Charles Stanley - A Happy Thanksgiving
When you think of Thanksgiving, what do you think about? Do you think about the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 on this shore after a long hard trip across the Atlantic? Or do you think about the landing of turkey and dressing on your plate at your house on Thanksgiving morning? Well, either one would be okay. But don't you know that they were grateful beyond all measure, leaving their land of difficulty and hardship, especially about their religion, their faith?
And coming to a new land unknown, adventurous, uncertain probably lots of hardships but they were free. They were free to worship God the way they intended. And when I think about Thanksgiving I think about what they must have thought about on that first Thanksgiving that they observed and probably they would have read the hundred Psalm.
So I want us to read this hundredth Psalm and then I want to talk about what God has saying to us in it. "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and we not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations".
What an awesome Psalm. And if you'll think about it for a moment there is not a single negative note in that whole Psalm. It's all positive. It's all about God, and it's all about who He is and what He does. And it certainly ought to be our attitude and though our circumstances today were probably like theirs. They left because they were afraid. They left because they didn't have religious freedom. They left the continent because they wanted a new beginning, and a new start, and a new life.
And every time a person trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they're born again. It's the beginning of a new life. Does that mean the end of problems and heartaches, and burdens? No, and neither did that mean that for them because there were Indians to face, and cold winters, and all the rest. And so, life was new, but it was a beginning of a whole new perspective on life. And when I read this Psalm I think about how positive it is in every single way, and I think about all the things we have to be grateful for.
So I want us to look at this Psalm in the light of what God is saying to us, and what our attitude ought to be toward Him in spite of all the things that we see today. So, I want us to look at it in the light first of all of how positive it is. Look at this: "Shout joyfully to the Lord. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. Enter His gates with thanksgiving. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations".
Think about all that God has said in those few verses. We're to shout, serve, come, know, enter His gates, enter His courts, give Him thanks, and bless His name. Think about it. Look back over all the weeks of this year how good God has been to you, and all the kind of ways He's been good. What does He say? Shout about Him, serve Him, to come before Him, know Him, enter His gates, enter His courts with praise, give thanks, and bless His name. We have lots to be grateful for. And this Psalm is all about giving thanks to God.
So I wonder how often in a given week or a month, you just stop and give thanks to God? Just say, "Lord I just want to thank You. I want to thank You, thank You, thank You, Jesus. I want to thank You that I can talk to You. I want to thank You that You hear me. And Lord there's a lot of things going on in this world I don't like, but You're God and You're going to make it turn out to suit You no matter what. You're Jehovah God". We have Him to praise and to sing praises to. And I love this Psalm because it's all about Him. And when we come to Thanksgiving, He's the object of our thanksgiving.
And so, when I think about the Psalms, so I want you to turn to several of them and just read them together. And if you'll look in Psalm sixty-six first. Psalm sixty-six first, and I want us to read it and look at it and see what God is saying because He says the same thing in every one of them. Psalm sixty-six, verse one and two. Look at this: "Shout". How? Well, that's not very good. Shout, how? "Joyfully to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious". That is when he says shout joyfully: cheerfully, happily, lighthearted, thrilled, the excited about the fact that we love God.
"Shout joyfully to God, all the earth". And then go to if you will, to Psalm eighty-one and let's look at that for a moment. Psalm eighty-one and look at these verses. Again, the Scriptures says, "Sing for joy to God our strength; shout joyfully to the God of Jacob. Raise a song, strike the timbrel. Blow the trumpet". These people made a noise serving God. Listen, he says shout joyfully. Then if you'll turn to the ninety-fifth Psalm. Ninety-fifth Psalm verse one and two. Look at that. "O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms".
Isn't it interesting that the psalmist says every time we're to shout joyfully? You can't shout joyfully and be quiet. You say, "Well, I thought you should come to church and be reverent"? Reverence doesn't always mean quietness. It means an attitude. A reverence it an attitude about the One I'm serving. I can reverence for God and shout to the ends of the earth. I can reverence God and be absolutely quiet. Reverencing God speaks of our acknowledgement of Him, who He is, and all that He is.
And think about what He's done in your life. Every single one of us has a reason to be grateful to God and to shout His praises. And yet we're taught to be reverent. Be quiet when you go to church and reverence God. But when I look at the Psalms there's nothing quiet about that. Listen to it. "Shout joyfully". "Shout joyfully". "Shout joyfully". "Shout joyfully". In this ninety-eighth Psalm: "Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth and sing for joy and sing praises". That's what the choir does, and we sing with them. "Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre", that's a string instrument, "with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and a sound of the horn, shout joyfully before the King, and the Lord".
When I read those passages, I think, there should be such a joy in our hearts. So these verses, these are just a few verses in the Psalms, and then let's think about this in listening to these Psalms, and how God speaks to us, and there are many other verses, but there are seven reasons for our joyful thanksgiving, if you'll think about all these verses that we've read. And the first one is this: He's our God.
