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A Thankful Heart

Scripture Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-7; Text: 1 Samuel 16:7

As background information, this passage and the verses that immediately follow, tells the story of the anointing of a new king. Saul was king of Israel but he had failed to do the will of God and inasmuch as he had rejected the will of God, God had rejected him as king. The prophet Samuel was sent to anoint God's choice. God sent him to the house of Jesse, where he began with the eldest son and went to the youngest of the 8 sons of Jesse.

Eliab must have been a fine looking man as was Saul. Saul was tall and handsome and perhaps Samuel thought the next king would be somewhat the same. However, God tells Samuel that He is not looking at the outward appearence, rather He is looking at the heart of the individual. There is no way for us to determine how many men and women have made the mistake of putting too much emphasis on the external appearance of their companions, rather than the internal appearance of the heart. Some have found they could not live with the person of their choice because their beauty had spoiled them and their heart was not one of sincerity.

As we apply this lesson to the sermon for today, it should help us understand an important principal. Keep in mind that Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. It is a day nationally recognized as a day for giving thanks to God for His manifold blessings. But how will we give those thanks? Will they be words and an appearance of thanksgiving, or will we give sincere thanksgiving from the heart? Surely all of us can understand that in every thing we do, God is looking at the heart. He knows if we are genuine and sincere in what we do.

We can fool people right easily, but we cannot fool God. You see, we look at the face and God looks at the heart. Sometimes, we can appear so sincere in what we do and say, that people believe we are genuine. However, we may know that deep down we are not. We can see this illustrated in children. One offends another and we make him or her apologize. "I,m sorry!" they yell, but we do not sense the sincerity of their words. We reprimand them and tell them again to apologize. This time they cry and say "I'm sorry." We usually accept that because it is the best we are likely to get. But how many of them are really sorry in their heart? We have no way of knowing, but God knows if they are saying it from the heart or not. He also knows when we are simply being polite rather than truly considerate of other. He always sees and knows the heart. So we cannot judge by appearances. John 7:24. Let us exercise great care in judging others for we cannot see the heart.

Therefore, as we give thanks this thanksgiving season, and we say a blessing for the food, God will know whether or not we mean what we say. We may pray pretty words and thank God for the food, but are we really thankful in the heart? (There is the story of a man who said the blessing at the breakfast table and gave thanks for the food. Immediately after he began to complain about the bacon and grumble about the coffee. His little girl asked him if God heard his prayer. Of course He did, responded the father. Then she asked, did God hear what you said about the bacon and coffee. A little hesitant, the father replied in the affirmative. Then she asked, which one does God believe?) You and I can know which one, because the text says that God looks on the heart. If that father was not truly thankful, God certainly knew his heart.

This truth is so important for us to understand. Not just with regards to thanksgiving, but in all aspects of our service to God. When we sing, it should be from the heart, praise to God. Ephesians 5:19. Now I can only hear your words, but God sees your heart. Jesus tells us that He knows how we GIVE, PRAY, AND FAST. Matthew 6:2,5&16. Remember that there was a Publican and Pharisee who prayed. The Pharisee prayed a longer and more appealing prayer in the sight of men. However, the Publican prayed a short, simple but sincere prayer. It came from the heart. Thus the Pharisee prayed with himself, he only pretended to pray to God and God knew that. On the other hand, the Publican truly prayed to God a sincere prayer and his prayer was answered by God. God saw the heart of both those men. Luke 18:10-14.

Jesus even called the Pharisees HYPOCRITES. Why did He do that? Because He saw their hearts. Jesus knew that their religion was to gain public approval and not to please and worship God. Listen to how He described them as He revealed that He saw their innermost thoughts. Matthew 23:27. Therefore, He knows how we feel right now. It is sometimes embarrassing isn't it? We come, we sing, we pray, we listen to the scriptures and yet He knows that we are not really worshipping Him. No one around us can know that but God sees the heart. Therefore God inspired Paul to write that we are to serve God with a sincere heart. Ephesians 6:6.

Now let us come back to the subject of thanksgiving. We are taught in both the Old and New Testaments that we should give thanks to God. Listen to some simple but profound commandments regarding our giving of thanks to God. Psalm 100:4 and 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It does not take much thought to arrive at the conclusion that God has blessed us and we are to thank Him. But does our thanks come from the heart. The Bible gives us an illustration of one who thanked Jesus from the heart. He was a leper and Jesus healed him, so he glorified God, returned to the Lord, fell at His feet giving him thanks. Does anyone here doubt the sincerity of those words of thanks? Luke 17:15- 16.

