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November 19, 2017 Gratitude

 

 

Our scripture reading is Luke 17:11-19. READ. PRAY.

Many years ago a devout king was disturbed by what he perceived to be the ingratitude of his royal court.  In this particular kingdom, the royal court lived right next to the king’s palace and, by tradition, would come to the palace each weekday and share all three meals with the king and his family.

He prepared a large banquet for them. When the king and his royal guests were seated, by prearrangement, a beggar shuffled into the hall, sat down at the king's table, and gorged himself with food. Without saying a word, he then left the room. The guests were furious and asked permission to seize the tramp and tear him limb from limb for his ingratitude. 

The king replied, "That beggar has done only once to an earthly king what each of you does three times each day to God. You sit there at the table and eat until you are satisfied. Then you walk away without recognizing God, or expressing one word of thanks to Him."

 

Samuel Leibowitz, a famous criminal lawyer who practiced law from the late 1920’s to 1954 when he became a judge, saved 78 men from the electric chair. Not one ever did bother to thank him.

 

We just took a quick journey from the first century to the middle ages to the 20th century and we noted that these three groups of people, the ten lepers, a king’s royal court, and 78 accused and liable to the death penalty, had something in common. What was it? Ingratitude.

 

Jonathan Edwards, the great American theologian from the 18th century, understood that gratitude was one of two foundational virtues, the other being love, by which everything else good flows. If he is right then we should cultivate it and live in it and see what sort of a difference it makes in our lives.

 

From our passage in Luke it is clear from Jesus’s remarks to the leper that he expected a revealing of gratitude on the part of the other nine lepers and it was abnormal that they did not express it. In other words, it was wrong for them not to express gratitude to Jesus.  Before we look into the goodness of gratitude we should crystal clear that ingratitude is a sin. Turn to Romans 1:18-21. READ. Here we see that God is angry with those who suppress the truth and that His power and nature can be seen in creation itself.  Those who turn away from God, according to this passage, really know who He is but, note verse 21, they do not honor Him or give Him thanks. You see, the two great duties of man are to honor God and to give Him thanks.

 

It is evident, then, that to not honor Him is a sin and to not give thanks is a sin.

 

2 Tim  3:2, in describing the last days, says this: “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,”

 

Ungratefulness is a sin. Let us avoid it with all the power that the Lord has given to us in Christ. Both positive reinforcement and the awareness of negative consequences are motivations to do what is good for us to do. But, this morning, I wish to focus on the great benefits of gratitude, though we could just as easily demonstrate the destructive effects of ingratitude. They will only be briefly mentioned.

 

I will ask and answer three questions this morning: What causes us to be grateful? To whom should we be grateful? And, What benefits are there to being grateful?

 

 

[I] What is the source of gratitude? What causes us to be grateful? It is a right estimation of what is due to us both from God and from men. What is that estimation? It is that we are sinners, rebels against a holy and good God, and we do NOT deserve any benefits from Him, not even life. We forfeited the right of life when we began to sin against Him and then reaffirmed that forfeiture when we continued to sin against Him.

 

We deserve nothing from Him except punishment. But, if we are Christians, He has had mercy upon us. This mercy from God and all the other benefits that we receive from Him, which are countless, cause gratitude to rise in our hearts because we realize we ought not to receive either mercy or endowments of which we have many.

 

It is the same with the people in our lives. No one owes us anything. Because of the way we are: fallen, prone to think of ourselves above others, we do not deserve the good things that we receive from others. When we realize that we do not deserve what we get from others, we become grateful for what we do receive.

 

This is why people that come from humble upbringings are more grateful than the wealthy for what they receive. The one that comes from meager means is used to not receiving what they wish so that when they do receive something they are more often grateful because of the lack of expectation. The wealthy are used to receiving what they want and expect that to continue; therefore, they are more often ungrateful for what they receive.

 

[Illus] A young man sits in his bedroom shortly after waking up. It’s his birthday. He is 14 today. And he is dreading this day. His family has not treated him well. His father and mother were both on drugs through much of his childhood and he got very little attention.  There seemed to be no love in his house. He wished that he could have a normal family life like other kids, but he had given up on that hope. He had three older sisters: Raven (18), Shawna (16), and Jasmine (15). They were mean to him, always playing pranks which were sometimes cruel. His mom and dad were finally off drugs and he was happy for that.

He did not know what to expect today. Last year no one from his family even wished him a happy birthday. But the year before that he did get a present from his parents, but his sisters birthday gift was that they held him down and took turns pinching him hard for a solid ten minutes so that he had black and blue marks and they smeared his hair with sour cream.

 

He just wanted to leave the house and go to his friend Zach’s house and come back when everyone was in bed already. But he could hear people downstairs already. He started sneaking out of the house. He opened his bedroom window, hung off the window sill, and dropped to the lawn. As he was making his way to the sidewalk he heard Shawna say, “Hey, Cory is getting away!” Two of the girls ran out and grabbed him. “Hey, Cory, it’s your birthday! You can’t leave. They brought him back to the house. As soon as he walked in the door Jasmine hit him in the face with a banana cream pie and Shawna kicked him in the groin.

