This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on November 23, 2015.
The giving of thanks is something that most of us learn at an early age. One of the first things parents teach their children is to say, “Thank you.” To do so is a sign of good manners. We are proud of our children when they learn to do this without prompting and we praise them for it. It is a signal that they understand the principle of gratitude.
Unfortunately, some people seem to lose this sense of responsibility as they grow older. One of the more disheartening signs of our modern age is the apparent lack of gratitude that seems to characterize it. We have perhaps become so accustomed to neglecting the simple matter of saying “Thank you” that we no longer recognize it when it happens.
Saying “Thank you” is certainly a small thing. Nearly everyone would agree on this. So, why has it become such a difficult thing for so many to say? Perhaps it is because too many of us actually do not feel gratitude for services rendered or kindnesses given. If one does not feel thankful for something, he will hardly take time to offer the appropriate words, will he? It is possible, of course, that some who neglect to express thanks do so because they simply haven’t given it any thought, but this is not an excuse for such a failure.
To not be thankful, for whatever reasons, is a social blunder. To not be thankful to God, however, is a sin. Thankfulness should be at the heart of all we do in worship and in service to the Lord. If we cannot be thankful to Him for all the rich blessings that He has given us, for the answers to our prayers, for the abundance of His grace, and for salvation in Jesus Christ, for what can we be thankful? It certainly behooves us to give the matter some serious thought.
The scriptures abound with expressions of thanks to God for all the things He has done. Many of the Psalms, for example, are songs of thanksgiving. Time after time, men and women in scripture gave thanks to God for the things He had done for them, or given to them. Under the Law of Moses, a thanksgiving offering, given at any time that the worshiper wanted to express gratitude to God, was an important part of the exercise of Old Testament service to God. Even our Savior on numerous occasions spoke words of thanks to His Father in heaven. For all of these, giving thanks was a natural response to the blessings that God showered upon them. They simply could not refrain from doing so.
It is interesting to notice that in the two primary New Testament passages that teach us to sing in our worship, we are commanded to do so with thanksgiving in our hearts. In Eph. 5:20 Paul said we should be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” In Col. 3:16, 17 Paul tells us to sing with thankfulness in our hearts and to do all in the name of Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. Without a doubt, giving thanks to God is central to our worship and service.
There is no question that all of us are thankful to God when we celebrate our national day of thanksgiving, but we must not allow ourselves to become thoughtless in our expression of thanks to the Lord the rest of the year. God blesses His people each and every day with everything they need to live on this earth. He also blesses us each day with His grace and forgiveness. For these reasons we must always give thanks to Him.
On October 27, 1964 an actor named Ronald Reagan delivered a televised speech in support of the Republican Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater. He entitled his speech, “A Time For Choosing,” and in it he laid out the stark contrasts between the views and policies of the conservative Goldwater and the liberal, incumbent, Lyndon B. Johnson. This speech is widely credited with being the catalyst that propelled Reagan to a successful political career, first as governor of California, and later as President of the United States.
We often think of times of choosing as arising at critical moments in our lives. Whether it is the choice of a vocational path, or an educational goal, or one’s life mate, we understand that there are times when we must choose one thing over another in order to proceed. In some cases, our choices are little more than a matter of preference. On the other hand, however, there are times when our choices have consequences that can affect the remainder of our lives.
One such instance occurred when Joshua was preparing Israel to live in the Promised Land. He had led them through five years of conquest, during which time they had driven most of the Canaanite peoples from the land. Now, as his own life neared its end, Joshua called Israel together for a final exhortation. In Josh. 24:14-15 he said, “Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
For Israel it was a time for choosing. They had been given a bountiful land in which to live. It was a good land with cities and vineyards and flowing rivers and abundant rain. They had received it by the hand of God, who had defeated all their enemies. Now, as they settled into their inheritance, they must choose if they would remain faithful to the God who had given them this land. Their history shows that sometimes they chose to follow God and other times they chose not to. Their fortunes reflected their choices right up to the time in which they were taken away into captivity.
Joshua called upon Israel to make a choice that day, as he spoke to them. In truth, however, they had to make that choice each and every day of their lives. This is a principle that remains as true today as it was then. In Heb. 11:6 the scripture says that without faith it is impossible to please God. In Mt. 7:21 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” In Rev. 2:10 the Lord said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
So then, we also face a time for choosing. We must choose to believe in God and obey His will, or to go another way. One choice leads to eternal life, but the other leads to destruction, as the Lord said in Mt. 7:13-14. How we choose affects how our lives play out here on the earth, for those who pursue godliness receive benefits here and now for doing so (1 Tim. 4:8). The greatest benefit, of course, is eternal life in the place being prepared in heaven for the faithful (Jn. 14:1-4). Until the Lord returns, it is a time for choosing. What will you choose?
Social media affords individuals the opportunity to express their opinions on everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Some of these opinions are profane. Some are mean and hurtful. Some are just plain stupid. Others demonstrate an obvious lack of understanding about the subject under consideration. One comment that falls into this latter category was a reaction to a worship assembly that one person had attended. The comment was, “A great worship show!” It was accompanied by a picture which showed a praise band performing on a stage bathed in multi-colored spot lights while the audience was in darkness.
