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THE MAN WHO FORGOT TO BE THANKFUL –
A THANKSGIVING SERMON

(SERMON #65 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, November 18, 2012

“Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him”
(Genesis 40:23).


The chief butler had offended the Pharaoh. He was put in prison, the same dungeon where Joseph was. Now Joseph was a Hebrew, accused of a crime he did not commit. But because the Lord was with him, the keeper of the prison had put all the prisoners under Joseph’s supervision. On his first night in prison the Egyptian butler had a dream. He asked Joseph what it meant. Joseph said he would explain the dream with the help of God. Then Joseph interpreted the butler’s dream, telling him he would be released and restored by Pharaoh. The butler promised to mention Joseph’s innocence to the Pharaoh if he was released. Three days later Joseph’s interpretation of the dream came true, and the chief butler was released and restored to his place in the Pharaoh’s court.

Joseph was now sure that he had a friend in the court who would speak to the Pharaoh, and tell him of his innocence. But weeks passed into months, and there was no word from the chief butler. The butler could not have completely forgotten Joseph. But he was doubtlessly afraid to appeal his case to Pharaoh. It might anger Pharaoh and get him put back in prison. Or maybe there was another reason. In any case the chief butler forgot Joseph. If Joseph had harmed the butler the man would not have forgotten him. But because Joseph had helped him, he quickly forgot. “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Genesis 40:23).

What a picture of ingratitude! How common it is for depraved mankind to be unthankful! The butler was a man who forgot to be thankful. That is an increasing characteristic of people in these evil days. The Apostle Paul said,

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (II Timothy 3:1-2).

“Disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy.” What a description of this generation in the “last days”! The chief butler pictures a great many people today, “yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him” (Genesis 40:23). This is a generation that is “unthankful” and “unholy.” There are three main areas where many young people forget to be thankful.

I. First, many are unthankful to their parents.

The Bible says, “Honour thy father and thy mother.” It says that two times in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16) and six times in the New Testament (Matthew 15:4; 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2). That commandment is given without any conditions. It doesn’t say, “Honour thy father and thy mother if they were good to you.” No, it simply says to honour them. When you see a crying baby taken up in its mother’s arms, does it remind you that your mother did that to you? Have you ever thought of what your mother did for you, changing your dirty diapers, watching over you, washing and ironing your clothes, feeding you your meals, praying for you, waiting up for you when you came in late, worrying and thinking about you as her precious treasure?

I thank God that my mother taught me to talk at six months old. I thank God that she read to me when I was sick so often as a little boy, with no television in those days. I can feel her hand on my forehead, and her kiss on my cheek even now, after she has been gone for many years. I thank God for my sweet mother every day. Do you? When was the last time you told her how much you love her?

Thaddeus Stevens was one of America’s most powerful statesmen during the Civil War. He was lame in one leg. His mother worked day and night to help her son get an education. When he became a successful lawyer he gave her a gold piece every week to put in the offering plate at the Baptist church she attended. To this day, every spring and summer you will find roses and other flowers growing by her grave. In his will Thaddeus Stevens left a large sum of money to keep flowers on his mother’s grave perpetually.

In a churchyard in Scotland is a gravestone erected by the great missionary Dr. David Livingstone, and his brothers and sisters. These words were inscribed on it,

To show the resting place of
   Neil Livingstone
And Agnes Hunter, his wife,
And to express the thankfulness to God
   of their children
For poor and pious [godly] parents.

Shakespeare sounded the depths of mortal sorrow in King Lear, where the aged king and father cries out, “Sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.” Unthankfulness is always a bad thing, but most ugly when it is displayed by a child to its parents. Shakespeare said,

Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous, when thou show’st thee in a child,
Than the sea-monster!

When was the last time you told your mother that you love her? When was the last time you thanked your father for raising you? Unthankfulness to parents is a wicked and cruel thing in children. “Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.”

II. Second, many are unthankful to friends and benefactors.

Jesus healed ten lepers and sent them to the priests to declare that they were cleansed. But only one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus. The Saviour said, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger” (Luke 17:17-18).

We remember injuries and insults, but how few of us remember to thank those who helped us. Having come through so many hardships and trials as a child, I was always surprised when someone helped me or encouraged me. This morning I give thanks to God for those who did so. I remember Dr. and Mrs. Henry M. McGowan, who first took me to a Baptist church, and who let me come night after night to their home, when I was a lost and lonely teenager. I remember Mr. Ray Phillips, who first taught me to speak in public. I remember Murphy and Lorna Lum, who made me feel welcome when I was the only white boy in a Chinese church. I remember Mrs. Gwen Devlin, who, after everyone was gone where I worked, encouraged me day after day to continue going to college at night, when I felt I couldn’t go on. I remember Mr. Gene Wilkerson, my friend for fifty years. What a comfort to know I could go to his apartment any night and sleep if I had nowhere else to go. A thought like that may seem strange to someone who has always had a place to sleep. But for a poor boy like me, it was a real comfort to have a friend like Mr. Wilkerson. I remember Dr. Timothy Lin. He was very hard on me at times, but without him I would be nothing today. I loved him with all my heart because he taught me nearly everything I know about the ministry. I remember my wife, who is always there, who always loves, who always helps, who always serves. I remember Dr. Cagan, the dearest and best friend I have ever had. I remember each of “the 39,” the people who sacrificed so we would not lose our church building. These, and others, are people that I consciously give thanks for often in my prayers. Have you ever made a list like that? Have you ever told people like that how thankful you are for them?

