Date: November 30, 2014

Bible Text: 2 Timothy 3:1 |


I want to preach on the thankful heart, and II Timothy 3 is where we’ll start.  I want to ask you if you have gratitude.  Do you have appreciation?  Do you have thanksgiving in your heart?  Someone said thanksgiving ought to produce “thanks living.”  You can measure someone’s spiritual attitude by their gratitude.


Now, when are the “last days” the Bible tells us about?  “Well,” you say, “Preacher, they started at Pentecost.”  I believe we’re living in the last of the last days, and some of the attitudes that people will have in the last days are found in II Timothy chapter three, starting in verse one.  As I read this list, think with me.  It is describing America just as if somebody were sitting here writing it today, yet this was written 2,000 years ago.  “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  For men shall be lovers of their own selves...”  Now I have to fight myself from stopping.  “…lovers of their own selves.”  Wow, is that seen today!  “…covetous, boasters...”  I can’t help but think during this athletic season, that at least when I was in sports, whether the athletes were in high school, college, or pro, people were humble.  Even if they were proud, they would put on an act, and they would be humble.  But today, they’re proud.  They beat their chest.  That’s one reason I haven’t watched a pro or college ball game in years and years.  I can’t stand to see their pride.  I can’t stand to listen to them.


But, “…covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers.”  Again, people always swore, but now even on your conservative radio stations—blasphemers.  “…disobedient to parents…”  Even Christians don’t train their kids to be obedient today.  “…unthankful, unholy, without natural affection…”  People are killing their husbands and wives and their kids.  How many times do you hear now, that somebody killed their kids and then they killed themselves?  “Without natural affection…”  That would be homosexuality also.


“…trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good.”  How many times, if you’re a decent Christian, are you hated, just because you’re a Christian.  I’ve said so many times that we are the most hated organization in Porter County, at least.  We’re hated, and it used to bother me.  I’d say, “Why are we hated so much?”  The Bible says we’ll be hated.  “…despisers of those that are good…” We’re not that good, but we try to be good.  We try to do good to people, and we’re hated for it.  “Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”  All you have to do is look outside.  “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…”  A form of godliness but not a powerful God.  And the Bible says, “…from such turn away.”


Thanksgiving should not be only a “day.”  I hate when Thanksgiving is called Turkey Day.  It’s not turkey day, it’s Thanksgiving.  That is what is wrong with America.  We don’t want anything to do with God.  We cannot even mention God in so many ways.  Did you know that they have taken “In God We Trust” from the last dollar they produced?  When I get it, I’m going to give it right back to them, and I suggest you do the same thing.  We can’t even say “In God We Trust” anymore, but the point I’d make is that Thanksgiving is not turkey, it isn’t dressing, it isn’t cranberry sauce.  Thanksgiving is an attitude of life that every Christian should have.  Colossians 2:7 tells us that we should abound “with thanksgiving.”  Now that’s not talking about a day.  It’s talking about a life, a lifestyle.  We should abound with thanksgiving.


As you read the Bible you see that those believers who lived closest to God were the ones who kept thanksgiving in their lives.  Think of Daniel.  He could have been bitter as a young man.  He was taken away from his country, carried off to Babylon, and one day he had to face the lions’ den for his godly life.  But did he pout?  No, he opened the windows three times a day and thanked God for His goodness.  Look at Jonah in the belly of the whale when God finally got his attention.  Even in correction, he said, “…I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving.”  This was for chastisement.  He said, “I’m going to thank God.”  Turn to Philippians 4:4.  We turn to this often, but the Apostle Paul was a great example of gratitude, and in Philippians chapter 4, verse 4, he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.”  He wrote that from a dark smelly dungeon in Rome.


But our best example is the Lord Jesus.  In Matthew 26, on the eve of His crucifixion, He knew that the next day those nails were going to be driven through His hands and His feet.  He knew that those thorns would be pressed down into His skull.  He knew that He would be betrayed, and His friends would leave.  But we read, “And he took the cup and gave thanks…”  Have you ever thought that the juice was a symbol of His own blood to be poured out for the remission of sins?  He knew that, but He gave thanks.


