02 Jan 2018

Gospel-centered Gratefulness
  • Topic: The Gospel


God says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ”  Giving thanks is good and reasonable, until you notice that God commands us to do so in ALL circumstances. We can give thanks when we have food on the table, but how can we give thanks when there is no food on the table? How can one give thanks when he has lost his job, or when another has broken up with his partner? Can you really give thanks when you are stricken with a serious illness? Find out then how the Gospel changes everything and fuels in your heart a whole new passion and joy that results in genuine thanksgiving. Discover how a Gospel-centred man can truly give thanks every Sunday, every single day and indeed in good days and "bad" days from this sermon.


Sermon Transcript

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Well this is the last sermon of the year and I thought it's always good at the end of the year to look back at the year gone by and to be able to give thanks to God. So I'm going to speak today about Gospel centred gratefulness. It's just one sermon, it's not a typical sermon we have in that I think this is very simple, it's going to be very concise and I hope it will be something you will remember, for 2018, not only to give thanks for 2017, but to be a thankful, grateful person throughout the year in 2018 and the years beyond.

You might have heard of this author, his name is Rudyard Kipling, he is very famous for the book, The Jungle Book, alright. So he was a very famous, popular author and one day a reporter came to him and said Mr. Kipling, someone had done some calculations about the amount of money you have earned and he said, you have earned about $100 for every single word you have written, now that's a lot of money in his time. So the reporter then took out a $100 bill, passed it to Mr. Kipling and said to him, I've given you $100, give me a $100 word. Mr. Kipling simply folded that hundred dollar bill, slipped it into his pocket and said, “thanks”. Being grateful or the ability to say thanks is a $100 word, this is, this is precious, this is God's will for His people.

And today we are going to speak about gratefulness. This is found in 1st Thessalonians 5:18, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. If you are a Christian today, you don't have to wonder about what God's will is for you in this regard, He wants you to be a grateful, thankful person. In other words a Christian is not meant to be complaining, murmuring, whining, griping. God wants us to be a thankful people. Now, this is not the only text, but I thought it's very interesting in the Bible, there is a concentration of verses about giving thanks in the book of Colossians, you might read this Colossians 2:7 rooted and built up in Him that is Christ and established in the faith, just as you were thought, taught, abounding in thanksgiving. So, God wants us as we grow in Christ to be someone abounding in thanksgiving.

Not only here but 3:15 and be thankful and not only here verse 17, giving thanks to God the Father through Him and then, verse two, in chapter 4 says continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. So, thanksgiving is something very clearly taught in Scriptures and if there's something you need to remember for 2018 from the sermon today is that I need to be a thankful person.

Now, when you look at this verse, it's very simple, give thanks, what's there to it and you say this is good, this is wholesome, I want to be thankful, I will be thankful, but if you just think a little bit harder, then this verse presents some problems to you and to me. Why, because apostle Paul says, give thanks, that's not the hard part. The hard part is in all circumstances, when you are in a good circumstance, give thanks  and if you're in a difficult circumstance, also give thanks. So how do you do that. I can give thanks if my business is doing well, I can give thanks if my family is very happy, I can give thanks when there is food on my table. That's what we do, right before every meal, because there is food, you say thank you Lord for the food, but how does one give thanks, when there is no food? How does one give thanks, when there is no health? How does one give thanks, when there is no promotion? How does one give thanks when he is grieving and sorrowing when someone dear has passed away? I mean this becomes absolutely difficult. I can give thanks, but only when circumstances are good. It is natural to do that, but it takes something supernatural to give thanks when things are not as good as I imagined it to be.

So how do we do that, let me just say, even if there are no reasons given in the Bible, even if there are no reasons given in the Bible, you still must do this, because that's God's command, that's God's will. So as followers of Jesus Christ, we hold high the Word of God, we see that it is supreme authority for our lives and God's will is what I want to do, so even if God doesn't give us any reasons, it is still right and it is necessary for you and I to give thanks in all circumstances.

