A sermon based on Habakkuk 3:17-19
Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – Thanksgiving Eve
At the annual Christmas party, the man opened the gift with eager expectation. And to his surprise, disappointment, and disgust, the gift was another man's used retainer. "Thanks... for nothing!"
While our moms all taught us that it's proper to say, "Thank you," when we receive a gift, "Thanks for nothing!" isn't usually a very polite way of talking. But tonight we realize that even though we don't usually talk very polite to God—at least we don't thank him nearly as much as we ought, nevertheless, we are encouraged to say to God, "Thanks… for nothing!"
While we're certainly thankful for all the blessings God showers down on us—the food, the clothes, the homes, the vehicles, the toys, and so much more! Even if we had nothing, we would still have every reason to thank him.
Our text for consideration this Thanksgiving Eve is taken from Habakkuk 3:17-19…
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.
Tonight we set aside time from our regular schedules to offer thanks to God for all that he's blessed us with. And that's good and proper that we do so! He has blessed us with so much! A quick glance at any of our garages will give indisputable evidence to that truth. A peek inside of any of our refrigerators and pantries will give proof to how well God provides. Logging in to any of our bank accounts will show that the poorest among us have way more than most in the world dream of having. And for all these gifts, we are thankful.
It's easy to thank God for all that we have when PFDs help pay off the bills, when our pantries are full, when we have so many toys! But what if you didn't have all that? Would you still be thankful to God? What if you had no spouse? What if you had no job? What if you had no house? No health? No friends? Would you still thank God even if you had nothing?
Habakkuk looked around and saw the results of God's discipline against his nation. The economy was in ruins. The farmers had no crops. The ranchers had no animals. "The fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls…" These blessings had all been stripped away at the hands of their enemies as a punishment from God.
And yet, Habakkuk still said, "yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." What a wonderful attitude he had!
Is yours the same?
Sadly, all too often we gripe and complain if we're missing just one of those blessings. Take away just my health and I whine like a baby. Take away the warm temperatures for a few days and we gripe about the cold. Offer some nutritious food that doesn't look that appealing and we gripe, "Do I have to eat that?" When the PFD—the free money that I did nothing to earn or deserve—is smaller than I'd hoped it might be, I complain that I don't have enough!
And over and over again we say to God, "Thanks for nothing!" "Sure, God, you took my sins away, but won't take away this constant pain in my body. Thanks for nothing." "Sure, you broke the bonds of hell, but I still have a broken family. Thanks for nothing." "Sure you saved me from Satan, but you won't save me from these bills. Thanks for nothing."
And whether we verbalize it or only think such thoughts in our heads, what ingratitude we show to God whenever we whine about the lack of blessings that God has given us, ignoring all that he has given! In essence, we say to God by the attitude of our hearts, "Thanks for nothing, God! Why don't you give me what I really want?"
And you know what we deserve. What we deserve is far worse than a used retainer. We deserve to have every blessing stripped from us. We deserve to be given nothing! No crops in the field and no food in our pantries. No Savior from sin, no grace of God. We deserve an eternity of regret in hell with none of God's blessings. And you know what we could do to change that situation? Absolutely nothing.
But you also know that we don't get the hell that we deserve.
Habakkuk said, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior." Even with all earthly blessings gone, he could rejoice that he had a Savior, not just from a bad economy or an empty pantry, from a pile of bills or a broken family, but from his own sin and the punishment he rightly deserved.
And so can we! You know what punishment we get for our sin? Absolutely nothing! There is no punishment for our sin because Christ was punished in our place. And even if we lost all of our earthly blessings, we would still have every reason to thank God because our punishment for our ingratitude, our covetousness, and our greed, is… nothing! And we thank God for that nothing!
When we rebelled, what did God have to do about it? Nothing. But in his love, he did everything. Jesus, who is "in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." (Philippians 2:6-7) Thank God for that nothing that he became. And as a human he lived a perfect life in our place. The thief on the cross confessed, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." (Luke 23:41) Thank God for that nothing he did wrong! And taking our place, he took our sin away and gave us his perfection. So when God looks at us, he sees nothing wrong! Thank God for that nothing! And since we are perfect, sinless saints through Jesus' life and death for us, our punishment from God will be… nothing! Thank God for that nothing!
And even now, even if we lost all of our earthly blessings, even if we lost our families and our friends, even if we lost our jobs, our health, our minds, "The fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls…" "Yet [we] will rejoice in the Lord, [we] will be joyful in God [our] Savior."
For we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (cf. Romans 8:39) And we say to God, "Thanks for nothing!" We know that nothing is impossible with God. (cf. Luke 1:37) And we say to God, "Thanks for nothing!"
And we don't just say, "Thanks," we live our lives for him in thanks for all he's given us knowing that our lives are worth nothing to us, if we might only finish the race and join God in heaven. (cf. Acts 20:24) We resolve to know nothing except Jesus Christ and him crucified (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2) and to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit (cf. Philippians 2:3), but to serve God by serving others.
In thanks to God we will echo the praise of Job, who having lost everything—his wealth and his health, his children and his wife and his friends, still understood that "we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it," (1 Timothy 6:7) and declared, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." (Job 1:21)
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, In whom his world rejoices,
Who from our mother's arms Has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love And still is ours today.
Oh, may this bounteous God Through all our life be near us,
With ever-joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace And guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills In this world and the next.