Sermon title:  WHAT DO WE HAVE THAT GOD HASN’T GIVEN US?

Psalm 107:1-22

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, November 24, 2019

 

 

For many Americans Thanksgiving Day is football day.

 

The tradition goes back to 1876—

long before television and half-time shows—

when college teams began playing on the holiday.

 

But TV helped make Thanksgiving Day football

the big thing that it is today.

 

Football itself is so big today, of course,

that players are celebrities

looked up to as role models

and quoted in the news media.

 

The other day I was looking at a quote

from New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley,

where he said,

"Nothing is given to you. Everything is earned."

 

And then he explained himself     by saying it’s,

“Just work. Be a worker. Hard work got me here.”

And then he added,

"Just have to continue to work my butt off.”

 

That was from an interview over a year ago.

 

Over the past year

he won the Offensive Rookie of the Year award

and got an invite to the Pro Bowl,

and then was named Best Breakthrough Athlete

at the annual ESPY Awards.

 

When he received that last trophy

he publicly thanked God.   He said,

 

“First and foremost,

I want to say thank you to God

for blessing me with the opportunity

to wake up every single day

and play the sport I love,

and have an impact on others.”

 

Now there are a lot of people who complain

when athletes use their moment at the microphone

to thank God.

 

They especially complain

if the athlete uses the name of Jesus.

 

But there are a lot of people

who appreciate it

when an athlete shares his or her testimony

and praises God.

 

And it’s a blessing for young people

who look up to these athletes as role models

to hear them make expressions of faith.

 

I suppose people complain—

and with some justification—

when the athlete’s words imply

that God favors one team over another,

or one player over another.

 

There are often Christian athletes

facing off against other Christian athletes

and teams that pray together

playing against other teams that pray together.

 

We can’t really say with any confidence,

how much God is involved in which team wins.

 

It falls under the much larger and more general question

of God’s sovereignty versus man’s free will.

 

And that’s an issue that’s been debated

by theologians for centuries.

 

But it’s certainly legitimate

when those who are given the microphone

thank God for blessing them with their strength and ability,

for their teammates, and so on.

 

In fact, there's a recent headline

quoting another player as saying,

 

'If God Could Make a Running Back,

He'd Make Saquon Barkley'

 

Actually, God does make running backs,

by giving certain people the strong bodies,

the opportunities,

and the help they need,

to reach that goal, if they put their minds to it,

and as Saquon said,Work their butts off.”

 

God also gives some individuals

the ability to compose music for symphony orchestras,

the ability to solve mathematical equations,

or the ability to paint portraits like Rembrandt.

 

And they do well to thank God for those special abilities,

and to put them to good use

to bless others.

 

But most of us will never reach the status

of outstanding athletes, musicians,

mathematicians or artists.

 

For most of us, Paul’s words to Timothy apply:

 

It was at 1 Timothy 6:6 that Paul wrote,

 

6 . . . godliness with contentment is great gain.

 

7 For we brought nothing into the world,

and we can take nothing out of it.

 

8 But if we have food and clothing,

we will be content with that.

Paul reminds us

that “we brought nothing into the world.”

 

And from infancy

we had to be taken care of,

until we were old enough to provide for ourselves.

 

Through God’s arrangement of marriage and parenting

we were provided for.

 

And, even after that,

whatever we’ve earned while providing for ourselves

wouldn’t have been there for us to earn it

unless God had provided it in the first place.

 

2 Corinthians 9:10 says,

 

God is the one

who provides seed for the farmer.

 

The farmer works hard in the field

but he would have nothing to work with

if God hadn’t provided the seed.

 

Without this gift from God,   he would have nothing to plant.

After planting his seed,

the farmer also needs additional help from God

if that seed is to grow.

 

It’s necessary that his plants receive sunlight and rain.

 

At Matthew 5:45, the Lord Jesus reminds us

that God “gives his sunlight

to both the evil and the good,

and he sends rain

on the just and the unjust alike.”

 

Christ says that our heavenly father

provides these necessary things

to both the evil and the good,

... the just and the unjust alike.”

 

All mankind requires these gifts from God,

but not all appreciate his gifts.

 

And not all thank him for them.

 

But that’s what Thanksgiving Day is all about—

being thankful to God

for his many gifts.

 

We don’t have to be football players or farmers

to be thankful to our Creator.

 

The farmer’s raw materials

are soil and seed and sunshine and rain.

