The stories and illustrations mostly come from Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s Choosing Gratitude
Every now and again someone will post a meme saying that there are 365 times in the bible that God says “Do not be afraid” or “do not fear” one for each day of the year. Absolute nonsense sadly. It’s actually only 126 times! Sentiment is good God does want you to overcome fear and go in His strength.
The words around gratitude – grateful, thanks and giving thanksgiving appear nearly as much as do not be afraid – 106 times. There are so many Scriptures about being thankful – so it’s pretty obvious that one of the transitions that God makes in our hearts as we follow Jesus is gratitude!
We’re going to look at one passage that right at the end connects grace with gratitude!
We’ll get the context by reading the whole paragraph so it makes sense
2 Cor 4:1-15
Paul is describing his ministry
v1 By the mercy of God
v2 It is full of Integrity and sticking to Scripture – lots of people throwing out Scripture as our authority. Even in Paul’s time, people did that.
v5 Servant of Jesus – servanthood is so important. Christians serve one another and the broken world out there.
v7 Needs God’s power – we are jars of clay, so we need God’s power
v8-9 Fraught with trouble – if you became a Christian thinking it will give you an easy ride and parking spaces when you pray. Here Paul – afflicted, crushed, perplexed, but not despairing. Persecuted and struck down, but keeping on keeping on because…
v10-11 The troubles allow Christ’s life to shine through
v13-14 His faith sustains him in the mission – faith knowing that because God raised Jesus from the dead, everything is possible.
You can see he is longing to stand before Jesus with all his spiritual children “bring us with you into his presence”. What an amazing thing that will be on the last day to be surrounded by people whose lives you have affected and transformed with the Gospel.
v15 key verse for today
All for your sake – all for God’s sake
All for the glory of God
Key thing for this morning is that gratitude is the key for all of life and ministry that you do!
“so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase in gratitude”
Play of words in Greek there –
grace = charis
gratitude = eucharistain
Gratitude has grace as the root!
Gratitude flows from God’s grace
Oswald Chambers said the thing that awakens the deepest well of gratitude in a human being is that God has forgiven sin.
It’s interesting that one of the words for breaking bread used in many churches is eucharist – giving thanks. That most holy moment when we take bread and remember Christ’s body broken and drink wine, remembering Christ’s blood shed for us, we are giving thanks in the most profound way.
The gospel is incredible
We were born in a state of inescapable guilt – lawbreakers, under the condemnation of a holy God, attempting but unable through our own efforts to make ourselves worthy and acceptable to God, good enough to earn his favour.
Jesus rescues us from that hopeless situation with his undeserved grace. Jesus unlike us perfectly fulfilled the law on our behalf, died in our place as a perfect substitute, taking the judgement we deserved. We don’t need to jump through hoops or manufacture our own righteousness. In that spectacular event of the cross and resurrection, everything we need to live in an amazing relationship with our creator has been provided.
What Christ’ did is ours when we come to Christ
His death paid the sacrifice for our sins
His resurrection means that even the grave is not the end
Death replaced by life!
For by grace you have been saved through faith And it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God! Eph 2:8
Guilt is swallowed up by the gift of grace!
A moment ago you saw how gratitude has grace at it’s root linguistically. So does gift – charisma
Grace, gifts, gratitude they are inextricably linked and all flow from the root of grace!
Gratitude must flow from grace. What an amazing thing God has done!
Logically they flow – inescapable guilt is dealt with by undeserved grace, which results in unbridled gratitude.
The thing is to make it how you live – have a heart that’s as grateful to God as the abounding grace that he has poured into our lives.
That’s why we are church that passionately pursues God!
Christian gratitude is so much more than worldly gratitude – I thank my lucky stars! Thank you – needs a you to thank! James 1:17 reminds us that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights.
As Nancy DeMoss says in the super book Choosing Gratitude “Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard fought, grace infused, biblical lifestyle. And though there is a sense in which anyone can be thankful – for God has extended his common grace to all – the true glory and transforming power of gratitude are reserved for those who know and acknowledge the Giver of every good gift and who are recipients of His redeeming grace.”
Gratitude grows in humility
One of the fundamental qualities invariably found in a grateful person is humility. Gratitude is the overflow of a humble heart, just as surely as an ungrateful, complaining spirit flows out of a proud heart.
Proud people are wrapped up in themselves. They think much of themselves and little of others. If people or circumstances don’t please or suit them, they are prone to whine or become resentful. James 4 tells us “God opposes the proud.” The concept is that He stiff-arms them, He keeps them at a distance, He “sets Himself in battle array” against them.
