On Sept 16, 1620 two ships set sail from Plymouth, England; The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the two ships went to port, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower.
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower, the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake loose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations, they set sail for a new land. It wasn't long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford, a historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship. The nights were cold, damp and dark. Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse, one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions. Bradford records, "But it pleased God before they came half seas over, to smite the young man with a grievous disease of which he died in a desperate manner. And so he himself was the first thrown overboard. Thus his curses light on his own head, and it was an astonishment to all his fellows for they noted it to be the just hand of God upon him."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just gone over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. And Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet - on a wooden ship in the middle of the ocean - put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea, and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "After long beatings at sea they fell with that land which is called Cape Cod; and they were not a little joyful..."
Before going ashore, they decided to write a document known as the "Mayflower Compact". At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order, and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the "Mayflower Compact", according to William Bradford, "They came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) 'Let them, therefore praise the Lord, because he is good and his mercies endure forever.'"
This coming Thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies and watching football games. And that is fun stuff - it is important to get together with loved ones. But that is not what thanksgiving is really about - it's not about food and fun, it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really don't know how they could have eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is about praising and thanking God for delivering us through the storms of life. If you are here and you are a Christian, God has provided for you the greatest deliverance of all, that from eternity in the lake of fire.
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, let's not allow the family, the food, the fun and the football to dominate our day, let's be sure that we express our gratitude to the Lord.
God has been good to us, twenty first century America Christians. We have much to be thankful for. And today as we consider our thankfulness to God, we will do so by answering two very simple and basic questions: Why should we give thanks to God? and How do we give thanks to God? We will be using David's song of praise found in Psalm 18.
As American Christians, we should be without a doubt the most thankful people in the world (ARE YOU). And if you are here today, and you are not a Christian - We want you to see just what kind of God our Lord is. Our God is an awesome God..
WHY SHOULD WE BE THANKFUL TO GOD?
Psalms 18:1-3 (NKJV) I will love You, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.
We know from reading the Old Testament that David had a lot of enemies. He spent many years in hiding. And one of his greatest enemies was King Saul. David wrote this Psalm after God had delivered him from his enemies and especially from the hands of Saul. Because of who God was and what he had done for him, David breaks out in a song of praise to God - a natural reaction to the greatness of our God.. And as David praises God, he gives several reasons in these first 3 verses why he was thankful to God - and these are also reasons that we should be thankful to God.
First of all notice how many times David uses the word "my" in these 3 verses. I count 9 times. And what David is emphasizing here is his personal relationship with God. To David, God was not some far off deity with a long white beard up in the clouds somewhere that he had to please, but who he didn't really know. On the contrary, David had a personal relationship with God. And the only reason he had this relationship was because God had given him the opportunity to know him. And David was thankful for this personal relationship.
Are we thankful for the relationship that we can have with God? Does it mean anything to us that The One True God, the Creator of the Universe, The King of Kings and Lord of Lords reached down from his heavenly throne and has given us an opportunity to have a personal relationship with Him? Our God is not a God who is far off, but he walks with us, takes care of us, and has given His spirit to live in us. Are you thankful for this personal relationship?
David's first words in this Psalm are, "I will love You, O LORD, my strength."David said that God was his strength, which is a lesson all of God's people have to learn. The power, the results, the victories all rest in God's power alone, not in ours.
Throughout the Bible, we see God teaching his people to depend on Him through various circumstances - sometimes sickness and sometimes large opposing armies. And God was trying to get them to realize that they must rest on His strength alone. He was trying to get them to understand that it is, "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).
Notice what Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NKJV) And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Are you thankful that God is your strength, that everything does not depend on you, and on your ability? It is when we are weak that we depend upon God who gives us strength.
David also says, "The Lord is my rock." What is meant here by rock is sometimes rendered a "crag" which is a prominent portion of rock, which a man may seek refuge in and stand far above the reach of his enemies. I like that picture, standing on a rock above my enemies, with them trying to get me - but with me always out of their reach. Nothing can get me as long as I am standing on my rock. Do you believe that? I do, Paul said:
Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV) For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As long as we choose to stand on our rock, the Lord Jesus Christ - our enemies and even our circumstances are not able to reach us and cause us any real harm. Are you thankful that God is your rock?
David also says that God is his "fortress". Most of us have seen Westerns where the people run into the fort to seek protection from the raiding Indians. A fort is a place where we can seek safety - when we are in a fort we are surrounded by barriers, strong walls or other fortifications that keep the enemy out. They protect us and stand between us and the enemy. In another song of David, David writes:
Psalms 125:1-2 (NKJV) Those who trust in the LORD Are like Mount Zion, Which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, So the LORD surrounds His people From this time forth and forever.
Our God is a barrier between us and the world, a barrier that cannot be broken.
Are you thankful that we have a fort, a place where we can seek shelter and refuge? Are you thankful that you have a God who will surround you in order to protect you? Are you thankful that God is your fortress?
Let me say something very briefly here, but very important - a fort or a rock offers us no safety or protection unless we are standing on it or are within its walls. Are you living in dependence upon God? Some of God's people are getting beat up spiritually and emotionally, because they have refused to stand on the rock, and they have chosen to remain outside his walls of protection.
