Thanks Be to God

Bill Watson
Last Great Day
October 8, 2012
Seaside, Oregon

Note:  This transcript is of a sermon given by CGI's Bill Watson in November 2011.  We played a recording of it on the Last Great Day, which happened to coincide with the Canadian Thanksgiving Day.

I would like to read something out of the book of Psalms.  This will be a little abbreviation of what I would like to talk about today, and where I am going to go with this presentation:

Psalms 50:
14:  Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: 
15:  And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.

Psalm 100 becomes a little more poignant of what I want to talk about, and where I am going:

Psalms 100:
1:  Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. 
2:  Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 
3:  Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 
4:  Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 
5:  For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

The metaphor here in Psalms 100, being that we ourselves as human beings, knowing and recognizing that God is God and He is the One that has created us, is that we do not have the right to create God in our own mind.  God is God; and He defines right from wrong; and therefore expects us to conform to those expectations that He has laid down as His Word in Truth.  

It is up to us to choose whether or not we are going to do that.  It is indeed up to us to conform because He is God.  When we realize and comprehend that, we should be enormously thankful!  You should be thankful for the very air that you breathe, for the food that you eat, and for the friends that you have. 

We  know that Ė at least those of us do who understand and have come to recognize an appreciation for the Living God.  And when I say that, you donít know how unique that is.  There are more people on this planet (about seven billion of us now) who do not necessarily believe anywhere near the kind of God that you believe in. 

I think that, sometimes we as Christians, because we have become so familiar with the concept of this Living God, we take Him for granted; and that coming into His presence, even on the Sabbath Day, is not necessarily all that special.  It is almost, for some of us if we are not careful, we can fall into this rut where it just becomes functional; and it just becomes "my habit" or "my custom" or "the tradition of which I am used to now," so "therefore it is my comfort zone." 

That is not right!  We need to truly recognize and have a great, deep appreciation with gratefulness and thankfulness of our God and certainly what He has provided; because frankly, the bottom line is, in many cases, without God we have nothing.  Even George Washington recognized that.  To quote George Washington: 

It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God or The Bible.

So there is no question about what he was talking about when he said that it is impossible to rule the world without God or the Bible.  He is obviously talking about the God of the Bible. 

With that being said Ė and it is very important to comprehend that because that is what underscores, undergirds the solutions to humankindís problems, and with that comprehended and as the backdrop of the framing of what I want to talk to you from Ė I would like to talk today about Thankfulness.  

But not in the normal, typical way, as I think that all of us know and at least we should have some semblance of understanding and recognition of the fact that we should be thankful for our health.  Right?  We should be thankful for our mates, if we are married.  We should be thankful for our children.  

We should be thankful Ė if we have some mileage on ourselves Ė for the safety that we have been able to enjoy and that we have not been knocked down with a major disease or victimized of an accident; as all of us are subject to time and chance.  Any one of us could walk out of this door on our way home today and be in an accident. 

We have a lot to be thankful for.  Here in the west we have food galore.  All of us really enjoyed our Thanksgiving.  I donít think there is anybody in this room that would not say that our tables were full.  You probably ate until your stomach ached.  I have heard over and over, "Oh man!  I am stuffed!"  I am sure that maybe even some of you said that you feel like the turkey that was just eaten: "I am stuffed!Ē  

But the fact of it is: We are a very blessed people.  I think we all recognize this and we understand that, in comparison to many parts of this world, those of us living on this North American continent are truly blessed.

I think that we get this.  A lot of this is already understood and certainly comprehended by many of us.  But what I want to talk about today, specifically in terms of thankfulness, I want to talk about in terms of thanks to God. The title of this sermon is "Thanks Be to God." 

What is it that we are to be thankful to God about?  I have already said a few things here; but I mean specifically "biblical thanks," if I could use that term and characterize the term to make what I want to talk about more specific. 

