Online Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve
Sermon for Thanksgiving Eve - November 23, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:3–14 (NKJV)
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; 7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who is our joy and hope of glory,
Who is our reason for thanksgiving,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
There are times when it’s not difficult to be thankful for certain things...
When we sit in a warm house on a cold and windy winter day it’s not difficult to be thankful for our home.
It’s not difficult to be thankful for life...when you are healthy and not sick.
It’s not difficult to be thankful for food when it’s easily accessible when hungry.
It’s not difficult to be thankful for water when you don’t have to chop a hole in the ice to get it.
It’s not difficult to be thankful for family when everyone is getting along, being supportive and loving.
It’s not difficult to be thankful for grandchildren when they still view their grandparents as a wonder and not as ‘out of touch old fogies.’
Now, that said, being thankful for these things... isn’t the same as thanking God for them.
I’m thankful that you provide me a warm home...but that’s not the same thing as saying, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for this house that has become a home.”
I’m glad that I can eat whatever appeals to me during holiday meals...but that’s not the same as actually saying, “Thank you, Lord, for the abundance You have provided.”
I’m thankful that my cold is going away...but that doesn’t mean I’ve actually taken time to say, “Thank you, Lord Jesus, for granting recovery and blessing me with health.”
I love my grandchildren...but I ought to begin every day by actually thanking God for these gifts He has given me.
Still, when we pause to give thanks tomorrow it will primarily be for things that don’t last – that are consumed and forgotten. As pathetic as it is, the glow of family time will fade depending on football or because we tire and become grumpy. Would it be wise to make a nap mandatory on Thanksgiving Day?
No matter how hard we try to make it a perfect day, we don’t live in a perfect world. As a result, there are things that we won’t take the time to think about or give thanks for on Thanksgiving Day...and the majority of them are of a spiritual nature. Even though just one of the seven requests Jesus taught us to make in the Lord’s Prayer concerns earthly things; still our Thanksgiving Celebration seems to focus entirely upon earthly blessings!
Let’s change that this year...starting this evening.
This Thanksgiving Eve let’s refocus as we study the words that the Holy Spirit gave to the Apostle Paul to write to the Colossian Christians. He wrote to people that he had never met face to face...and he wrote them from prison...not exactly the easiest time to be thankful.
These are truly Uncommon Reasons to Give Thanks. We begin by asking God’s blessing on our meditation. Sanctify us by Your Truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Colossians is one of the ‘Captivity Letters’ – so called because it was written from Prison in Rome. Paul was under house arrest, awaiting a hearing before the Roman Emperor, to whom he had made an appeal as a Roman Citizen. He had a handful of supportive companions when the Holy Spirit set him to writing these words, including Timothy (Colossians 1:1), Tychicus (Colossians 4:7) who delivered the letter to Colossae, Onesimus (4:9), Aristarchus (4:10), John Mark (the man that the Holy Spirit used to write the Gospel of Mark, 4:10) Justus (Colossians 4:11) Epaphras (4:12) Luke (4:14), who wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts and Demas (4:14).
After greeting the Colossians, the Apostle Paul got right down to business. He wanted the Colossian Christians to know that He and his companions had been praying for them constantly:
3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; 5 because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;
We may express our thankfulness for the things that other people do for us...and we should.
When my brother-in-law diagnoses and repairs my vehicle, I will tell him, “I’m thankful that I can turn to you when my car doesn’t work.”
When someone fixes the lawnmower or shovels the sidewalk, I can tell them, “I’m thankful you are both willing and able to complete these tasks.”
When people appreciate the sermon or the work put into Bible Study, they say to me, “Thank you, Pastor.”
Nevertheless, it seems to me that we don’t Thank God for what He has done for them.
“Thank you, Father, for the people that are a blessing to me.” Thank you for the ability you have given to my brother-in-law and to those who work alongside me in the congregation.
But if you look closely at these words, you will notice that Paul doesn’t thank the Colossians for their faith and love. He doesn’t thank the Colossians for the power of the message that they had heard which was bringing forth fruit in the world.
In fact, He thanked ‘the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ’ for all of these things.
They weren’t believers because they wanted to be...but because they heard how Jesus had died for their sins and rose again from the dead. They weren’t believers because they were somehow more noble than their neighbors, but because the Spirit of God had blessed the message that Jesus commissioned His people to proclaim in the world.