But God, nonetheless has given us reasons to give thanks in all circumstances. And that's what I'm going to do and share with you today. Now, I just want to say today's sermon is absolutely short, so that you can give thanks, haha. No it's going to be short, it is going to be succinct, concise, so we can expect to be done earlier, but I hope if it's short, it will be memorable for you and that you will carry this through for the rest of the year. So why or how can anybody give thanks in all circumstances? Especially when times are hard, three  reasons I want to share with you from Scripture.

Number one, even when times are hard, I give thanks because we always say this in this church, because of the Gospel. You see, we have said that the central message of the church is the Gospel, we want to be a Gospel centred church and what it means, is not just that the Gospel is what we preach but what it means is that the Gospel fuels our life. It is the reason and motivation for all that I do and giving thanks therefore is fueled, it's motivated by the Gospel.

Some of you are here, new with us, first time, you ask what the Gospel. I love to repeat the definition of the Gospel and I hope as Gospelighters you will also remember the definition of the Gospel. Should I ask you all, I fear a bit lah, if my two sons were here, they will be able to repeat, like I said to you there are two things, I made my sons remember, my telephone number and the Gospel. One is to help him when he is lost physically, the other is to help him when he's lost spiritually. It’s the Gospel that is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.

So what is the Gospel ? The Gospel, the word itself means Good News, Godspell, good spell, Good News. The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ that’s why we are Christians, it's about Jesus, it's the Good News of Jesus Christ. What so special about Jesus Christ? It's the Good News of Jesus Christ dying and rising to save us from our sins so that we may be reconciled with the Holy God. That is, in my books, the definition of the Gospel.

It is the Good News of Jesus Christ dying and rising to save us from our sins, in order to reconcile sinful man to the Holy God and I give thanks because of this good news. I give thanks because this tells me, I can be saved and indeed it's because I believe in Jesus, I am saved from sin which is rebellion and filth before God. I'm saved from the wrath of God that is poured out upon humanity in the fires of hell and now I'm given a clean slate of pure righteousness, I'm destined for glory and I'm an heir and coheir with Christ, this is good news. And regardless of how rough life is, remember the Gospel and if you remember the Gospel, it is bubbling and fervent in your heart, it fuels thanksgiving in the midst of adversity.

I think that is what it is supposed to be, I think it's because of this victory we have over sin, death and hell in Christ, that I can give thanks in all circumstances, it's because of this inexpressible gift, this amazing, unspeakable gift of Jesus Christ that enables Paul to say, you give thanks in all circumstances.

This illustration might help. I hope you don't see it as minimising the importance of sin and so on but let me just share this. A young man came to a rabbi, a rabbis is a Jewish religious leader. He came to a Rabbi and he complained, he said rabbi, oh, rabbi, I'm having a miserable life. I'm staying, I'm living in a tiny little room with nine other men, it's so cramped, it's so small, it's so uncomfortable, my life is difficult, what should I do ?

The rabbi said to the young man, son, go get yourself a goat and invite that goat to live with you in your room. A goat, yah, goat, and so the young man, trusting the rabbi, got a goat, big goat, stuffed it into the house, together with nine other guys who were shocked and a week later, this young man came to the rabbi and said, oh, rabbi, rabbi, what you told me was ridiculous, my life is so miserable, not only do I have this nine guys to fight with, I've this goat who pees and poos everywhere and he's so smelly, you know that goaty smell, it's unbearable, rabbi why, what should I do? And the rabbi says, alright son, now you can let the goat go and come back to me in a week's time.

So he happily let the goat go and after a week, the young man came back to the rabbi and he said to the rabbi, O, rabbi it's so good, my life is so good, I live in the room with nine guys and there's no more goat. Sometimes we complain about the nine guys because we've forgotten we have been relieved of the goat, if you get what I'm trying to say. Like I said, I'm not trying to minimise sin, nor the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

But in your life and my life, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are a believer of Jesus, you know something there's no more goat in your life, in that you do not need to fear the judgment of hell, you are a people who have been cleansed from sin, you are a people who have been given a new heart, new desires to love God, life is no more the same because of the Gospel and I think a Christian who is grumbling and whining is because he has forgotten by and large, the amazing gift of Jesus Christ in his life. So he's so focused on the fact that he has lost his job, he's broken up with his girlfriend, he's been diagnosed with a disease, that these things overwhelm him and the Gospel is not fueling a heart of joy.