As a Bible study, I want to explore some scriptures about what we specifically should be thankful to God for and as it pertains to what He has specifically detailed for us to take note of.  And hopefully, through the process of appreciation Ė and by the way that is the key to thankfulness... If you want to know how to be thankful, learn to appreciate.  Appreciation is the doorway to thankfulness.  Take time to really recognize the benefits that you yourself have been the beneficiaries of and take time to count your blessings.  It is important that we do take the time to do that.  And not just around Passover. We should be taking time out all of the time to examine ourselves about the things that are going on in our lives.  How are we doing?  Do we really take the time to look and explore and consider the things that we are really being benefitted by and the fact of so many things coming our way?

In addition to all of that, sometimes, because we are so outward-looking, we forget to view the "platform" that we are operating from.  The "platform" being, in this little metaphor, the Christian walk that we are all walking; the "sidewalk" that is defined as "Christianity" in your Bible.  So letís talk biblically about what we are to be thankful for: 

We should be thankful for Jesus Christ.  

I think that is a good start.  That is a major start because Christ is the foundation that provides us as human beings to extend beyond this lifetime.  Without Christ this is all there is!  That is a horrible thought, isnít it?  Wow!  How boring and bland can that be?  Thatís like food without garlic!  Do you recognize how foundational Jesus Christ truly is?  The apostle Paul mentions this here:

I Timothy 1:
9:  Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 
10:  For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 
11: According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
12:  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;

This is showing us the extrapolation to ourselves as to how we, as well as Paul, should be thankful for Jesus Christ.  We are all in the ministry of ambassadorship.  You can extrapolate the truth and connect the dots to the point where you yourselves are incumbently responsible to reflect Christ in your lives Ė to where, metaphorically, you could all be considered "walking sermons."  And if your lives donít reflect those walking sermons, well then, shame on you!  

We should have the abilities to reflect the values and the standards that Jesus Christ Himself reflected to us and showed us Ė as to how we should be following in His footsteps.  As a result, if we ever get lost, we need to go back to the Word to have the definition refreshed in our minds.  That is what Paul is talking about here.

We should be thankful for Christís birth:

Luke 2:
36:  And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 
37:  And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 
38:  And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 
39:  And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 
40:  And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Anna the prophetess was thankful Ė showing that we, too, should be thankful for this man-child who became the incarnate God, that provided redemption to humankind, which He created and was responsible for saving.  We understand from Isaiah 9 that He was destined to become a King and the Government of God is upon His shoulders.

We should be very thankful for Christís reign. 

The fact that He Himself is coming to rule the earth and to set up a world-ruling government.  He will set up a program that is going to reinstitute the very government of God and solve the environmental issues of mankind; solve the political stalemate and gridlock that so many nations today are suffering from. 

Christ is coming back to settle all of the rebelling, protesting and dissatisfaction of so many people and cultures.  There are no solutions that mankind can bring to the table, because without everyone on the same page, what would be the chances of coming to some kind of mutual agreement when so many come from so many different points of view and perspectives? 

It is amazing Ė the dichotomy and the contrast between cultures of people is so broad, so vast and so enormous in terms of differences.  To even think that you could develop agreements and contracts and organize a peace that would be lasting for humankind is really an impossibility Ė or simply a pipe dream.  At any rate, we should be thankful that Christ is coming to reign:

Revelation 11:
17:  Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. 
18:  And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth. 19:  And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.

This is talking about when the seventh angel is going to sound.  After the two witnesses die and the second woe is past; now the seventh trumpet is about to blow.  We all know that Christ returns at the last trump.  At that time the nations are considered His because He has qualified.

We must be very thankful for Christís reign to come, for the fact that He has qualified and has been given the authority to reign and rule on this planet, and that there is hope.  How vain would it be to live life without hope?  How futile and vain that would be!

I think back sometimes and when I begin to feel that I am taking some things for granted, I go back to my beginnings.  I think about how life would be without having God as part of it.  I remember that time!  I didnít find God in my life until I was about twenty years old.  I lived fast and hard those first twenty years
Ė especially the latter five.  The point that I want to make here is that I remember that clearly and how I lived without the hope of God Ė without the hope of the resurrection, without the hope of the answers that this Bible has revealed to me personally Ė as it has to you, about how mankind is going to be saved from himself, and how the issues that he is facing and contending with will be resolved.