They didn’t love fellow believers because they were good people, but because by the Grace of God they saw in them people for whom the same Jesus died. If Jesus loved them and died for them, then they loved them too and proved it by their willingness to help and support them.
They clung to an eternal hope in heaven not because of some finely crafted sermon...but because of the power of God.
They knew what God had done for them through His Son...and it was their treasure.
“Wait a second, Pastor. Something is fishy here. I thought you said that Paul had never met them. How could He know any of these things? How could He know about their faith and love and hope and knowledge? Who taught them and told Him? Did he have a smart phone?”
“Psst. Keep reading!” (Vs. 7-8):
7 as you also learned from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, 8 who also declared to us your love in the Spirit.
While in prison Paul met Epaphras, their pastor, who told them all about their faith in Christ, their love for Jesus’ people, their hope in heaven and their knowledge of it.
When they heard this from Epaphras, they began...and continued to thank God for what He had done for them and was still doing. It would be like me hearing of your work here at a CLC Convention in the 90’s and then praying for you from that point forward.
Paul and his companions didn’t only thank God for the past, for what He had already done for and through them. They also prayed earnestly for their future, that God would continue to build on their faith and grant other complimentary blessings.
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
We pray for people under different circumstances.
When they reach a milestone...a birthday, a baptism, confirmation, wedding.
When they are sick...in the hospital, preparing for surgery or for treatment.
When people sorrow...at the loss of a loved one, be it spouse, family or friend.
How often do we pray for the spiritual benefit of others? Well, this year, in an effort to become more aware of the needs of our fellow Christians overseas, we’ve prayed for individuals in far off places that God would bless their work. We’ve never met them face to face and wouldn’t recognize them in a crowd...and yet we speak with God and ask that He would bless them.
When we pray in this way, we do the same thing that Paul and his companions did for the Colossian Christians. We pray that our fellow believers not be satisfied with a 1st Grade knowledge of God and His Word, but that they grow and mature until they are filled with the knowledge of what God wants and understand it.
Let’s not stop there, but pray for each other. This evening, pick a member of Calvary and pray for them specifically (not just family members either) and ask that God would grant them maturity and through the Scriptures become aware of what God wants and seek to do it!
Seek their blessing from God...but not because you in your great wisdom believe they need to grow up. Rather, pray in faith, wanting the best for others.
Pray also --
10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
We seek to grow in our understanding. We should also God’s strength to live in accord with the Scriptures. We can’t pick and choose which things we agree with in Holy Scripture. It’s an all or nothing proposition. May God enable us to live according to that Word, confirming God’s will by what we say and do.
If you think that’s easy...you are living in a make-believe world...not this one. We need also to pray that we are all...
11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
Paul and his companions prayed that God would strengthen the Colossians...and grant them patience and endurance. They faced persecution for their faith in Jesus and it would be impossible without God’s aid to remain joyful in the face of such things. So also, we’ve prayed for our persecuted brothers in Myanmar and other places in the world today.
Let us also pray for one another here at Calvary, that we may stand firm in the truth when people mock our faith in Jesus. This will happen...unless we keep our faith under wraps and hide our hope in Christ. God grant that we never do so, but seek God’s strength and power to endure it all.
Finally, we give thanks to God that He has changed our status, by qualifying, delivering and conveying us.
12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Paul and his companions gave thanks that God had qualified the Colossians (and them) to be partakers of God’s inheritance in Christ. He did this when He delivered them from the kingdom of darkness and the rule of Satan. Their deliverance took place on Good Friday, when Christ died for all sins and on Easter Sunday when He rose again defeating death. He thus made it possible – by faith – for them and us to be transferred to the Kingdom of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ their sins – past, present and future—stood forgiven.
We are also God’s Children and have reason to thank God because He has done the same for us. We were unqualified to stand before God until Christ bore our sins. We were slaves to sin and under the power of Satan until Christ delivered us. We were condemned sinners...until Jesus shed His blood for us and granted us grace to believe it.
We aren’t good people...but we are redeemed by His Blood. We stand forgiven because of His Sacrifice.
These are good reasons to give thanks to God. In fact, in our world, these are truly UNCOMMON (but legitimate) REASONS TO GIVE THANKS...TO GOD.
May He grant such thankfulness.