True Thankfulness

Title: True Thankfulness

Bible Book: Isaiah 25 : 6-9

Author: J. Mike Minnix

Subject: Thanksgiving; Praise


True Thankfulness

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Isaiah 25:1, 6-9

Gratitude ought to be our consistent attitude and praise ought to be more than just a phase but all too often those of us who have been greatly blessed do not bless God gratefully or gracefully. We simply fail to maintain a thankful heart and a bold expression of gratitude to our God.

Jesus once healed ten lepers, but only one returned to give Him thanks. Jesus asked, "Where are the nine?" We can accurately say that ninety percent of those blessed with healing that day gave no thanks to the Lord for their new found health. I wonder if the same percentage of those listening to this message are living without giving appropriate thanks and praise to the Lord for the wonderful blessings He has given us. Sometimes we are grateful when we get well or discover that the diagnosis from our doctor finds nothing of consequence wrong with our health, but what about the days we live without an illness - is there any gratitude for health itself?

A radio program once existed called, “Job Center of the Air.” The host said that more than 2,500 people had gotten jobs through the broadcast but only ten people had bothered to write a thank you note for the help they had received. Ingratitude seems to be ingrained in the hearts of the ungrateful. We often take the blessing and turn away without any thought to offering the thanks that is worthy of being offered. Certainly giving thanks to God and others is something that should be identified with God's people!

A retired school teacher in her eighties was overjoyed to get a letter from a former student thanking her for her role in his life. She immediately responded to the letter writing, "I cannot tell you how much your letter meant to me. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received."

It is shameful to live as unthoughtful and ungrateful Christians. Much of what we see around us in the lives of those we know and meet is a cold, impersonal, and reveals an uncaring attitude. We must not let the calloused and detached nature of our generation rob us of our gratitude-attitude. One person wrote, "Thankfulness to God is only needed as frequently as a heart beat." Indeed, every heartbeat is a gift from God.

We need the spirit of the little boy in school who was asked if there was something for which he was thankful. He replied that he was most thankful for his eye glasses. When asked why he was thankful for his glasses, he replied, "My glasses keep the boys from hitting me and the girls from kissing me!" He might change his mind about the kisses once he is a little older.

This coming Thursday our nation participates in a National Holiday called Thanksgiving. This day commemorates the harvest which God gave to the Plymouth Colony after that first terrible winter in America. For many years Thanksgiving was only observed by certain states and in particular areas of the country. A woman named Sarah Hale was determined to make the holiday a nationwide celebration of God's blessings upon America. Year after year she flooded the newspapers with articles and letters to the editors. She wrote to Presidents Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan pleading for them to set aside a day of Thanksgiving annually in America. In 1863 her entreaties did not go unnoticed and because of them President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November of each year as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God. Lincoln lived to celebrate two such holidays before he was gunned down at Ford's theater. Hale lived into her nineties and celebrated many Thanksgiving Days with her family and friends. Thank God she is not around today trying to get such a day established. Can you imagine the outcry from the ACLU and other liberal factions within our society if a President at this time tried to establish a religious holiday for all of America to celebrate by giving thanks to God for all His blessings? Sad, isn’t it?

Maybe you heard about the little boy who was warned not to use religious words in his presentation, but was directed to give a report on the founding of America. The little fellow stood up and read the following from a 3 X 5 index card:

“The Pilgrims came here seeking freedom of you know what. They landed at Plymouth Rock and gave thanks to you know who. Because of them, we can worship each Sunday, you know where!”

Today I want you to look with me at Isaiah 25:1; 6-9. Though this passage is not about thankfulness for daily, earthly blessings, it does present to us three great tenets for true thankfulness.

Look with me at Isaiah 25:1, 6-9, “O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 6 And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees.7 And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations.8 He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. 9 And it will be said in that day: "Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us.This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation." (NKJV)

I want us to  reflect upon the subject of True Thankfulness as we look at this Bible passage today. There are three important points for us to consider.

I. A Personal Relationship with God Precedes True Thankfulness

In Spiritual terms, you cannot be thankful to a God whom you do not know. Imagine an atheist who wakes up one morning grateful to be alive but doesn't who to thank? Or consider the atheist who is in an accident and realizes in that moment that his life has been spared. I can hear him say, "Thank .... uh ... um ... well, I'm thankful!" Isaiah said, "O Lord, you are MY God." Isaiah said that because he had a personal relationship with the Lord.

