METHODIST MARKINGS (Part 4) Always Giving Thanks 1 Peter 1:3-9 Pastor Carey, June 25, 2017

In Cowherding Christians, Gary W. Houston tells the story of poet Robert Frost’s first assignment for a class of teachers was to read The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. This Mark Twain story was about a frog that lost a jumping contest because he had been pumped full of quail shot. The next class meeting, most of the students did not understand what this story had to do with a course in education. Frost explained that this particular story was about the two kinds of teachers. The first is the kind that fills you with so much quail shot that you could not move and the second is the kind that gives you a little prod on the behind so that you could jump to the skies.  I’d like for us to consider that similarly, there are also two types of Christian disciples, those who always give thanks to God for everything, and those who seldom or never give thanks.  So on this last week of June and almost exactly five months before Thanksgiving Day, how well are you living a thankful life in Christ?  Along with loving God and others, rejoicing in God daily and praying constantly, being a thankful disciple every day is our powerful response to God’s grace.  It is also the last mark of a Methodist Christian.

To be thankful is to be fully engaged in Christ! Being thankful is less about the good things that happen in our day in and day out life and more about the attitude that regardless of what we face, we have the creator, sustainer and redeemer of the world with us at all times promising that his strength, his peace and his grace will be sufficient for whatever we face…good, bad or neutral.  Now that’s something to be thankful about isn’t it?

I am guilty at times of allowing circumstances to determine my thankful attitude and lifestyle.  I am guilty at times of having the “just one more thing sourpuss philosophy” that takes my thankful heart and puts in under a bush causing the light of thankfulness to be hidden from both me and from others!  Some days I can allow the weather, my to-do list and even unexpected interruptions to sweep away a thankful heart for all of the blessings the Lord has given me every single day!  Is there anyone here today that can relate?

Here is the great news for us who fall into the not thankful or not thankful enough each day category: God is still there, here and by our side.  God’s promises are true every morning because great is God’s faithfulness.  So Methodists, let’s spend a moment or so remembering why we are known throughout history as Christians disciples who are ALWAYS full to overflowing with thankfulness.

As I grow older, I am finding more and more the two small letters of Peter a source of strength for difficult days.  Outside of Jesus, I do not believe the Bible reveals anyone who suffered for his faith than Peter (Paul is a close second).  And just like Twain’s story of the frog, Peter turns his difficulties and his sufferings into motivation for hope and thankfulness and prods us to jump into the true thanksgiving lifestyle Jesus has for everyone.  1 Peter 1:9 says it all, “Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation.” (The Message)

Methodists always give thanks because gratitude is the Christian’s response to God.  Our gratitude lifestyle and attitude is our response to grace. Thankfulness is our first response when we realize that / how God has helped us!  For John Wesley, Saturday was the day set aside to look back upon the previous week to see where God had provided.  It was his day to practice and celebrate thankfulness and to be sure to BE THANKFUL for the blessings he received.  This practice kept him living thankfully every day!  Remember the lepers healed by Jesus and only one came back to thank him?  How easy it can be in the middle of celebrating good things to forget the source when we are blessed.

Methodists give thanks because gratitude is grounded in the nature of God and not in the circumstances that were taking place in our life at any given time.  In the midst of dark and evil times, let’s always remember that God is NOT the author of evil.  In Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, the weeds are sown by the enemy (devil). God takes no delight in the bad things that happen to us or anyone else. We may never know why things happen the way they do but we can be thankful because God is good all the time and all the time, God is good. God is not angry or mad with us and the spiritual discipline of thankfulness will help us move deeper in our faithful reliance upon God.

Methodists give thanks because gratitude leads us out of anxiety and worry. Because God is good, we cast all of our anxieties, fears and worries on God (1 Peter 5:7). We are not expected, required or demanded by God to daily carry the weight or burden of our anxiety over something that has or is happening to us at any given moment.  Nor does God want us to become “stuck” in our spiritual growth trying to figure out why something is happening to us. God cares! God knows! God gives grace! Our thankful life is the evidence that in spite of what is happening to us, we are staying in love with God.

Methodists give thanks because gratitude strengthens our prayer life.  We can pray about anything and about everything 27/7/365! When we pray, we are never an interruption to God because we are taking our concerns and our petitions to the One who loves us! God’s “open door” policy in prayer is the source of great thanksgiving. Every new day is a new opportunity to learn just how awesome our God is and to grow more and more in love with our awesome God and live even more thankful each day than the previous day and to see every experience as a thankful opportunity!

Bishop Ray Chamberlain tells of a couple, visiting Korea who saw a father and his son working in a rice paddy. The old man guided the heavy plow as the boy pulled it.  “I guess they must be very poor,” the man said to the missionary guide and interpreter.  “Yes,” replied the missionary. “That’s the family of Chi Nevi. When the church was built, they were eager to give something to it, but they had no money. So they sold their ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are pulling the plow themselves.”  After a long silence, the woman said, “That was a real sacrifice.”  The missionary responded, “They do not call it a sacrifice. They are just thankful they had an ox to sell.”

May the same be told of us…we were thankful that we had an ox to sell for the Lord! Love God and others, rejoice in God daily, pray continually and in everything always give thanks.  Practicing these life principles and disciplines will help us become true Methodists for the glory of Jesus every day!

 

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