 

His work in the field

would get him nowhere

without these provisions from the Almighty.

 

But the same thing is true

of all other human endeavors.

 

The raw materials needed

for all human occupationslikewise come from God.

 

The carpenter’s wood

comes from trees

that originated when Genesis 1:11 tells us,

11 Then God said,

“Let the land produce vegetation:

seed-bearing plants and trees on the land

that bear fruit with seed in it,

according to their various kinds.”

And it was so.

12 The land produced vegetation:

plants bearing seed according to their kinds

and trees bearing fruit with seed in it

according to their kinds.

And God saw that it was good.

 

Without those trees,

carpenters would have nothing to work with.

 

And the same is true of all other human occupations,

and all human pleasures.

 

Whatever variety of music we enjoy,

that music wouldn’t reach our ears

if the Lord hadn’t designed sound waves

to work the way they do.

 

Job Chapter 28 reminds us

that all of our raw materials are gifts from our Father above.

 

People decide what they’re going to do

with their silver and their gold and their iron and copper,

but we wouldn’t have any of those metals

if God hadn’t put them into the earth

in the first place.

 

Beginning with Verse 1, Job Chapter 28 says,

 

1 There are mines where silver is dug;

There are places where gold is refined.

 

2 We dig iron out of the ground

And melt copper out of the stones.

...

6 The stones of the earth contain sapphires,

And its dust contains gold.

 

It was our Creator who put all those metals there

for man to uncover and dig up.

 

The Christian writer James said at James 1:16,

 

16 Don’t be deceived,

my dear brothers and sisters.

 

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above,

coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,

 

Everything that we have—

regardless of whether we worked for it,

or stole it, or were given it—

everything ultimately comes from God, our Father.

 

Even our ability to enjoy the things that we enjoy—

that ability to enjoy also comes from God.

 

And, taking it one step further,

our life is a gift from his hand,

and every breath we take,

as we continue living—

every breath is a gift from him.

 

Acts 17:25 says,

 

“he himself gives everyone

life and breath and everything else.”

 

So, I think we’ve established

that the One to thank on Thanksgiving Day and every day

is our heavenly Father, our Creator God.

 

We owe everything to him,

and we owe him our thanks and our praise.

----------------------------------------------

 

But, back to that question

of whether God blesses athletes and sports teams.

 

Human efforts alone are not enough to bring us success.

It’s true that

God “gives his sunlight

to both the evil and the good,

and he sends rain

on the just and the unjust alike.”

as we saw at Matthew 5:45.

 

But God also blesses people’s efforts.

 

And, without the Lord’s help,

our best efforts will get us nowhere.

 

Psalm 127:1 says,

 

Unless the LORD builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

 

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

the watchmen stand guard in vain.

 

So, we don’t really know how much the Lord is involved

in blessing sports teams

and granting them success.

 

But we do know that God blesses nations

that follow his ways.

Psalm 107—

which we read from in our Responsive Reading this morning—

Psalm 107 begins by saying in Verse 1,

 

1 Give thanks to the Lord,

for he is good; his love endures forever.

 

And then it continues in Verse 8,

 

8 Let them give thanks to the Lord

for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men,

9 for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good things.

 

But then it goes on to show

that God can withhold his blessing

from people or nations

when they refuse to obey God.

 

Continuing in Verse 10, it says,

 

10 Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom,

prisoners suffering in iron chains,

11 for they had rebelled

against the words of God

and despised the counsel of the Most High.

 

12 So he subjected them to bitter labor;

they stumbled, and there was no one to help.

 

13 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress.

 

14 He brought them out of darkness and the deepest gloom and broke away their chains.

 

15 Let them give thanks to the Lord

for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men.”

 

That’s speaking of ancient Israel.

 

They had reasons for thanksgiving

due to God’s special blessings upon them,

but then, when they turned away from God,

he took away his special blessings.

 

And when they humbly turned to God again,

he restored their blessings,

and they again had reason for thanksgiving to God.

 

The Psalm is speaking of ancient Israel,

but the same principle applies to any nation.

 

Psalm 33:12 says,

 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

 

So, again, continuing with Psalm 107, in Verse 17 it says,

 

17 Some became fools

through their rebellious ways

and suffered affliction

because of their iniquities.

 

18 They loathed all food

and drew near the gates of death.

 

19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

and he saved them from their distress.

 

20 He sent forth his word and healed them;

he rescued them from the grave.