So I think Paul or rather the Scriptures tell us that you and I can give thanks in all circumstances, not because circumstances are always good or always in what we expect them to be, but because of the Gospel.

Number two, why can you and I give thanks for all circumstances, in all circumstances, very simple, because I believe if God loves me in Jesus Christ, because of the Gospel, then He is always going to be good to me, He's always going to do all things for my good and so I trust that even difficult circumstances turn out for our good. So I give thanks in all circumstances because I believe all circumstances work out for our good.

Now, I did not promise this, God did or God teaches us that in Romans 8 and we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. Look at that, it's all things work together for good, not nice things, all things, even painful things, it's considered part of all things, your sickness, your break up, your job loss, your feud, someone who just said something nasty to you, do you know all these things are used of God, orchestrated of God to work something good in your life.

Now, of course, God's definition of good is different from ours, the definition we have for good is comfort, ease, convenience. But God's definition for good is Christ likeness, it's likeness to Jesus. So I rejoice because, even though things are inconvenient, uncomfortable, God is doing something far more valuable, He's conforming me, He is transforming me to be more like His Son and because I know that, I can give thanks in all circumstances.

But when you come to Chinese New Year, maybe we don't say this very much in the turn of the calendar but when it comes to Chinese New Year, one of the greetings we give to people is what, Gong Xi Fa Cai, whatever, whatever but one of the commonest words or phrases we use will be 万事如意. For those who are non-Chinese, it simply means, may 10,000 matters turn out the way you want. As you will, right, 万事 10,000 may or a million things turn out the way, exactly the way you want.

So this is how we define happy New Year, happy New Year, is when everything falls according to my plans, everything turns out the way I want, but do you know that if you live life, hoping for 万事如意, you will never be thankful, do you realise that, you'll never be thankful, because I guarantee you one thing, it will never be 万事如意. Some car will cut in front of you, some lady will cut your queue, someone will give you the dirty look, someone will say nasty things, there will be thousands of reasons why you'll be upset and you would say to yourself hey that's not 万事如意 what that's not what, what, that's not happy, I'm not happy, I'm not thankful and you'll be complaining and murmuring because you feel you deserve more, you feel you need more to be happy and you will not be thankful.

So I suggest to you when it comes to Chinese New Year, that's about two months time, amongst Christians, of course to others, you 万事如意, that's just a formality, or just a nice way of saying, but amongst Christians, maybe should change, to what 没有事如意. No, that's, that's, that's, that's a bit extreme, in other words, nothing goes according to your will, that's not what we wish for one another. But I think, what we can wish for one another is 万事主意, everything as not what I will, but as God wills.

Now, when you say that you must be prepared to say, God, Your will sometimes brings me through hardships, difficulties, pains, like how you have, led Your Son Jesus to Gethsemane, Your will is not always nice and easy, but you can rejoice and rest in the fact that God's will is always the best, the best in making me more like Jesus.

Now, how God works is mysterious, how God works is stunning, we don't understand why we should have this disease, we don't understand why I should lose my job, we don't understand, so many difficulties in life, but God's ways are not our ways, our ways are not God's ways and when you, when you go over to the other side of heaven, maybe you'll understand better. But for now I rest in that confidence, God loves me, He is good, He is sovereign and He works all things for my good and therefore I can gladly, be thankful and say, Lord, let Your will be done 万事主意 and give thanks in all circumstances.

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good and His steadfast love endures forever, the psalmist would tell you that. Why, He always loves those who are in Christ, His Son and so you rejoice.

Well, the last reason why I think we can give thanks in all circumstances, is because we do it for His glory. You see, non-Christians generally do not give thanks to God, they don't. The Bible says in Romans 1:21 for although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.

