Tag Archives: Gratefulness

A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

A Thankful Heart and the Will of God

November 19, 2017

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

As I was preparing for this message, I read an interesting quote by Willian Arthur Ward. He stated “Gratitude can change common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” A grateful heart has the power to establish a positive direction and outlook on life. A grateful heart causes us to have a positive mindset. The opposite is true as an ungrateful heart leads to a negative mindset.

While last week we looked at the call from Paul to rejoice in every situation, today, we will focus on the attitude of gratitude and thankfulness. This is a command of Paul who understood the power of a grateful heart. He understood the power of contentment. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Philippians 4:11). Once again, Paul makes a seemingly impossible statement. Give thanks in all circumstances. Giving thanks can be a difficult proposition because like rejoicing there are some things that make it more difficult than others. Paul is not saying that we have to be thankful in regard to the individual circumstances we face, but rather we should our focus our gratefulness on the one who is able to redeem every circumstance. We are able to give thanks because we have a confidence that Christ will make a way through every event we encounter.

As I was preparing for this message, my mind drifted to a story found in Luke 17:11-19. This story focuses on ten lepers who approached Christ for healing. This is a story of contrast between nine who did not give thanks and the one who did. Listen Luke’s version of the story. On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” 

To understand this encounter, it would be helpful to review the disease known as leprosy. In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a kind of catch all classification for any infection or skin problem. While leprosy was a catch all, there were serious cases of leprosy where the disease would cause open sores. Being left untreated a person with leprosy could potentially lose their fingers, toes, ears, and nose. There is an assumption here that this was a critical case of leprosy in these ten individuals.

In this passage we should notice a couple of things. When they approached Jesus they were desperate. They were at the end of their rope, so to speak. Notice they stood at a distance from Christ and yelled to Him. They were not being rude or disrespectful but this was in reality a common action by lepers as they were forbidden to be near healthy people. Because of the magnitude of their disease they lived lonely and isolated lives. They were rejected by their friends, family, and society. But they had heard about this man who was known to do some powerful miracles. It is noteworthy that rather than being fearful, Jesus reached out to them. Normally, they would stand at a distance to cry for food or money, but now they had a different reason. They were hoping for more than a few cents in change or their next meal. They expected a miracle.

Upon their encounter with Jesus, He commanded them to go the priest to show they had been healed. It is noteworthy that they were not healed immediately but only as they acted upon Christ’s command. By their action they were healed. This is a noteworthy thought for us as God’s answer to prayer often comes as we are obedient to His will. You might ask as to why Jesus would send them to the priest. He did so because the law of the land in that day required anyone diagnosed with leprosy to be pronounced clean by the priest. As noted, leprosy in that day could be a simple rash or it could be full blown leprosy. If it were a simple rash, it would often clear up on its own. For that reason, the priest needed to pronounce them clean. All ten of the lepers, in obedience to Christ and the law of the land, left to go to see the priest.

When they left, they were focused on getting to the priest but one of the lepers stopped and turned back to give thanks to Jesus. He knew he was healed, but he also knew that it was in direct correlation to the command to go to the priest by Jesus. He recognized something the other nine did not. Notice, also that this was not a simple thank you, but was an exuberant praise of thanks. Listen to Luke’s own remembrance of the occasion. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. 

He turned back and began to praise God with a loud voice. He was excited about the fact that he was clean from the disease that held him bound, isolated, and desperate for answers. He wanted everyone to know he was healed. He was filled with joy and that joy overflowed into thanksgiving and praise. Not only did he turn back. Not only did he give thanks, but he also fell at the feet of Jesus. This was the highest sign of praise and honor that could be given to anyone. He, with a loud voice, fell upon his face to give praise and to honor the Lord.

As we look at this story, notice that this particular leper was a Samaritan. On a first read this may not mean much to some, but the reality is that the Samaritans and the Jews did not get along too well. The Samaritans were Jews who had been left back at home when the Children of Israel had been taken into captivity. They had intermarried with the Babylonians and were no longer considered to be Jews by those who had returned from the captivity. In fact, the division was so great they started their own church and set up their own doctrines. You might say it was the first recorded church spilt. So we have the most unlikely man in the group stopping to give thanks. How awesome is that? It tells us that no matter who we are, Christ will touch our lives.

When he returned, Jesus made an incredible pronouncement. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” To read this in our modern translation you might miss the depth of the meaning of the verse. In the Greek, Jesus uses a play on words. At first, the Scripture says they were cleansed. The word used for cleansed is a medical term that means the disease was healed. When He responded to the Samaritan the word He used meant to be saved. The word could also mean healed but it often took on the deeper meaning of spiritual healing or salvation. What Jesus was communicating was that he had not only been healed physically, but now his faith had made him whole and complete, as well. So the nine received healing for their body, but the the tenth received healing of his soul.

So what do we learn from this? First, we should be thankful for the work of God’s goodness. God is always working on our behalf, if we look for it. This is the kind of thankfulness that leads us to worship God. You see the other nine lepers had received the benefits of Jesus but failed to extend gratefulness. Thus they failed to worship the One who provided the healing. We can miss the opportunity to worship and give thanks for His goodness because we fail to recognize all that He has done and is doing. A thankful heart increases our awareness of God’s purposes. Without a grateful heart, we tend to be self-centered and self-focused. Without a grateful heart, we can neglect giving God thanks. Without a grateful heart, we can forget all that He has done. Notice the leper was filled with thanksgiving and gratefulness. That is the motivating factor for his returning to worship and give thanks to Jesus.

Secondly, a thankful heart also keeps us from the destructive influence of bitterness. This is especially true as we continue to face difficulties and problems in our life. Without a grateful heart, that looks to Christ, we can easily be negatively impacted by the issues we face. The fact is it is hard to be bitter and thankful at the same time. Hebrews 12:15 we are reminded that we are to 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. The best way to do this is to live with gratitude and thankfulness in one’s heart. Without a grateful heart we can miss the grace of God.

Thirdly, a thankful heart prevents us from falling into pride. When we have a grateful heart, we are able to maintain a right perspective in life. It helps us keep our feet on the ground. With a grateful heart, we are humbled because we know that all we have comes from above. In Obadiah 1:3, we find that the pride of your heart has deceived you! A thankful heart keeps us humble and focused on the gift giver.

Fourth, a thankful heart permeates our circle of influence with faith. As with rejoicing, a thankful heart is a testimony of God’s grace. People watch how we handle the crisis in our life and as a result Christ will be glorified in us. When we walk with a grateful attitude people will see us. They will see us as complainers or worshippers. Worshippers draw people to Christ, complainers push people away.

So how is your heart today? Do you have a thankful heart?

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power of a Grateful Heart

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

Copyright © 2015 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized