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SIX SURPRISING THANKSGIVING GIFTS!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, November 18, 2001


"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:4).

My mother went to the hospital on November 5, 1997, where she died a few weeks later from a stroke. One of my last conversations with her, before she went into a coma, was on Thanksgiving Sunday night, after our Thanksgiving banquet at the church. I told her that I had brought one of our turkeys from the chicken pen at our house, and let the little kids at church have their picture taken with me and a live turkey after the banquet. I told her how much they enjoyed it. She said, "Robert, you know exactly what little kids like." It made her smile thinking about it. Then I told her that we sang, "Count Your Blessings." That was her favorite song. We sang it softly together there in the hospital room.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Count your blessings, Name them one by one;
Count your blessings, See what God hath done;
Count your blessings, Name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, See what God hath done.

("Count Your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

Then Mother said, "It really is surprising what God has done for us!" I will never forget that conversation as long as I live.

"It really is surprising what God has done for us!" This morning, I want us to think of six surprising things that God has done for you.

I. First, it is surprising that God has given you life itself.

You ought to thank God for the gift of life! The Bible says:

"Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves…be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:3-4).

God says:

"I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him" (Isaiah 43:7).

God made you. He gave you the miracle of life. God said, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee" (Jeremiah 1:5). The Psalmist said:

"Thy hands have made me and fashioned me" (Psalm 119:73).

The Supreme Court of the United States did a horrible thing in 1973. The court took away a child's God-given right to live. Our forefathers said:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

These words are from the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America. But in one swift decision, the Supreme Court ruled that these words did not apply to Americans until after they came out of the womb. In what I believe to be the most despicable miscarriage of justice in the history of the Western world, millions of babies were left without the protection of the law. Many adults now say they are "pro-choice," but the babies were left with no choice. Forty million of them had their arms and legs pulled off, had their skulls crushed, had needles driven into their brains, were boiled alive in salt water, were flushed down the toilet with their arms and legs still quivering. Hitler exterminated six million Jews. America has exterminated forty million babies. No wonder God seems to be taking His protection away from our nation.

But, thank God, you were not one of the forty million who died in the American Holocaust. By God's great mercy, you lived! God has given you life - and God has protected your life in these evil days - and you should thank Him for the truly surprising gift of life itself!

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!

II. The second surprising gift of God is the angels.

The Bible has much to say about angels. Think how often the Bible tells us that these unseen beings have been sent to protect people. And often the help of angels was a truly surprising blessing!

When Hagar was alone in the desert, the angel of the Lord came and helped her (Genesis 16:7-12). When Peter was chained in prison, an angel came and loosed his chains, and opened the prison door, and set him free (Acts 5:19-20). An angel closed the mouths of lions so they could not devour Daniel (Daniel 6:22).

Gladys Aylward was a missionary in China. They made a movie about her life called "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness," which is now shown on television from time to time.  She stayed on in China after the Communists expelled all missionaries. When I was young, I heard Miss Aylward in person give her testimony of how God sent angels on several occasions to save her from imprisonment and death by the Communists. I heard Pastor Richard Wurmbrand tell how he danced with angels in his dark prison cell, where he was kept in solitary confinement by the Communists for many years.  

You cannot see the angels, but they are all around you. The Bible says:

"But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:13-14).

Dr. P. B. Fitzwater said, "It is here directly asserted that they minister on behalf of God's children" (P. B. Fitzwater, Christian Theology, Eerdmans, 1948, p. 254).

I was driving my wife and boys back from a meeting of the Churchill Society a couple of Saturdays ago, and we passed a place on the freeway where my car whirled completely around three times as I was driving to church thirty-five years ago. I never pass that spot on the freeway without thinking that I could never have escaped serious injury that night long ago if the angels had not come down to keep the car from crashing. Although it whirled completely around three times, I drove away without a scratch on the car. If I showed you the narrow place, between giant cement pillars, where that happened, I'm sure you would agree that the angels protected me. I was surprised to escape injury that night, and I am surprised when I think about it this morning!

Often, in your own life, terrible things could have happened to you, if the unseen hands of angels had not come to help you and protect you. And you should thank God for the truly surprising protection His angels have given you throughout your life!

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!

III. The third surprising gift is the Bible.

The Bible says:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16).

