One of the offertories sung in our worship services are the words of Psalm 51. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free spirit. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” It is these words, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” that I turn your attention in this sermon prepared for Thanksgiving Day.
Fathers and mothers can teach their children to say thank you, but only our Heavenly Father can create in us a thankful spirit. We need to distinguish between a verbal thank you and a thankful spirit.
A few weeks ago the kids in our neighborhood came to the door for tricks and treats. We gave them some candy and off they went shouting and having a great time. Over the noise was a one high-pitched voice saying, “Thank you very much.” I had to laugh. This child had come from a home where he had been taught to say thank you, and this has become a way of life for him, even on Halloween night.
As we grow older we take many of our blessings for granted and soon forget to say thank you. Therefore, I believe it is right that our nation has sset aside a day to say thank you to God for His goodness to us. Why are we so blessed and others live in poverty? This remains a mystery. How often do we thank God for some of the finest medical centers in the world to treat our health problems besides fine facilities in our local communities to give us good medical care? People in other parts of the world have no medical resources to care for their physical needs. How often do we thank God for comfortable automobiles and the finest highways that bring us to our destination in comfort while our missionaries tell us that in parts of Africa it takes hours to go 50 miles because of poor roads and many people will never ride in an automobile, to say nothing about owning one.
Only our Heavenly Father can create in us a thankful spirit. King David understood this and so he prayed, “Create a new spirit within me.” Thankfulness is a part of that new spirit. The word create used in the psalm is the same word used in Genesis when God created the world. David is praying, God, start over with me. Make me totally new. Teach me not only to say thank you but give me a thankful spirit. If this is to happen we must understand that we are undeserving people.
We are often critical of people who display the attitude that someone owes them a living, but a careful observation of our behavior makes it clear that most of us carry this same spirit. How often do we ask, Why must I suffer like this? We assume that God owes us these gifts of health and happiness. Until this attitude is changed we can never have a thankful spirit. God owes us nothing. Only God can create this spirit within us.
Let’s try to apply this thought to our lives. God was under no obligation to give me 75 years free of serious illness and 47 years of married life until my wife’s stroke interrupted an almost illness-free marriage and yet I took this for granted. When God has broken through our sinful nature and shown us that we are undeserving people, He is beginning to create within us that spirit of thankfulness. Then the next step is to discover that all of our blessings are a manifestation of God’s grace to us.
During my years in the ministry it has been a joy to see how God has created that thankful spirit in many lives. The thought that God owes me these blessings I enjoy are no longer a part of the thinking. Let me tell you about Sonya who died when only 15 years of age. In my last visit with Sonya, and only a few hours before her death, I asked Sonya, “Sonya, do you ever get angry because this illness has come to you?”
Sonya replied with words like these, “No, because then I would have a bigger question to answer. Why did God give me such a wonderful family, parents, a brother and two sisters, my horse and a place to ride it on our family farm? This statement reveals a thankful spirit. Yes, God had blessed her with caring parents. They wanted their children to grow up and be well mannered. They taught them to be polite and say thank you but they were also Christian parents and they introduced Sonya and the other children to Christ and He was the One who gave her this thankful spirit.
Are we not blessed to have a Heavenly Father who loved us so much that He gave His Son for us? Through Him we have the forgiveness of our sins. He is the Father who wants to take us deeper in our relationship with Him and create within us a thankful spirit.
God alone can give us this thankful spirit.