Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

Thanksgiving

Don’t Forget to Say “Thank You”

Text:  Deuteronomy 8:10-18

“What do you say?”  How many times would you guess a parent says that in a lifetime?  Christmas.  Birthdays.  Receiving candy at Halloween.  Getting a lollipop from the bank teller.  Leaving someone’s house after a party.  You can count on it like you can count on a summer rain shower in Florida.  “What do you say?” (because the child forgot).  Begrudgingly, shyly, and certainly less than completely sincere, the child responds, “Thank you.”

I would guess I’ve said this dozens and dozens of times already in almost eight years of parenting.  We know that this is an important part to being a functioning human being in society.  We teach our children that when someone gives you something or does something for you, you say thank you.

This is so important and this is such common knowledge that everyone does this.  My parents engrained in me as a child that when you receive a gift you even write a Thank You note.  Even still to this day if my grandma doesn’t receive a handwritten thank you note or at least an Email I know she will tell my parents and I’ll hear about it shortly. 

Why do we make such a big deal of this—teaching children to say thank you and expecting others to say thank you?  Because if you don’t say thank you, it’s rude.  It’s ungrateful.  It doesn’t recognize that someone gave you something special or unexpected to you.  It’s important to say thank you!

Of course, it’s also important to be reminded to say thank you because  this does not come naturally to humans.  We are not born with an innate sense of gratefulness.  In fact, it’s just the opposite.

When babies are born, what’s the first thing they do?  Cry!  Why?  That’s their way of saying, “I want something and you better give it to me now!”  They want to be held.  They want to be fed.  They want to be changed.  They want to be soothed.

As children grow older, the expectations continue.  They expect you to make them three meals a day and several snacks in between.  When they get tired they expect you to carry them.  They expect birthday presents and Christmas presents.  And when they don’t get the kind of presents they were hoping for, then you can clearly see the disappointed, pouty look on their faces.

Teens expect that everything will be fair and will make sense.  College students expect freedoms and they are still young enough to expect a free pass on stupid choices because they are young.

Then as we get older the expectations continue.  We expect respect from other people.  We expect fairness and equality in the work place.  We expect help from others or the government when we need it.  We expect that people will bend the rules for us if we ask nicely enough, as if credit card companies don’t have millions of others asking nicely for an extension.

Then, by the time you are near the end of life, it’s like you are a child again.  You expect people to take care of you.  You expect people to watch out for you and to look out for you.  You expect a few free passes on poor choices and  poor attitudes because, hey, you’re old!

Saying thank you does not come naturally to humans because we have an innate feeling that we deserve things.  And it is especially difficult to say thank you to God.  Just ask the Israelites.

God had just landed on Egypt 10 of the worst plagues we could ever imagine.  Following the tenth, God led Moses and his people out of Egypt after more than 400 years of brutal slavery.  And when they came to the Red Sea, God ripped the waters apart, let his people walk through on dry ground, and then crushed the Egyptians in watery defeat.

You would think that the Israelites would be thankful.  And they were.  As soon as they crossed the Red Sea, Moses led them in singing a beautiful song of thanks and praise in Exodus 15.

But it took only three days of scarce water for the Israelites to start whining and grumbling that they didn’t have enough to drink.  Already in the next chapter, Exodus 16, they are complaining that they had no food.  They even said they would have rather died in Egypt as slaves than starve with God out in the wilderness.  Can you believe that?  Just a matter of days had passed and they had already forgotten what God had done!  Those big thank you’s had left their hearts.

Now fast forward through about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness as punishment for their attitudes and arrogance and doubt of the Lord.  The Israelites are on the doorstep of the Promised Land of Canaan.  God is about to work even more wonders for them in defeating their enemies and giving them this Promised Land.

Moses is standing in front of the people and he’s giving one last farewell speech before he dies and they conquer the land.  That farewell speech is the book of Deuteronomy.  There is one main message that Moses wants to impress upon the people:  Don’t forget the Lord!

Moses knew what the temptation would be.  When they had eaten were satisfied and built their nice new houses and settled down and acquired lots of possessions—then they might forget the Lord their God and what he had done.  In verse 14 he warns them:  Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.”  In verse 17 he warns, You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’”

What would you have thought if you were an Israelite listening to Moses that day?  “Don’t worry, Moses!  We’ll never forget, Moses!  How could we forget what the Lord has done?  How could we ever be ungrateful for this Promised Land we are about to receive?”

And yet, what did the Israelites do?  They forgot about the Lord!  Slowly but surely they slipped into laziness, into forgetfulness, and finally into unbelief for many.  Why?  Because saying thank you to God is not natural to sinful humans.

