How To Celebrate Thanksgiving

Title: How To Celebrate Thanksgiving

Bible Book: Matthew 15 : 36

Author: Terry Trivette

Subject: Thanksgiving



I am aware that the title of my sermon sounds more like a Martha Stewart episode than a Sunday morning message. However, I want to assure you all that my purpose is not give out tips for your turkey, cranberry salad recipes, or advice on how to get along with your crazy relatives.

As we open the Word of God together today, my goal is to point you to a principle that should be a part of your life everyday; not just on a particular holiday. The word “thanks” in one form or another is found some 140 times throughout the Word of God. Thankfulness is a theme that permeates the Scriptures. In Ephesians 5:20, the Apostle Paul encouraged us to be, “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Later, in I Thessalonians 5:18, He added, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

It is the will of God that gratitude be a grace that blooms in our lives more than just once each year. Long after the leftovers have been eaten, and the holiday season gives way to a new year, we as God’s people should still be celebrating thanksgiving.

The great, Roman orator, Cicero, called gratitude “the mother of all virtues.” There is a sense in which if we learn to be grateful, then we will take a huge step toward being godly as well.

As in all things, our prototype and pattern is the Lord Jesus. In Matthew 15, and verse 36, we find Him pausing to give thanks just before feeding the 4,000. In this one verse, we learn from our Lord three steps to follow in celebrating Thanksgiving.

Notice these steps with me. First of all, in order to celebrate Thanksgiving, you must:

I. Accept The Scope Of Your Blessings

No doubt, there are many this year who will fail to be grateful for what they have because they are too busy grumbling about what they do not have. In our text, our Lord gives thanks for what He had. Look back in the text, and notice verse 34. It says, “And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes.” Jesus asks the disciples for an inventory on the food supply, and the disciples informed Him that all they had were seven pieces of bread, and a few sardines. In verse 36, we read that, “…he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks…” Though seven loaves and a few fish didn’t seem to amount to much, our Lord thanked God for what He had.

Compared to some, your blessings may seem few, but true gratitude and thankfulness begins when we accept whatever we have been given as blessings from the hand of God. Notice a couple of things you can do to accept the scope of your blessings. First of all:

A. Be conscious of your little blessings

Jesus thanked God for seven small loaves of bread, and a few little fish. Though these were little things, their significance did not escape the heart of Jesus. When was the last time you paused to thank God for the multitude of little blessings He has given you?

When your alarm clock woke you this morning, did you stop to thank God for another day that you didn’t deserve and weren’t guaranteed? When you tied your shoes this morning, did you thank God for those shoes, or the feet to wear them, or the hands to tie them, or the strength to use them? When you walked into this building, did you pause to thank God for a place to assemble, and the privilege of worshipping Him in freedom?

No, you may not have all you could want, but it is likely that you have more than you think. In fact, if you will heed the instruction of the songwriter, and “count your many blessings, [naming] them one by one,” it will in fact “surprise you what the Lord has done.”

David said in Psalm 103:2, “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:” We can more easily accept the scope of our blessings when we remember all His benefits in our lives, including the little blessings. If you are going to accept the scope of your blessings, not only should you be conscious of your little blessings, but you should also:

B. Be content with your life’s blessings

The disciples informed the Lord that all they had were seven pieces of bread and few small fish. In light of the thousands waiting for lunch, that didn’t seem like hardly enough. Yet, when we read verse 36, we do not find our Lord asking for more. He simply took what He had, and thanked God for it. Unfortunately, in our culture the contented man is an endangered species. Most people live with an insatiable appetite for more of everything from square footage, to horsepower, to T.V. channels. As a result of our gluttonous lives, few are thankful for what they do have because they are too busy striving for what they do not have. True gratitude begins only when we appreciate what we’ve already been given.

Erma Bombeck tells of an eight-year-old little girl she met who was battling a cancer that eventually took her life. On her birthday, little Christina was asked what she wanted. She thought for a long time, and finally answered, “I don’t know. I have two sticker books and a Cabbage Patch doll. I have everything.”

Our Lord teaches us that even if we have only a little bread and a little meat, we must learn to accept the scope of our blessings, and be content with God’s gifts in our lives.

There is a second lesson we draw from our Lord in this verse that teaches us how to celebrate Thanksgiving. Notice not only that you must accept the scope of your blessings, but notice also secondly that you must…

II. Acknowledge The Source Of Your Blessings

Look again at verse 36. It says, “And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks…” Notice that phrase “gave thanks”. It is translated from the Greek word that gives us our English word “Eucharist”. It literally means a spoken blessing. In other words, Jesus took the seven loaves and few fish, and blessed the lunch they were about to receive. He prayed to His Father, acknowledging that this meal had come from Him.

At the heart of Thanksgiving is an acknowledgement of the source from which all of our blessings come. Someone once said, “The worst moment for the atheist is when he really thankful and has no God to thank.”i

For you and I, there is always a God to thank. Notice a couple of things to remember when it comes time to acknowledge the source of your blessings. Remember first of all:

A. Without God, life is an impossibility

In Acts 17, when Paul stood and preached in Athens, he contended that the one, true God didn’t need man-made temples because, “… he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things.”

In Colossians 1:16-17, speaking of Jesus Christ, Paul says, “…all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”

Do you understand that the breath you just took was only because a sovereign, mighty, cosmos-controlling God gave your lungs permission to breathe? The sun could not shine if Christ didn’t give it light. The birds would not sing if He had not composed for them a melody. You and I would not exist had our God not formed us in our mother’s wombs.