Good Christians maintain an attitude of thanksgiving throughout their life.  You say, “I’m just kind of negative.”  Then you’re a sinner.  “Well,” you say, “we’re all sinners.”  Yes, but it’s a sin not to be thankful.  I read a nice illustration from years back when the preacher De Witt Talmage told about a little boy who said to his mother, “I’m not going to pray tonight,” when he was going to bed.  He said, “I don’t need anything.”  He thought the only reason you prayed was to ask for something.  And his mother taught him about thanking God and urged him to do that.  So he started praying, and he thanked God for his marbles, and he thanked God for his top, and he thanked God for his mother and his father, and his brother and his sister, and his food, and the nice clothes.  He really got into it, and he opened up his eyes and said, “Mama, I almost forgot how good God is.”  How sad it is when we forget how good God is.  That’s why the Bible shows us our obligation to be thankful throughout its pages.  I like the song, “Count your blessings… name them one by one.”  That’s as scriptural a song as there is in the hymnbook.


In  Psalm 103, we read, “…forget not all his benefits.”  Write them down, sit down and list them.  In Psalm 100 the Bible says, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving.”  We ought to always praise and thank God, and in the book of Hebrews chapter 13 verse 15, it says, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually.”  We ought to be praising Him continually.  “…that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”  You should have come to church today with praise and thanksgiving.  When you go home today, you ought to go home with praise and thanksgiving in your heart and on your lips.


What do you think is the worst sin in America?  Homosexuality?  Abortion?  Rebellion?  I think that the answer is found in our text in II Timothy 3.  Paul gives us a picture of those last days and what they would be like, what today would be like, and right in the middle of the vile, sick sins is a pair of sins that epitomize the rest—unthankfulness and unholiness.  I believe unthankfulness produces unholiness.  One is the cause of the other.  When we have unthankfulness, unholiness follows.  When a nation is unthankful, it becomes unholy.  That is what has happened to our country.


When a home becomes unthankful—when you’re just looking at others and pointing at problems—when your home becomes unthankful, it becomes unholy.  It’s as simple as that.  When a church is unthankful, it becomes unholy.  When an individual is unthankful, he becomes unholy.  God says of the Roman Empire in Romans chapter 1, verse 21, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools...”  That is speaking of the Roman Empire which fell, but it could be written about America today.  It’s exactly the same thing, and it is humanism.  “We don’t need God.  God is a crutch.”  The cause in Rome was that they were not thankful.


Our forefathers were thankful.  They came over in little boats that were a fraction of the size of the boats we have today—just little things, smaller than most yachts on Lake Michigan.  They wanted freedom to worship God, freedom to live their own life.  They wanted freedom to go to church, educate and raise a family, they wanted freedom to own their own lands, freedom of speech, and God gave it to them.  But today so many think we don’t need God.  You don’t have to look very far to see this.  “We don’t need the Bible.  We don’t need prayer.  We don’t need Christian songs.  We don’t need dependence on God.”  That is humanism.  In fact, there are millions of people in America who won’t even say, “Well, you know, these people want to serve God and that’s what our country was founded on.  Even if I don’t want to, let them live and let live.”  No, they hate God.  They hate churches like ours.  They hate everything we believe.


Listen, our country was not founded on humanism.  You people that go to the public school or went to the public school and have been brainwashed, America was founded on God, on the things of the Bible.  I am not saying that everybody in America was a Christian, but I’m saying that it was founded on the principles of the Bible.  I want to make something very clear, something that I can’t comprehend—radical Muslims are trying to destroy our country and kill us.  What are we doing?  We’re kow-towing to them.  We’re lifting up the Muslim religion.  Our country was not founded on Islam.  So many love the Buddhist religion, but our country was not founded on the Buddhist religion or the African religion.


It makes me mad when people change Christmas and take away from God and say, “This is our custom.”  Christmas is God’s holiday.  America was not founded on the American Indian religion.  Look at the American Indians, and you see where their religion has brought them.  America was founded on God’s Word.  There’s no question.  That’s not my prejudice.  Read Washington.   They make Washington out to be some kind of idiot.  Read even Lincoln.   I wonder if he ever was saved, but read Lincoln.  Read John Adams, read these people.  Read Jefferson, and he wasn’t saved.  But our country was founded on the Word of God, and that’s why we have a great nation.  We had a great foundation, and until we get back to worshipping God, we’ll never see His blessings again whether Republicans or Democrats are in office.


Nations fall because of unthankfulness.  That was the problem Israel had.  God had opened the Red Sea for the Israelites.  God had dropped manna from heaven, quail from heaven, God had given them clothing that wouldn’t wear out.  Yet we read that they were a nation of murmurers and gripers; and because of this, God killed thousands, and their bodies could be seen all the way to the horizon of the wilderness.  Unthankfulness produces unholiness.  That is what is wrong with our country, and most Christians are a part of it.


