Today, we are finally going to get to talk about the word that’s been on my heart for nearly a year – the word is grateful. Good stewards are grateful! I truly believe that gratitude is one of the most important things anyone can ever learn. You show me a person who has learned to be grateful (truly grateful to God), and I’ll show you a person who is growing more wise/mature.
What are you thankful for?
This Thursday, we celebrate Thanksgiving …
Story: We’re getting a divorce …
An elderly man in Phoenix calls his son in NY and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; 45 years of misery is enough!”
“Pop, what are you talking about?”
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer. We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.” Then he hangs up.
Frantically, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced. I’ll take care of this.”
She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at the old man, “You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, do you hear me?”
The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay, they’re coming home for Thanksgiving and paying their own fares!”
Gratitude is a response to God’s gifts
Perhaps that’s why we hear people thanking God during music award ceremonies or during sporting events – people are grateful for the gifts that God has given them.
“Thank God for his gift that is too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9.15)
Gratitude starts in the heart
How can you know if you are grateful? [Words/Actions]
“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”
You may recall in the story how the Grinch enters all the homes by way of their chimneys disguised as Santa Clause. He takes all the presents and ornaments, decorations and stockings, and even all their food. He drags his loot up to his mountain and then looks down upon Whoville, waiting to hear their cries and wailings as they wake up on Christmas morning. What he hears surprises him. Up from the town of the Whos comes a joyful Christmas carol. They’re sgining! “Why?” the Grinch asks. It’s because, he learns, that Christmas resides not in things but in the heart which is thankful. He could take their stuff, but he couldn’t steal their gratitude!
“Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.” (1 Thessalonians 5.18)
Everyone can be grateful
Gratitude is an attitude, and our attitude is a choice! There’s a scientist who has made the news in the past because of his belief that certain people are inclined to be certain ways. For example, a while back, he said there was a “gay gene” – certain people are inclined to be gay, and they can’t help it. Recently, he has claimed that there is a “god gene” – some people are more inclined to be religious than others. Well, I don’t believe that either of those genes exists, and I also do not believe that there is a “gratitude gene,” that would cause some people to be grateful and others to be ungrateful. It just doesn’t exist!
Now, that doesn’t mean that developing gratitude is easy work – many times it’s not! It doesn’t come naturally.
We must guard against ungratefulness!
Andrew Carnegie, the multimillionaire, left $1 million for one of his relatives, who in return cursed Carnegie thoroughly because he had left $365 million to public charities and had cut him off with just one measly million.
“The careless soul receives the Father’s gifts as if it were a way things had of dropping into his hand…yet he is ever complaining, as if someone were accountable for the problems which meet him at every turn. For the good that comes to him, he gives no thanks—who is there to thank? At the disappointments that befall him he grumbles—there must be someone to blame!” (George MacDonald)
Real gratitude is a habit
The rest of the story …
Too often Christians do not develop this habit. Rather they become ungrateful! They begin to think in terms of ownership and rights, that they somehow deserve God’s gifts as payment for their good lives! Sometimes the “insiders” don’t get it.
But sometimes, the “outsiders” do, as in the case of this Samaritan leper. The other nine (presumably all Israelites) didn’t return to thank Jesus for healing; perhaps they believed that because they were Jews, God’s chosen people, that they somehow deserved it or earned it (we don’t know). But whatever they thought, it wasn’t gratitude!
But the Samaritan, the “outsider” got it. His heart was filled with gratitude, and he returned to give thanks to God!
“Daniel heard about the law, but when he returned home, he went upstairs and prayed in front of the window that faced Jerusalem. In the same way that he had always done, he knelt down in prayer three times a day, giving thanks to God.” (Daniel 6.10)
“And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3.17)
Gratitude is a response to God’s gifts. People who are grateful know they have been given so much more than they deserve! Their hearts are filled with gratitude, and thankfulness flows out of their hearts. They realize it’s a choice they have to constantly make, because the natural thing is to be ungrateful! And as a result of their daily decisions to be grateful, they develop the habit of gratitude!
“[A]lways give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Ephesians 5.20)