So, Paul has been saying, actually every human being on earth knows the existence of God, there are really no atheists in the world. But you say there are, well actually no, deep in their hearts they know that there is God, but they suppressed that, they deny that within themselves, that's what Romans one tells us. From the creation of the world, God can be known and seen, not everything but the existence of God can be known and seen. So everybody in their hearts, know, knows that there is God, but although they knew God, they did not honour Him as God or give thanks to Him. So man in sin, refuses to acknowledge the Creator, man in sin, refuses to give thanks to God.

Not only that, we read again, in 2nd Timothy chapter 3, that one of the end times or last days signs for people is that we will grow to be more and more ungrateful. So what I'm trying to say is that Christians are people saved out of this world. What is this world like? Ungrateful, living in darkness, ungrateful. So if you are a Christian saved out of this world, what does God want you to be, to be different right, in what way? Grateful.

So, Paul says in Philippians 2, do all things without grumbling or disputing, wah, this one very hard, because, especially for Singaporeans, our favourite pastime is complain, write letter, complain, email, complain, go to the customer service officer, complain, complain, complain, complain. That's normal, by the way, that's normal. You shouldn't be surprised, but the Christian is not called to live like the world.

The Christian recognises, I am saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, I don't want to follow the world, I want to follow my Saviour Jesus and God says, then, do all things without grumbling or disputing, how many things ? Wah, the Bible is very extreme right, give thanks in all circumstances, do, how many things, all things without grumbling or disputing.
So why, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. We have made special effort to put lights in Gospel Light Christian Church building, you know that? If you drive by this building at night, you will see some lights.

But that's not the kind of light, still good to have some light in the building, don't be dark and dingy, but the real light that would tell people that, here is where you can come to know God, is when you are shining as lights, when you are living in your office where everybody is complaining about your boss and you're not. I'm thankful for my boss you say.

You say how? Well let me give you some illustrations, I do not know how you are going to do it in your office, but let me tell you how people do it alright. There was a young boy,  he er, he got all the F's for his exams, but he came back and showed his dad, his results, dad was furious, livid, wants to cane him and he says, dad, you should be thankful. What? You should be thankful! Why? At least dad, you know, I never cheat!

Well, there was another pastor, his name is Alexander Whyte, I read that he is generally quite able to see good in the circumstance, give thanks, lift up the church in spirit and so on and it was a on a Sunday service that he was getting up, about to pray and to preach when one of the members was thinking to himself, now this is a terrible weather, it's dark, it's gloomy, it's cold, you know in the Western countries, it's cold, it's freezing, how can this pastor ever give thanks anymore, so he said let's watch what he is going to say. Who is to know that the very first thing Alexander Whyte prayed was, Lord, we thank You that not every day is like this.

Well, this spirit of thankfulness and we, we need to do that, in our office, in our homes, in our schools, even the things you post on social media, don't you realise that. I think that's part of your presence in cyberspace, that I don't want to be a, now there's nothing wrong to voice opinions, but the spirit behind it, I think is what you need to watch out. So do all things, all things without grumbling or disputing, the chicken, not so nice, the rice very hard, give thanks, at least there's rice, give thanks exercise jaw, there are many reasons to give thanks, but give thanks.

But then let me say this, I, I cracked that as a joke, but give thanks because of the Gospel, give thanks because God is working out something good for you, even the hard rice is to train your character, you see that and give thanks because that's what marks you out as a Christian and glorifies God. Okay, you get that.

So what we're talking today is not what the world says, the world says be thankful, because you can always see some good here, it will not be as bad as it is. I say no, may not be true, sometimes it can be very bad until you die, just talk to the martyrs who died for the faith, but I can always give thanks in all circumstances because of these unchanging realities, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, God loves me and gave me His Son, to save me from my sin and give me wonderful promise of eternal life.

Number two, I give thanks because even the difficult situations are meant to mould and shape me to be Christlike, it's for my good and I give thanks because I love God and I want Him to be glorious and to be known by everyone around. Everyone can give thanks when things are going well, but it takes something supernatural to give thanks when things are not going our way.

