A Heart of Thankfulness

A Lesson From Israel, A Promise From God

The children of Israel have been in Egypt over 400 years. The reason for their presence there has been forgotten by the Egyptians and their length of time there has greatly increased their numbers to the point Pharaoh made them slaves. As they continued to increase Pharaoh commanded the killing of every son born. Moses was born, thrown into the Nile as was commanded (just in a basket), rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, unknowingly given to his mother to raise, returned to the palace, killed an Egyptian slave master for beating a Hebrew, got scared, ran to Midian, got married, had a son, met God at a burning bush and went back to Egypt to free the children of Israel. The reason God sent him back to Egypt is, “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”  Exodus 2:23-25 God brought Moses back to deliver His children and gave him powerful signs to prove God had sent him.

So, after the 10 plagues, which served a great purpose that is for another message, the Israelites are delivered from Egypt and headed to the Promised Land. They are free. They have reason to celebrate…for a moment. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God so Pharaoh readies his chariot and takes his army after the Israelites. The Israelites see the army coming, they see the mountains surrounding them, they see the Red Sea in front of them and they have nowhere to go.

This is where the complaining begins and this is where the message begins.

An Unthankful Heart Causes You To:   Doubt the Power of God

The Israelites have just witnessed the power of God deliver them through 10 frightening plagues. He protected them through these plagues. Now I can’t say that I wouldn’t be with them considering the circumstances, mountains all around, an army chasing me and a sea in front of me. Thankfulness probably wouldn’t have been at the front of my mind and it certainly wasn’t on theirs.

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.” Exodus 14:11-12

I am certain there was celebration that God had set them free as they were leaving captivity and all along the journey and their encampment. But now in difficulty is facing them, certain death confronts them and now the powerful God that delivered them is forgotten and Moses is blamed for taking them from their home.

I find this humorous, Moses tells them to, “Fear not, stand firm…” and God says to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me. Tell the Israelites to move…” Along with further instruction God parted the Red Sea, the Israelites walked on dry ground, the Egyptians pursued into the sea bed after them, and after the last Israelite come through God closed the waters on the Egyptian army, totally destroying their enemy and insured their freedom.  I think that is a message God is telling the church today is move. Quit planning, and plotting, and praying and act on the things that I have instructed you to act on. You have direction now move. Don’t misunderstand what I said. God is not telling you to quit praying, but there are some things many of you are continuing to pray about and God has already given you your answer. Shut up and move.

I believe the problem is a lack of faith. It is difficult to have faith when I doubt the power of God. I forget about what He teaches about His power in the scriptures. Maybe, I have forgotten about the things He has taught me in my life concerning His power. Where am I lacking faith? What am I facing that is scaring me from moving forward? God’s power is the only thing that will give you the courage to face the obstacle in front of you and enemy chasing you.

An unthankful heart will also cause you to:   Forget What God Has Done

Israel, delivered from slavery, Egyptian army destroyed before their eyes, taken care of in the desert and yet they gripe and complain constantly. They are getting close to being able to enter the Promised Land but once again, “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meet to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’”  Numbers 11:4-6  They have forgotten that God had provided the manna for them. Think about this, you are walking around in the desert and there are no fields, no Waffle Houses, no bed and breakfast…there is nothing. Two months into their journey, after they had crossed the Red Sea, they said, “If only we had died in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out in to this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you…” Exodus 16:2-4 What if the Israelites at this moment would have said, “Lord, we thank you for bringing us out of Egypt. We are hungry. Will you provide us food?” I think the menu may have been better. But as a result of their complaining, God gave them the generic corn flakes from the black and white box. Once again, instead of asking God to provide they complain against Moses not providing them any meat. God, who has delivered them from captivity, destroyed their enemy before their eyes, given them food and water, yet they complain about what they don’t have.

Are there things God has done in your life that you have forgotten about? You complain about what you don’t have and don’t thank Him for what you do have. What is something God has delivered you from that you are no longer thankful for? An abusive relationship, an addiction, financial struggles, health problems… You may not like where you are right now but look back over your life and thank God for all that He has done for you.