Thankfulness begins in the heart of the man who stops to acknowledge that God is the source of all things, and without Him, life itself is an impossibility. James, the brother of our Lord said, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” If without God, life is an impossibility, then notice with me that we should acknowledge the source of our blessings because:

B. Without gratitude, life is an insult

If God is the source of all life, and all blessings, then how insulting it is for a man to refuse to acknowledge God, and give Him thanks for His goodness.

Shakespeare said:

“I hate ingratitude more in man,

Than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness,

Or any taint of vice whose strong corruption

Inhabits our frail blood.”

Lest you think Shakespeare was the only one to despise ingratitude, you should read the first chapter of Romans. There, Paul lays down a litany of charges against mankind. On that list are things like idolatry, homosexuality, and murder. However, before any of those things are listed, Paul writes that the wrath of God is coming upon man because, “…when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful (1:27)…”

For a man to go a single day without pausing to acknowledge that God is the source of His life and blessings is an insult to a holy God, and a sin of which far too many are guilty. John Maxwell said, “The moment we are born we already owe someone for nine months of room and board…and we never really pay that debt.”ii

A man could never repay God for all He gives him, but that debt is compounded when a man insults God by living a life in which he refuses to acknowledge God as his source and supply.

Jesus paused and prayed, thanking God for a meal that was about to be received. In so doing, He teaches us that if we would be thankful, we must acknowledge the source of our blessings.

There is one more truth I want us to draw from this verse. As we observe the Lord Jesus, we see that to celebrate Thanksgiving, you must not only accept the scope of your blessings, and acknowledge the source of your blessings, but notice also thirdly and finally that you must:

III. Anticipate The Sufficiency Of Your Blessings

I wan’t to remind you of the setting of our text. Jesus and the disciples were looking at a crowd of over 4,000 hungry people. As we have seen, all they had by way of food was a few pieces of bread and a few sardines. With that in mind, look again at verse 36. It says, “And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”

Right now, many of you are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit because you are worried about how you are going to afford them. In these troubled economic times, some of you are looking at mouths to feed, and bodies to clothe, and bills to pay, and you are worried that what you have is not going to be enough.

In this text, Jesus reminds us that “little is much when God is in it.” This Thanksgiving, we must celebrate, confident that God’s blessings will be sufficient for all our needs.

Notice with me a couple of things about the sufficiency of God’s blessings. Notice first of all:

A. God sees the shortfalls

Have you ever wondered about God’s math skills? Have you ever had one of those moments when you look at your needs compared to what you have to meet those needs, and you begin to wonder whether God has miscalculated. That appears to be the situation in Matthew 15. Jesus wanted to feed a crowd of over 4,000 people. Yet all that was available was an ancient Hebrew sack-lunch.

When Jesus told the disciples that He wanted to feed the people, they wondered in verse 33, “…Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?”

Perhaps right now you are looking at a need in your life, and like the disciples you are wondering how in the world that need is going to be met. Realize something; Jesus knows the numbers.

Jesus knew exactly how many people there were, and how much food He had. He saw the shortfall. Yet, He knew that what appeared to be insufficient was more than enough.

Celebrate this Thanksgiving, hanging on to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:8, “…your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

Trust Him that His math skills are better than yours, no matter what the calculator and the budget may say. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, anticipate that what God gives you will be enough.

Notice not only that God sees the shortfalls, but notice also further that…

B. God sends the supply

Even though you know how the story ends, look down at verse 37. After Jesus took the bread and the fish, and broke it and passed it out, it says, “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full.”

Verse 36 doesn’t explain exactly how the miracle of multiplication actually took place. I don’t know how the Lord multiplied seven loaves of bread and a few fish into enough food to feed all the people and then some. We are simply told that what was at one moment not nearly enough was taken by the Lord and made into more than enough to supply the need. In much the same way, we cannot always trace God’s work; but we can always trust His word. He has promised to supply all of our needs. How God sees fit to meet your need may still remain to be seen, but you can go ahead and thank Him this Thanksgiving, knowing that He is in fact going to send the supply you need.

There is an interesting line in Philippians 4:6. It says, “…with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” The implication is that we can thank God as we make our requests, as if He had already answered them.


On Wednesday of this past week, the Gallup survey website posted an article about consumer confidence. There had been a slight increase in the consumer confidence index in the first part of November, but the latest numbers indicate that 61% of Americans rate the economy as poor, and more than 80% of Americans feel like the economy is getting worse.iii

While consumer confidence in America may be falling, Christian confidence need not decline. Whether bull markets or bear, prosperity or poverty, we can anticipate that our God’s blessings will be exactly what we need.

The Thanksgiving holiday has now become more about food, family, and football than it has about giving thanks. However, even if there were no Thanksgiving holiday, the people of God would still have reason to give thanks.

Everyday that we live should be a Thanksgiving Day. We can celebrate in all things, at all times because our God has blessed us all with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus.

As you prepare to go through the traditions of Thanksgiving, may you not get so caught up with the turkey and the trimmings that you forget about the God who gives us all things, and the Savior to whom we owe all our praise!

i Allen, R. Earl, Days to Remember, (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1975), p. 127

ii McHenry, Raymond, McHenry’s Quips, Quotes, and Other Notes, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 1998), p. 118

iii Jacobe, Dennis, Post-Election Uptick in Consumer Confidence Short-Lived, 11/20/08,, 11/21/08,


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