55: 2, 3 “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…” Food and even rugby are unfulfilling. Possessions don’t satisfy and ultimately people can’t provide what we’re looking for either.
2. Developing a Proper Expectation of Others v. 10b Paul founded the Philippian church about 12 years earlier and it had been about 10 years since they were able to send any support to him. Notice how content Paul is with these Christians. He cut them some slack, mentioning that they were always concerned but just had no opportunity to express it until now. How could Paul do this? He trusted that God would order the circumstances so his needs could be met. Knowing this truth kept him from anger towards others. It also gave him the freedom to not manipulate the masses just to get their money. Changing circumstances and the expectations of people did not affect His inner contentment. Some of us are way too tough on other people. We expect them to meet our needs, and when they don’t do everything we expect (because they can’t); we get upset and become more discontent. Are you irritated with others? Are you bitter toward someone because he or she let you down? Don’t allow what has been done to you, or not done for you, to become bigger that what Jesus did for you.
3. Learning to be Satisfied in Every Situation v. 11, 12 In plenty or in poverty, God is still in control and is weaving his ways through both of these conditions. It would help if we would become more grateful for the good things we already have. Some of us need to have our needs reduced not our possessions increased. Be satisfied with what you have even if you don’t have everything you want. Hebrews 13: 5: “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Contentment does not emerge out of what we do; it grows out of what we go through. Our deepest satisfaction can only come from God, not from a change in our circumstances.
4. Finding Strength in Christ v. 13 This verse is not promoting positive mental attitude. I can be content in whatever circumstance because of the strengthening work of Christ in my life. The reason many of us are discontent is that we really don’t believe Jesus is enough. Let’s summarize… 1. Be confident that God is in control 2. Develop a proper expectation of others 3. Learn to be satisfied in every situation 4. Find your strength in Christ
Application 1. Declare your dependence on God. When something bad happens this week or you’re struggling with a situation, say this out loud: “God, because you are in control I will be content.” 2. Guard your heart. Allow God’s word to shine on your situation and ask Him to make some adjustments. Don’t procrastinate any longer. Be alert and attentive. Be happy for those whom God blesses. 3. Hold what you have with an open hand. Admit that places, possessions or people won’t satisfy. At its heart, coveting is an attempt to improve upon God. Find your satisfaction in God alone. 4. Give your way out of covetousness. Nothing cures discontentment like giving because coveting can’t live in a generous heart. The best way to live is to give. If you’re not tithing (giving 10%), determine to start doing so. 5. Count your blessings. Make a list of everything you have that you don’t deserve. Now make a list of everything you deserve but don’t have. Don’t ask God for anything more until you’ve thanked Him for what you already have. Earnestly desire Jesus Christ. If you’re not yet a Christ-follower, what are you waiting for? Repent and receive Jesus as the full satisfaction for all your sins. If you are a believer, find your contentment only in Him. Pursue His glory in all you do. Do whatever it takes to gather, grow, give and go. We can be thankful because we have everything we need. We can be content because Christ is all we need. Let’s not get caught up in the consumerism of Christmas this year. Decide that you will be truly thankful and consistently content.