An unthankful heart causes you to:   Long For the Way It Was Before

The Israelites have arrived to the Promised Land but, once again, obstacles are in the way. The report comes back that there are giants in the land and the Israelites have forgotten that God has already delivered them from one great enemy and He has the power to deliver them from this next enemy. They start reminiscing about the good old days. Do you remember the good old days? When life was so much simpler, you grew your own food, raised your own cattle, your children gladly did their chores, and everything was so much better. You forgot that you had to go outside in the freezing cold if you needed a bathroom trip, you had to go draw water from the well to get a cool drink and pull the animal hair out of the ladle before you sip. You couldn’t turn your thermostat down to 64 in those hot summer months because…well…what’s a thermostat. We look back at our lives and remember the great times and forget about the struggles that we faced. So the Israelites also looked back with rose colored glasses and said, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” and they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” (Numbers 14:2-4) Going back is an easy trip to make, and too many times, when the struggle of moving becomes overwhelming, people will choose to stay where they are. But we never really stay still. We tend to either move forward or slowly migrate back to where we were. We move in the direction of our greatest desire. Is it comfort or God.

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11) There is a comfort about what we know, it’s a place called home. We must realize the only way to ever grow up in Christ is we have to move out. We shouldn’t be 50 year old Christians living in the basement of our parent’s home or having the desire to go back there. When our desire is for what we used to have or be, we will be in constant pursuit of that desire. Never content with what God is doing right now or where He is taking us. As the children of Israel learned, the only time we will move forward is when the desire to please God is greater than the fear of the next step. When we are thankful for where we are, God gives us understanding that He will strengthen us to take that next step.

An unthankful heart causes you to:   Forget the Presence of God

The children of Israel, they have felt the presence of God as He delivered them from captivity, led them across the desert, parted the Red Sea, provided them with food and water. All they did was grumble when they didn’t have what they wanted. It was Moses that kept their eyes focused on God. Earlier in the Israelite’s journey to the Promised Land, Moses had been on Mt. Sinai for about forty days when trouble began to brew. “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  (Exodus 32:1) An interesting phrase in this passage is, “As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt.” They aren’t even recognizing that it was God who brought them out of Egypt. They weren’t following the guidance God through the leadership of Moses, they were following Moses. There grumbling against Moses was a failure to see who was in charge, that it was God who delivered them, God who heard their cry, God who parted the Red Sea, God who wiped out their enemy.

This reminds me of church in so many ways. Have you ever noticed that when the congregation knows the pastor will be away the attendance falls below 50%. Are they worshipping God or the pastor? A church unanimously votes in a new pastor. They have spent months praying and asking God to, “Send us a pastor who will guide us into the path You desire for our church to go, so that we may reach our community and be a shining light for the Kingdom.” Then six months after the new pastor’s arrival, people begin complaining about everything this guy is wanting to do. He doesn’t understand who we are, we’ve never done that before, why is he so demanding, I just don’t understand what he’s doing, I have had enough and I’m going somewhere else. Would you say this church has forgotten the presence of God? Or ever knew the presence of God? When we are thankful for what God has provided we will see His hand at work in the presence of those He has placed in our lives. Our pastor, our spouse, our children, employers , friends, and the list goes on and on. Thankfulness opens the door to experience the presence of God in every area of our life. Thankfulness will get rid of the suspicions, doubts, jealousies, and fill us with hope, confidence and strength.

A Thankful Hearts Results In:   Hope

Noah’s was the only righteous family on the planet. He was given an incredible task of building an ark to save God’s creation. God was grieved that He ever made man. But He had hope and it rested in this man Noah. Noah built the ark, God brought the animals to board, God shut them inside, it began to rain, they floated around for about a year, then finally God parked the ark on Mt. Ararat and the door was opened.

Imagine what Noah saw as he gazed out at the beautiful blue sky from the top of this mountain. As he breathed in deeply the cool mountain air there was joy that they were safe and God protected him and his family. As he excelled, the joy subsided to the reality of, “We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Remember, everything was destroyed. This is a brand new beginning. Think about looking down from the mountain and seeing the piles of trees, and animals, and people that were piled in heaps, blended in the mixture of mud and silt…everything was destroyed.