So let me just close with some questions. Number one or not questions, let me just close by saying, when should you give thanks, always, I know, that's probably what you are going to say, but let me just break it down a little because I want to say let's give thanks because of these three reasons, every Sunday. Let's give thanks every Sunday and that I mean, when God's people gather together as a church.

The Bible says, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do you realise it is God's will for us to give thanks through songs when we gather together. We are supposed to give thanks to God before one another, we are supposed to sing to one another and I say, let's do that every Sunday.

Now some of you say, but I feel very sleepy on Sunday and I'm very tired on Sunday, I had a hard week on Sunday or the past week I, I just argued with my wife, I just lost my job, I don't have any reason why I should sing to God on Sunday. I say to you, that's why you need to be Gospel centred, we don't start our worship service by asking you eh how are you guys doing, good week, no sickness, job promotion, found new girlfriend, okay, let's give thanks to God, we don't do this because for every five who says I found a girlfriend, there's another 10 who say, I lost my boyfriend.

But that's not the reason why the church gives thanks. Now let me, don't, don't misunderstand me, I, we should give thanks when God gives us wonderful answers to prayer, breakthroughs, food and promotion or, there's nothing wrong to give thanks for these good gifts that He has given to us.  But I'm saying, let not your thanksgiving be only conditioned on these stuff.

But let your thanksgiving be largely, heavily based on the ultimate gift of God, Jesus Christ His Son then whatever sorrows you go through it will be overwhelmed by the great joy of your salvation in Christ. So let's gather each Sunday, being Gospel centred, as we look at the lyrics, as we sing these lyrics, we are reminded of great spiritual riches God has given to us in the Gospel and even though you had a bad week, you give thanks, you, you find great reason to.

In fact, I think worship services are where down trodden, discouraged people can gather and encourage one another in the Lord. Why? Because we are reminding one another about the Gospel, we are not gathering to say oh your week could have gone better, it will be better tomorrow 明天会更好, we say it's all because of Jesus. Look at how He loves, look at how you're saved, look at the blessings in eternal life and as you are reminded of this realities, as you are reminded about how you had the goat and how God saved you from the goat, your heart fills up with joy and praise to His Name.

You see, worship is not about the lights, the instruments, it's about the Gospel. You worship God in Spirit and in truth and the truth of God's Word reveals primarily, supremely the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that's what we worship. That's what we rejoice in.  Okay, so let's do that every Sunday, alright. So each Sunday as we gather, don't just sing because the song is nice, and then choose not to sing because the song is not so easy to sing, but understand the song and ask God to bring these spiritual truths close to your heart, that you may be filled up in the appreciation of the Gospel and let it bubble through your mouth alright, let it be so.

Now I think it's obvious, not only do we give thanks on Sundays, let us give thanks to God every single day and I think this is again seen in verse 19 and 20, giving thanks always and for everything, the Bible is very clear, extreme, there's no exception clause, everything always and you don't always express that only in songs but also in your prayer life, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Again, anything, everything, thanksgiving. How the Gospel, for your good, for His glory. And then, if I may just highlight that further, you give thanks to God on good days and bad days.

I think that's how you know if you're a good Christian or not, that's how you know whether the Gospel is real to you or not. If God's love for you is vibrant or not, do you give thanks for good days and also the so-called bad days.

Job certainly did, at least for a season, he said, naked I came from my mother's womb and naked shall I return, the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord. And again, Psalms 34, I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall continually be in my mouth, all times, continually, because of His grace, because of the Gospel.

Habakkuk, wah, a book that probably you've not even read, but Habakkuk wrote a beautiful statement, though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls. I've no food, I have no produce, I will have no money, I'll have no sustenance, even though this will take place, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation, I give thanks because of God, not because of goodies, you give thanks in good days and supposed bad days.

