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Always Thankful
I Thessalonians 5:18, Ephesians 5:20
 
On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, about 20 miles from Jamestown. Their charter stated that the day their ship arrived "shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God." Since then, throughout our nation's history, we as a nation have regularly observed a national day of Thanksgiving, although not always in agreement.
 
On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1939, Franklin Roosevelt carved the turkey at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner at Warm Springs, Georgia, and wished all Americans across the country a Happy Thanksgiving.
 
Unfortunately, his greeting went unanswered in some states; many Americans were not observing Thanksgiving on the same day as the President. Instead, they were waiting to carve their turkeys on the following Thursday because November 30th in many states was the official Thanksgiving Day. Two Thanksgivings? Why were Americans celebrating a national holiday on two different days?
 
At the beginning of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. However, Thanksgiving was always the last Thursday in November because that was the day President Abraham Lincoln observed the holiday when he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
 
Franklin Roosevelt continued that tradition, but he soon found that tradition was difficult to keep in extreme circumstances such as the Great Depression. His first Thanksgiving in office, 1933, fell on November 30th, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year.
 
Since statistics showed that most people did not do their Christmas shopping until after Thanksgiving, business leaders feared they would lose money, especially during the Depression, because there were only 24 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They asked Franklin Roosevelt to make Thanksgiving one week earlier. President Roosevelt ignored those concerns in 1933, but when Thanksgiving once again threatened to fall on the last day of November in 1939, FDR reconsidered the request and moved the date of Thanksgiving up one week. Thanksgiving 1939 would be held, President Roosevelt proclaimed, on November 23rd and not November 30th.
 
Changing the date of Thanksgiving seemed harmless enough, but in actuality proved quite controversial. It was so upsetting that thousands of letters poured into the White House once President Roosevelt announced the date change. Some retailers were pleased because they hoped the extra week of Christmas shopping would increase profits, but smaller businesses complained they would lose business to larger stores.
 
Other companies that depended on Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November lost money; calendar makers were the worst hit because they printed calendars years in advance and FDR made their calendars out of date for the next two years.
Schools were also disrupted by Roosevelt's decision; most schools had already scheduled vacations and annual Thanksgiving Day football games by the time they learned of Thanksgiving's new date and had to decide whether or not to reschedule everything. Moreover, many Americans were angry that Roosevelt tried to alter such a long-standing tradition and American values just to help businesses make more money.*
 
As opposition grew, some states took matters into their own hands and defied the Presidential Proclamation. Some governors declared November 30th as Thanksgiving. And so, depending upon where one lived, Thanksgiving was celebrated on the 23rd and the 30th. This was worse than changing the date in the first place because families that lived in states such as New York did not have the same day off as family members in states such as Connecticut! Family and friends were unable to celebrate the holiday together.
 
Franklin Roosevelt observed Thanksgiving on the second to last Thursday of November for two more years, but the amount of public outrage prompted Congress to pass a law on December 26, 1941, ensuring that all Americans would celebrate a unified Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November every year. It reads like this:
 
"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord." Across the uncertain ways of space and time our hearts echo those words, for the days are with us again when, at the gathering of the harvest, we solemnly express our dependence upon Almighty God.
 
The final months of this year, now almost spent, find our Republic and the nations joined with it waging a battle on many fronts for the preservation of liberty.
 
In giving thanks for the greatest harvest in the history of our nation, we who plant and reap can well resolve that in the year to come we will do all in our power to pass that milestone; for by our labors in the fields we can share some part of the sacrifice with our brothers and sons who wear the uniform of the United States.
 
It is fitting that we recall now the reverent words of George Washington, "Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection," and that every American in his own way lift his voice to Heaven.
I recommend that all of us bear in mind this great Psalm:
 
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me I the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
 
 
 
Inspired with faith and courage by these words, let us turn again to the work that confronts us in this time of national emergency : in the armed services and the merchant marine; in factories and offices; on farms and in the mines; on highways, railways and airways; in other places of public service to the Nation; and in our homes.
 
NOW, THEREFORE, I, FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, President of the United States of America, do hereby invite the attention of the people to the joint resolution of Congress approved December 26, 1941, which designates the fourth Thursday in November of each year as thanksgiving Day’ and I request that both Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1942, and New Year’s Day, January 1, 1943, be observed in prayer, publicly and privately.
 
