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Don't Worry! Give Thanks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 
Pastor Donald Beaumont

Philippians 4:6-20

Sermon Notes

Fresh out of business school, a young man answered a want ad for an accountant. Now he was being interviewed by a very nervous businessman who ran a small business that he had started himself.

I need someone with an accounting degree, the businessman said. But mainly, I’m looking for someone to do my worrying for me. The accountant said, excuse me? The business man said I worry about a lot of things, but I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back. I see, the accountant said. And how much does the job pay? You’ll start at eighty thousand. Eighty thousand dollars! the accountant exclaimed. How can such a small business afford a sum like that? That, the businessman said, is your first worry.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pay somebody to do our worrying for us? It’s amazing how many things we can find to stress us out, even at Thanksgiving. Or maybe, for those of you responsible for cooking for a large family or those who are entertaining relatives, we find ways to stress out especially at Thanksgiving.

A woman takes her family to her parents for Thanksgiving. Even though she was over 80, this woman’s mother was determined to put on a traditional dinner.

After having spent the entire day before preparing all the food, her mother was getting ready for bed. She noticed her mother had set her alarm clock to go off at 4 a.m. Her mom explained that she had to turn the oven on at 4:00 a.m. to cook the turkey.

The daughter knew her mother’s oven had a timer and asked her if she knew how to use it. Of course, her mother said, but I’ve been getting up for over 60 Thanksgivings to turn the oven on, and it just wouldn’t be the same to have the stove do it for me!

I'm thinking that her mom didn’t really trust the timer on the oven. She would worry if she personally didn’t check to get the turkey started on time. Anybody know a worrier like that?

There is an old Irish poem by an unknown author that goes like this: “Why worry? In life there are only two things to worry about: Whether you are well, or whether you are sick. Now if you are well, you have nothing to worry about. And if you are sick, you only have two things to worry about: whether you get better, or whether you die. If you get better, you have nothing to worry about. And if you die, you only have two things to worry about: whether you go to heaven, or whether you go to hell. Now, if you go to heaven, you have nothing to worry about. And if you go to hell, you’ll be too busy shaking hands with your friends that you won’t have time to worry. So why worry?”

The word “worry” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning to strangle or to choke. While we need to be attentive to life’s concerns, worrying about them “chokes” the joy out of life. Worrying is like driving a car with one foot on the accelerator and the other foot on the brake. The wheels are spinning, a lot of rubber is being burnt, but you’re going nowhere. Or how about, worry is like a rocking chair. It’ll give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere!

It’s interesting that on Thanksgiving Day, our lesson from the letter to Philippi, starts out with not being anxious. On the other hand, maybe it’s right on target. After all, gratitude is the perfect antidote for anxiety. Looking over the total scope of your life, hasn’t God been good to you? Do you think the future will be any different?

One of the most appealing stories from an earlier generation is Jean Webster’s “Daddy Long Legs.” It’s the story of a young girl in an orphanage who is befriended by a person she does not know. This kind stranger takes a fancy to her when she is a small child and befriends her. But he does not reveal his identity. Year after year the favors flow in from her unknown friend. She passes through her childhood years and all the way through college, pursuing opportunities provided to her by a friend whose name she does not know. One day she happens to encounter her unknown benefactor, but she does not recognize him. He does not look like she had imagined he would look. But she finally learns his true identity and loves him--her longtime unknown friend.

Is this not a parable of our lives? We can all think of times when Christ has blessed our lives and we were not even aware of it and we love Him for it. Gratitude is the perfect antidote for anxiety.

But there is a second thing about gratitude we ought to recognize. Gratitude keeps blessings flowing into our lives. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you like. But grateful people seem to attract blessings.

A recent study found that people who jot down what they’re thankful for each week feel more optimistic about their lives, exercise more, and even have fewer visits to the doctor than people who write down things that annoy them or even neutral events. There’s something about the spirit of gratitude that’s healing to the body and the soul.

A number of years ago, a man stayed for about a week in a farmer’s house in Pontypool in the great land of Wales. He seemed to be always singing and whistling and was full of humor. He was asked the secret of his happiness, and his reply was: It’s a habit of mine to be happy. Every morning when I awaken and every night before I go to sleep, I bless my family, the crops, the cattle, and I thank God for the wonderful harvest.

Was this farmer always blessed with good harvests? No, but he did consider every harvest regardless of how large or how small, a blessing. There’s something about a grateful attitude that seems to cause blessings to flow into a life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that worry “strangles” or “chokes” life, as we noted earlier. Gratitude allows for blessings to flow whereas anxiety chokes them off.

But there’s one thing more to be said. A person who experiences true gratitude seeks to be a channel of blessings to others. A truly grateful person can’t stockpile God’s blessings. A grateful person seeks to allow his or her blessings to flow through to others.

There is a story that comes out of World War II about a man with a truly grateful heart. His name was Fred. Fred’s plane was shot down over the Pacific Ocean on June 5, 1943. He parachuted into enemy territory in Papua, New Guinea. Finding shelter in an abandoned native hut, he lived for weeks on snails he found in a riverbed. Daily he recited the 23rd Psalm and reflected on the hope his faith gave him. Natives in the area found him after a month. They showed him a note written by an Australian soldier that said that they could be trusted because they had saved other pilots. They were Christians, and at great risk they protected the American pilot from capture by the enemy.

Eventually, Fred made his way off the island by submarine. Years later, while corresponding with a missionary, he discovered his native rescuers needed a school. All on his own, Fred raised $15,000 for a school building. That would easily be $100,000 in today’s dollars. He also brought in volunteer teachers. A few years later he built a library and clinic. Then, 27 years after his rescue, he and his wife moved to New Guinea “to say thank you [to the people of the island] in a meaningful way.”

Fred r knew he had lived a blessed life, so he decided to return those blessings to those in greater need than he. That’s not the exception but the rule for people who are truly grateful. They want to pass on those blessings to others. But you already know that, don’t you? You’re here tonight to give your thanks to God for your many blessings, and you want to pass on the blessings that you’ve received. You’ve discovered that gratitude is the perfect antidote for anxiety. You’ve discovered that a grateful attitude causes blessings to flow into your life. And you’ve discovered that a person who experiences true gratitude seeks to be a channel that blessings can flow through to others.

On the radio sometime back there was a funny, but also pitifully true, story about a family of atheists. They had joined hands around a Thanksgiving table. Then they said, “Thank you, Paine-Webber.”

It is sad when people think of thankfulness for success as being something they alone did or they and their Wall Street investments did.

The true definition of a Christian is someone who doesn’t have to consult his bankbook to see how wealthy he really is.

And that is true of us. We may or may not have full bank accounts. But we know ourselves to be wealthy people because of our faith in Jesus Christ. And on this special day we give thanks.