So, Paul in prison says, rejoice in the Lord, always again I will say, rejoice. Amazing, how God uses men who are in difficult positions to write instructions on joy, that's to tell you,  the real fountain, fuel and motivation for joy is not in circumstance, it's in God. That's why you can be grateful, thankful, joyful, always. So this is the verse, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

You know, of all the people in the world, I believe, only Christians can be truly grateful because we don't earn our salvation. We did nothing to save ourselves except contribute sin, it is God who saves us and of all people, we are the only ones who really can be grateful because it’s not of works, it's all of grace.

So this morning, if you're here with us, you're not a Christian, I say to you Christianity is where we always give thanks to God because Christianity is one faith that teaches it's all about God's generosity in giving and all we can do is to thank Him and to live for Him. I hope today if you're not a Christian, you will repent of your sin and believe in Jesus Christ, because God has given His Son and He commands you to repent and believe that you may be saved from your sin. There is no other way for you to be saved from sin. There is no other way you can be reconciled with God. There's nothing you can do to merit this return to God, but Jesus has done it all, He's died for you on the cross, He's risen today so that whoever repents and believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.

Am I a Gospel centred man? Thankfulness is a good test, it is. Gospel centredness is not just what you preach, Gospel centredness involves also the way you live because if you're centred in the Gospel, as I've said, if the realities of the Gospel are so vivid and real and clear to you, you will live a life of thankfulness.

I close with this one man, his name is Matthew Henry, maybe you have heard of him, he's very famous for his commentaries, especially the Old Testament books and it was said once that he was robbed and injured in the process. A few days later, he wrote in his journal and he said, I give thanks to God, hah, you were robbed, you were injured, yah, I give thanks to God.

He says why? Five reasons, number one, first of all, I didn't have much for him to rob. That's okay, that's thankful, that's fine. Number two, I was the only one who was robbed, no one else, that's alright. Number three, he could rob me, but he did not kill me. Number four, he took away my earthly possessions, but I still have my heavenly treasures and number five, he says, I thank God for His grace, because I was the one being robbed and I was not the robber.

We should thank God for how he has graced us in the Gospel and I therefore wish you this year, a very blessed 2018 filled with the Gospel, filled with joy, filled with gratefulness that brings God glory. Alright, let's close with a word of prayer.

Maybe this morning you came with a lot of grievances in your heart, you're not doing well in your marriage, family, your kids, your job, you are not doing well with your health, and you almost feel like giving up on your faith, you feel like just pouring out your sorrows before God. Now I think there's a place to cast your cares upon Him because He cares for you. There's a place to talk to God about your sufferings, because there's a place for that, but don't lose the big picture.

The big picture, today is that whilst you go through the trials of affliction, the furnace of affliction, the big picture is that God has given you His Son, saved you from sin and given you the hope of eternal life. All that you go through today is a tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of an eternity of immense joy and satisfaction and communion with God. Hey, let the joy and the hope of the Gospel, drown your sorrows as it were, because it is true. So this morning, would you ask God to help you be able to live out, 1st Thessalonians 5:18. To give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you because of the Gospel, because He's always working all things together for my good and because this brings glory to Him whom I love.

If you're here today and you do not know Jesus, Christianity is a grateful religion. It's not drudgery, it's one of grateful love. God loved me so much, loves me still and I'm grateful and thankful to Him and so I want to give Him my life. So come to Jesus today, receive that gift of salvation, then you will know what it means to be grateful to God, you will know what it means to live for God not to save yourself but because you know He has saved you in Jesus Christ. So Father this morning, we thank You for Your Word.

I pray for this church that we will be indeed Gospel Light in a sense that we will be a thankful people in a crooked and perverse world that does all things with murmurings and disputes but let us shine with that spirit of joy and gratitude. So I pray, week after week, day after day we will go to the Scriptures and to be refreshed in the Gospel, may the Gospel be always so dear and clear in our hearts and minds that there will be a wellspring of joy that flows from the cross, abundant and flowing in us. Father make this people, this local church shine for Jesus, we thank You and pray all this in Jesus Name, amen.

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