This is part three of the “Giving THANKS” sermon series that I am preaching on Sunday evenings at the Deer Run Church of Christ. So far we have looked at messages of “Give TIME” and “Give HONOR”. The third message was, “Give ACTS”.
God gave me the framework for this sermon series on the drive to work a few weeks ago and now He is giving me the opportunity to preach it! Paul writes in second Thessalonians 4:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are never told to be thankful for all circumstances, but we are told to be thankful in all circumstances. As we approach a season of Thanksgiving followed by the Christmas holiday, many people turn to thoughts of thankfulness and giving. This series will give you some great tips on being thankful and some great gift ideas as you give thanks not only to God, but also to the people in your life!
Jesus gave us what we often call the Golden Rule, “do unto others what you would have them do unto you”. At the heart of this command is the little word “do”! Good intentions are of little good when it comes to giving thanks — we show our thanks when we give of ourself in the acts we do. When we consider how to give thanks, we can begin by looking at the acts we would like to receive from others.
We give thanks to God and to the people around us when we give acts of Acceptance! Think about it . . . you want and long for people to accept you, right? Do unto others . . . ? But how do we do that when we don’t necessarily agree with the actions, attitudes, or opinions of others? The basic question still applies, “Do I want accepted even when people don’t agree with me?”. Paul explains the criteria for this, particularly for within the church body, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” So, how has Christ accepted me . . . and you? He knows how to accept us as valuable and desirable all while refusing to accept the sin in us as normal or acceptable. Loving the sinner but not the sin can sound like a trite statement, but it is exactly the manner in which Christ accepts us!
We also give thanks when we give acts of Comfort. We all face times of hurt, tragedy, and sadness and look for something or someone to comfort us. Do unto others . . . ? Have you ever received comfort? Do you know someone going through something who needs to be comforted? Paul tells us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” Our comfort in time of need is not just for our benefit. It is given so that we would know how to comfort others in their time of need.
As we grow in Christ, we continually learn how to live in relationship with God. We can give thanks when we give acts of Teaching. When our teaching is founded in the lessons we have learned from God through His Word and His Spirit, we have much to offer. I think of the great gift that was given by Priscilla and Aquila when they took Apollos aside and taught him the way of Christ more accurately. Sometimes we think we have nothing to teach or no ability to teach and fail to give thanks in this way. However Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom”. While there are special giftings of the Spirit in the area of teaching, we all have the ability, and the obligation, to teach with our life in both words and actions.
Foundational to giving thanks is the giving of acts of Service! When we place ourself in the position of serving others, we are able to give thanks through our actions to them. The hard part is that we are so enamored with our rights and freedoms that we begin to think everything is all about me and what I want. Yes, Christ has set me free but what has He set me free for? Paul says, “do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” My thankfulness to God, and to others, shows when I set aside my wants, desires, and freedom to serve someone else. John tells us that Jesus knew where he had come from and knew where he was going yet he took off his outer garment and took up the basin and towel and washed the feet of his disciples. His reason? To set for us an example that we too ought to serve one another.
So, what ACTS are God calling you to do in giving thanks to Him and to the people in your life? Are there people in your life that he is calling you to accept just as he has accepted you? Has he put people in your life that need the comfort that he has comforted you with? Have you learned lessons at the feet of Jesus that he is calling you to teach to others? Who specifically is he calling you to serve?
I pray that you and I are living lives that give of our actions to God and to others! I pray that our thanks is expressed as we give acts through our giving of Acceptance, Comfort, Teaching, and Service!