We should be thankful that we have been delivered from sin.

Yes, we should be thankful for the fact that we have been delivered from sin Ė because the wages of sin is death.  As I said on the Last Great Day, we really donít know what real death is in terms of equating it for what it really is Ė because the death that we experience in this life, at this time, is not even characterized by Jesus Himself as death; but it is simply characterized as sleep

If you remember the story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary, when Jesus came to the city where Lazarus had died some days before, Jesus characterized that as sleep, not death.  As long as there is a resurrection and a post-resurrection in reserve Ė yet still to come Ė guess what?  Thereís hope!  

Itís when there is no more resurrections for you that death can become defined clearly.  The second death is really what death is Ė where there is no hope for a resurrection thereafter.  

In this particular case, being that the wages of sin is death, we should be very thankful for the deliverance from sin, and consequently from the death penalty.

Letís look at the personal battle that Paul had with himself, going back and forth and actually disclosing the internal war that he had with his own nature and how he would win some battles and lose others
Ė how he would attempt to try to be better than he was, but he would do the things that he shouldnít do.  The things that he wants to do and should be doing, he somehow finds no power or willpower to do those things.  He gets to the point where he expresses this frustration and all of this futility:

Romans 7:24:
O wretched man that I am!  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

Basically he was consigned to death.  Paul recognized very clearly that he was a sinner.  And he understood that, by the law, as a Pharisee of Pharisees, he understood the law inside out and upside down; and he knew very well that the wages of sin is death.  So he is asking how he is going to get out of this death penalty.  How can he get out from this claim on his life?  Then he admits that he cannot do it by himself.  If he has to atone for his own sins, he is a dead man.  He has to have someone worthy to atone for his sins so that he can live as a result of that redemptive act.  Here, he states and confirms that:

Verse 25a:  I thank God through Jesus Christ our LordÖ 

Take note of this: "I thank God through Jesus Christ."  We have no right to address God directly unless we, via the name of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, call upon God through Christ.  

That is why I hope that everybody resolves their prayers in Jesusí name.  If you close a prayer without saying this, you really donít pay a lot of due respect to the price that was paid for you to have the privilege to even say it!

So the fact is that we need to pay God that respect and recognition and have Him realize that we appreciate the price that was paid for us.  We must always remember that is a very important item to keep in mind that you thank God through Christ:

Verse 25b: Ö So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

The point that I want to make here again is that it is very important that we are thankful to God for Jesus Christ because of the deliverance from sin that we have, and from death:

I Corinthians 15:
57:  But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 
58a:  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the LordÖ

God has expectations of us; and this is not just being saved by grace.  You are saved by grace; that's for sure, but you're called unto good works; so there are expectations that God has put upon us in this "parole" kind of condition that we find ourselves in; and which He calls "the grace condition." 

Verse 58b:  Öforasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

And it is not in vain!... as long as you are working for the Lord, properly reflecting the ambassadorship by which you have been called, abiding by those rules and values, reflecting the kind of example that Christ expects us to reflect and inculcating them in your lives. 

All that being said, we find that there is no reason to doubt the promises which we are given that assure us of being able to be victors, even over death.

Psalms 106:
1:  Praise ye the LORD.  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

If it were not for this, we would not be assured of being able to lean on the promises of God.  This shows us that Godís mercy is something to be very grateful and thankful about.

Verse 2:  Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

The enemy being Satan; and, of course, death Ė the ultimate enemy over which we will be victorious in the resurrection.  Satan and death are indeed the two vile enemies of mankind.  Satan will attempt to try to get at us to disqualify us from being able to aspire to that higher level.  If he is successful, death takes over and consequently we ourselves become victimized by that condition.  Therein lies the real enemies to mankind Ė those two very vile items.

Verse 3:  Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.