God inspired the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible, which were then translated into English, Spanish, Chinese, and other languages. When you read the words of the Bible, they are not human words. The Bible was given by God. It is God's Word! It is "a light that shineth in a dark place" (II Peter 1:19). Without the Bible, you could not know how to become a Christian, or how to live the Christian life. Psalm 119:130 says:

"The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (Psalm 119:130).

In these evil days you will meet many people who do not believe in God. You will meet many others who say they are Christians, but live sinful lives. These people will often try to stop you from being a real Christian. But the Bible will give you answers to all their doubting words and confusing opinions. When you go to college many teachers there will attack the Bible. I graduated from secular schools, from Los Angeles City College and the California State University at Los Angeles. At both of these colleges the Bible was attacked in nearly every classroom. But one verse of Scripture often helped me during those difficult times - and here it is:

"I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies [the words of the Bible] are my meditation"

(Psalm 119:99).

Here are several other verses that helped me as a student in a secular college, and later in a liberal Southern Baptist seminary, and then in an even more liberal Presbyterian seminary:

"Great peace have they which love thy law [the Bible]: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165).

"The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law [the Bible]" (Psalm 119:51).

"Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law" (Psalm 119:53).

"Blessed are they that keep his testimonies [in the Bible], and that seek him with the whole heart" (Psalm 119:2).

You young people will have Christianity trashed and belittled again and again by unbelieving teachers and unbelieving family members. But you are safe if you trust fully in the Bible, the inspired Word of the living God!

"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word [the Bible]. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments" (Psalm 119:9-10).

In our church there are many people who have gone through secular colleges. They had their faith ridiculed and attacked, but they are wonderful Christians because their hearts remained fixed on the Bible - God's Holy Word! If they could do it, so can you!

"Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (Psalm 119:11).

Take the Bible with your other books when you go to the college classroom. Read Psalm 119 when they attack Christianity. The Bible itself will strengthen your faith in the midst of persecution.

Many evangelicals will say that you must go to a Christian college if you don't want to have your faith destroyed. I am not against Christian colleges, but I disagree with those evangelicals. The finest Christians in our church went through non-Christian colleges. But they kept their minds on the Bible - and the Bible carried them through without losing their faith - in fact their faith was strengthened by adversity!

One preacher learned that I am sending my boys to Glendale City College. He said, "So, you're going to let them eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?" I replied, "You, yourself, graduated from Cal Tech as an engineer before you went into the ministry, and it didn't seem to hurt you!" Then I said, "'Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians' (Acts 7:22), and it didn't seem to hurt him." And it won't hurt you to learn the false ideas of the heathen Americans, any more than it hurt Moses to learn the ideas of the heathen Egyptians, if you are converted, and if you keep your mind and heart on the Bible.

Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. said, "The test of your character is what it takes to stop you." If a secular school stops you from being a Christian, it shows you have a mighty weak character!

D. L. Moody said, "The Bible will keep you from sin." Read it every day. Memorize Scripture. Take the Bible to school with you. The Bible will protect your mind and keep you safe with God!

"Great peace have they that love thy law [the Bible], and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165).

And you should thank God for giving you the Bible. This old Book is a truly surprising blessing and protection. Thank God for it!

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!

Thank God for the surprising blessing of this Book!

IV. The fourth surprising gift is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said,

"When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth" (John 16:13).

The Holy Spirit is the unseen Third Person of the Holy Trinity. He is invisible, but He is here. And it is the Holy Spirit who connects us to Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

"He shall not speak of himself; but…He shall glorify me"

(John 16:13b-14).

When you hear some preacher yelling about the Holy Spirit on television, you can be sure that he is not preaching correctly. Shut it off! Correct preaching is not about the Holy Spirit! True preaching is about Jesus Christ!

"For he shall not speak of himself, but…He shall glorify me"

(John 16:13b-14).

God sent the Holy Spirit to "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13a) and to bring you to Jesus Christ. It is the Holy Spirit who makes Christ real to you and connects you to Him for salvation. God said, "With lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jeremiah 31:3). It is God the Holy Spirit who draws us to Jesus, God the Son. People sometimes say, " How do I come to Christ?" That isn't your business. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. If you strive as hard as you can to be converted, the Holy Spirit will draw you to Christ. But if you are fooling around, you will never figure out how to come to Jesus on your own! It is the work of the Holy Spirit - a work that He only does for those who are deeply serious - striving to enter the Kingdom of God! (cf. Luke 13:24-25).  

