IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Something Old, Something New, Something Bold, Something True

Date: Nov. 22, 2020

Author: Jimmy Mei

Psalm 69:29-32, Colossians 3:15-17

Key Verse: Colossians 3:15

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Introduction and Welcome

What better way to start Thanksgiving off than by expressing thanks? So, first, I want to thank God for His goodness. I know I am not worthy to be giving a message, and I only hope you will hear God speaking to you through me today. Second, thank you all for being here and for inviting me to worship together this Thanksgiving season. It has given me a valuable opportunity to slow down, reflect on God’s word, and re-examine God’s leading and direction for my life here in Los Angeles. Finally, I want to acknowledge that this year has not been an easy year, not just for myself, for all everyone. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear updates about the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the world and disproportionately, across the United States, affecting millions of people both directly through illness and indirectly by disruption of our daily lives. Medical issues themselves are really just the tip of a deep iceberg; other areas that have been affected include revealing weaknesses in supply chains, forcing workplace cultures to change, impeding the education system, and preventing people from being with each other when we need each other the most – and that’s before adding in the issues of race, growing social divisions, and political dramas occurring concurrently. Yet despite all this, I want us to be reminded of why and how we can still maintain an attitude of gratitude, and I want to do that by sharing with you something old, something new, something bold, and something true. Let’s pray before we begin.

You might be wondering why the title of my message sounds so familiar; it’s actually a play on an old wedding adage, advising brides to wear “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” on their wedding day. I clearly co-opted it and modified it for my own purposes, but obviously, I was thinking about my marriage when I was meditating on God’s word. As I thought about Thanksgiving this year, I thought about the dilemma of delivering a message about giving thanks during such difficult times. Therefore, I started to clarify my thoughts by going through a basic exercise: list the first things that comes to my mind when I think about what I’m thankful for, and those are my 7-month old daughter Zoey and my wife, Becky, who I met when I was 11. God has blessed me with many things in my life but my family is by far and away what I am most thankful for. When I think about those two, I think about the day that Becky and I made a commitment to make today a possibility: the day that Pastor Bob married us and the day that Becky and I declared that we were two that would become one, to leave our households to start our own family. I thought about all the struggle, preparation, and all the life experiences that God lead the both of us through to get to this point; I thought about our wedding preparation bible studies and I remembered God’s words to us through Colossians 3:18-19 (NIV): “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” Now that I’m a father, I’m a big fan of the next verse, Colossians 3:20 (NIV), as well, which says “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord,” but that’s outside the scope of today’s message. But since I was thinking of about weddings, that old wedding saying came to mind and God moved to also share 4 things with you now: something old, something new, something bold, something true.

Something New

Now, I know I listed ‘something old’ first, but in all honesty, I came across the ‘something new’ first, so that’s what I will start with. I have for you, “something new” [a word from the New Testament]; it immediately preceded the Colossians 3:18-19 (NIV) passage I just mentioned in relation to my wedding. The verses of thanksgiving I chose from the New testament come from Colossians 3:15-17 (NIV), which say, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

The first part of Colossians 3:15 (“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…”) first struck a chord with me because it is very similar to one of my favorite verses in the Bible, Philippians 4:7 (NIV), “But the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The idea of peace and where it resides [in our hearts] is actually very close to the idea of thanksgiving. These verses [from Colossians 3:15 and Philippians 4:7] show us that peace and thankfulness are both internal matters which means that the world around you and your situation may be very chaotic and you may even be in deep suffering, but that doesn’t mean you cannot concurrently also be at peace and express thanks. In fact, you guys studied something similar last week, during Dan’s message, specifically reminding me of 2 Corinthians 6:10a (NIV): that as Christians, we are “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing…” Again, this means that our external circumstances does not have to govern what we hold in our hearts.

For example, in my medical practice, I have experienced the full spectrum of patients’ attitudes. I knew some who had poor prognoses and on the brink of death, yet they were happy, were accepting, and were ready, so I could see that they felt peace and consequently, were thankful for the care they received even though they could not be healed. Others had very good prognoses, but expressed ungratefulness and a lack of appreciation for their care that, giving the staff a hard time. The point here being that their situations did not match with what they felt in their hearts.

Colossians 3:15 (NIV) finishes with, “since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful.” It is a very straightforward reminder that Paul gives here. If you ever have to question, should I be thankful or is there even anything to be thankful for, Paul gives you your answer here: And be thankful. Not, give thanks when God puts you in a position of glory; not, give thanks when you gain material wealth; not, give thanks when God gives you a positive answer to your prayers. And be thankful, period, full stop. When my parents divorced, he wanted me to be thankful; when my girlfriend broke up with me, he wanted me to be thankful; when I didn’t get into the school or get the job I wanted, he wanted me to be thankful; when my grandpas passed away, he wanted me to be thankful. Perhaps, if my parents didn’t separate, I wouldn’t have had the freedom to go to church and meet my spiritual family; if my girlfriend didn’t break up with me, maybe I wouldn’t be married and have Zoey right now; if I went with my own plan for school and job, I wouldn’t be in my current position with supportive colleagues and a good work-life balance; when my grandpas passed away, I took the time to appreciate their lives and was reminded of the short time that we have on Earth, so it renewed my urgency to carry out God’s purpose and mission while I still can. I’m not saying that this is easy to do; in fact, I admit that it is very hard to do in the midst of the situation; I definitely do not remember being all that thankful during those experiences. But, I realized that based on God’s word, that if I can think of nothing to be thankful for, I should be thankful for God’s plan and thankful that he is good; I can be thankful that I can rely on the fact that he is in control, so nothing, no matter how bad I think my situation is, is outside of God’s plan or God’s control.

The next 2 verses expound on how we express our thanks; Colossians 3:16-17 (NIV): Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Here, we see that giving thanks is not merely reciting a list of blessings that God has given us; rather, we live our thanksgiving to God every moment of every day. When you go out into the world and identify as a Christian, whether you know it or not [or whether it is fair or not], people will draw conclusions on Christians and Christianity based on your actions. Therefore, we must do our best to remember to do everything in thankfulness to reflect God’s character and to glorify Him who gave you everything. Again, like Dan said last week, it is probably impossible to do something ALL the time, but this can serve as a litmus test of sorts; if you search your heart and cannot find anything to thank God for, perhaps it is time for more reflection and deeper meditation on your life and on God’s word. Also, though our lives should automatically reflect our thanks to God, there’s nothing wrong with verbally expressing your thanks as well and since psalms is one example that was listed in Colossians 3:16 (NIV), I thought it only appropriate that I choose a psalm for this message as well.

Something Old

Moving on to the next thanksgiving topic I want to share with you, here is your “something old” [a word from the Old Testament]. I was drawn to Psalm 69:29-32 because it is very direct; starting at Psalm 69:29 (NLT), “I am suffering and in pain. Rescue me, O God, by your saving power.” Immediately, we already see that there is a need and a cry for help. Regardless of who you are, the human experience involves suffering; no one is really immune to it. Illnesses don’t see socioeconomic class; Steve Jobs, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alex Trebek all succumbed to cancer [and the same cancer, at that]. It doesn’t have to be physical; it can be mental or spiritual as well. Even Justin Bieber, in his recent single, sings about how even though he had everything, he was so lonely. Sure, there are first world problems and there are third world problems, but the underlying truth is that no one can escape having problems. Therefore, everybody needs salvation and only God has the power to save us.

Yet, despite the generally bad connotation that suffering evokes, I believe it actually helps us to know how to truly be thankful. In this world, when we are thankful, it is usually when we receive something good that was unexpected or when something that is desired was uncertain becomes certain in positive manner. For example, when someone gives us a gift or practices a random act of kindness for us, that is something unexpected and good. Or when we work hard to pass an exam and then take it and the results come back with a good outcome, that is something uncertain that became certain in a good way. But both of these situations involve some sort of positive change in circumstance. But earlier, I said that one thing that doesn’t change, and that is that you will encounter suffering. Therefore, if I am only thankful in situations where my suffering will lessen or where my situation will improve, then my thanksgiving, and consequently, the peace in my heart is highly dependent on external events that I cannot completely control. The secret, then, lies in how to direct our thanks, and in order to combat a fact [that we will suffer], which is unchanging, we must also, then, be thankful for someone who is unchanging, and that someone is God. Be thankful that God is good; this is a fact and it never changes. Therefore, when God is in your heart, your peace and thanksgiving will not change, regardless of what you are currently going through.

Once you can accept that truth, Psalm 69:30-32 (NLT) continues, “Then I will praise God’s name with singing, and I will honor him with thanksgiving. For this will please the LORD more than sacrificing cattle, more than presenting a bull with its horns and hooves. The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.”A dark and foreboding psalm became light and hopeful.

Something Bold

Embedded within these words in Psalm 69:29-32 (NLT) are bold ideas. First, as already discussed, suffering helps us to be thankful because in suffering, we realize the need salvation, found in God, to whom we then express our thanks. The second bold idea is that God prefers our thanks more than our sacrifice. This may or may not seem bold to you based on your personal mindset; in a different sense, the bold [but false] idea, really, is that we think we can really give God anything of value. Without the Creator God, we would not even exist; anything we have, He created and He gave to us. How then, can any of our sacrifices be worth anything to God, who owns all things? That is why God, instead, is more pleased when you praise him and thank him. It’s definitely a little different than what we’re usually conditioned to do, right? If I go to work and do my job, I expect [and rightly so] due and fair compensation; if all I get is a thanks, I’m not happy because a simple thanks doesn’t put food on the table. But God is not us; God is the Creator and owns all things. Therefore, we should not be so bold as to presume that we can “give” anything; what we CAN do, is thank him.