Listen, there are many gods created by many people down through the ages. Many gods, and they worshiped them. They're gods that do not exist. Their gods that are in their mind. There are gods that have they've been taught. And it's idolatry, but we have a reason to shout to holy God. And so, if you think about this, that the first chapter of the first book of the Bible is all about who? It's all about God. It is an expression of God. What's the expression of God? It's creation. "In the beginning, God created". It's all about God, the Creator.
And sometime we forget that and think about all of the things He created, but He intends for us to know that He's the source of all creation. He's still the Creator. He's the One who created a new life within you. You were born-again. Almighty God, sovereign Lord of the universe. Jesus Christ His Son. We have so much to be grateful for. He is our God.
Secondly, He made us, we didn't make ourselves. He gave you life. He gave you the privilege to live. He gave you gifts and talents and skills. You compare yourself with somebody else, you can't do that, God didn't make him and you alike, He made us all differently. He made us all for a purpose. He's the God who has created us, and He's the God who's made us, and He's not made any mistakes. Anything and everything in our life God has allowed for a reason. So think, He's our God, He made us and we're His people. That's what the Scripture says, we're His people. We're the people of God. You're not just somebody, you're a child of God, and we have a reason to shout to the world that.
And then of course, He says, we're the sheep of His pasture. Think about that. Think about how intimate this is. He says He's made us, and He's made us for Himself. We're His people, we belong to Him, we're the sheep of His pasture. What a beautiful way of speaking about our relationship to Him. Think about all the other animals and so forth in the world. Sheep and a shepherd, doesn't that sound like God? Why did God choose that relationship in the Scripture? Because He loves us and because He wants us to know that His attitude toward us is, He shepherds us, watches over us, cares for us, protects us, guides us, that's what shepherds do. Never forget this.
My first trip to the Holy Land we were sitting in this restaurant and eating, and I was sitting next to the window, and I saw three shepherds bring their sheep together at a well, and everything else was going, and I just happened to be watching this, and I was watching out of curiosity because all those sheep mix up with each other. And I thought what a mess that's gonna be. I couldn't hear what was saying, but I did see this shepherd, one of these shepherds lifted up his rod and said a few things.
I couldn't tell what he was saying. I watched those sheep separate according to the voice of that shepherd, until they were all going in a different direction, and what brought them away from the water to follow a shepherd was the voice that they knew. Their shepherd they knew which to follow. And I'll never forget there thinking God, I hope I'm like that. I hope I can live such a life that whenever Your voice come, I'll know it's You, it's not the devil, it's not somebody else, it's You. And when He says, we're the sheep of His pasture, and He didn't just say we're His sheep of His pasture which means He's the Provider. He's the Provider, the Shepherd. We're His sheep.
Now, sometimes we may act like goats, but we're not goats, we're sheep, and if a person is lost, they fit the goat attitude, probably, but we're the sheep of His pasture. We have a shepherd, we have somebody to protect us, to provide for us, to guide us, to lead us. Shepherds protect their sheep, shepherds provide for them, shepherds watch over them, and it's interesting, sheep know their shepherd's voice. And I wonder if you know the voice of God in your life. Do you know when God is speaking to you, that's not just your attitude? It's not just something you've thought up.
Can you say that you can identify the voice of God when He speaks to you? And God intends for us to listen to Him. We're the sheep of His pasture. Not just sheep, the sheep of His pasture. We have a Shepherd, not two shepherds, just one Shepherd: the Lord Jesus. When you trusted Him as your Savior, He did an awesome thing. He came into your life, into your spirit, and to live His life through you. So we have His voice, we have His protection, we have His provision, we have the pathway that He wants us to walk.
When I think about how intimately loving and personal God is, we should never feel like a stranger. You should never have to feel alone. Now I know there's a certain amount of aloneness when you're by yourself if you happen to live by yourself, or whatever it might be. But not alone. Once you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, He's in you. He is the Shepherd who has created every single thing that exists, and He's your Shepherd. Do you acknowledge Him as that? Do you see Him as that? Do you think of Him as being your personal Shepherd? He is, and we're His sheep.
Now we don't always obey the Shepherd, and you know what He does? That's why He has a rod. Well, you know, God still has a rod, thank God He doesn't let us get so far. And why do you think there's a hook on the other end of that rod? Pull him back. How many times has God pulled you and me back in times of trial, or temptation, or whatever it might be, by His grace and love and mercy. An awesome God He is.
And when you read Genesis chapter one, it's all about God. The rest of the Bible is about God dealing with His sheep, and He loves us. He loves us eternally, completely, absolutely enough to cause us to fellowship with Him. To praise Him, to shout His glory and His praises, and to give Him thanks. He's our God, He made us, we're His people the Scripture says. We're the sheep of His pasture. God is good. And if you had to sit down this morning and write out a little biographical sketch of the good things God's done in your life throughout your life, you could fill up probably half a book. At least twenty or thirty or forty pages maybe of how God's been good to you.
Now you can take another pen, another book and write down all the things that's happened to you that were not so good. I assure you when you count correctly the good things that God has done in your life far outweighs the difficulty, hardship, and pain that you've suffered. But somehow we forget that. We forget how good He's been because we've all been through difficult times. We've all hurt; we've suffered physically, we hurt suffered emotionally. We've all been through difficult times but we all live in godly times because you are filled with the Spirit of God. Your name has been written in the Lamb's Book of Life. You're on your way to Heaven no matter what the world does, the whole thing can blow up and it's not going to affect your eternal life.