But when we choose to humble ourselves, as we are exhorted in James 4, God draws near to us and pours His grace into our lives. His Spirit does a cleansing, purifying work in our hearts; gives us victory over the noisy, demanding tyrant of self; and enables us to be thankful people, even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Humble people are wrapped up in Christ. A humble person thinks much of God and others, and little–if at all–of himself. He recognizes that anything he has is better than he deserves. He does not feel anyone owes him anything. He does not feel entitled to have more, or for life to be easy, or for everyone to love him and treat him well. He is grateful for the least little kindness that is extended to him, knowing it is more than he deserves.
Pride reduces gratitude
Rom 1 tells us about the worldview outside of Christ. v21 For although they knew God, they did not honour him or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened.
A lack of gratitude towards the goodness of God is the root of futility
Conversely the gratitude is the lamp of the soul! it makes life lighter and fills us with even more joy.
John Piper puts it like this In other words if your heart does not respond to God with gratitude, your mind with be darkened. You surrender yourself to the blinding work of Satan. Gratitude is the guardian of the lamp of the soul. If the guardian dies, the lamp goes out. Guard yourselves with gratitude!
Gratitude is the guardian of the soul
Grateful people aren’t made in a moment, it’s the fruit of a thousand choices. It’s the godly habit that over time becomes a new muscle in our spiritual make-up. Although it does nothing to make us more loved and accepted by God, it is a reliable measure of where your heart is at.
In the natural we can be lumped into one of two mutually exclusive categories in so many ways.
Givers or takers, Type A or Type B, free spirits or list makers, optimist or pessimist and whiners or worshippers.
Fasten your seatbelts – because this next bit caused a stir last time I preached it! “Is he having a go at us?” – that’s the Spirit nudging you to a better life! Don’t be condemned, put sin to death by the power of the Spirit. Ready. Here goes.
Ingratitude leads to grumbling If you are prone to grumbling and moaning, your are revealing your heart more than you perhaps want!
John Ortberg calls grumbling the “Quintessential mindset of the life without God”
Let me tell you a story from the book Choosing Gratitude
A church group from New Bern, North Carolina, had traveled to the Caribbean on a mission trip. As you probably know, the conditions at the posh, luxury resorts are a far cry from the impoverished way of life endured by many others on these tropical islands. During this particular ministry trip, their host took them to visit a leper colony on the island of Tobago. And while there, they held a worship service in the campus chapel. As you can imagine, the sight of emaciated lepers filing into their seats on the bare pews bore deeply into the minds and memories of each visitor to this unaccustomed scene. But no memory left its mark like this one: When the pastor announced, “We have time for one more hymn. Does anyone have a favorite?” he noticed a lone patient seated awkwardly on the back row, facing away from the front. At this final call for hymn requests, with great effort, the woman slowly turned her body in the pastor’s direction. “Body” would perhaps be a generous description of what remained of hers. No nose. No lips. Just bare teeth, askew within a chalky skull. She raised her bony nub of an arm (no hand) to see if she might be called on to appeal for her favorite song to be sung. Her teeth moved to the croaky rhythm of her voice as she said, “Could we sing ‘Count Your Many Blessings’?”
The pastor stumbled out of the pulpit, out the door, and into the adjoining yard, tears of holy conviction raining down his face. One of the traveling party rushed to fill his place, beginning to sing the familiar song in this unfamiliar place, arguably the most “unblessed” of any spot in the universe. A friend hustled outside, put his arm around the sobbing pastor, and consolingly said, “I’ll bet you’ll never be able to sing that song again, will you?” “Yeah, I’ll sing it,” the pastor answered, “but never the same way, ever again.” Leave it to a grotesquely deformed leper to remind us that grateful people are characterized by grateful words, while ungrateful people are given to griping, complaining, murmuring, whining. Some grumble at why God put thorns on roses, while others wisely notice–with awe and gratitude–that God has put roses among thorns. Hear what people are saying when they talk about the everyday events of their lives, and you’ll see in an instant the difference between gratitude and ingratitude.
Gratitude happens even in imperfection
We have a Great God and experience the Grace of God.
Live in the good of those two facts, in His presence in imperfect circumstances and with imperfect people and be profoundly thankful!
If you wait for perfect people and perfect circumstances before being grateful, you will be waiting a long time!
There’s a funny, rude scene in When Harry met Sally where a lady in a restaurant says “I’ll have what she is having!” – grateful people exude joy and I want to be like ’em!
