I know you all came here this morning, expecting a nice Thanksgiving sermon – but our New Testament Lesson has you worried that I am wading into the controversy over speaking in tongues, instead. Do not be alarmed.
Yes – Paul is telling the Corinthian Christians here that the gift of tongues is useful for praying and worshipping God – but only God benefits unless there is an interpretation. Neither the person with the gift nor anyone else around that person gets anything from it, otherwise.
But this is a nice Thanksgiving sermon. Let’s look at verses 16 and 17 again: If you are praising God with your spirit (in tongues), how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.
God commands us to praise Him – as well as worship Him. We talked about that a couple of Sundays ago: worship is telling God how great He is and how much we appreciate Him. Praise is telling others how great God is and how much we appreciate Him. We all like to be told to our faces that we did a good job – but how much more we like to hear from others that they were told about the good job we did.
In this passage, Paul warns the Corinthians that people who don’t understand what is being said cannot say “Amen” – that is, join in the thanksgiving to God. Their praise and thanksgiving may be perfectly fine – but no one else benefits from hearing it unless they can understand it.
We can add to that: no one else benefits from our praise and thanksgiving unless they can hear it.
How many times do we experience something that is clearly a blessing from God – a sign of God’s grace – but we keep it to ourselves. Or we understate it?
Good thing the baby’s fever broke!
Thank goodness the car didn’t stall until I pulled in the driveway!
And the one that probably galls God more than any other – I know it does me:
Boy, were we lucky that my spouse was already at the hospital when he or she had the heart attack!
Does that really sound like luck to you? Or does it sound like the God of the Universe was working everything together for our good – as Romans 8 teaches us?
In our hearts and our minds, we may give God the credit for all of His works of Providence and mercy – but do we do it publicly? Do we do it so others can hear? Do we do it so others may grow in their faith – or find their faith?
Why do we so often keep our worship of God to ourselves? Why is our praise so faint?
The writer of Psalm 95 wrote “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.”
Shout aloud. Variations on that expression are found 42 times in the Hebrew Bible – and not surprisingly, mostly in the Psalms. We are not supposed to keep quiet about what God has done for us. We are supposed to proclaim it – so that others can hear and see and believe.
Sometime in Advent – which begins in two weeks – we will probably read the beginning of Isaiah 40, which includes this verse: You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
Diane has been methodically clearing out stuff from our attic lately.
She has found all kinds of treasures that we had forgotten were there – including this bag full of evangelistic booklets. I don’t remember where they came from or what we were planning to do with them – but it had something to do with giving them to people so they would start thinking about their need for a relationship with God.
They are well-written, professionally printed, and easy to distribute. You can leave them on benches at bus stops or on the counter at the post office or next to the sink in public restrooms. Someone may read one and come to faith.
But our God is a God of relationship – and stealth evangelism has limited results. Personal sharing of faith is much more effective – and that can begin by giving credit where credit is due:
“Thank God, the baby’s fever broke!”
Or, “What a blessing – the car didn’t stall until I pulled into the driveway!”
Or, “I could see God’s hand at work when my spouse was had the heart attack after we got to the hospital.”
Do you hear the difference? You are witnessing to others about the power of God, His mercy, His provision, His grace – and His personal involvement in the everyday business of people’s lives.
Your praise for God can break up the hard soil of people’s hearts – so the seeds of the Gospel can take root and grow. You may not even need a booklet to hand to them – they may come to you and ask about this God you keep praising in their presence.
We have someone [here] at Rock Hill who has raised praising God to an art form. It seems effortless for her – because it is. Praising God so that others hear about our God has become part of who she is – so it just flows.
Don’t be intimidated by that – be inspired. Make a conscious decision to say, “Thank God,” instead of “Thank goodness.” First, to yourself – then, to others. Then you can move on to banish the words “luck” and “lucky” from your vocabulary – and replace them with “blessing” and “blessed.” As you become more comfortable, you will find other ways to express your gratitude to God for all His blessings to you – and to let others know that God deserves the credit in their lives, too.