21 Let them give thanks to the Lord

for his unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men.

 

22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings

and tell of his works with songs of joy.

 

America has been the recipient

of special blessings from the hand of God.

 

Psalm 33:12 says,

 

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

 

People came here from Europe

for the express purpose of serving God

and worshiping the true God of the Bible.

 

And they held the early Thanksgiving Day celebrations

in Plymouth Plantation,

and then later in the newly formed

United States of America

in recognition of God’s blessings.

 

No other modern nation

can point to Founding Fathers

who wrote thanksgiving to God

into their founding documents like

The Mayflower Compact,

the Declaration of Independence,

and subsequent laws of this country.

 

And no other modern nation

can point to the blessings

that God has poured out on this great country.

 

And we continue the tradition

of returning thanks

to the God of the Bible

who sent his Son

to give us salvation from our sins

and eternal life with him

in peace and happiness.

 

Part of our Thanksgiving Day tradition in this church

and in many other churches across the country

is to donate food to the Salvation Army

for distribution to those in need,

so that they, too, can give thanks to God.

 

And it’s a joy to see that table

loaded up with our gifts of food

that we will be delivering to the Salvation Army

in time for Thanksgiving Day,

and again before Christmas.

 

But, just as ancient Israel turned away from God

and lost his blessings,

there is a danger of that happening here in America.

 

There are forces rising up

trying to make the Salvation Army illegal.

 

And, because they don’t yet have the power to do that,

they are now trying to punish

anyone who donates to the Salvation Army.

 

Naturally, they are going after the BIG donors first.

 

You may have seen this in the news over the past week.

 

One article in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal was titled,

“Progressives Ambush the Salvation Army.”

 

The article begins by saying,

“The Salvation Army is the latest target

of progressive wrath.

 

British pop singer Ellie Goulding

threatened to cancel an appearance

at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving halftime show,

which will celebrate the [Salvation] army’s red-kettle campaign,

unless it made a ‘pledge or donation

to the LGBTQ community.’”

Chick-fil-A this week said its charitable foundation

will no longer donate to the Salvation Army

and two other organizations that hold

traditional views on same-sex marriage.”

 

A Wednesday article in The Wall Street Journal

explained that another organization

they were pressured to stop donating money to

was “the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.”

 

It says that,

“In 2012 CEO Dan Cathy,

a committed evangelical Christian,

sinned against the progressive ethos

by expressing support for the traditional view of marriage.

 

That prompted a political campaign against Chick-fil-A.

Earlier this year at least three U.S. airports

denied the company concessions contracts.

 

Last month, shortly after the company announced

it would open the first Chick-fil-A in Britain,

local activists pressured the site’s landlord

into backing out.

 

In each case, the fast-food chain’s critics

accused it of promoting ‘anti-LGBT’ causes.”

And then the article names these two organizations—

the Salvation Army

and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes—

as the charities they were accused of supporting.

 

So, the Salvation Army

and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes

are losing a lot of their financial support.

 

Other large corporations that make charitable donations

will be intimidated

by the pressure that caused Chick-fil-A to cave in.

 

This is BIG.

 

Not just because the news was big enough

to generate national headlines,

but because it signals

a major change in America.

 

For the past 154 years the Salvation Army

has been doing good in the name of God

at the Thanksgiving Season, and throughout the year.

 

Now they are being labeled as a ‘hate’ group

that no one should support,

and that no one should donate to.

 

For years football players and other athletes

have been publicly thanking Jesus

and giving praise to God,

but now the Fellowship of Christian Athletes

is targeted as a ‘hate’ group

that no one should support

or identify with.

 

This change for the worse in America

is like what happened in ancient Israel,

when they turned their backs on God,

and then he turned his back on them,

and took away their blessings.

 

The New Testament writers Peter and Jude

both tell how the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

would be an example of the judgment to come.

 

Our Lord Jesus told us ahead of time

that the world would move in this direction.

At Matthew 24:12, Christ said

 

"Because of the increase of wickedness,

the love of most will grow cold."

 

The world around us

throwing off the restraints of Christianity

and embracing the lifestyle of Sodom and Gomorrah

would be an indication

that Jesus is about to return

and bring about the end of this world.

 

He encouraged us at Luke 21:28

not to despair when we see these developments.  He said,

 

"But when these things begin to happen,

look up, and lift up your heads,

because your redemption is near."