For many professed believers today, this is exactly what worship has become. It is a stage show in which the audience members are spectators as professional musicians and singers belt out rock-like tunes in praise to God. If a video of such worship were shown without the sound, it would be nearly impossible to distinguish it from a secular rock concert. The audience may clap and sing along, and some may even dance in the aisles as the music plays, and at the end of each piece, the arena (sorry, sanctuary), erupts in applause. At the conclusion of the event everyone goes away with the same feelings of exhilaration that one would experience at a secular show.
Obviously this kind of event appeals to a wide spectrum of modern society, but is this what worship is supposed to be? Many people think the very idea of asking such a question is absurd. The prevailing attitude seems to be that whatever we want to do in worship to God will be just fine with Him. However, even a cursory look at the scriptures shows otherwise.
All throughout the Old Testament God was very explicit in how His people were to worship Him. He never left them to their own devices in deciding how to worship. He always told them exactly what He would and would not accept from them. The classic example of this is Nadab and Abihu in Lev. 10:1-2. The scripture says that they offered strange fire before the Lord, “which He had not commanded them.” As a result, God sent fire from heaven to consume them. The point is that God only accepts worship that is offered in the manner He commands.
In the New Testament, the summary statement of God’s will about worship is made by Jesus in Jn. 4:24. Speaking to the woman at the well in Samaria, the Lord said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is a general statement that covers both our attitude as we worship, as well as the things we do in worship. Our worship must be sincere, but it must also be what God has commanded.
Our understanding of New Testament worship is a composite of a number of statements and examples. We worship on the first day of the week (Sunday), because this is when first century Christians met (Acts 20:7). We sing and make melody with our hearts, as they did (Eph. 5:15-21). We eat the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), give of our means (1 Cor. 16:1-2), pray, and proclaim God’s word (Acts 2:42). All these things were done by the early Christians in a simple and reverent way, as befitting those coming into the presence of Almighty God.
This is the point that is lost on many modern worshipers. God is the object of our worship, not the people in the pews. Our joy and fulfillment in worship should come from having offered acceptable worship to God, rather than from having been entertained or moved by someone’s performance. We don’t assemble to put on a great worship show. We assemble to show our love for God by doing what He has commanded us to do.
In 2001 a new television series called, 24, premiered on the Fox network. The series revolved around a fictional counter-terrorism unit based in Los Angeles, and featured agent Jack Bauer in the lead role. The premise behind the series was that each season constituted 24 hours, in which Jack Bauer and his organization thwarted some major terrorist act. Each episode reflected one hour in the 24-hour period and used a digital clock display to keep viewers apprised of the elapsed time. Because it was a work of fiction, the characters were always able to do things in much less time than in real life, like driving across Los Angeles in a matter of minutes instead of the hours it normally takes.
The concept of time is one of the few aspects of life that is equally distributed among all people. Each day we live we have 24 hours at our disposal. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor, how young or old, how well or infirmed, or where in the world one lives, we all have the same amount of time each day. What separates us from one another in this regard is how we make use of that time.
In Eph. 5:15-16 Paul said, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” We often think of the 21st century as being unique with respect to the demands that are made on our time, but Paul’s words suggest that this is not the case. Even in the first century, it seems, time was at a premium. The fact is that in every age of mankind, and in every place and culture, there have been, and will continue to be, elements that can and do try to occupy our time.
Some of these things are essential to life. For example, we recognize the necessity of working to earn a living. We cannot take care of ourselves or our families if we refuse to work. In the same way, eating and sleeping are an important part of each day. Although some might balk at this, learning and study are also pursuits that have a positive effect on our lives. So, also, do recreation and exercise.
Our problems arise when we allow some things to occupy too much of our time to the detriment of more important things. In our day and time the most visible culprits in this regard are electronic devices. Wherever we go most people have their attention focused solely on their smart phones or tablets. Even at home we are immersed in web surfing or gaming on our computers and other devices. Most responsible people agree that we are spending too much time in these activities, and not enough time on more important pursuits.
This is especially the case in spiritual matters. If we were to compare the amount of time we spend in spiritual-growth activities with our other interests, we would find that spiritual things get by far the lesser amount of our attention. If all a person does is attend a Sunday morning Bible class, two Sunday worship assemblies, and a mid-week Bible study or prayer meeting, he will have spent only about four hours out of the 168 hours that week on spiritual things. If that person is not engaged in personal Bible reading and study at home, and is not engaged in personal prayer, or in conversation about spiritual things with other believers, he is starving his soul of its sustenance.
Of all the things to which we give our time, many are important and ought not to be neglected. Other things are not as important and should occupy an amount of our time proportionate to their importance. But, none of these things should take up so much of our time that we do not give adequate time to our spiritual needs. We have 24 hours each day we live. We must make the best use of that time in order to prepare our souls for eternity.
How are you going to use the 24 hours at your disposal today?