It is rather unfortunate that we would fuss and fight over how best to be thankful. It is also rather ironic that we who have been so richly blessed would require a day designated for our thankfulness to be offered. 
 
Certainly as Christians, Thanksgiving is more than a day to be observed, it is a way in which we are to live. The Scripture tells us that we are to always be thankful. Our texts read, "In everything give thanks" and "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
 
For a few weeks we have been thinking about being thankful. I want to bring one more message on the subject. Today, I want to let the Scripture remind us how we are to always be thankful. First, let's take the two verses together and think of how:
 
1. THANKFULNESS IS COMMANDED
 
The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to "give thanks." Likewise in Ephesians 5:20 the Bible speaks of "Giving thanks." The first thing we need to understand about being thankful is that we are commanded by God to be thankful. Neither of those verses are recommendations or suggestions. They are commands! We are to be thankful!
 
The root of the word thankful is thoughtful. The idea is that if one thinks about their blessings they would be grateful for their blessings. Thinking always precedes thanking. The command to be thankful is a command to stop and think about how we have been blessed.
 
I think of the example of Isaac. The Bible says in Genesis 26:12, "Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him." The fruitful year that Isaac enjoyed was due to God's blessings. Each of us can say the Lord has blessed us.
 
Moses said to the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 2:7, "For the LORD thy God hath blessed thee in all the works of thy hand: He knoweth thy walking through the great wilderness: these forty years the LORD thy God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing."
 
We can think about how God has been with us, how there has never been a moment when He was not with us. We can also think of how He has watched over us and met our every need. We have been blessed in more ways than we can imagine.
All one has to do is sat down and think about the ways God has blessed them, and it want be long before you are giving thanks.
 
I love the lyrics of the old hymn by Johnson Oatman:
 
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
 
I think a healthy practice to develop would be to stop sometime during each day and think about all God has done for you in that day. If we think about our blessings, we will be more mindful of how much we are blessed. It may surprise you how much you have been blessed.
 
Think about the word "thanks" in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20 simply means "to be grateful, to express thanks." The word was often used to speak of saying grace at a meal. We are to think about our blessings and we are to express thanks for those blessings. To command to be thankful is a command to express our thanks to God.
 
It is also a sad indictment of any generation that they are unthankful. In Romans 1:21 it is said of a people of antiquity that "when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful." I am not sure that anything worse could be said of anyone that they were unthankful.
 
This past Thursday we celebrated Thanksgiving. In truth, Thanksgiving has become everything but a day to express thanks. For many, it is only a day to eat till they are ready to burst, party, drink, and watch football.
But as Christians we ought to daily be lifting our hands to God expressing our thanks. It is commanded that we do so.
 
Secondly, we see that thankfulness is not only commanded, but we also see:
 
2. THANKFULNESS IS CONTINUAL
 
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:20, "Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Last week we thought about being unthankful. To be unthankful is an act of disobedience. And we looked specifically at the big events of life such as our salvation or a healing or miraculous act of God. 
 
But the teaching of this verse is that in everything we are to be thankful. Notice the word "always." The word speaks of the attitude of gratitude in which we are to live and abide. The word literally means "at all times." We are to continually be thankful.
 
I think of the children of Israel and the offering of their sacrifices to the Lord. The command was given to offer sacrifices unto the Lord on a daily basis. For example, the Bible says in Numbers 28:24, "After this manner ye shall offer daily, throughout the seven days..."
 
The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 2:9 that we are a "royal priesthood." Being spiritual priests we are to offer sacrifices to the Lord. One such sacrifice is found in Hebrews 13:15, "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
 
 Thanksgiving is a spiritual sacrifice we are to offer and it is an offering that is to be continual. Instead of thanksgiving being once a year, it is to be an unceasing practice.
 
How is that to be expressed? Well it is both personal and public. As we saw, the word "always" means at all times. All times would include being thankful around every person and in every place.
 
It does not matter who we are with or where we are, we should never be ashamed to be express our thanks to the Lord.
 
The Psalmist said Psalm 108:3, "I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praise unto thee among the nations." The "people" that the Psalmist referred to is the people of God. We should never be inhibited to express our thanks when we are with God's people. The nations the Psalmist referred to are people who do not know the Lord. Neither should we be inhibited to express our thanks to the Lord among a world that does not know the Lord.
 