The same thing happens in a local church.  God has been so good to us.  Sixty plus acres of land—go take a canoe ride, go fishing out in the lake.  I never drive into this place without being in awe.  Now you might just drive in, but I’m in awe because I’m the pastor and I know Who did it.  I’m in awe, but you teenagers could swim in the pool, go play in the gym, and just take it for granted.  In fact, many of you teenagers do just that.  Gripe and complain.  You go to a Christian school, and gripe about the teacher, gripe about the principal, gripe about the rules.  God has been good—a  tremendous bus ministry, a strong message preached three times a week.  Now some gripe and complain.  They don’t like it.  They don’t like this or that.  They gossip.  They’re unthankful.  Let me tell you something, it will lead to unholiness.


Let’s be thankful; because if a good number of us become ungrateful, Fairhaven will become unholy.  We’re not immune.  That’s an order from Scripture.  Bob Jones, Sr., said, “The loveliest flower that grows in the heart of man is gratitude, and when it dies that man is as much as gone.”  R. G. Lee used to say, “Trust an ingrate with your money, and he’ll steal it.”  Think about it, he’s right.  “Trust an ingrate with your honor, and he’ll betray it.  Trust an ingrate with your name, and he’ll ruin it.”  Unthankful people are unholy people.  My message is simple to you today—stay thankful.  If you’re not grateful, get right with God.  It’s a sin.  Now let me review with you some points about thankfulness.


Turn to Philippians 4:6.  It’s not an option to be thankful.  It’s commanded of God just as much as we’re commanded to be soulwinners.  Just as much as we’re commanded to tithe, we’re commanded to be thankful, and in Philippians 4:6 we read, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving  let your requests be made known unto God.”  Psalm 100:4.  “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”  Psalms 147:7.  “Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God.”


Again, I want to say, it is sinful to be ungrateful.  James 4:17 says, “…to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In every thing give thanks…”  For the bitter and for the sweet.  You may be sitting there saying, “Well, you have lots to be thankful for.”  No, we have people whose fathers died this week, and they could get bitter and say, “You haven’t gone through what I’ve gone through.”  But the Bible says, “In every thing give thanks...”  In every thing—in the hard and the soft.


It’s easy for us to be thankful when we have a big table spread with delicious food or if we drive a nice beautiful car or have nice clothes or a nice home.  But it’s hard to thank God for a heart attack.  It’s hard to thank God for cancer or for bankruptcy.  It’s hard for me to see our members get cancer, and I know it’s harder for them, but God commands, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  You can’t argue with it.  In every thing.  It’s the will of God.


It’s human not to be thankful for circumstances; but if we’re going to expect God’s blessing, if we’re going to succeed as Christians, we’d better follow all of the instruction of the Bible including, “in everything give thanks…”  We ought to wake up in the morning with a heart of gratitude and start bubbling over giving God thanks for His goodness.  As we eat, we ought to give thanks sincerely.  As we have our devotions, we ought to give thanks to God.  Now, I’ve heard people say, “Man, my house is small, junky.  Look at his.”  Let me say your house is going to stay small and junky.  “My car is a piece of junk.  I wish I had Derek Edwards’ car.” r, “I don’t have friends.  They are all snobs.”  That type of person buries himself.  That type of person gets bitter and jealous and hateful and miserable.


But to the person who is right with God, his life is great.  My life has always been great, it really has.  It’s always been great.  The first car I had, I was twenty-four years old.  I guess the car was fifteen years old, and it was a convertible without a top.  When I started it, Sharon had to press the carburetors to get it started.  I thought it was the most beautiful car, I carried a picture of it.  Our first apartment was just a basement thing, you know how someone starts a house and doesn’t have enough money to finish it.  I thought it was beautiful.  I still have all kinds of pictures of that beautiful basement.  When we came here and we got to live in the parsonage, I thought, “I’ll never live in anything as nice as that.”  The first suits I owned, I bought at Maxwell Street—two pair of pants, and a vest for fifteen bucks.  I thought I was the “cat’s meow.”  I never thought, “O me, o my, I have to buy my suits at Maxwell Street.”  No, “Wow, this is something.”