 

Dad yelled out, “Shawna, I told you no more pranks!” Cory fell to the ground in pain. After he recovered. Shawna apologized to him. “Cory, today is the last day we are going to prank you. I felt like I needed to make it a memorable one, but I shouldn’t have done it.” “What do you mean, the last day?” Cory asked. “You’ll see,” she replied.

 

Dad spoke up. “Cory, we’re sorry we missed your birthday last year. We have no excuse for that. We want to make it up to you this year by giving you two presents.” “Wow,” thought Cory. Two presents? He had never gotten two presents before, ever.

 

His mom came out from the kitchen with a birthday cake and put it on the dining room table. “Happy birthday son!” she said as she gave him a kiss. “Before we sing ‘Happy Birthday’ we want to give you your presents. Come with us to the garage.” They all walked to the garage and as Cory opened the door there was a 1996 Cobra Mustang. It was a little beat up and he saw that the mileage was high but, hey, it was his own car! He could hardly believe it.

 

After looking at it and admiring it for a time, they all went back into the house and sat in the living room. His dad spoke first, “Son, your second present is a pledge.” His dad held a piece of parchment in his hand. You didn’t know this but your mom and I have been going to a counselor and we have come to realize how much we have failed you as parents. We are asking you to forgive us. We know we are late in coming to this realization, but we still have time to live right as a family, even Raven.”

 

Raven chimed in, “I’m not going anywhere for a while. I can’t afford it.” Then she and her sisters apologized to Cory, too. Dad handed him the parchment. He looked at it. All it said, in calligraphy, was “We pledge to love you and live in harmony as long as we live.” But that’s all it needed to say.

Then his sisters handed him a parchment. It said, “We pledge to love you and not prank you as long as we live.” It was signed by all three of his sisters. He started to cry. His oldest sister wiped away his tear. “We really mean it,” she said.

 

As good as the Mustang was, this was better by far!

 

In the weeks and months ahead he was a most grateful young man. You could see it in his disposition and in his eyes. His friend Zach noticed it.  He was grateful because he neither expected what he received nor did he think he deserved it.

 

You see, our undeservedness will engender gratitude. Do you see yourself as deserving or undeserving? It makes a great difference. Do you think God owes you anything? If you do, you are greatly mistaken. Do you think other people owe you anything? (I am not talking about money. People may owe you money. I am talking about non-material things.) If you do, you are greatly mistaken.

 

[II] To whom should we be grateful?

[A] Because we receive so much more than we deserve we should be grateful for our nation. There are many things wrong with our nation. It has abandoned the Living God for the ideas and desires of men contrary to God. Despite this, God is still blessing our country because he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. he has blessed our nation with material blessings: the abundance of food, abundance of water, plentifulness in technology, the best medical care on the planet, wealth in many ways – the average American makes more in one week than many people make in one year in other countries.

 

You could have been born in one of those other countries. But you are here experiencing the plenty, the wealth of a country that is also blessed with rivers and lakes and green hills and forests. Our blessings are overflowing!  No other nation on earth has been blessed as much as our nation.

 

We do not deserve to be here. We deserve to be in the most hostile environment on earth. Some desert without water. Or, some frigid mountaintop without proper clothing or heating. Truth be told, even if we were in one of those places we would have more than we deserve because we would at least be alive. But, we aren’t in those places. We are in America. Therefore we should be grateful for our nation.

 

[B] Because we receive so much more than we deserve we should be grateful for the church. The Lord, by His grace, has brought about great insight and an unveiling of rich biblical truths to the church in the Western world.

 

Any one of us could still be in the darkness of the Roman Catholic church. Some of us grew up in that system and, if we did not, our ancestors were because at one time (not too long ago) the whole civilized world was captured by the darkness of that system. But the Lord brought either you or your ancestors out and here we are: in a place where the light is shining.

 

Even among those who are not in Catholicism there are more and more churches that have embraced liberalism, exalting the ways of man over the ways of God. This is the road to waywardness and grief, because when you abandon the Bible the devil will take advantage and it is easier to get seduced into sin.

 

But here you are here, receiving the grace of God in a place where the Bible is honored as the infallible word of God, where we seek to obey the Lord, where brothers and sisters are here to encourage you, where people labor to bless you spiritually. The church is a second anchor for your soul (the Bible being the first anchor).

 

Colossians 2:7 NAS
having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude

 

Who established the Colossians in their faith? Who instructed them? The church at Colossae did! The church did. And, they overflowed with gratitude! Oh, that we would overflow with gratitude for New Salem!

 

We do not deserve to be here, therefore we should be grateful for our church.

 

[C] Because we receive so much more than we deserve we should be grateful for the people in our lives. There are unkind people in the world and there are kind people in the world. And there are many in-between.  All of us had to deal with people who are not kind. But none of us have had nothing but unkind people in our lives. But that is all we deserve.