Hebrews 13:15 speaks of the "fruit of our lips." This would imply an audible expression of praise and thanksgiving. There are many Christians who are inhibited when it comes to being vocal in their praise. We should never be ashamed to lift our voice in expressions of thanksgiving.
 
God's command is that we be thankful and that we continually express our thanks. Every day is a day of thanksgiving for someone who is saved.
 
Thirdly, we see:
3. THANKFULNESS IS COMPREHENSIVE
 
Notice our texts again. We read in Ephesians 5:20 that we are to be thankful "for all things." In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read that we are to be thankful "in all things." To be thankful for all things and in all things include all the things that happens in our life.
 
It includes the sad times as well as the glad times. It includes that hard times as well as the happy times.
 
Let me show you a great illustration of thankfulness from an Old Testament Jewish practice called the Feast of Tabernacles.
 
The Bible says of the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23:40, "And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days."
 
During the Feast of Tabernacles they would take palm and willow branches and wave them before the Lord as an expression of thanksgiving. Palms are a symbol of the good times. Willows are a symbol of the bad times. When they offered their expressions of thankfulness to the Lord, they gave thanks for both the good and bad times.
 
Being thankful is not limited to just what we call good. It is also being thankful for even the seeming bad things in life. We are to be thankful for all things and in all things.
 
 
It was Thanksgiving season in the nursing home. The small resident population was gathered about their humble Thanksgiving table, and the director asked each in turn to express one thing for which they were thankful. Thanks were expressed for a home in which to stay, families, etc. One little old lady in her turn said, "I thank the Lord for two perfectly good teeth, one in my upper jaw and one in my lower jaw that match so that I can chew my food."
 
A Sunday School teacher asked her class what they were thankful for. One little boy said, "My glasses." When asked why he was thankful for his glasses when most little boys were bitter about wearing them, he said, "Because they keep the boys from fighting me and the girls from kissing me."
 
As I said, we can be thankful for all things and in all things.
 
You ask how can I be thankful for even the seeming bad things? Well remember this: 
 
God has a purpose in all things that happens. Understanding that God has a purpose in all that happens we can be thankful. We may not always know what He is doing, but we can still be thankful that He has a purpose. Let me give you a couple of stories that illustrate that even in the bad things and bad times we can be thankful for God's purpose.
 
Corrie ten Boom in The Hiding Place relates an incident that taught her always to be thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested.
That morning, their Scripture reading in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters.
 
Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings.
 
During the months spent at the camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without guard interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks was because of the fleas.
 
In southern Alabama is the town of Enterprise, in Coffee County. There they have erected a monument to an insect, honoring the Mexican boll weevil. In 1895 the boll weevil began to destroy the major crop of the county, cotton. In desperation to survive the farmers had to diversify, and by 1919 the county's peanut crop was many times what cotton had been at its height.
 
In that year of prosperity a fountain and monument were built. The inscription reads: "In profound appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of prosperity this monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee County, Alabama." Out of a time of struggle and crisis had come new growth and success. Out of adversity had come blessing.
 
 
 
Even in flea infested barracks and when crops are devastated we can be thankful for God has a purpose in the things He allows to come in our life. God's great purpose in all that happens reminds us that even in what we call bad there is good. Therefore, even in all things we can be thankful.
 
Also remember this: 
 
In everything that has happened, we can be thankful because God was there.
 
In Heb 13:5 we have the great promise, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." A person may not be able to look up to heaven and give thanks for such things as cancer and death, yet they can be thankful that God does not forsake one when they go through such things.
 
In all things we are assured of God's faithful and abiding presence. Thus, even in the hard and difficult things of life, we can still lift our hands and express our thanks to God.
 
Squire Boone, younger brother of Daniel Boone, was wounded in battles with Indians eleven times. Finally he settled near Corydon, Indiana, where he built a mill. On one of the foundations he carved these words:
 
     "My God my life hath much befriended.
      I'll praise Him till my days are ended."
 
In light of all God has done for us, we should spend nothing less than everyday of the rest of our life praising and thanking him for all He has done. May God make us truly a thankful people!
 
 
 
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