Thanksgiving November 18, 2018
547, Worship Supplement 2000: 789 (alt. TLH 36), 457, WS 800 (alt. TLH 644)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus who have received one blessing after another from God the Father through Jesus Christ, grace and peace be with you all,
Thanksgiving and praise have always been a part of the Christian life. Abel, the son of Adam and Eve, gave the best of his sheep as a thank offering to the LORD. Thank-offerings were a part of the prescribed worship of the Old Testament believer. The psalmists again and again give thanks to the Lord for His unending mercy. When Jesus broke bread, He gave thanks to His Father from whom every good and perfect gift came. And the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
But sometimes it’s hard to give thanks. Maybe your health or the health of a loved one is failing. Maybe things are not going well at work or at home. Maybe there is strife in your family. Maybe you are worried about our nation. Maybe you, like Martha, are “worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).
Anxiety abounds in our lives and the world around us, but it is nothing new. Paul talks about being anxious about things in our text. Jesus talked about anxiety in His sermon on the mount. Anxiety is the fear or worry about things that are out of our control. An example of anxiety that comes to mind is the reaction most people have to heavy traffic that is moving very quickly. We tighten our grip on the steering wheel and our pulse quickens. We are anxious about the traffic because we can’t control all those other cars on the highway and we are worried about one driver making a mistake.
I think it is safe to say that you and I are naturally control-freaks. Really, this is not that different from the first temptation in the Garden. We too want to be like God. We want to be in control of everything. And when we cannot control them, we become anxious about what might happen next. And when we things around us seem to be out of control—or out of OUR control—we become anxious. And when we are anxious it is hard to give thanks “in all things.”
Therefore, on this festival of Thanksgiving, let us shut off the noise of the world around us and tune our ears to the Word of Almighty God. Listen to the God-breathed words of Paul to the congregation in Philippi, chapter 4, verses 6 and 7:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
So far the Word of God for which we give thanks with the psalmist, saying, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103). Amen
“Be anxious for nothing…” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient is the day is its own trouble…” (Matthew 6:34). “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things…” (Luke 10:41). Easier said than done, right? After all, Paul didn’t have to deal with a mortgage, a house full of children to feed, or stress in his marriage like some of us may have. And what did Jesus know about worrying about tomorrow—He was the all-knowing Son of God?!?
Yet, Paul and Jesus both had a great deal that they could have been anxious about. As Paul wrote these words to the Philippians, his future was very much uncertain. The book of Philippians was one of Paul’s prison epistles. He wrote the words “Be anxious for nothing” even as he was in chained up in Rome for preaching the Gospel, knowing his life was in the hands of the heathen Roman government.
And Jesus? Yes, He may have known what was coming, but remember what the “tomorrows” to come would bring Him—the crown of thorns, the nails, and the cross. Remember Jesus the night before His death? He told His disciples in Gethsemane, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38).
So to say that Paul and Jesus were not familiar with the stresses of the 21st Century, is to say that we really don’t know much about these two men and the suffering they endured during their ministries.
When Jesus was sorrowful to the point of death, what did He do? He took it to His Father in prayer, praying that the Father’s will would be done. And then, after His prayer, Jesus went to meet His betrayer.
As Paul tells us to not be anxious about anything, he doesn’t just give us the command and leave it at that. “Don’t be anxious! Stop worrying! Knock it off! Just stop it!” In our text, Paul tells us what to do with our stress and anxiety. “Be anxious for nothing, but IN EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Whether your worry is related to your health, your finances, your family, or tomorrow, make it known to God in prayer and leave them in God’s hands! You can trust Him.
Peter writes, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus proves that God cares for us. He cares for us so much that He gave His own beloved Son into death for your sins, to save you. God has taken our greatest problem, our sin, and cast that onto Jesus in order to remove it from you. Therefore, you are to cast all your other cares on Him as well. That problem at work, that argument at home, the strife in your family, your failing health, and so on. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)
Therefore, make your requests known to God—with thanksgiving! Give thanks knowing that through Jesus, God has promised to hear your requests. Give thanks knowing that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts than our thoughts. He knows what is best in every given circumstance. Give thanks knowing Him promise that for those who love Him, ALL things work together for good.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer! (TLH #457:1b)
As I mentioned earlier, Paul wrote this letter while he was a prisoner in Rome. As a prisoner, Paul likely had a Roman guard standing watch over him, maybe even chained to him, even as he wrote the words of our text. Philippi was a city where Roman soldiers would retire to. So the Christians there would have been very familiar with the sight of a Roman sentry guard.
How striking, then, it must have been for them to hear of a “guard” being spoken of in our text! This guard is not standing watch over a city or a prisoner, rather the guard Paul wrote of was standing watch over “the heart and mind” of the Christian. The guard of the Christian heart and mind is not armed by sword and spear, but rather by “the peace of God.”
This is the peace that God gives. A peace, which Paul says, “surpasses all understanding.” The peace that God gives is greater than anything our mind could have imagined. It is peace that Jesus won for us by “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). Jesus ended the hostility that existed between you and God because of your sin, by taking it on Himself and suffering the punishment that your sins deserved. Through His death, Christ reconciled you unto God. Through His resurrection from the dead, that peace was secured. No one can take it away. No one can shatter the peace accord by putting Jesus back in the tomb or undoing His death on the cross. “IT IS FINISHED!” Jesus cried out from the cross. Our debt of sin was paid in full. “PEACE BE WITH YOU,” our risen Lord says. Jesus secured peace between us and God.
Having called you to faith in Jesus, God adopted you as His child. “You are mine,” He said in your baptism as He placed His name on you. As children of the heavenly Father, we know that heaven is our home and we are just pilgrims passing through this dying world.
This is the peace which Jesus came to give you. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Until we reach our heavenly home, we should expect life will be hard. But again, Jesus has said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
You have the peace of God. And that peace stands guard over your heart and mindthrough Christ Jesus. Therefore let us give thanks!
So what was it you were anxious about again?
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.