David used this same idiom. He wrote, "The Lord is MY Shepherd." Thomas said, "My Lord and My God." Paul penned, "My God shall supply all your needs." This phraseology is common throughout the Bible. In each case, the writer was speaking of God as “MY” God. Thanking God is not thanking “fate,” it is thanking the “Friend Closer Than A Brother.” We do not proclaim gratitude by saying, "Thank goodness," we rather say, " I thank my God!"

I've heard some people say, "Thank goodness." Now, let me ask, who is "goodness"? Jesus said, "There is none good but God." It is difficult to thank someone you don't know. Isaiah had a personal relationship with God and that is why he thanked Him. All of us who know the Lord need to be careful to thank the Lord!

A. Thankfulness is Personal but not Private

Someone may say, "Well, I am thankful to God, but I don't like to make a public display of it, it is a private matter." Gratitude in the Bible was open and forceful. Thankfulness that does not break out in an open display is lacking inside the unseen heart. A truly thankful person cannot hide it! Watch a child open a gift and you will see wide-eyed gratitude.

Of course, even children are prone to be ungrateful. One preacher tells of his daughter asking for some coins from her father. The dad placed some pennies in her hand. She saw that he had some shiny silver coins and asked for some of them. So, he gave her a couple quarters and some dimes. He then asked," Now, what do you say?" He expected a "thank you" from his daughter who stood there with a handful of coins. The little girl said, "I want more!" Sadly, we often treat our Heavenly Father the same way.

In our passage today we note that the word "exalt" is written in a Hebrew form which is intensive. For example, if you wrote a sentence regarding the word jump, you might say, "The man jumped at the news of a promotion at his job." But if you wrote this in the intensive form, you would write, "The man leaped for joy, hopped and skipped gladly, when he heard the news of his job promotion." Isaiah said, "I will exalt, openly, gladly, and with great excitement, I will praise my God!" Christian thankfulness is personal but it is not private. If you have a biblical kind of gratitude, you will show it with intensity!

B. Thankfulness Is Worship But Involves Will

Sometimes we think of praising God on those occasions that we get what we asked for or exactly what we want. Actually, the way gratitude is expressed in this text today is a matter of will and commitment. "I will," said Isaiah. In other words, he made a commitment to praise God whether he felt like it or not. That may seem strange, but that is the way we have to deal with gratitude. You don't feel your way into an attitude of gratitude; rather, you must praise your way into a new way of feeling. In a biblical sense, gratitude begins with who God is and not just with what He has done for us. Sure, there is a prompting of thankfulness when things go our way and God gives us exactly what we want or need; however, God deserves our praise and thankfulness at all times. We must "will" to be thankful in order to practice gratitude correctly.

Many in the congregation today are going through tough times. You may be visiting the doctor often and taking powerful medications for an illness. Some of you are likely going through treatments like chemotherapy. Others are waiting on the results of tests that a doctor has performed. Still others are brokenhearted because of a failed relationship or a prodigal child or grandchild. We could go on with examples of lost jobs, financial troubles, grief, loneliness - well, you get the point. God has not left you, even if you feel that He has. He loves you. He has plans for you. Just say, "I will praise my God." When we use our will to praise God, it helps pull us up out of the circumstances and helps us stand on God's promises.

C. Thankfulness Is Exclusive But Also Inclusive

In Bible terms, only those who know the Lord can give true thanks to Him. But the opportunity to know Him is open to all. Look at verse six. God has made this feast of rejoicing available to "all" people. No one is excluded who truly desires to have a personal relationship with God.

The picture of the heavenly feast is very appropriate for our consideration. Thanksgiving involves a meal for family and/or friends. One day, in heaven, we are going to sit down to a great feast with our Savior. It is called the Supper of the Bridegroom. At one of the sessions of the colloquiums prior to my doctoral graduation from Trinity Theological Seminary, Jayne and I were privileged to hear one of the most knowledgeable archaeologists from Israel speak on interesting discoveries which had been made in the Holy Land. One of those involved the symbolic meaning of certain meals among people during Bible days. Dr. Carter revealed that certain meals were held for the specific purpose of establishing or restoring relationships with people. When a person was inviting to such a meal, it established a bond between the person giving the meal and the person receiving it. It was always a time of great celebration. He stated that this was the picture Jesus was creating with the story of the Prodigal Son. The boy was treated to a meal of restoration to full family privileges. Likewise, that is the picture in the Lord's Supper. Those who accept Christ's invitation are invited to the meal which establishes a relationship with Him. The idea is one of irrevocable union!