You can call it bragging if you want, but I’ll call it being thankful, grateful.  And like a human father, when God sees how excited you are about that junk car or that little apartment, I think He says, “If he thinks that is something, wait until he sees what I’ve got in store.”  I believe the keys to God’s blessings are obedience, thankfulness, and being generous yourself.  I’ve watched people who say, “They have, and I don’t have.  I’m not treated right.  I’m going to get mine.”  You may get yours, but you won’t get God’s.


Thankfulness should be natural for the Christian, just as natural as breathing.  It’s natural, as natural as blinking your eyes.  You don’t practice blinking your eyes.  It’s natural for a bird to fly and a fish to swim.  But for the unsaved, it is not natural to be thankful.  We have an Adamic nature that is ungrateful, and that’s why we’re commanded to be thankful.  Ask yourself, “Are you thankful for your job?”  Especially in the day we live, we surely should be.  Are you thankful for your home, for your mate, for your children, for your mom and dad, for food?  Are you thankful?  Do you always want more?  Are you thankful for your country?  As bad a shape as it is in, we still have a lot of freedom, including free elections.  Are you thankful?  Count your blessings, name them one by one.  It will change your life.  It will keep you holy.


But secondly, if the Bible commands gratitude, then it is possible to have it.  “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus…”  Now some are saying right now, “At times I’m not thankful, and I don’t mind admitting it.  I’ve got a lot not to be thankful for.”  Well, you’re human.  That’s natural, but you’re not a scriptural Christian.  You’re not right with God.  Look over at Romans 8:28.  We look at this so often.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  That is talking about the bitter and the sweet, the hard and the soft.  Anything in life that is negative works with the positive.   If you’re saved, God is putting it all together according to Romans 8:28, making it fit just right.  Now we don’t know what He knows, but we can be thankful because we have a sovereign God working everything in our lives to the eternal glory of God.


James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”  Notice the distinction between good and perfect gifts.  “Good” is food and clothing and shelter.  Now the “perfect,” some may think, is harsh.  We may have a “Job” experience where He takes away everything we have.  God allows some things in our lives that we would never choose so that He can conform us to the image of His Son.


I can say I have lived through some very hard times, but they were the perfect things from God, and they made me what I am today.  Don’t fight what you don’t want.  Just make sure you’re right with God and allow Him to mold you with whatever comes into your life.  When we run from these, we get off track, we get out of His will, living in the flesh.  When problems come into a family and we try and deal with the problems, some parents stiffen up and quit the church.  That’s okay, but you’ll never have what God wanted.  It’s sad to see so many Christians living with no more peace or wisdom than the world has.  We have to be thankful for all God gives and just make sure we’re in His will.


When Adoniram Judson was in that old jail in Burma, somebody came and said, “What about your future?  Why are you smiling all the time?”  He said, “My future is as bright as the promises of God.”  A preacher was talking to one of his members, and he asked how the church member was doing.  The guy said, “Well, I’m doing pretty good, under the circumstances.”  The preacher said, “What are you doing under there?”  That’s not just cute.  What are you doing under there?  You wouldn’t say it with your mouth, but with your life you say, “I deserve to be under there.”  Well, maybe you do.  It’s your life.  I don’t want to be under there.  Remember all things work together for good.  Remember in everything we are to give thanks.  Yes, some things seem unfair.  I’ve had my share that seem unfair.  We don’t understand, but trust God.  We will understand some day, and we will be a better person for it.  That’s not just a pep talk, that’s a fact.


But third, gratitude is the basis of all true worship and service.  How many do you think are really worshipping and serving Him?  I can answer that—only those who are grateful.  Only those who are grateful.  Some of you say, “Oh, this is wrong and that is wrong.  Oh, this is horrible.  Oh, I can’t wait to get away.”  You’re not trusting God.  You don’t believe in the same God I believe in; and because of your lack of faith, you’re miserable.


God will not accept worship or service that is not thankful.  Psalm 100, verse 4, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”  This is what He wants.  This is what He expects.  It’s what He accepts.  An old woman had a habit that every time she ate, she bowed her head and said, “Much obliged, Lord.”  Somebody asked her, “Why do you do that all the time?”  And she said, “My food tastes better.”  And you know, that’s the truth.  The more thankful you are to God, the better life tastes.  Try it.  Honestly thank God for your husband or your wife.  Honestly thank God, and think about it, for friends, your country, your food, your job.  It will make all of life taste better, I guarantee you, because it’s the only way you can be in God’s will.  The reason everything in many Christians’ lives tastes bitter is that they’re proud and “grabby.”  “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  Let it sink in.  There is nothing wrong with things, but let God give them to you.  I stress again, there’s nothing wrong with things, but it’s how we get them.  We want to trust God, but the average person is wanting and is not satisfied.  They never have their “due” in their eyes.  People never recognize their “genius” in their eyes; and because of this, they become more and more bitter.


