Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving

Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving

Life & Light Community Church

Message from 11/19/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family, and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

                                                                            Philippians 4:4–7 (NASB95)

From an early age our parents taught us to say thank you. If someone gives you a piece of candy, you say thank you. If someone holds a door open, you say thank you. If someone gives you a drink, you say thank you. If someone smiles and says, “Have a nice day.” You say thank you and return the sentiment. So, we learn to be thankful FOR things. We are thankful for food, clothing and shelter. We are thankful for a beautiful day. We are thankful for friends and family. Yes, we have indeed learned to be thankful for things.

But what happens when everything is not peaches and cream? When our rosy future turns a darker shade than we prefer to see? How do we react when our finances are stretched to the breaking point? What do we do when health issues, a sudden illness, or even death interrupt our blissful existence? When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, his life was anything but peaches and cream. Paul wrote this letter, like most of his letters, from jail. Bound in chains and guarded by a Roman soldier. Paul, however, does not exhort this small church to give thanks FOR everything but rather IN everything. For Paul, and the church at Philippi, Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving is the only way to have a peace that goes beyond human understanding.

Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to rejoice in the Lord. Their gentle spirit should be known to all men, for the Lord is near. They are to be anxious about nothing, yet, in everything, they are to make their requests known to God. By Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving, the peace of Gid will guard their hearts and minds.

As Christ followers, we find our joy in the Lord. We love all people as if the end is near, being worried about nothing but praying about whatever we are facing. We are Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving by taking our concerns to God and allowing His peace to cover our lives.

In this message, we seek to answer the question, “What is the importance of Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving?”

As Christ followers, Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving is the means by which we obtain the peace of God.

1). As Christ followers, we are Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving when our joy spills over in love for others.

As Christ followers, we must love others like the end is near.

The church in this country has been blessed in that it has not faced open persecution like many other Christ followers around the world. Though we do not know when, that day is in fact, coming to the church in this country. With just a cursory reading of this passage one does not get the “feel” that this small church in Philippi is facing any persecution either. But as we read and study the words within the text, we begin to understand that they are indeed facing persecution, of some form, from their pagan neighbors. Paul first exhorts the church to rejoice in the Lord. This is not just joy but a joy so full and complete that nothing and no one can replace it or take it from them. This is a fullness of joy that can only be found in the Lord Himself.

Next, we see Paul exhorting the church to let their gentle spirit be known to all people. This word is generally used as an attitude of kindness when the normal or expected response is one of retaliation. This is love that goes beyond the norm, one that walks the extra mile and turns the other cheek. Paul adds that the Lord is near, so love these people as if He were standing beside you. The word used here is also translated as forbearance. Paul uses it in referring to the meekness and gentleness of Christ. During His trial, the Roman soldiers mocked Christ, tempting Him to react to their treatment of Him. They fashioned a crown of thorns and a mock cloak of purple fabric and taunted Him as the King of Israel. But Yeshua did not take the bait. In His great love for them, for the entire world, He did not react.

Paul then tells the church to “be anxious for nothing.” To be anxious is to have a distracting care about something. This is having your mind preoccupied with something. In the case of the church, it is the persecution coming from their pagan neighbors. Some of this persecution was coming from false teachers attempting to refute the teachings of Paul and convince the church that their form of the gospel based on knowledge and the Spirit was superior to that of Paul’s. However, Paul is in good standing with this church. He prays for them and gives thanks for them; they have twice sent money to support him in his efforts to spread the gospel message. His teaching is consistent and full proof.

While what we have learned is certainly most useful in facing persecution, there are still valuable lessons for the Christ follower, even though we do not face open persecution in the present. Living in the days just prior to the return of Christ, people are going to try and convince us that what we have learned and what we believe to be true about the Bible and the teachings of Messiah are not only false, but they are also filled with hate speech, do not include all people, and are just one way to reach God and heaven. It is imperative that Christ followers know what they believe and believe what the know and why. Scripture tells us to be prepared in season and out, to give an account for the hope that lives within us.

Secondly, we must be gentle in all things. We must love like the end is near, because, quite honestly, it is! People are going to try and tempt us to react or overreact, distracting us from what Yeshua is calling us to do, to say, and to show to others. By allowing gentleness, love for people and for Yeshua, to be at the forefront of all we do, we can make the love of Christ known to all. Thirdly, do not allow anyone or anything, to steal your joy found in the Lord. This is not going to be easy, it may in fact, be the hardest thing we face in the days ahead. Our joy should spill over to others, in the form of love, tolerance, and forgiveness, but it will not be easy to hold on and allow that joy to grow. Finally, be anxious for nothing. Do not allow anything to so fill your mind with worry that you lose sight of Yeshua, the One who has the answers, fills your needs, and shines the light on the path He has called you to walk.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

What do you find trying to steal your joy during this season of life?