Is there a person here today who is unsure if you have that personal relationship with God? Well, God invites you to His Son, Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life and the Water of Life. When you come to Him in believing faith, you are partaking of life-giving food for your soul. And one day you will sit day at a great banquet feast in heaven. You can join the family of God around the table of thanksgiving today - a thanksgiving for something far beyond food and drink - a thanksgiving for the forgiveness of sin, the presence of Jesus in your life and a future in heaven with the Lord. He invites you to come to Him today! When we come to the end of this message, you will get the opportunity to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I hope you will open your heart now to allow Him to speak to you and call you to Himself.

For all those who have received the gift of life through Christ, praise, thankfulness and exaltation are to be part of your existence. We have been lifted out of the miry clay. We have been rescued from the brink of death. We have been pulled out of the grasp of an enemy who was torturing us. We have new life! No matter what else is going on in our lives, we are redeemed and no one can take that from us. Praise the Lord. Exalt the Lord. Thank the Lord!

II. A Historical Relationship With God Precedes True Thankfulness

A man came to the preacher and said, "Preacher, I need help. Lately, every time my wife and I get into an argument, she becomes historical." The preacher said, "Sir, I think you mean that every time you get into an argument your wife becomes hysterical." The man replied, "No, I mean she becomes historical, because she brings up everything I ever did wrong in my life!"

You and I can only be thankful if we have a historical relationship with God. What do I mean? I mean that we must have an awareness of His blessing across the history of our lives. In fact, we can go back even further and see how God has worked in our families, in our nation, in our history and even in Bible days, just to bless us today! When we review the history of what God has done for us, we cannot help but be thankful to Him. One thing every Christian can be thankful for today is the fact that God does not bring up every thing you did wrong in your life. In fact, he forgets it because of the blood of His Son. He remembers it no more. He places your sins in the depth of the sea. He separates your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. "Love makes no lists of wrongs." Indeed, God has wiped the slate clean! Aren't you grateful? You ought to be - I ought to be. If you are grateful, then you need to show it.

This is the point that Isaiah is making. Note that he said, "You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago." Isaiah was aware that God had worked in his behalf, and in behalf of others, and it brought him to his feet. He exalted and praised God with great vigor and enthusiasm. He exalted the God whom he knew and loved.

A. There Must Be Remembering in our Rejoicing

The songwriter said it best,

“Count your many blessings name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”

Recall the blessings of God and it will move you from Grumble Avenue to Glory Boulevard. When we remember what God has done for us, we are brought to our knees in humility and to our feet in rejoicing! This was the reason that God instituted memorials. In the Old Testament, God often had the people raise a banner or a pile of stones as a remembrance of some act of mercy He had preformed on their behalf. He did this so that they and their children would not forget! I love the banner ministry in a church. When the choir sings and the people carry those banners forward in a service, I can't help but rise to my feet. Each of us can be a banner for the Lord. He redeemed us. We can praise Him and thank Him before the world. Never be ashamed of your gratitude to God - don't stow it - show it! We must remember to rejoice properly and we must raise up His banner to reveal it correctly.

B. There Must Be Thinking in our Thanking

In that great passage found in Philippians 4:4 and following, Paul tells us one prerequisite to proper praise and peace with God. We must think of good things. We must keep a good thought! Stinking thinking leads to grumbling grouches, but thanking thinking leads to glorified gratitude! We must think the thoughts that remind us of God’s goodness toward us. Failing to do this leads believers to receive blessings from the Lord without giving Him praise or expressing gratitude to Him. To do that treats the Lord as some kind of glorified Santa Claus.

C. There Must Be Peace in our Praise

What does this mean? Look at verse 1 again. Note that Isaiah said that God had done marvelous things in "perfect faithfulness". A lot of the things happening around Isaiah were not pleasant, but he praised God anyway! Why? Because he trusted the wisdom of God.

Corrie Ten Boom, in “The Hiding Place”, relates an incident which taught her this principle. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet - Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. Their Scripture reading that morning, from 1 Thessalonians, reminded them to rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances. Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. She finally succumbed. During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without guard interference. It was several months later when they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas. (Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place.)