David says that God is his "deliverer". Many times God delivered David, he delivered him from Goliath, from Saul, from a lion, from The Philistines, from Abner, even from his own son. Yes, many times David cried out to God for deliverance from his powerful enemies, and God heard those cries and delivered him. David writes:
Psalms 18:18 (NKJV) They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the LORD was my support.
Our God is a God of deliverance, one of the greatest events in the Old Testament is when God delivered his people from cruel bonds of Egyptian Slavery. And God is also our deliverer. If you are here today and you are a Christian you have experienced first hand, like David and like the Israelites, the joy of God's deliverance. We too faced a powerful foe - sin - whose wage was death. A foe that was too strong for us. We were powerless to do anything to save ourselves from this enemy:
Romans 5:6 (NKJV) For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
Romans 5:8-9 (NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.
Are you thankful for this deliverance?
And God's deliverance of His people doesn't stop with this initial deliverance, it continues throughout our walk with him. Look at verse 4-7 of our text:
Psalms 18:4-7 (NKJV) The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears. 7 Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry.
Here David is describing just how desperate his situation was as his enemies engulfed him - it looked hopeless. Have you ever felt hopeless as your enemies surrounded you? You're not the first, and you're not the last.
Parents, let me ask you a question; How does it make you feel when someone messes with your child, when they hurt or seek to harm your child? Does it get you a little angry? Does it cause your blood to boil and the hairs on your neck to stand up? Are you tempted to grab the individual and say to them "how dare you mess with my child"? This is exactly the picture David paints in this Psalm. Listen to how David describes God's anger:
Psalms 18:7-9 (NKJV) Then the earth shook and trembled; The foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, Because He was angry. 8 Smoke went up from His nostrils, And devouring fire from His mouth; Coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet.
And God is not just going to sit up in heaven fuming, he is going to take action:
Psalms 18:10-11 (NKJV) And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His secret place; His canopy around Him was dark waters And thick clouds of the skies.
Do you see the picture David has painted, God is parting the heavens, rolling back the clouds... mounting a cherubim and is soaring on the wings of the wind... Making his way to deliver his children.
Psalms 18:12-16 (NKJV) From the brightness before Him, His thick clouds passed with hailstones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD thundered from heaven, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. 14 He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance, and He vanquished them. 15 Then the channels of the sea were seen, The foundations of the world were uncovered At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. 16 He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
God has shouted with a thunder from heaven, he has scattered the enemies with bolts of lightning. Remember how David described what his enemies were doing to him, he said, "The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me." It is a picture of David drowning under the assaults of his enemies. Did you catch what David said in verse 16?
Psalms 18:16 (NKJV) He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters.
God, with a rebuke and a breathe from his nostrils, simply blew the waters that were drowning David away. And then:
Psalms 18:17 (NKJV) He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me.
I don't know about you, but I really get excited about that picture of my God as my deliverer.
Are you thankful that your God gets angry when your enemy messes with you - that he mounts his cherubim to come to your rescue, and that he is so powerful that he simply reaches down and pulls you up out of the surging waves, when you call to Him? Blowing away your enemy and circumstances with the breathe of His nostrils - has God ever done that for you? Reached down with His mighty hands and pulled you out of the surging waves of life? Are you thankful that God is your deliverer?
David uses several more descriptive words in verse 3 to describe and praise God, and all of these convey the thought of safety, protection and deliverance. David says:
Psalms 18:2 (NKJV) The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Wow! Our God is Awesome - And we should be thankful that he is our God. Just one more thought before we go on to How we can say thank you to God:
Psalms 18:28 (NKJV) For You will light my lamp; The LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
You know darkness can be dangerous. Try walking through a woods in the dark or driving in pitch dark without headlights. You never know what's up the road or what you are going to run into. Darkness can also be kind of scary - especially if we are alone.
I am thankful that God is my lamp - that he has turned my darkness into light. I am thankful that I no longer (unless I am stupid and choose to) have to travel on the roads of this life in the dark. I know what this life is about, who I am, what I am supposed to be doing, and where I am going. God has radically changed my life and given it true meaning. Has he changed yours? The lord Almighty is my Lamp. Is he your lamp? If so, are you thankful?
We could go on all day listing reasons why we should be thankful to God (our rock, fortress, refuge, deliverer, savior). Take a close look at the good things in your life: your home, children, family, friends, answered prayers, health, country, church, joy, peace, happiness - they are all from God. Our God is an Awesome God and he IS "our God." I think you would agree we have ample reason to thank God.
Joe was a good man - he was a hard worker - he was a family man, he loved his family very much. There was not anything he would not do for his family. He worked two jobs so his kids would have a decent house and decent clothes to wear. He used his savings to put his kids through college.
He put several mortgages on his house to help his children as they started their new families. He has had his house for 35 years and still owes 4 times the original price on it. He helped raise his family's children. He didn't do it for glory or for praise, he did it because he loved them.