We forget how good God is. We can sing about it once or twice a year but think about how good He's been to you. You say, "Well, but you just don't know how bad it's been for me". No, you don't know how bad it's been for people around you. But the truth is He's been good to you. Because even in the difficult times God showed up. When you were in need God showed up. When you were sick He showed up. When you were lonely He showed up. When you were going through times that you couldn't share with anybody else and you were lonely and you were fed up with life and you thought about ending it, He showed up. Why? Because He's an awesome, good God and the Bible says His lovingkindness endures forever.
Think about this, when you and I are going through a tough time, we have His lovingkindness. Now we may not recognize it, but we have His lovingkindness. Sometimes you say, "Well, why does God chastise us"? Because He loves us. And if a sheep gets astray, the shepherd goes after the sheep and depends upon where the sheep or how far, or whatever. He may have to tap him a little bit to remind him not to do that again. Watch this carefully, can you honestly say that you're happy when God chastises you? Can you say that, amen?
I didn't think I'd get much on that. Think about this. If God never chastised us, what would we do? We'd keep going 'til we went over the hill, fall off the mountain. It is God's loving hand that chastises us, to remind us don't walk out of His will, there's danger over there. You're going to regret it. You're going to find yourself in trouble, just stay with the pack. Follow the Shepherd, listen to His voice. Because the Shepherd's always going to provide what we need, when we need it, how we need it. Does that mean there'll never be rainy days, hard days, difficult days, rocky days to walk on? No. But the Good Shepherd is there to protect us and to guide us.
This Psalm is all about God's goodness, and our worship of Him, and our recognition of who He is. And so, His faithfulness continues with us throughout all generations. You will never have a moment of your life when God ceases to be faithful. He will always be faithful. He will always be who He says He is. He will always do what He says He'll do. And when I think about our Heavenly Father always being who He is, always doing what He says, always providing what He promise, always being with us through any and every circumstance of life. We should shout hallelujah, praise to God continually.
This is the God whom we serve, not the god the world serves, because the god the world serves is all confused; it's mixed up with good, bad, and indifferent, and they pacify themselves while saying, "Well, God understands". The god the world serves is not the God of the Bible, it's the god of the devil that compromises sin and makes sin acceptable, and misleads people to do evil, to think evil, to become evil. That's not the God of the Bible. You and I have a God who cares so much for us that He loves us enough to chastise us, to keep us in the center of His will which is the place we understand and experience the love of God most.
So when I think about it, and think about all of that this says to us, it speaks to me of His untiring goodness, continuous goodness toward us, always. His sacrificial love for us, think about the cross, and His eternal faithfulness to us. Think of those three things. His untiring goodness is always there. His sacrificial love for us, always there. His eternal faithfulness to us, we don't ever have to worry about Him changing. That's the awesome God we serve, we should praise Him and thank Him, and glorify His name.
You say, "Well, I believe He's forgotten me". No. You may have forgotten him, and you may be one of those sheep that's gone astray. But if you'll notice in the Scripture, watch this... are you listening? Say amen. Jesus never whipped a sheep. Never beat a sheep. But He went after the sheep and brought them back. And so, you may feel like, "Well, I know I was saved back yonder somewhere but God sort of forgotten me because I back slid and got into this and got into that". No. I'll tell what the situation is. You're living in sin and the Good Shepherd is waiting for you to come home.
You say, "Well, how do I come home"? By asking Him to forgive you of your sins. Asking Him to help you get your life back together. Asking Him to encourage you and show you the way and thank Him for His forgiveness. And thank Him for His goodness toward you. The Good Shepherd doesn't beat His sheep. It's the sheep who go astray and He comes after us to bring us home. When I think about God's awesome love and I think about this awesome song: "Shout joy to the Lord, the Good Shepherd". And the Good Shepherd will be your Shepherd to guide you, lead you, protect you, watch over you through the last moment of your life.
When you breathe your last breath, you'll see Him for the first time. What an awesome eternal thought that is. If you have never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you won't see Him. You'll be eternally separated from Him. You say, "Well, that's not fair". He's warned you, He's told you, He's sent the message to you over and over, and over again. And why have you rejected Him? The one person you need in your life above everybody else is Jesus. "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I'll give you rest". "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life".
If you confess your sins, He's faithful and just to forgive you of your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Why fight God? When you can receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, everything changes. Your name is written instantly in the Lamb's Book of Life from which there are no erasures. And when you breathe your last breath, the first person you will see is the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus. Is that not worth praising God for? Amen. Let's give God a hand. Praise God.
Father, we thank you and praise you for Your goodness and love and mercy toward us that's indescribable. Praise, thanksgiving, and blessing to You. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for putting up with us. Thank you for forgiving us. Thank you for being here for us twenty-four hours a day knowing everything about us, know how to heal us from any and everything. And know how to bless us. We just bless you this morning in Jesus name. Amen.