God also knows if our thanksgiving is sincere. The reason is simple, He sees the heart. The Bible reminds us that we do not have to tell Him what is in our hearts, because He already knows. John 2:25. Therefore, we are told that He searches the heart. Listen to this clear testimony recorded in both testaments. Jeremiah 17:10 and Romans 8:27. The HEART is the center of our feelings as used in the Bible. So when God searches our heart, He knows what we are feeling. When we say we are thankful, we should FEEL thankful to God. If we do not, He will search the heart and know it.

Thanksgiving is not to be a one day a year obligation. Of course we should thank God on Thanksgiving Day, but in reality we should thank God numerous times every day. We shoud never pray a prayer without giving thanks to God. Develpoing such a spiritual habit can lead to saying the words with no feeling of gratitude in the heart. Nevertheless, we are to thank God in every prayer and to exercise great care to say it from the heart. Philippians 4:6. Everyday our lives are filled with blessings from our gracious heavenly Father. He is worthy of our thanks and praise. (Let me make a suggestion. Do you ever have a sleepless night? Do you count sheep to go to sleep? Well try counting blessings to go to sleep. The many blessings you recall will give you peace and joy.) Hopefully you will then be able to fall asleep, giving sincere thanks from the heart.

Let us be honest with ourselves and with God. All too often we do not even speak the words of thanksgiving. But even when we do, too often we do not say them from the heart. The way it should be is that our words and deeds are mere extensions of the feelings of our hearts. Listen to 1 Corinthians 8:3. It reminds us that if we love God He will know it. So when we speak of our love, mean it. When we speak in repentance and say "I'm sorry," mean it. Also when we say "thank you, Lord," may we mean every word. Let us be sincere in our thanksgiving, for if we are truly thankful to God, He will see it in our heart. So then, if we are not as honest in our words as we should be, let us work at trying to improve the situation.

Some may say, how can I cultivate a more thankful spirit? Do you have any suggestions? I am happy to say that I do, I have three suggestions that I hope will help us all on Thanksgiving Day and every day.

FIRST, we must CONFRONT the truth of God's word and realize that God is blessing us. Listen to James 1:17. Do you really believe that is true? Or do you down deep in your heart feel, "Well I have worked hard for what I have."? If you think you got it on your own, you will never have true gratitude in your heart. No matter how often you say the words, they will not come from the heart. But if you know that the Bible is true and that all you have God gave you; (health to work, wisdom to handle your finances, blessings that disease and disaster has not take it all away), then you know all you have has come from Him and gratitude will come from the heart.

SECOND, we must spend some time COMPARING our lives to those of others. No, not to be proud and gloat at the misfortune of others. But as we do look around us and see others who have so much less than we have, then we can realize how blessed we truly are. As we consider the homeless, the poor, the sick, those with broken homes and lives, all serve to remind us that we too could be right where they are. In Luke 16:19-20 we are told of a rich man and a poor beggar. There are many of both kinds in the word today. Perhaps we do not have as much as the rich man, but we probably have a great deal more than the poor beggar. Can't we see that we could be in their place and they in ours? If we were to come up for the beggar position, we would be much more thankful for what we have. Think about all you have and thank God from the heart.

THIRD, we can be more grateful by counting the blessings, and then CONSIDERING what you would do and be without them. In other words take time to count your blessings. Don't just take them for granted. Look into the face of your companion and children and say they are some of my blessings. Look towards eternity and remember what Jesus did for you on the old rugged cross and how the Holy Spirit quickened you through the new birth and say these are some of my greatest blessings. Look at the food on your table and the clothes you have and the house you live in and know they are blessings too. Think about your job, and all the tools and creature conforts you are able to own, then think of them as blessings too. I could go on and on, there are so many, but you and I must count them to recognize their abundance. Then think what your life would be like if God had not given them and I believe you will thank God from the heart.

We must work at preparing our HEARTS for thanksgiving. We are told that Ezra prepared his heart to see the Lord. Ezra 7:10. We need to prepare our hearts that God may see true gratitude in our hearts, and that men may see our thanksgiving by our outward appearance. I hope true conviction will come to us as the farmer who was feeding his livestock. When an ox licked his arm, he remembered Isaiah 1:3 and was convicted of his ingratitude to God. A truly thankful heart will not just happen, we must work diligently at this spiritual endeavor. However, the fruit of the labor will benefit us the rest of our lives.

Then when we say to God "Thank You!", we will really mean it and will be drawn closer to God Who blesses us daily. Sincere words of thanksgiving must come from "A Thankful Heart." Is your heart such a heart? If not work on it and maybe by Thursday, you will truly have a thankful heart. May God bless us all to be sincere in our thanksgiving this Thanksgiving Day and every day we are blessed to live.

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This page last updated on June 17, 2014