Gratitude and it’s evil twin ingratitude are very contagious. I know which contagion I want to spread
The old-time hymn writer Fanny Crosby had that choice to make. I’m sure when she learned that her sightless world was the result of a doctor’s foolish mistake, she was forced to deal with wondering “what might have been.” The hot compresses her physician had employed to cure her eye infection at six weeks of age had only succeeded in scarring sensitive tissue. His act had rendered her permanently blind.
Few of us know what it’s like not to see–not being able to describe the color yellow, or distinguish a loved one’s face in the crowd, or navigate a city block or street crossing simply by spotting obstacles and watching the traffic. What if even the simplest tasks of pouring your breakfast cereal, or counting change, or sorting the laundry required the intently focused attention of your hearing and touch? We forget to be thankful for the blessing of sight.
Yet Fanny Crosby, writer of more than eight thousand hymns, enough to fill fifteen complete hymnals stacked one on top of the other, enough to cause her publishers to resort to ascribing to her multiple pen names to make her output seem more believable, saw things another way. She was thankful for the blessing of blindness. At eight years of age, she composed this bit of verse, a poem not all that mature in grammar perhaps, but likely more mature than some of us ever become, even in old age:
Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see, I am resolved that in this world contented I will be, How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t, So weep or sigh because I’m blind, I cannot–nor I won’t.
Imagine being able to say, as Fanny Crosby did, “I could not have written thousands of hymns if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.” As she wrote in her autobiography, “It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation” (italics added). “I thank Him.” For blindness.
Gratitude comes from the grace of God in our lives
Gratitude grows in humility
Gratitude is the guardian of the soul
Gratitude happens even in imperfection
Altitude set by your attitude, and your attitude is set by gratitude!
Prayer – “always giving thanks”
Gift from granny – thanks granny, you are amazing granny, give me a hug granny!
Interactions with others – if you have grace in your life, let it overflow in gratitude to others too!
Bridget Flowers story
Challenge – gratitude letter – write a note this week to someone who has impacted your life – a friend, mentor. Make it a substantial letter, say 300 words! Work on it to make it sing!
2 rules though
1. Not to someone who will benefit you financially
2. Not someone you fancy!
Someone who will be surprised by it
William Stidger was a middle-aged pastor, struggling like so many others through the heavy, leaden days of the Great Depression. Everywhere around him were the forlorn looks and downtrodden dispositions of men and women aching for the basics–a job, a decent meal, an ounce of security. It couldn’t have been easy pastoring in days like that (not that it’s easy pastoring in any generation). But one day while sitting around a table with a group of friends who were bemoaning the dire straits people found themselves in–even provoking some to consider taking their own lives–William made up his mind that he would choose to be thankful. Thankful for God, for faith, and for the people in his life. Oddly, the first person who crept into his thoughts was an English teacher, the one who had first inspired in him a love of literature and poetry, a passion that had certainly played a significant role in preparing him for his calling as a pastor and writer. He sat down that evening and composed a simple letter of thanks to her, dropping it off for posting the next morning. Within only a few days’ time, he received by return mail a feebly scrawled note from this very teacher. It started off, “My dear Willy,”–he hadn’t been called by that name in years–“ I can’t tell you how much your note meant to me. I am in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, like the last leaf of autumn lingering behind. “You’ll be interested to know,” her letter continued, “that I taught in school for more than fifty years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a blue, cold morning, and it cheered me as nothing has done in many years.” Needless to say, such eloquent sentiments brought a lightness into William Stidger’s chest that hadn’t been there the day before–the kind of carefree joy that had seemed almost nonexistent since the stock market crashed and took everything else with it. Or so it appeared. Then, motivated and energized by this response to his expression of gratitude (thankfulness is invigorating to recipients and givers alike!), he thought of someone else, a kindly old bishop who was now retired and whose wife had passed away in recent months. He was a man who had often given William counsel and good guidance over the years, especially early in William’s ministry. Perhaps now was a good time to say thanks. Again, only a couple of days passed between one note and another, as William’s thoughtful words inspired an immediate and grateful reply. The elderly bishop, writing in response, said, “Your letter was so beautiful, so real, that as I sat reading it in my study, tears fell from my eyes, tears of gratitude. Before I realized what I was doing, I rose from my chair and called my wife’s name to share it with her, forgetting she was gone. “You’ll never know how much your letter has warmed my spirit. I have been walking around in the glow of your letter all day long.”
If you do it, you will be more joyful than if you don’t do it this week!
Buy the book Choosing gratitude – very helpful! A link is on the gateway church blog
Remember what Kees said – if you don’t put this into practice within 24 hours you will have forgotten 50%