Being a poor boy, with few people to encourage or help me, I was so overcome with gratitude that I thanked people, like those I mentioned, repeatedly throughout my life. It has always been heartwarming to do so. It has always made me feel good to thank them. And I recommend that you do so as well! A good friend, and a true mentor, is worth the price of gold!

It was not the dagger of Brutus, but the ungrateful heart of Brutus, that killed Caesar. As Shakespeare put it,

For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquished him: then burst his mighty heart;
And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
Even at the base of Pompey’s statue,
Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
   – Julius Caesar, III, 2.

I have always been astonished and deeply saddened by those who “took” from people in our church – and then went away without saying a word of thanks. I am thinking of a leader in our church who was put through school, as was his wife, but walked away without a word of thanks, and split the church. I am thinking of a young man who was greatly helped by my mother, but walked away one night, and stole my mother’s wedding present, a set of silver knives and forks, and made her cry, because she thought of him as a second son. God help you never to be such a craven ingrate as that! I wonder how such people can consider themselves members of the human race! Despicable! Of such people the Apostle Paul said,

“When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).

“Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.” I must stop here for a moment and thank Dr. Clarence Macartney (1879-1957), a godly Presbyterian pastor, for the idea of this sermon, and for some of the illustrations. Dr. Macartney died in 1957.

III. Third, many are unthankful to God.

The Apostle Paul said that the Gentiles of the world became pagan because they failed to glorify God, and give thanks to Him. Of the Gentile nations he said,

“When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Unthankfulness is a sin against God. We often forget to thank God for the blessings He has given us. That is a sin. The Apostle Paul said, “In every thing give thanks” (I Thessalonians 5:18).

My mother was not converted until she was 80 years old. She had been sad and depressed about life, but all that changed when she finally came to Jesus and was converted. In my very last conversation with her, I saw how Christ had changed her heart. There she was in the hospital, having undergone a major operation. But she overflowed with thanksgiving to God, though she was facing death. We talked about her favorite president, Lincoln. We talked about her favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. She sang that song with me,

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” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

Then Mother said, “Robert, it really is surprising what God has done for us!” Though she was in the hospital facing death, God had given her a thankful heart for the many blessings He had given to us.

As I was writing this part of the sermon a woman phoned me worried about her daughter who had gone into sin. I read to her what I just said about my mother. I told her to give thanks that her daughter was still alive, that she could still pray for her, that she had many blessings in her own life, that the Apostle Paul could say, “In every thing give thanks” although he had gone through so many trials and hardships in his ministry.

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

The greatest gift God has given us is His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul had a vast vocabulary, but when He spoke of Jesus, his words failed him. All he could say was, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in a Romanian Communist prison for preaching the Gospel. Months of solitary confinement, years of physical torture, constant suffering from hunger and cold, the anguish of brainwashing and mental cruelty were experienced by Pastor Wurmbrand. How did he go through all that and still come out of it a victorious Christian? He said,

If the heart is cleansed by the love of Jesus Christ, if the heart loves Him, one can resist all tortures...If you love Christ as Mary did, who had Christ as a baby in her arms...then you can resist such tortures (Richard Wurmbrand, Th.D., Tortured for Christ, Living Sacrifice Books, 1998 edition, p. 38).

So, the question really boils down to this – do you love Christ? If you do, you can thank God for His Son no matter what trials come to you. But if you do not love Christ, then sooner or later life will present you with heartaches that will drain you of all hope.

I plead with you this morning to come to Jesus, trust Him, and be saved! In this world there really is no hope without Christ. But if you know Him, no matter what happens, you will be able to say with the Apostle, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” Real thanksgiving comes from the hearts of those who have experienced the love of Christ, who died on the Cross to pay for our sins and rose from the dead to give us life and hope that overcomes the world.

Please stand and sing hymn number three on your song sheet. It was my mother’s favorite hymn.

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.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
   Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
   And you will be singing as the days go by.
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.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
   Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
   Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
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.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
   Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
   Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
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).

(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

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write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Colossians 3:12-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Great is Thy Faithfulness” (by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1866-1960).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE MAN WHO FORGOT TO BE THANKFUL –
A THANKSGIVING SERMON

(SERMON #65 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him”
(Genesis 40:23).

(II Timothy 3:1-2)

I.   First, many are unthankful to their parents; Exodus 20:12;
Deuteronomy 5:16; Matthew 15:4; 19:19; Mark 7:10; 10:19;
Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:2.

II.  Second, many are unthankful to friends and benefactors,
Luke 17:17-18; Romans 1:21-22.

III. Third, many are unthankful to God, Romans 1:21;
I Thessalonians 5:18; II Corinthians 9:15.