 

[Illus] There was a sci-fi movie that came out a long time ago called “Escape from New York.” It starred one of my favorite actors, Kurt Russell. The premise was this: society was tired of supporting criminals in prison so they sent them all to New York City to fend for themselves and the cordoned off the city so that no one could escape. As you might expect, it was a hellish, miserable place. Part of the plot is that Russell has to survive and escape.

 

It could be that we would have had mean and unkind people in our lives. In fact, is this not what some of the young people in our country experience now when they get involved in a gang? On the surface, it seems like there is acceptance, but underneath is a culture of trouble, selfishness, and death. One does not even have to be in a gang to experience that. In our inner city slums this is the kind of life many have.

 

But, we have had people who care for us, people who have fed us, people who have provided a roof over our heads, who have shown us kindness. But we do not deserve it.

 

There is one group of people that has shown us extraordinary kindness. Who am I thinking of? Mothers! You have heard that old saying, “He has a face only a mother could love.” Why is that saying even around? Because mothers love us when no one else will. Our mothers, our step-mothers, our foster-mothers, have loved us, taken care of us, nurtured us. Oh, how we should be grateful for them!

 

We do not deserve to have a mother, therefore we should be grateful for the one we had or have. And we should be grateful for our friends and all our family.

 

[D] Because we receive so much more than we deserve we should be grateful to God.

Our nation, our church, our mothers, fathers, family, and friends, all come from God. God blesses us through means, but He is the source of those means. Everything comes from Him, therefore our hearts should overflow with gratitude to Him.

 

Eph. 5:20     giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [1]

 

The great Puritan preacher and teacher, Richard Baxter put it this way:

 

 “A creature that is wholly his Creator’s, and is preserved every moment by him, and daily fed and maintained by his bounty, and is put into a capacity of life eternal, must needs be obliged to incessant gratitude.”

 

Indeed, this is the marvelous thing that we should be the most grateful for: eternal life of which we are most undeserving. It is only by his great mercy towards you that you have received the gift of eternal life. Thank him daily for this indescribable gift!

 

[III] What are the benefits of being grateful?

 

[A] Gratitude is appealing to others. When a person complains much, no one wants to be around them. Others avoid them. But when a person has a disposition of gratitude others find it appealing. This is not only true for the person who receives thanks for kindnesses done, but even for those who merely hear of it. In other words, there is a character about a grateful person that extends to all.

 

[B] There is a sweetness to gratitude that goes deeper than being noticed by others, there is sweetness to it that ministers to the very soul of the possessor. In other words, being grateful lifts our spirit and makes things seem right. Oh, what a blessed thing this is and how many of us do not see things as they really are because of a lack of gratitude.

 

[C] It makes love real. Richard Baxter says, and I agree, that the truest love to God is a love that is thankful love. This is because this is how it is characterized in scripture.

 

[D] Gratitude is the truest expression of obedience, otherwise obedience is drudgery.

 

              Hebrews 12:28 NAS‚Ä®Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe ;

 

 

 

According to this passage in the NAS, gratitude is the means by which we offer service to God that is acceptable to God. The NIV, Lexham, and NET all read very much the same way.

 

When we are grateful this empowers our obedience, makes it a joy, and stirs up love in our hearts.

 

Do you, brothers and sisters, see how powerful gratitude is? It changes everything.  When we have gratitude it:

 

  • Makes us appealing to others.
  • There is a sweetness to it and it helps us see things as they really are.
  • It makes love real.
  • It is the heart-expression of obedience, making obedience to the Lord joyful and acceptable.

 

Let us choose this day forward to cease being ungrateful and begin to give thanks. Begin each day thanking God for something. Then, thank him again for something later in the morning. Then, thank him at the lunch hour. Thank him all day long.

 

But don’t stop with God. Thank your family members. Thank others for the things that they do for you.

 

Some may be thinking, “But I don’t feel grateful and I don’t feel like giving thanks.” To those who think that way I say, “That is your problem, right there!” You are living by your feelings rather than your renewed mind. If you live by your feelings your life will be up-and-down. For some of you, mostly down.

 

First, you must have a right estimation of who you are. You are an undeserving sinner. Even as a Christian you still have rebellion in your heart, don’t you? You deserve nothing from God and nothing from anyone. But you have so much more than you deserve. Therefore, be grateful for everything that you have.

 

Second, feelings lie. Your mind guides your will and your will guides your actions. Your feelings will follow later. Therefore, be grateful and give thanks. The more you give thanks the more you will discover that your disposition is changing.

 

We need to change much more than our circumstances need to change. When we change then our circumstances also change because we see them differently.

 

Someone said this: “Gratitude changes everything. If you want to change your life do not try to manipulate your circumstances. If you succeed, after a little while you will discover that you are back in your old frame of mind. If you want to change your life cultivate gratitude and your gratitude will change the way you see everything.”

 

When you change to a grateful person y

ou will see everything differently!

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Eph 5:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.