In order to thank God properly, we must learn to thank God for the fleas. Like Paul, we must glory in our infirmities that the power of God may rest upon us! To believe that God is working in our behalf even when things are not going as we like is the true test of a thankful heart!

III. An Eternal Relationship With God Precedes True Thankfulness

Part of that which made Isaiah thankful was the eternal nature of God's blessings upon him. Look with me at Isaiah 25:6-9. The Christian has a thankful heart because he knows he has something which the world, the devil, time and space cannot take from him.

A. There is Victory because Corruption is Removed (8)

Sin disgraced us, but the Savior graced us. Through His love He granted us grace and removed our sin. The songwriter exulted in praise at the thought of forgiven sin:

“My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought

My sin not in part, but the whole

Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O my soul!” (Words, Horatio Spafford; Music, Philip Bliss)

Our sinful stains have been removed in His life giving blood. We are thankful because we have the assurance in eternity and we know that sin will never touch us there. When I got saved, I was removed from the penalty of sin. Now that I am saved, I am kept from the power of sin. I cannot be corrupted again. One day, thank God, I will be removed from the presence of sin. If such thoughts cannot elicit thanksgiving from you, you need to check on your salvation to see if it is real!

B. There is Victory because Condemnation is Removed (7)

The shroud is the veil which was placed over the face of a condemned person who was lead out to be hanged. God has removed and taken the covering off of us and we are free from the death sentence that was upon us. The shackles are removed and we walk out of the prison of sin into the bright sunlight of freedom in Christ!

C. There is Victory because the Coffin is Removed (8)

Death is swallowed up in victory. Note the similarity with the passage by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and the passage we read in Isaiah. Tears are wiped from our eyes forever. The last enemy is destroyed. To a Christian, death is not a period but simply a comma!

Speaking of death, did you hear about the woman in Lebanon, Indiana whose husband died? This actually happened and was reported by Associated Press. Mrs. Sam Brown came to the obituary desk because her husband had died. She brought along four pages of obituary, telling all about Sam but then she was told that to publish such an obituary would cost twenty-give cents per word. So she said, "Then just print 'Sam Brown died.'" The obituary writer told her that there was a minimum of seven words for a death notice. The woman pondered, and on her fingers she counted to seven and then she said, "Well, then just print 'Sam Brown dies, 88 Ford for sale.'" (Associated Press, 4-27-92).

When Andy Russell of Tarzana, California passed away recently, his devoted three-year old grandson, Bobby, wanted to know what had happened to grandpa. So the chore of explaining about death fell to the boy's dad. Dad said, "Bobby, God saw that grandpa was very sick and so because he did not want him to hurt anymore, he sent the angels to get him." To which little Bobby astonished and wide-eyed replied, "The whole team?" (Associated Press, 6-12-92). The little lad thought the California Angels Baseball team had come for grandpa!

Thank God that one day death will be a laughing matter. We will dance on the streets of gold! We will rejoice with those who have gone before us. Isaiah is exalting God in the present as he looks out into the future at what God is going to do!

"O death, where is your sting. O grave, where is your victory. The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Thank Him, dear people, thank Him! Thank Him for the personal relationship. Thank Him for the historical relationship. Thank Him for the eternal relationship! Praise His holy name forever and ever!


A number of years ago the late-night television host, Johnny Carson, had the great L.A. Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser on his program. During Carson’s 27th anniversary program he replayed the segment with Hershiser, who had been a star of the World Series the previous year. Carson commented that people could see Hershiser singing in the dugout between innings. He asked the ace pitcher what songs he sang. Hershiser was an outspoken Christian, and he told Carson that he would gladly sing the song he sang most of the time to calm his nerves in a tight game. Carson, and the audience, were stunned when Hershiser sang, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!”

There was a pause and then the audience broke into applause. Carson ended his 27th Anniversary program playing that tape and expressing that it was one of the most beloved incidents he had in those years doing The Tonight Show.”

Go ahead, Praise God! Even the world will be impressed. Most of all, your praise pleases God, blesses you and serves to reach a lost world! Express your gratitude to God! Exalt the Lord!

Now, to those of you who have never trusted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, today is your day to know the joy of God's richest blessing - the joy of salvation. I ask you to come to Him today.

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