His wife died not many years ago, he is alone now, his health is not too good, all those years of hard work have taken their toll. His kids don't need his help anymore, they don't call, they don't write - they don't visit, even though they live just across town.
And so this year Joe will spend another thanksgiving alone, looking at old photos of his family, eating from a can of beans, and if you look closely, you would see a tear in his eyes, and if you could see inside you would see a heart that was broken.
His children don't have time for him. Though they should celebrate thanksgiving with the one who gave them so much to be thankful for, they don't even give him a second thought as they celebrate with their friends.
I hate ingratitude, it is so ugly. Do you know this father? His name is God Almighty. And his children - I think you know them too.
HOW DO WE SHOW GOD OUR THANKS?
It is very important for us to discuss this, because many times Christians do not show God that much gratitude. Someone has rightly stated that gratitude unexpressed is really ingratitude. We can put it in a pretty box and gift wrap it - but if it is unexpressed, it is still ingratitude.
They had no hope, they were outcasts, no one wanted them around, no one would even get near them, so they traveled around, living on scraps of food, sleeping in caves and under trees. Their lives were heading nowhere, they had few if any reason to go on. Luke records their story, that of the ten lepers in chapter 17 of his gospel:
Luke 17:14-17 (NKJV) So when He saw them, He said to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17 So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
Only one came back to thank him. Only one came back and threw himself at the feet of the Lord and submitted his life to Jesus. The others took their cleansing and ran. Maybe they thought, "That sure was nice of Jesus and sometime when it is convenient I am going to send him a card or give him a call and say thank you". But good intentions are meaningless.
Only 10% said thank you. Tragically, I don't think the percentages have changed all that much today. I see far too many Christians who are like the 9, They have taken their cleansing, and then have little time left for Jesus. Other things are more pressing, and there is no time to really say thank you to the Lord. Which are you more like today? Have you accepted Christ's sacrifice, His spiritual cleansing and then just kept on going down the road doing your own thing, doing what you want to do?
I know that sometimes in my life I act more like those ungrateful 9. I let God down and slap him in the face with ingratitude, and when I eventually come to my senses, it just tears me up to know what I have done to God.
Are you serious about showing gratitude to our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our refuge, our stronghold, our lamp and to our savior? Do you want Jesus to see you at His feet thanking and praising Him or do you want Jesus to see you walking down the road heading your own way? If you are serious about really thanking God, determine today not to be like those ungrateful 9 anymore.
HOW DO WE SAY THANK YOU TO GOD?
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Here's how we say thank you to God - we say thank you with our lives. It may be okay to be the "grateful dead" if you are a rock group, but not if you are a Christian - in Christianity it is the grateful living, not the grateful dead.
Let's look at 7 practical ways for those who think God is worth it to really say thank you:
1. We say thank you when we strive to live like Christ.
2. You also say thank you to God - by spending time with him, by craving his word with all of your heart, mind, souls, and strength. Not just one hour a week, but each and everyday:
Psalms 42:1-2 (NKJV) As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
We show God that we are grateful, and that we really care when we spend time with him, put him first - give up things we want to do just to be with him. If you rarely pick up the word, if you hardly ever pray - yet you have time for TV, movies, and hobbies - what are you saying to Jesus? Who are you more like the 1 or the 9? You need to spend more time with God!!
3. We say thank you to God when we forgive others. He forgave our sins, and he continues to do so. Yet many Christians won't forgive each other. If you are holding bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart at this moment, I implore you to let it go! Remember the parable of the unforgiving servant, forgive and in so doing, say thank you to God.
4. And we say thank you when we are servants:
Matthew 20:28 (NKJV) "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
We say thank you to God when we are his servant. One way to do this is when we serve in the local church, being an active functioning member of the body. Seeking to minister to each other.
When we are players and not spectators, workers and not critics, what our actions of service are saying to God is this, "Yes, Lord, the church you gave your life for, is important to me too, and I will do my best to serve you through the church."
And conversely what our inactions are saying is just the opposite "Lord, the church you gave your life for is not a big deal to me. I'm more important than your bride." Be a servant - say thank you to God.
5. We also say thank you to God when we don't keep the good news to ourselves, but share the gospel of salvation with the lost.
6. We say thank you to God when we reach out to the hurting, when we gave a drink to the thirsty and food to the hungry. "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers of mine, you did for me.."
7. We say thank you to God by not complaining:
Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing,
All complaining is against God and his providential will for your life. To murmur, to grumble, to complain against God is a sin, and we must see it as such. To complain is to show ingratitude for what God has given us. A thankful person doesn't complain.
These are 7 practical ways you can say thank you to God - that is if you want to or think you need to.
Christians, God has delivered us from a furious ocean of sin and a sea of troubles. Will we, like the pilgrims, surrender our wills to God and break anchor and go ashore, will we wade through the waters of commitment - so that we can walk the shores of sincere praise and thankfulness, or will we stay anchored in the cold murky waters of shallow commitment and ingratitude? Will we be like the one leper humbly throwing ourselves at the feet of the master - surrendering all to him. Or will we take our cleansing and go our own way?