I am going to spend a little time in Psalm 136 and read this whole chapter, simply because of the redundancy of what is said here.  This is why the Psalms are so good!  If you donít take time to read the Psalms, you are really missing a tremendous dimension in your Christian walk.  If you have some spare time, just keep the television off for an extra ten minutes or so, and read a chapter in the book of Psalms.  Work this into your lifetime.  These Psalms are tremendously encouraging, awesome in their insights and enormous in their value.  Try to get into the habit of reading just one, two or three a day.  "Salt and pepper" yourself all over the place!  Read this one and that one!  Or get yourself a Naveís Topical Bible and look up certain topics and find the Psalms that are associated with them.  There you'll have all the Psalms for each topic already categorized for you Ė along with many other scriptures, as well.

Now, please listen to the repetition in this Psalm:

Psalms 136:
1:  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
2:  O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
3:  O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
4:  To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
5:  To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
6:  To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
7:  To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
8:  The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
9:  The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
10:  To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
11:  And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Are you relating?  You see all of these things because God is merciful.  Why did God call you?  Because He is merciful!  The details can come later; but the bottom line is that He is merciful!  He put a plan together that includes Jesus Christ Ė a plan that you and I donít deserve; but which He makes available to us in spite of our failings; in spite of our ugliness; in spite of our self-righteousness, our vanity, our lust, our appetites and our inabilities to control ourselves.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins.  That is enormous when you really begin to think about applying this just to yourself and realize that this Creator God divested Himself of everything that He had, came down to this planet, putting Himself at risk.  He came into the material world and jeopardized His own very existence.  He definitely could have failed.  It was not a cake-walk and He was not predestined to succeed.  He was under stress; He was under pressure; He was under the gun, with Satan dogging Him every minute of His physical, material incarnation.  But He succeeded; and that is something to be very thankful for.  This is what we said at the start of this presentation, that we are to be thankful for Christ. 

Verse 12:  With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
13:  To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
14:  And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
15:  But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
16:  To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

All of these events are physical events Ė literal happenings of which, spiritually speaking, you could extrapolate metaphors into your life.  It could be the wilderness of your life and the things that you contend with in your condition of living.  You can apply these very same things as you are reading through these Psalms.  What did Paul say in Corinthians that the walking through the Red Sea represented spiritually?  Yes, it was a nation going through the Red Sea; yes, it was God separating a people for Himself; but what was it representative of?  It was baptism!  I didnít make that up; Paul said it.  Paul said that basically the whole nation was baptized unto God Ė separated and set apart for His representation.  The sad part is that they failed.  They let their lusts get the best of them and, consequently, they went down by two different enemies Ė the Assyrians and the Babylonians. 

Verse 17:  To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
18:  And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever: 19:  Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
20:  And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
21:  And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever: 
22:  Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

The United States of America.  The British Empire.  Why were they given? Because His mercy endures for ever!  Do you think that we got the blessings of this great country because we were superseding the Indians?  Or that Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Madison and all those guys were so wise?  No, no, no!  It simply comes back to a promise that God gave to Abraham Ė a promise which was unconditional; one that God knew that He had to fulfill.  The sad part is that itís over!  It is fulfilled; and unfortunately, we have squandered much of the wealth and affluence that this nation has been given.  Today, we are fifteen-plus trillion dollars in debt, with a GDP of only fourteen.  Shame on us!... to have unfounded liabilities that exceed seventy-five trillion dollars through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Shame on us!  We are a people that are fat and unthankful; and we have turned to feeling entitled.  But still, His mercy endures for ever!

Verse 23:  Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

I donít know about you; but when I was called I was pretty low.  I am still pretty low!  A little higher, I hope!  When I was called, I was lower than a snakeís belly, as I have often said!  I am sure that many of you would have your stories too of how God called you and how you finally came to your "Eureka experience."

