Dr. Ed Young - Thanksgiving from Israel
41 years ago, I showed up in Houston and I met CW Maxcy, who's Lee Maxcy's dad, and he came up to me and he said, "Do you know anything about Texas history"? I said, "Well, I've heard of Sam Houston and I've heard of the Alamo, but that's really about all I know". He said, "Did you know that George Washington was a native of Texas"? I said, "No, I did not know that". He said, "Did you know that he didn't cut down a cherry tree? He cut down what kind of tree"? What? Texas, what would it be? What? What do we have in Texas? What kind of bushes? What kind of trees? What? Is this a Texas crowd? No. What are we known for? No.
Ernie Cockrell owned a pecan tree. Everybody has pecan trees. What kind of tree? No. What kind of bushes? What? What? What? Mesquite. Mesquite. And he said, "He didn't cut down a cherry tree. He cut down a mesquite tree". I said, "Really"? And he said, "He didn't use an ax, a hatchet. He used a Bowie knife". I said, "Oh, I didn't know that". And he said, "When he went back home, his dad asked him, he said, 'George, did you cut down that tree?' He said, 'Dad, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down that tree.' And his dad said, 'In that case, George, we're going to move you to Virginia because somebody that cannot lie, well, there will be at home in Texas.'"
And I thought of the word Virginia. I thought of the 13 colonies, and Virginia was the prominent one if you remember our early history. And then I moved right down in the Massachusetts and I thought about Plymouth Rock, and I thought about that date in 1623 when Governor Bradford declared a day of Thanksgiving for those pilgrims who had had such a tough, difficult time staying alive. Now, there's an Indian named Sequoia, and Sequoia was in the tribe that lived right there at Plymouth Rock. And some Spanish explorers came down at about 1604 and they went inland they took Sequoia as a young boy and they made him a slave, put him on their ship, took him back to Spain where he was a slave for about five or six years.
Somehow he escaped and made his way to London. He became a tender of horses there in London and he learned the English language. Hold onto that. He learned the English language. Here's an Indian taken over, native American, if you wanna be politically correct. Here he is in Spain, now he's in London. He learns the English language, and somehow he gets on board a ship, and the ship comes all the way back to America and lands right there where his tribe used to exist. But while he'd been gone those years, the tribe had been totally obliterated, and this was where the pilgrims were.
Now, the pilgrims were dying like flies. They didn't know how to live. They didn't know how to exist. They didn't know what to do with animals. They didn't know how to plant. And this slave, former Indian went there and sat down, and they were ready to go back home. "We're not gonna be able to live here". And this slave came who now was, remember fluent in English? Taught them how to plant, how to harvest, how to handle the weather, how to maintain water that was pure, and how to handle all the wild animals, how to kill them and use them. And it was this young Indian slave who came back speaking English that enabled those pilgrims to survive and to thrive.
And so Governor Bradford there of the colony declared a day of Thanksgiving to celebrate God's blessing on them and to celebrate how? Think about it supernaturally. Here's an Indian, taken away to slavery, years went by, he goes to London, he learns a language, he's brought right back to the spot. His tribe has been obliterated, but he's there in the perfect time to teach those pilgrims how to live and how to survive and how to thrive in the new land. Talk about the hand of God, the hand of God in that day. So that was the beginning of what we celebrate today as Thanksgiving.
In the middle of the Civil War, it was Abraham Lincoln, the President of the North who said, "I want all of America, North and South, to fast for a day and pray and to remember the rock from which we were hewn, God, Christ, and the church, North and South," In the middle of the war. And they fasted and they had a day of feasting and celebration, and many historians think it was that moment that there began the first possible strains of reconciliation where we could become one nation under God. Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving. Gratitude or granted. Some people just take things for granted. Other people take things for gratitude.
Are you a granted person or someone who's filled with gratitude on this Thanksgiving day? My mother, when she was dying with a malignancy, those hollow eyes on her bed and her last day, some of the last words I heard her speak, she looked up to me with that little crooked smile and she said, "Edwin, God has been so good to me". Thanksgiving. The word think, T-H-I-N-K, and the word thank, T-H-A-N-K, come from the same root word. Ladies and gentlemen, when we think, we're thankful, we are thankful. We've already been to the spot, perhaps most of you have, where Jesus took the loaves and the fish, took a little fish and the loaves and they said, "We gotta feed 5,000, we better send this group back home. We don't have enough. We better go get somebody to feed them". Jesus said, "We've got plenty, and he had a blessing".
Read it carefully. A word of prayer of thanksgiving, and they served all the 5,000 and they have 12 basketfuls left over. A miracle. A miracle. An attitude of thanksgiving. That's what we must become. A people who are thankful, who rejoice. And the verse of Scripture that I really, really enjoy, is found in Philippians 4. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice". You see rejoice is twice there? It would say, joy, joy, joy in the Lord always. Again, I say joy, joy, joy. Rejoice, do it twice. Joy, joy, joy. Joy, joy, joy. And then he says, "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near".
Have you noticed? The Lord is near. He's always near, by the way. We just seem a little closer here, but you can't run away from God because everybody who's ever tried to run away from God, you know what happens? You always run into God just like Jonah. You may notice that. We say, "I'm seeking God". No, no, no. We think we're seeking God, but the truth is He's seeking us. We don't see God. "I'm looking for God". God's looking for you, never forget that. And then verse six, he says, Paul, "Be not anxious for nothing". And that's a command. It's not, "I've got a good idea for you guys: Don't be anxious". He said it's a command. Be anxious for nothing. He's saying, "Don't worry, don't fret, be at peace". It is a command.