That includes us, too.  If you didn’t know that Moses lived more than 3,000 years ago, you might think that Moses was alive today.  That’s how applicable and pertinent his words are today.  Moses warns about the temptation that when we eat and are satisfied and build nice new homes and settle down and have lots of possession that we might forget about the Lord our God.  Sounds a lot like American Christians to me!

What are we about to do tomorrow?  We’ll stuff our faces with thousands of calories and so much food we could feed an African village.  We’ll kick back on our comfy recliners and doze off in our air conditioned homes while watching football on a flatscreen TV.  By the time we wake up we’ll strategize where we will spend endless dollars on Black Friday deals for toys, tools, and technology.

Somewhere along the line though, we came to feel a little entitled to this.  We expect this as Americans.  That’s the kind of Thanksgiving we must have or else it’s not a real Thanksgiving.  And somewhere along the line it became a reality that as soon the calendar page flips from Thanksgiving Day to Friday, the mad dash is on for real life and for Christmas preparations as thankfulness suddenly takes a back seat.

That is exactly what Moses foretold.  Sinful hearts quickly become proud hearts that expect blessings.  We expect blessings from God.  We expect him to be there for us.  We expect life to go smoothly.  Only a proud and arrogant heart of sin would expect such things . . . and then forget to say thank you, too!

That’s why we are here tonight.  We are here to ground ourselves, to remind ourselves, to refocus ourselves on something so important.  Verse 18, the last verse:  Remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.”

We do have lots of blessings in America—so much money, food, and material possessions that most people wouldn’t know what to do with it all.  But Moses reminds us—this all comes from God.  He gave us the ability to work.  He gave us the ability to earn money.  He gave us the ability to use that money.  He provided the economy that we live in, the location that we live in (America), and the homes that we live in to store all of our blessings.

But yet more important than lots of turkey and big TVs is the word covenant that Moses uses.  God has made a new covenant with us, a covenant of forgiveness through his Son Jesus Christ.  Through this covenant, made good through the blood of Jesus, we have forgiveness and life and salvation.

These are blessings that are only possible through Jesus.  You can’t buy them on Black Friday.  Only Jesus lived a life without the material cravings of the sinful flesh that we have.  Only Jesus lived without the proud heart of expecting God’s blessings.  Only Jesus lived the kind of humble and perfect life of thanks that we fail to live.

And only Jesus was able to pay for our many moments of selfishness and rudeness and ungratefulness.  Only Jesus could take away those many times we have forgotten to thank God for his blessings.  Only Jesus could take away all our sins through his blood of the new covenant.

More than 3,000 years ago Moses knew that the people of Israel deserved nothing from God.  They were slaves in Egypt.  They quickly became ungrateful whiners in the desert.  They were sinners.  So Moses reminded the people of Israel to remember the Lord their God who gave them so many blessings by grace, including the Promised Land.

More than 3,000 years later the words of Moses remind us today that God owes us nothing as well.  We have been slaves to sin, gratifying the desires of our sinful flesh.  We are sinners too.  So Moses reminds us today to remember the Lord our God who gives us all these blessings of life by grace, especially the gift of eternal life in the Promised Land of heaven.

There were two parents who had been really struggling with their child.  He had a really hard time listening, to put it nicely.  More accurately, he was a little hellion.  Sometimes the parents wondered how their child could have become such an entitled, selfish little brat.  But they kept loving him anyways.  One morning though they woke up and found a note and a picture on the kitchen table.  It was a lopsided crayon heart with first grade-print words in the middle:  “I love you mom and dad.  Thank you for all you do.”  It filled them with such joy that their son took time to acknowledge what they had done and to say thank you.

The same is true with our heavenly Father.  Every last thing we possess and every last cent we have is a blessing from him.  But even greater, unending love, forgiveness, and eternal salvation are blessings that come from him.  And it pleases our Father so much that you are here tonight to remember to thank him.  It will please him so much when you take time tomorrow to give thanks for all of these blessings.  And it will please him so much when you take time to thank him every day for what he has done.  That kind of spontaneous love and thanks are wonderful fruits of our faith that please our God so much.

So enjoy your family time tomorrow.  Enjoy your turkey and stuffing and all the fixings.  Enjoy watching the Lions lose their football game.  But, most important, Don’t Forget to Say Thank You.  Today, tomorrow, and always, Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

AMEN

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About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each. http://www.ctkpalmcoast.com

Posted on December 1, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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