Verse 24:  And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
25:  Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
26:  O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

After reading that, do you think we get the point that His mercy endures for ever?  That is the point, you see; reading that over and over and having it reiterated in the quietness of your reading room.  Just read these things and let them resonate with you.  Understand your own wilderness, your own insecurities, your own challenges, your own doubts and weakness that you are facing in your life.  Let this resonate before you go on to the next Psalm.  

You canít speed-read the Bible.  You have to appreciate it like good food or good wine.  You just donít guzzle the wine.  You smell it; you put it in your mouth; swish it around a little bit and then you swallow it in steps and let it hit the palate.  The Bible is like good wine.  You have to taste it slowly; you have to think about it, let it resonate and sink in to every bone of your body.

Always give thanks for Godís mercy and His love.  This is something that all of us sometimes fall into a rut with, and donít recognize it.  This is a small point; yet nevertheless, Jesus sets the stage, and the example in John 6 about this.  I donít care where you are; it is always good to just take a moment; you donít have to make a big scene about it; and thank God for the food that you have.  Donít be as the proverbial pig at the trough and just eat the food without giving thanks.  

Be appreciative and take a moment, even if it is just to yourself: "Thanks Father; I appreciate the food that is before me; in Jesusí name I pray; Amen."  

It doesnít have to be a big, elaborate production; just a little moment of appreciation to tell God that you are not taking anything for granted: "I realize that I have something here to be thankful for; so thanks a lot, Dad; I appreciate it; in JesusĎ name, Amen."  Jesus says it right here during the feeding of thousands:

John 6:
10:  And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 
11:  And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 

There is no big, elaborate discussion here in outlining what the giving of thanks was all about.  The prayer is not even listed here.  But the fact of it is that He took the time, even though He has five thousand people in front of Him.  He has a couple of fish and some barley loaves; and He is going to feed them all; and He just says a quick prayer of thankfulness.  I was looking at this and thinking that it is a good example to follow Ė a good example to keep in your mind.

Acts 27:
31:  Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. 
32:  Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. 
33:  And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.  34:  Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.  
35:  And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat.

In the midst of this stress Ė  in the midst of this chaos, Paul has the presence of mind to thank God!  This was in the presence of all those soldiers.  This tells me something else too: Never be embarrassed to pray.  You are Christians and you need to stand strong and show the example.  Donít be embarrassed to pray, even if all of your relatives are Gentiles Ė a bunch of heathens at heart.  It doesnít matter!  You should stand up and pray or take a moment if they donít give you the floor to say it publicly; certainly you can bow your head.  This will show them where your heart is.  It is nothing to be ashamed about.  Remember what Christ said: If you are ashamed of Him, He will be ashamed of you.  So stand strong and be the person that God wants all of us to be.  Be thankful!

We should be thankful for the ministry

I know that a few years ago this was anything but!  But I think that I am safe to say it now:  I know, I know, I know, and I know that I know that a lot of folks have a lot of ill-will towards organized religion Ė a lot of ill will towards the ministry that treated them badly over the years.  The minister neglected them, didnít care about them or did care about them; but for purely selfish reasons.  That is sad; but at some point, you have to draw a line in the sand and take responsibility for what the Bible says.  I want to share this with all of you with what Paul said:

II Corinthians 1:
1:  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: 
2:  Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 
3:  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 
4:  Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 
5:  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 
6:  And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. 
7:  And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.

This is Paul speaking from a ministerial point of view.  In this particular case, Paul was speaking from the framing of his experiences, which were many.  I know that many of the ministers have not been whipped; but I will say this: that the extrapolations of what ministers do Ė  and I have seen a lot of bad ones and I have seen a lot of good ones Ė but the fact of it is: ministers do sacrifice.  Ministers sometimes sacrifice their families, time with the their children, sleep, their cars as they put miles-upon-miles on them.  There is a lot of sacrifice that goes on in the ministry that oftentimes is not really understood, even in this modern day and age.  I thank God, by the way, that it is not horse-and-buggies any more; that it is nice to tootle down the highway in an air-conditioned car on the freeway.  All that I am trying to say is that the challenges and sacrifices are of a different level and of a different type; but nevertheless, there still are personal sacrifices that the ministry does indeed make for many of those that they serve.