Well how does that happen? Let me tell you the secret of it. When I get up every day, every morning and every night I hit my knees before I go to bed. I roll out of the bed in the morning I hit my knees. And the first word I say is, "Lord". The next word I say, "I". The next word I say, "Surrender". Every day of my life I begin with, "Lord, I surrender". Every night, "Lord, I surrender". And that's how we eliminate being anxious, worried, upset, uptight, confused about whether things are great or whether things are catastrophic. How do you do that? We surrender to the Lord. The Lord is running this world, ladies and gentlemen, doesn't seem like it sometimes, because we're free moral agents, we see the world is divided.
Samuel and I were talking about that before we came to. The world is divided all over the world today. But we have, as both members of the family of God through Jesus Christ in his kingdom. Paul says a command. "Don't worry, be anxious about nothing". Why? Because God's running this thing, folks. We just have to learn how to surrender and say, Lord, I don't understand that tragedy. I don't understand this temptation, I don't understand this trial. I don't understand this catastrophic thing, but I surrender. I'm yours and I give all of my words, my sorrows, all of my problems, my challenges. I give them all to you. That's where we begin. That's where we begin. And then he never gives us command he doesn't tell us how it takes place. He says, "Be anxious for nothing".
Okay, well how do you do that, Lord? He says, "But in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God". And there we have three synonyms, by prayer, by supplication, and by request. So how are we to be anxious for nothing and to surrender to the Lord? We do it by prayer. Prayer isn't just talking folks. What if God wanted to say something that you and me, we're broadcasting so much we can't be still enough to listen. By prayer we go to him. It's not the length of prayer, it's not even the quality of prayer. It may just a simple prayer of telling him how we feel. Telling him where we are. Both while listening. Because he'll speak to you, he'll speak to me by prayer. By supplication. Supplication means we pray with unction.
You know what unction is? A lady used to come out to my church in another pastorate, every once in a while she'd say, "Well pastor, you had unction today". Then she'd come out three or four Sundays, she'd just speak to me. Once in a while she's just, "Well, you had unction today". So I stopped her and I said, "Would you tell me what is unction"? She said, "I don't know, but I know when you have it". So we pray with supplication, that is with unction. And also we pray in all of this thanksgiving, let your request be named known to God. See God knows all that he wants to hear you talk about it. So we pray, we say, "Lord, forgive me of my many sins". Spell it out. Let him know the Holy Spirit has convicted you about that sin, that shame, that problem.
So how do we keep from being anxious and worry about fretting about life or death or health or all those things about the world situation? He says, "This is how you do it, prayer, supplication. Make your request be known to God and do it with thanksgiving". God is just waiting to hear from you and me. He's on tiptoe leaning over to heaven and we make a little fun, we'll write to him and he's hearing you and hearing me exclusively, personally and privately. That's how we learn how to be anxious about nothing. And then what is the result of this? Verse 7, "And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus".
The word guard there is a military word. It's a picture of God himself through Christ, or maybe his angels guarding our hearts. Why do our hearts need to be guarded? That's where our passion is. That's where the unction is. And our hearts need to be guarded because we'll get carried away. We'll get gobbled up by the world, our agenda and other things and other pressures. So he says, he'll guard our hearts. And he will guard our mind so our minds will be clear. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". How do you do that? This is the process of that. And then it says, "You have the peace of God".
The only place in the Bible we find that phrase, is right here. It doesn't mean we have peace with God, we get that when we receive Christ, do we not? We make peace with Him, He makes peace with us. That's our entree to the Heavenly Father, but to have the peace that God has, think about it, the peace of God he gives to us. Do you think God is upset about the strife here in Israel between the Palestinians and the Jews? Do you think God is upset about all the political tangents we have in America? Do you think God is upset about the division they have in Great Britain? Do you thing God is upset about all these catastrophic moments? He's saying, "Oh me, everything up there is getting out of hand. I don't know what I'm going to do about it".
No, no, no, no. God has peace. He's in charge and he wants us to let our lives be turned over to him and be in charge of your life and my life. And a byproduct of that is the peace of God. Not just peace with God, you have God's peace. And that is a part of what we discover, gives us a real spirit of thanksgiving. Think and be thankful. Now there is a couple of things are here. They're just ordinary thanksgiving and there's a special time of thanksgiving, ordinary thanksgiving. I ran into something years ago that touched my heart. Someone was talking on thanksgiving and I read a little thing and they said how we forget to be thankful.
And so, I bumped into a story of a man who on a Thanksgiving Day he began to ask God, what he should be thankful for? As we do and we name all the usual things. And God reminded him of a teacher he had in the fifth grade and a tough moment as a child growing up. And this particular teacher sat down with him, and loved him, and encouraged him, and embraced him, and assured him he was going to pass. And he said it was a turning point of his life, not only academically but emotionally. And he thought about that and now he's retired, he's in his 60s. And he said, "You know, I've never told that teacher how much she meant to me at that time in my life".
And he went to the school, ran down. She'd long since been retired. And he wrote her this letter on Thanksgiving. And said, simply, "Thank you Mrs. Johnson for what you meant to me at that moment in my life. I've always remembered you, love William". He got this letter back from that teacher follow me. She writes, "Dear Willie". He said, "It was worth writing a letter for somebody in their 60s to be called by somebody else, Willie". She wrote back, "Dear Willie, I cannot tell you how much your note meant to me. I'm in my 80s living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely and like the last leaf of summer lingering behind. But you'd be interested to know that I taught in school for over 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I ever received. It came on a blue cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has in many years".
Ladies and gentlemen, my brothers and sisters, take a little while to think of people all the way through your life who touched you, who encouraged you, who believed in you, who opened doors for you. And how long has it been since you've made a phone call, written a little note? It will mean everything in the world to them.