Then too, the Holy Spirit is the one who will show you the awfulness of your sins. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said:

"And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin…Of sin, because they believe not on me" (John 16:8-9).

The word "reprove" in the KJV is "convict" in the modern sense of the word. It means that the Holy Spirit "convinces" you of sin and guilt. The Greek word is "elencho." It means "to convict, [convince], refute, usually with the suggestion of putting the convicted person to shame" ( Vine). "For the unbeliever is there viewed as being reproved for, or convicted of, his sinful state" (ibid.).

No one will ever fully realize that he is ruined, helpless, and desperately wicked, until the Holy Spirit convinces him of his sinful state. That is a great gift, actually. It is surprising that the Holy Spirit would come to obstinate, wicked people like you and me - to convince us of sin and then draw us to Christ! What a surprising gift the Holy Spirit is - and how we should thank God for Him! We could never escape punishment in Hell without Him! Without the gift of the Holy Spirit, we could never figure out how to be saved; we could never see our own sin; we could never find the way to the Saviour! The Holy Spirit is a surprising gift from God.

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!

V. The fifth surprising gift of God is the local church.

For young people, the local church really is a surprising blessing and a wonderful gift.

Loneliness! The very word "loneliness" has a hollow, dreadful sound to it! Loneliness is the number-one problem facing young people today according to a recent poll. And no matter what you do, it seems impossible to overcome the dark shadows of loneliness.

God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone" (Genesis 2:18). God does not want you to be lonely. That is one of the reasons God gave the institution of the church. The Bible calls the local church "the pillar and ground of the truth" (I Timothy 3:15).

Now, I'm not talking about the kind of church you may have gone to before. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm telling you about a New Testament local church - like this one. This kind of church can cure your loneliness. We are like a big family. We are all here every week for each other. We are a community - a family - a little city - within the big, dark city.

Loneliness can eat your heart out and destroy you! Why be lonely? Come home - to church! This church is God's surprising gift to you - to keep you from having a lonely, depressed life! Go for it! Come home to church next Sunday!

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!

VI. The sixth surprising gift of God is Jesus Christ, Himself.

"But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

We have many things to be thankful for at this time of year - at Thanksgiving. But the greatest thing to thank God for is the gift of Jesus, His Son.

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world: but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17).

God sent Jesus to die on the Cross to pay for your sins. God raised Jesus from the dead and drew Him back to Heaven, where He sits on God's right hand today. And Jesus is there for you now - if you will turn to Him. Jesus will forgive your sin! Jesus will save your soul!

What blessings God has given you! Life itself! The angels! The Bible! The Holy Spirit! The local church! The Son of God! Six surprising gifts from God! Six reasons to give thanks to Him!  I am sure you can think of many other things to add to this list of surprising gifts God has given you!  Take some time to think of more of His great blessings and gifts to you!  

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Could your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!
Count your blessings, Name them one by one,
Count your many blessings, See what God hath done.

("Count Your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name"

(Psalm 100:4).

Come back to church next Sunday and get even more blessings from God!!! Come to Jesus Christ, and your sins will be washed away in His Blood! Why be lonely? Come home - to church!  And come fully to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon: Psalm 100:1-5.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Come, Ye Thankful People, Come" by Henry Alford (1816-1871)/
"Count Your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1926).


THE OUTLINE OF

SIX SURPRISING GIFTS!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

"Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Psalm 100:4).

I.   The first surprising gift - life itself, Psalm 100:3-4; Isaiah 43:7;
Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 119:73.

II.  The second surprising gift - the angels, Genesis 16:7-12,
Acts 5:19-20; Daniel 6:22; Hebrews 1:13-14.

III. The third surprising gift - the Bible, II Timothy 3:16,
II Peter 1:19; Psalm 119:130, 99, 165, 51, 53, 2, 9-10, 11;
Acts 7:22; Psalm 119:165.

IV.  The fourth surprising gift - the Holy Spirit, John 16:13-14;
Jeremiah 31:3; Luke 13:24-25; John 16:8-9.

V.   The fifth surprising gift - the local church, Genesis 2:18;
I Timothy 3:15.

VI.  The sixth surprising gift - Jesus Christ, Himself,
Galatians 4:4-5; John 3:16-17; Psalm 100:4.