Verse 8:  For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life:

The word "despaired" actually means that there was no exit; they were cornered and there was not way out.  Basically, they were backed against the wall; and here Paul says that there was no way out of life.  In other words their lives were in danger.

Verse 9:  But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:

They all thought that they were going to die.  "This is it! Itís over!  This is how we're dying, guys!  See ya!  Nice job; it was a great run; letís face the music!"  But it taught them not to trust in themselves, but in God.  This shows a good example, that even though you may be under pressure, you must keep a cool head and do the things that are right and proper.

Verse 10:  Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; 
11:  Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.

The point is that, because you guys prayed for the ministry, they are back with you, thankful for your support and prayers in that regard.  And that is the right thing to do.  We should all be praying for the ministry; and I hope that you do.  And the ministry should be praying for you.  I can only answer for myself; but I do.  It is important that we all are grateful for an organized ministry, and that we draw a line in the sand of letting the past be the past, because we are going forward from here on out. 

We should be thankful for each other

We should be thankful for Godís people.  We should be thankful for congregations and we should appreciate them, especially in this day and age when we are so fractured and fragmented.  Many of us are so small in number and so limited in our exposure to different personalities.  As the Proverbs say, there is great safety in numbers.  There is safety in a multitude of counsellors.  We ourselves keep each other in check so that we donít fly off into Never-never-land with many different types of beliefs; and start thinking that there are ghosts in the world and that my Mom and Dad are watching me.  There are people out there with a lot of wild-eyed ideas that think a lot of things that are misconstrued disinformation from traditions and from other cultures of years gone by Ė many of which have their roots in sun worship Ė originally, of course, from Satan the devil who loves to confuse and mix it up.  In I Thessalonians, Paul illustrates how we should be thankful for each other:

I Thessalonians 2:
10:  Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: 
11:  As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, 
12:  That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.
13:  For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
14:  For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews:

Here Paul is expressing the fact of his appreciation for those folks that he was serving.  I would certainly do the same today for those who believe in the Word of God, who are taking up the good fight of the Christian walk and attempting to battle down their nature for a higher reward in the life to come in Godís Kingdom.  They are far and few between; there are not many that are really doing it.  I am giving all of you the benefit of the doubt; but there are folks that are not doing it; but are just warming seats.  As much as they hear what they hear, they donít do!  What am I talking about?  They donít convert; they are the "same old same old."  They are in the church for ten, fifteen, twenty or thirty years and they havenít changed a whole lot; they are still doing their own thing.  The renewal of their minds hasnít clicked in; it didnít stick; and so they are just the "same old same old."  They can be in churches and they are in there by the thousands, throughout the Christian community.  The point is, we had better not be one of these.  We need to fight the battle and really be real through and through.  Whether it be in our marriages, with our friends, or out on the job, it is important that we are sincere and genuine people, doing the best that we can in aspiring to the values of Jesus Christ. 

Here we see the same theme again, in appreciating one another and the congregations that we are in:

I Thessalonians 3:
6:  But now when Timotheus came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity, and that ye have good remembrance of us always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: 
7:  Therefore, brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith:

The news that Timothy brought to Paul and those that were with Paul when he heard of their faith, this encouraged Paul.  It was reciprocal.  Oftentimes you donít realize how encouraging it is to see a miracle in the church, or to see someone have a happy marriage, to watch them grow up in the Church and become strong members of Godís church.  They have been standing strong for decade upon decade upon decade.  This makes all of our hearts happy and we can rejoice in each others' successes.  Hopefully we are not allowing jealousy and envy to throttle back our bonding or allowing selfish things to come between us.  We need to be careful of those things!  Be the best cheerleaders for each other, because therein lies the power of miracles.  The less we are distracted by Satanís influences, the better positive momentum and forward progress we can all develop Ė collectively as well as individually.  Paul continues on here:

Verse 8:  For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord. 
9:  For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God;
10:  Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith? 
11:  Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you. 
12:  And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: 
13:  To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.