Fourth, and lastly, gratitude is the parent of all of God’s gifts, and ingratitude is the father of all sin.  Do you like to give your kids something?  I wouldn’t like it if I gave something to my grandkids and they threw it over to the side and said, “I’ve got fifteen of them.  That’s not what I wanted.”  But if they say, “Whoa, Grandpa, this is just what I’ve always wanted.  Whoa, does this make me happy!”—what does that make me want to do?  There’ll be more coming!  It’s true, isn’t it?  I honestly believe that’s the way God is.  The more excited a Christian gets about the life God gives him, the more blessings He showers down on him.


Everybody has problems with their mate sometimes.  That’s why I talk about some of Sharon’s problems and my problems.  I remember when we were first married, and one day, a couple got up in church.  They had been married fifty years, and they said they had never had an argument in their life.  I remember leaning over and whispering, “Either he’s lying or he’s a wimp, one or the other.”  You might have problems at times, but count your blessings.  Count your blessings, and if you love your mate, you’re thankful for your mate.  You spend time and you work on your marriage, and it gets better, doesn’t it?


The same thing can be said about your children.  You love them, you’re excited, you make sure they’re getting a good education, you make sure they’re reading good books and have only good friends, you make sure they’re not growing up watching television and things like that.  You’re thankful for your friends, you treat them well, and you’ll have more friends.  On the job you work hard, you take care of the details, you have a good attitude, and you’ll move up.  That’s the way it works.


I can’t believe how some treat what God has given them.  As far as their wife, they crab; as far as their mate, they just don’t want to rock the boat.  What a life.  It’s your life, but you’re going to die miserable.  Don’t want to rock the boat?  You’ll be miserable.  With the kids, “I hope they make it.”  Hope they make it?  With friends, “Everybody’s out to get me.”  On the job, “My talent isn’t recognized.  His favorites get moved up.”  You’ll never see God’s blessings because that is sin.  You’ll not be a soulwinner, you’ll not give the way you ought to, you’ll not raise your family.


Only with gratitude can you truly serve God—not wanting what is “owed” you.  I wouldn’t want what is owed me.  I thank God for His mercy.  If you’re not thankful, you will fail.  You’ll blame others, you’ll blame the relatives, or you’ll blame the church, or you’ll blame friends; but the most miserable person on earth is the ingrate, the proud person, the person making excuses, the person pointing fingers—pointing fingers and sinking deeper and deeper into self pity.  Let’s be grateful.


We teach our children to say “thank you” for a piece of candy.  If I were to call somebody up here and give him a check for a thousand dollars and he didn’t say, “Thank you,” you would say, “What is wrong with him?”  But when is the last time you thanked God for your health, for your breath?  When is the last time you thanked God for your mate and your children, for your shelter?  I don’t mean just going through the motions.  When is the last time your heart was bubbly and you thanked God for your food and water, and friends.  “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof.”   Ingratitude is a sin against God.  Unthankfulness is the mother of all our vices, and thankfulness will kill the complaining, griping heart.


We hurt God when we don’t express our gratitude.  Remember when the ten lepers were healed?  God healed ten, and they left.  But how many came back?  God makes it very clear only one came back, and listen to His sad words, “…where are the nine?”  I think that’s what He will have to say to us, especially Christians in America.  So many times we have a bitter, ungrateful attitude.  “Where are the nine?”  I pray that God will never have to ask, “Where is Joe?  Where is Sally?  Where is Jane?”  Now, and all year long, we ought to be determined to be thankful.


Remember Joseph in jail with the baker and the butler?  Remember how Joseph interpreted the dream of the butler and the butler got out, but right before he left and was restored to Pharaoh, Joseph said, “Please remember who did this for you.  Don’t forget me down here in this jail.”  But the butler forgot.  That’s what I would say to you today, don’t forget God.  He orders us, He asks us, “Please be thankful.”  The only way to keep from being bitter and proud, the only way to receive His good things is to be thankful.  You say, “I’m thankful.”  Are you?  You know if you are.  It’s just bubbling out all of the time.

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