How are you showing your “gentle spirit” to those around you?

What are you carrying a “distracting concern” for during this season of life?

As Christ followers, Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving is the means by which we obtain the peace of God.

2). As Christ followers, we are Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving when we are worried about nothing but praying about whatever we are facing.

There is no other way to find peace that goes beyond our understanding.

What we discussed in the first point of this message is not going to be easy, it will be very difficult, at best. But Paul gives us the roadmap to finding success. I began this message by talking about how we have learned to be thank FOR things. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with that at all. We should be thankful for all that God has done, is doing, and will do for us. Giving thanks for those things is the proper response for the great blessings God the Father has given us. But this passage is not about how we react FOR things, it is about how we react IN things.  How do you react while you are in the middle of persecution? What is your response to sudden illness, health issues, or even the death of a loved one?

Paul tells us how we should react while we are IN something. We react by prayer, and supplication, with thanksgiving; we make our requests known to God. We all know what prayer is, in fact, I would venture to say that the one time we can all be found praying is when things begin to go bad. However, the type of prayer we are most likely to launch is a request for help, or asking “Why me, Lord?” Paul, however, is talking about a different type of prayer, he says supplication with thanksgiving. Have you ever tried to be thankful in the middle of a financial crisis? How do we give thanks for a sudden illness or disease? The first clue is found in the word supplication.

Supplication is a form of prayer, but it is a prayer borne out of desperation, out of dire need. But there is more to it than just desperation, than just the dire need. The key to this kind of prayer is found in the attitude of the person doing the praying. This calls for earnest prayer, that is, with sincerity and intense conviction, done humbly by the person making their request known to God. Think of Yeshua in the Garden of Eden. “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from Me. But not My will but Your will be done.” Here is the God of Creation, knowing what is coming in just a few hours, probably feeling the pain as He thinks about what is about to happen. Begging His Father to remove what is about to happen, if it is at all possible, but…if it is not, Your will be done.

Finally, there is thanksgiving. This simply means to give thanks, but the root word tells a different story. The root word means to give freely, so we give thanks freely while in the middle of whatever we might be facing. We give thanks freely while we are on our knees or flat on our face, making our requests known to the God of all Resources, the only One who can both hear and answer our prayers. In this type of prayer, we are asking or begging for something. When we are in such a place of desperation, we are exactly where God wants us…at the end of our human resources! We have finally come to the place where we must turn to the One we should have turned to in the first place!

For the Christ follower, we must be willing to humble ourselves and seek the One who hears our prayers and can answer those prayers, before we speak a word! Our first reaction must be one of seeking after God first, not when we have expended all of our pitiful human resources. Our Father in heaven is not caught off guard by anything we face. He is prepared to help if we but seek Him first, in sincerity and humbly. When we finally come to that place of desperation, we must fix our eyes on Him, not the issue we face. In all we face, we must be willing to freely give thanks to the Father who has called us into fellowship with His Son, for the One who offered His Son in our place, is prepared for anything – any crisis, any disease, any illness, any sin, or even any death – that might strike against us.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How do you find yourself reacting IN the middle of an unexpected hardship?

Are you freely giving thanks during this season of life?

Have you reached the point of desperation that has led you to cry out to God?

As Christ followers, Practicing Joyous Thanksgiving is the means by which we obtain the peace of God.

The result of all that we have learned from this passage is that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds. Guard is another term used for situations of conflict. It is used to refer to the actions of a military garrison stationed inside of a city. The military garrison is charged to watch over in order to protect or control; to protect against damage or harm. The peace of God will protect our hearts and minds against outside attacks. The first two places our enemy attacks are the heart and the mind. Spiritual warfare begins with the mind and works to twist and pervert the teachings of Yeshua that our hearts are turned away from God and to the things of the world.

More damage is done to the mind of the Christ follower by the subtle twisting of God’s word, than any all-out verbal attack or physical confrontation done by another person or group of people. Verbal and physical attacks involve other people, people we can confront, talk to, and reason with; the spiritual attack on the mind involves only our faulty thinking and untrustworthy hearts. We must guard these two areas first and foremost against enemy attack. We do this in Christ the Lord. We do this in His strength, in His victory, for He has already won both the battle and the war. Doing any of this in our own strength will only lead to failure, frustration, and defeat. We must remember, we face a defeated enemy who knows his time is short. Freely give thanks IN all things, praying earnestly, begging humbly, making your request known to God, for this is how we obtain the peace of God, peace that goes beyond our human understanding.

We do all things for the glory of God, through Christ our Lord.

Amen and amen.

Next Week: Advent Week 1: Zephaniah 3:17 – Hope  

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