Giving THANKS — Give ACTS

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!

Giving THANKS — Give HONOR

This is part two of  the “Giving THANKS” sermon series that I am preaching on Sunday evenings at the Deer Run Church of Christ.  I began the series last week with “Give TIME” and this week we focused on a message entitled, “Give HONOR”.

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!

Giving honor can be a very confusing and complicated topic among Christians.  On one hand, most would readily acknowledge a need to give God honor yet may struggle to know what that really looks like.  On the other hand, we struggle with the idea of giving honor to a person because there is often something that just doesn’t sound right about doing that.  Much of that tension comes because we are more likely to want honor given to us than to give it to others.  When we do give honor, it is difficult to do so impartially and without expecting to somehow benefit from doing so.  The Bible tells us to “honor one another above yourselves” and to “give everyone what you owe him . . . if honor, then honor”.  (Romans 12:10 & 13:7)  So, how do we give this kind of honor to the people in or life and that we cross paths with?

When we give this type of honor to people, with no strings attached, we give Hope!  Many people live, work, and serve under the radar — unsure if their efforts make a difference to anyone.  When we give them honor, we instill within them a confident hope that they matter and their life has a purpose.  The greatest honor we can give a person is to share with them “the reason for the hope that you have” We give honor to God when we live out loud the hope that we have in Jesus!  Hope is central in the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ and it ought to be central in the story of our life as we give thanks and give honor to the “others” around us.

We also give honor to people when we give them opportunity.  Just prior to Paul writing to the Romans to honor one another above themselves, he addresses a variety of gifts God has given individuals in His church.  “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”  (Romans 12:6-8)  The key to this passage, other than the obvious that these gifts are given by the grace or God, is the little phrase, “let him”.  We give honor to a person, and to God, when we give that person the opportunity to use the gifts God has put in their life.

One of the more common ways of giving honor is to give notice to a person’s use of the gifts that they have.  When we notice a person living, serving, and giving with no regard for themselves and seeking the best for the other person, that is a person that deserves honor for their faithfulness.  Before we begin to question if that is even appropriate, it is probably good to point out that Paul would often name names in the public letters he would write to the churches.  He had no problem pointing out the sacrificial service of people and ask that they, and people like them, be honored.  It should not be a problem to be noticed for doing good and having that recognized either publicly or privately.  The problem comes when being noticed becomes our sole or primary reason for serving others with the gifts God has given us.  We ought to be careful, but we must not let the potential of wrong motives keep us from honoring people by noticing their use of the gifting of God in their life.

When it comes to giving honor, one of the more difficult means for many is through giving obedience.  The Bible makes it clear that we honor God through our acts of obedience to his Word and his will.  Isaiah spoke about the nation of Israel in his time, and Jesus quoted it to describe the “religious” people of his day, that “they honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from him.”  The context of both Isaiah and the words of Jesus is that this is not real honor at all — real honor requires obedience.  When we consider honoring people with our obedience, it brings up the often scary topic of submitting to one another.  When we honor others above ourselves, we become obedient to their preferences and desires over our own.  Obviously, our true allegiance and obedience is to God and the truth of His word but when it comes to matters of opinion, we give honor to a person when we yield our opinion in obedience to theirs.

Probably the most common element of honor is respect.  This really ties together the other components I’ve written about.  While we often demand that respect is earned before it is given, giving honor says we give respect because of who the person is in Christ rather than because of what they can do, or have done, for me.  Our respect for a person gives hope.  True respect allows a person to use their gifts, giving them ample opportunity to shine for Jesus.  Respect notices the achievement, effort, and person in front of us and gives them honor for who they are.  It is respect that places my opinions and desires beneath theirs and lives in obedience to the command to submit to one another.  When we respect a person for who they are in God’s view, we give them honor.

I pray that you and I are living lives that give honor to God and to others!  I pray that our thanks is expressed as we give honor through our giving  of Hope, Opportunity, Notice, Obedience, and Respect!