Another thing people try to do when they suffer is bargain with God. I can’t begin to list all the times that I prayed to God that if he would only give me this one thing I really want right now, I would do something like write my testimony, or go fishing, or read the Bible more in return. Again, if we really knew our place before God, we would know better than to think that we are in any position to bargain. Rather, it would be more useful to acknowledge God, thank him, and know his peace. Then, continue forward in life and trust God to guide you through.

The third common thing that people try to do is to try to ‘pay’ for their sins, which is not something that we can even do. In my time as a Christian, I’ve had many conversations with many people and it is a very common experience to feel guilty for our sins – to feel that we are completely worthless, underserving and deserve punishment – and if God won’t punish me, I’ll punish myself and I’ll set limits on myself and I might even hurt myself because I feel so terrible about the things I have done. But that is NOT what God wants; rather, God wants us to give thanks to him. If you feel guilty about your sins, thank him for helping you to see and acknowledge that, thank him for calling you to live a new life, thank him for Jesus, who takes the burden of your sins upon himself and had already paid for your sins. In fact, when it comes time for you to be judged, Jesus stands by your side and advocates for you when the devil stands there, accusing you of, nay, listing all the wrongs that you have done in your life. What else can we do? [I think you guys all know the answer by now] We can only stand in awe of Him and thank Him.

In summary, God is more pleased with our thanksgiving than he is with our sacrificing, bargaining, or attempting to pay.

Something True

That brings us to the fourth and final thing I want you to think about this Thanksgiving and that is ‘something true.’ The truth I want to share with you gets back to the true reason why we give thanks: God wants us to worship him and when we give thanks to God, we are actually performing an act of worship. The Bible frequently equates giving thanks with praising God, so when we express our thanks to God, we are telling God how great we think he is; we are in active worship of God, knowingly or unknowingly, when we thank him. And this is the kind of worship that God wants and desires from us; in fact, Psalm 69:30 (NLT), says that “… and I will honor him with thanksgiving.” We don’t have to be in a specific place like a church or have to wait until a certain time like Sunday worship service or Thanksgiving time to give thanks. In fact, we shouldn’t be waiting for a specific time or place to worship God; we should always be giving glory to him. To bring it back and connect it with our New Testament passage, Colossians 3:17 (NIV) says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Our entire life should be a testimony of thanksgiving to what God has done for us; our daily decisions reflect that we trust God entirely with our lives’ direction. Our attitude reflects a conscious acknowledge of the blessings we already have and our vision should involve God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. People will observe how we carry ourselves, so if our lives don’t reflect a thanksgiving to God, why would non-believers have any reason to believe that they should ever thank God either?

Something for You

So as we conclude this message and time of worship together, I challenge you guys to worship God personally afterwards by giving him thanks for these 4 things: thank God for something old – an event or blessing that God has already done for you or given to you (it could be something that changed your life and that you can’t imagine your life without this or it could be small details that perhaps others would overlook, but that you really value); thank God for something new – a new goal or a new direction in life – that God put into your heart that you feel like he’s leading you toward (this gives us hope and a purpose as we do God’s work); thank God for something bold – for something God had in mind for you that you thought was risky but you trusted in him to lead you through and you followed through with it (this helps us remember the times that we learned how to really depend on God and reminds that he is the ones who gives us the wisdom and strength to accomplish all things, not by our own strength alone); and thank God for something true – and what’s more true than his Word? Thank God for that one verse or passage or truth about who God is and what God does that you hold on to in times of doubt and struggle, ultimately remembering that Jesus IS the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Therefore, thank God for Jesus Christ, who saves us and in whose name we do all things in, so that we may thank and thereby worship, the Father through him. No need to wait for Thanksgiving or even Sundays to thank and worship God; you can worship God every moment of every day by just being thankful.

I’ll finish by sharing with you that one of the things that I’ve been most thankful for recently and that is the fact that God’s blessing of fatherhood to me has helped me to fully appreciate how amazing it is that we are considered “children of God.” This is a phrase that gets used a lot and that I’ve heard a lot during my time as a Christian, but was truly unaware of what it meant until now. Remember when I said that God prefers our thanksgiving over sacrifices? Well, I do a lot of things for Zoey that she doesn’t even realize or consciously appreciate yet; she doesn’t give me anything or sacrifice anything, yet, I’m not mad about that because I do not expect or want that from her. A look, a smile, a hug, any sort of acknowledgement is enough to fill my heart with joy. Perhaps that’s how God’s love is for us; despite how old and mature and wise we think ourselves to be, we are still children who are dependent on God for all things. If I, an imperfect man with many flaws, can love my daughter, Zoey, as much as I do, then how is amazing, how great, how deep, how vast is God’s love for me? Thank God that he treats us as his children because that means he will never stop loving us and will always protect us and only wants good things for us. And that is something that I will always hold onto in my heart and be thankful for. I hope God reveals more of who he is to you as well when you meditate on what is the something old, something new, something bold, and something true that you can thank God for.  

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