Be thankful and grateful for each other.  I want to wrap this up with this emphasis; and it is important that we recognize this: Always thank God, but recognize that... 

We should always thank God through Jesus Christ

Let me read Romans 1 to you to re-emphasize this theme:

Romans 1:
7:  To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
8:  First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. 
9:  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; 
10:  Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

The point is that, through Jesus Christ, Paul is thanking God for the people that he was serving, and those that were praying for him.

Colossians 3:
12:  Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 
13:  Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

It is reciprocal.  Donít hold grudges; donít hold back and allow things to linger; because then you run the risk of allowing bitterness to enter into your heart.

Verse 14:  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 
15:  And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 
16:  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 
17:  And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

If you are a Christian, you will keep this as an underpinning point of decorum.

Hebrews 13:
12:  Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 
13:  Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

Go out into the world!  Go outside the camp, as Christ was crucified outside of the camp.  Encompass yourself with the values and the standards of Christ. 

Verse 14a:  For here have we no continuing cityÖÖ

The bottom line is Ė and you have just learned it this whole Feast of Tabernacles Ė that you are pilgrims passing through time.  You are in these temporary tabernacles.  You are "punched in"; but you are ready to "punch out" to a greater and a better Kingdom because you are an ambassador of another lifestyle; you are a whole other being; a whole other species.  You are just walking amongst them right now; and hopefully, by you walking amongst them, they can see you for what you are.  The qualities and standards that they see in you is Christ in you Ė Christ crucified.  This is what the new world will be based on.  That is what the Feast is all about Ė teaching us that we are just passing through and we are outside the camp with no continuing city.

Verse 14b: Öbut we seek one to come.

Yes we do seek this Kingdom to come.

Verse 15:  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 
16:  But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Here is another scripture along the same theme, always thanking God through Jesus Christís name; keeping Him as the underpinning framing by which you approach God in your life:

Ephesians 5:14:
Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

The majority of the world's people are the "walking dead" because they donít have light.  I am not trying to be judgmental; I am just stating an observation.  Most people in this world are "walking dead people" and it isnít until they get the light of Christ in their lives that they get to begin to see clearly and that the wholesomeness of a true and good personality comes into fruition.  

But until then, whoever you meet in this world, the bottom line is you donít know what kind of people you're dealing with. They could be smiling; but like Christ said, they are like whitened sepulchres with dead menís bones inside. Until you work with them, spend time with them and really begin to ingratiate and bond with them, you really donít know who they are.  

Jesus said a right truism of life that ďBy their fruits you shall know them.Ē  When those fruits are manifested, be courageous enough to accept it for what it is and call a spade a spade.  Always be courageous in this world as you walk with Christ because the world does get very challenging for Christians in many respects.

Verse 15:  See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, 
16:  Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. 
17:  Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 
18:  And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 
19:  Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 
20:  Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

You can be thankful; but if you leave the name of the Lord Jesus Christ out of it, you are falling into a selfish category because you are not entitled to take credit for anything.  Without Christ in our life we are nothing but dirt-balls or clay jars.  Without the hope of Christ, this is it!  Do well for God and be thankful.  

I Timothy 2:
1:  I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 
2:  For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 
3:  For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 
4:  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 
5:  For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 
6:  Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

Ephesians 1:
15:  Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
16:  Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers;

We must be thankful for everything and let God take the credit for what He has done in your life.  Donít be selfish and donít be so vain that you canít give God the credit for the things that you have been able to accomplish and that you have been beneficiaries of.  I think that many of us would say that we have had our "Eureka moments" Ė our wake-up calls.  It is those kinds of realizations and those beginnings that we never forget Ė and that you always bring yourself back to that so that you never begin to drift into a taking-for-granted mode.  That is one of the ugliest conditions that we human beings can get into. 

Appreciate God; and as a result of that appreciation, use that venue to grow in your thankfulness for everything that He has done for you.