Peninsula Community Church
The Power of a Grateful Heart
November 29, 2015
Psalms 92:1-4 It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
In perusing the internet I came across a blog by James Ryle that spoke to my heart in this season of thanksgiving. This blog led me to meditate on the power that comes from having a grateful heart. To grasp this we must understand that a grateful heart is one filled with thanksgiving and gratitude. To fully grasp the concept we must look at the Scriptures to understand what this means to us as the Bible is replete with texts that encourage us toward having a grateful heart.
When we have a grateful heart there is an unmistakable power that begins to work on our behalf. When looking at the passage before us today we see that it begins with a grateful heart. The fact is if we do not have a grateful heart we will fall short and not want to sing praises, declare his love or his faithfulness. We will become blind to the works of God in our lives and we will miss seeing His hand at work in us, through us, and around us.
When considering this subject, Tony Dungy stated that a thankful heart and an attitude of contentment is only possible when you start with a grateful heart. This is not some token of gratitude, but it is the realization that the Lord has blessed us with everything we need. It is having a gratitude for all of the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Dungy went on to say that it is tough to be content when all we ever think of is what we imagine everyone else has and what we do not have. The Apostle Paul suggests that we approach everything in our lives with an attitude of gratitude. As you begin to live and experience gratefulness you will find that contentment and gratitude is contagious. (Tony Dungy from Maximizing Your Influence).
From a nonChristian viewpoint the benefits of gratefulness are many. According to Forbes magazine gratefulness opens the doors to more relationships. Gratitude improves physical health as those who live with a grateful heart experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling more healthy than less grateful people. Gratitude improves psychological health as it reduces toxic emotions which range from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. Grateful people sleep better and their self-esteem is improved. And finally, gratitude increases mental strength. That is from a nonChristian magazine but lets see what God’s word tells us.
We will look at four things that happen when we live with a grateful heart. First, a thankful heart increases our awareness of God’s purposes. When we live in gratitude we are more open to the prospect that we can know with a calm assurance that God is working for our good. Paul understood this when he penned these words. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
This is one of the most misquoted and misinterpreted Scriptures of all of the Bible. There are many who would have you believe that because we love God and God loves us that no bad thing will happen to us, but that is not the truth of this passage at all. God’s love goes much deeper than that. God’s grace in our life is not a matter of never facing bad things but rather it is the sustaining grace of God through every circumstance. Therefore, it is not a matter of being immune to difficult times but it is how we navigate these times that matter most. That is why we are reminded that we are to Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It is of note that this not a matter of settling for the worse or denying or role but it means that everything in life is approached with a heart of being gratefulness.
Secondly, a thankful heart keeps us from the destructive influence of bitterness. To live with ingratitude causes one to become bitter and will cause one to be filled with anger, judgement, criticism, and blame. I am sure that we could all share a story of someone in our lives that has been impacted by a bitter heart. The destructive forces of bitterness have negatively impacted churches, businesses, and families. The writer of Hebrews was keenly aware of the power of bitterness when he warns his readers not to allow any root of bitterness to spring forth. Listen to the words of Scripture. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal (Hebrews 12:15).
The problem with bitter roots is that they begin to absorb nutrients and they take life away from what is good and right. You see bitterness destroys life rather than sustaining life. Listen to the voice of Job in this regard. “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11). Think about what he is communicating. He recognizes that if he does not get his anguish under control then he might respond with bitterness and anger which comes from the depths of his soul. He recognized the potential for bitterness to control him and to become a part of his psyche. If you remember, Job had lost it all. He lost his business. He lost his family. He lost respect. And yet this is the same Job who had a greater sense of who God was than what Job had lost. For this reason, Job could powerfully proclaimed that Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face (Job 13:15). If you remember the story, because of his faithfulness, he received a double portion of what he had lost.
A third thing that happens when we have a thankful heart is that it prevents us from falling into pride. Matthew Henry was a great theological Bible Scholar. He was once accosted by thieves and was robbed. In response to this act, he penned these words in his diary. “Let me be thankful that I was never robbed before; second that although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took it all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed another.” That is a heart of thanksgiving and gratefulness.
He could have become bitter. He could have closed his heart toward others. He could have complained to the Lord about his situation. He could have carried an offense that would have caused him to cast a suspicious eye on those who traveled into his town or he might have encountered on his journeys. Instead, he turned to God with a heart of humility and he gave thanks. Thus he was saved from the pit of pride and anger. Thanksgiving and humility go hand in hand and God is pleased with both.
Fourth, a thankful heart permeates our circle of influence with faith. Think about it for a moment. Thanksgiving is the highest expression of faith there is. This is especially true during the times we walk through desolate times and things are not going well for us. Our faith is based in what has been done for us and what He is doing on our behalf but it is also focused on what is yet to come on our behalf. Paul understood that this was an eternal perspective. We hear the tone of this perspective in the following passage. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). This does not mean that we deny the existence of problems but rather we recognize that the problems we face today are no way to be compared to the future that is ours in Christ.
In this regard, we will see that a grateful heart is focused on God while an ungrateful heart is focused on one’s problems. Thankfulness lifts our vision and builds our faith. It causes us to be an influential encouragement to others who are struggling with life’s difficulties. Once again Philippians speaks to this subject when Paul stated that we are to Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain (Philippians 2:14-16).
2 Corinthians 2:14-16 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.
As we consider this passage and others we have read, we understand that gratefulness changes us, effects our life, and it causes us to exude joy and promise. In Paul’s words, when we live in gratefulness we exude a odor of grace and love. So let me ask you? What do you smell like?
I came across an illustration that bears repeating this morning. In the Peanuts cartoon, Snoopy is getting his usual ration of dog food for Thanksgiving Day dinner. He stares at the bowl and begins to talk to himself. “How about that? Everyone is eating Turkey today, but just because I am a dog I get dog food.” He then trots away and positions himself on top of his doghouse and concludes, “Of course, it could have been worse, I could have been born a turkey.”
So let me ask you. How is your heart? Do you have a grateful heart? As a result do you live in expectation? It is your choice and it is not based on your circumstances or your problems. It is in spite of our circumstances that we can live with gratitude. That is God’s desire and that is our calling today. Let us pray!
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
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