Noah, with a thankful heart, built an altar and made sacrifices to the Lord and the Lord said, “I establish My covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth”… “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between Me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds…This is the sign of the covenant I have established between Me and all life on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9…12…17) Thankfulness doesn’t do away with the struggles of life but God gives you hope when you are thankful to Him. Thankful for what He has done, how He has protected, how He has provided…living in a continual state of thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to, “Be joyful always, pray continually, be thankful in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God’s not saying the circumstances are His will for you, but the attitude is His will for you. The circumstances may be the result of a series of sinful choices you have made, or possibly sinful choices someone else made that are impacting your life. Whatever the circumstances, an attitude of gratitude towards God will turn the slippery, muddy, sludge you are standing in into a firm rock that will begin your journey into God’s future for your life. Thankfulness gives you hope because it acknowledges you understand God is with you.

A thankful heart results in:   Confidence

Abraham was one hundred years old when God gave him Isaac. When Isaac was a young boy, God told Abraham to give Isaac back, to sacrifice Isaac. As they are making the journey to “the place of worship,” I wonder what was going through Abrahams thoughts. Was it a continuous prayer of, “God, why are you taking my child you just gave me?” Or, “how can I take the life of my son, what am I going to tell Sarah?” While it is impossible to know what he was thinking, we do know what he said. When Isaac saw the fire and the wood for the sacrifice he asked his father, “but where is the lamb?” Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (Genesis 22:8) And as Abraham bound Isaac and placed him on the altar, as he was about to make the sacrifice of his son to the almighty God, God stopped him and provided the ram. I am amazed at the confidence Abraham had, the faith that is described in Hebrews 11:19, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.” A thankful heart gives us confidence that God has provided all that we have and whatever we surrender back to Him in obedience will never be lost.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Genesis 22:8) Thankfulness enables us to approach God with this confidence.

A thankful heart results in:   Strength

Satan was in the presence of God when God asked Him, “Where have you been?” Satan replied, “To and fro the earth, up and down on it.” Then God says to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job?” I’ll be honest with you, I don’t like this verse. To think that God may say to Satan, “Have you considered Randall?” troubles me. We see in the New Testament where Jesus was talking with Peter and told him, “Satan has asked to sift you.” I don’t like this. But I do like Jesus’ response, “But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” For the believer, Satan can only access you through divine approval and if God has given him that permission it is only because God knows the outcome when we trust Him. So be thankful for whatever you are facing because God will strengthen you to face it. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world, there will be trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4) Now this sounds real good but can you really do this? And if you can, what does it look like? The apostles had been arrested for preaching the Gospel, during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told them to go out and continue preaching and teaching. They did and were brought back before the leaders and confronted again. When the Pharisees reminded them they were told not to preach and teach in His name, Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than man.” I love this. What better answer is there? And it is only with a thankful heart for what God has provided for us can we have the hope, confidence and strength to make such a statement. Then the exclamation point is put in its proper place. “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the counsel, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. and every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5:40-42)

Let’s go back to Job. A righteous man, a man that made sacrifices for his children thinking, “Perhaps they have sinned.” The standard he set in his home was high. After Satan’s first attack Job’s response was, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Then Satan got permission to come back and attack him physically. “His wife said to him, ‘Are you still holding onto your integrity? Curse God and die!’ He replied, ‘You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all this, Job did not sin in what he said…Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him: I will surely defend my ways to His face.’” (Job 2:9-10…13:15)

We like to be angry with Job’s wife, but the fact is, this woman just lost everything. Her finances gone, security gone, her children gone and as she is watching her husband grown in agony she says to him words that cut her even deeper, “Curse God and die.” Do you think she wants her husband gone too? Isn’t it possible that she feels the greatest love she can express to her husband say, “It’s ok, you can go now. I’ll be alright. Just take that step into eternity.” But it is with a thankful heart that Job is able to respond that he is not about to quit. God has given him more than he ever deserved and although he only got to hold it for a brief moment, at least he got to hold it. His thankfulness gave him the strength to face the uncertainty of what the next day was going to bring or the next step was going to take him. He knew with certainty that God has given and God has taken and His name is to be blessed.

Ask God to examine your life and reveal to you where you are and where you aren’t thankful for His power, provision and presence. Express to God how you are thankful to Him in these circumstances. Then, think of the results of a thankful heart. Hope, how do I show it? Confidence, how do I share it? Strength, how do I use it? My life should be a display of thankfulness for God through obedient actions affecting others for His kingdom.

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