Developing and Attitude of Gratitude

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Developing and Attitude of Gratitude
Luke 17-14-18 (all references NIV)

Thanksgiving is the act of expressing specific gratitude to God for the blessings God has given us, whether those things are physical, spiritual or material. And as we grow as believers we should see an attitude of thanksgiving develop in our lives. A relationship with Jesus Christ should transform us into a joyful, positive and grateful soul. One sign that Jesus Christ is living in your heart is gratitude. Someone once said that God lives in two places. He lives in heaven and in a humble, grateful heart.

And so as believers we should make a concerted effort each and every day, not just one day a year to appreciate all the blessings God has given to us. Our lives should be filled day to day with a spirit of thanksgiving. Psalm 92:1-2 reads, "It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night." Day and night, the verses say, we are to praise and thank God. The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2:6 that our lives are to abound in thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2 says that we are to be devoted to giving thanks. Philippians 4:6 says we are to do everything with prayer and thanksgiving. In Psalm 116 we read that we are to make our lives a thanksgiving offering before the Lord. The book of Hebrews says we are to “serve the Lord with thanksgiving.” And our lives are to be filled with a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude towards God for all he has done.

But the sad truth is that most of us aren’t grateful people. When it comes to having a spirit of thanksgiving we fall short don’t we. We are much better at grumbling and complaining than we are at giving thanks. Despite all the blessings sometimes we’re anything but thankful.

We’re often like the 9 lepers in Luke 17.  There we read of ten lepers who stood at a distance and cried out to Jesus as he was traveling along the border of Samaria and Galilee. The diseased ridden lepers cried out, "Jesus, Master have pity on us." And Jesus heard the lepers and said to them promptly, "Go show yourselves to the priest." And Luke 17:14-16 says, "And as the lepers went they were cleansed. One of them when he saw he was healed came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him." And in verses 17-18 Jesus says to this one leper who returned. "Were not all ten cleansed?" he said. "Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?"

Jesus’ emotional response to the ingratitude of the nine lepers gives us a glimpse into the heart of God. Jesus was disappointed that only one person cared enough to express his gratitude. William Barclay writes, "No story in all the gospels so poignantly shows man’s ingratitude like the lepers in Luke 17. The lepers came to Jesus with desperate longing; he cured them and nine never came back to give thanks." Barclay says, "So often once a man has got what he wants, he never comes back."

Doesn’t that look like us? We take God’s goodness for granted. We receive great blessings yet often we don’t give God our gratitude. Psalm 103:2 reads, "Blessed be the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his blessings." But in most cases we forget the blessings of God and never return to say thanks.

Now why do you think we so inclined to forget God and live as ungrateful people?

1. We Are Ungrateful Because of Affluence

Charles Barkley, a former NBA basketball star said his mother was upset with him because he had voted for George Bush in the recent election. "Charles," she said, "George Bush is the rich people’s president!" "Mom," he answered, "we are the rich people."

And guess what folks? We are the rich people too. In 1 Timothy 6 the apostle Paul addresses those who are rich in this present world. Each of us, compared to the rest of the world are rich beyond our wildest dreams. We travel by airplane, drive nice cars, live in air conditioned homes, have TV’s, VCR’s, computers. We eat in nice restaurants and we worship in comfortable buildings. On Thanksgiving we ate a meal that people in most parts of the world could only dream of having. We each live a life of incredible ease and luxury even though we may not think so.

You would think that all these blessings would make us the most grateful people on earth. But often all this affluence does is really just make us more and more discontented and ungrateful, because often the by-product of having so much is a desire for more. And it is very hard to be grateful when we cannot learn to be happy with what we already have.

2. We Are Ungrateful People Because of Pride

We are prideful because we think we have earned all the things we have received. We say to ourselves, "I’ve worked hard to get that job. I raised my kids to be good people. I studied for those grades. I earned that award." A bumper sticker reads, "I couldn’t have done it without me." And in our pride, we don’t even think to thank God. We give ourselves a pat on the back and forget that it is God who has blessed us. Psalm 10:4 reads, "In his pride the wicked does not seek God; in all his thoughts there is no room for Him." And in our pride we have forgotten that it is God who gives good gifts from above.

3. We Are Ungrateful People Because Of Who We Hang Around With

Some of us live among such ungrateful, negative people that we soon turn grumpy and sour ourselves. The Bible says, "Bad company corrupts good character." 1 Corinthians 15:33. And the time we spend with negative ungrateful people will influence us whether we want it to or not.

When the British and French were fighting in Canada in the 1750s, Admiral Phipps, commander of the British fleet, was told to anchor outside Quebec. His orders were to wait for the British land forces to arrive, then support them when they attacked the city. Phipps’ navy arrived early. And as he waited, he became annoyed by the statues of the saints that adorned the towers of a nearby cathedral, so he commanded his men to shoot them with the ships’ cannons. No one knows how many many statues were knocked down, but when the land forces arrived, the admiral was of no help. He had used up all his ammunition shooting at the "saints." Too often that happens in spiritual warfare too.

Did you know that ingratitude and grumbling are just as addictive as crack. Some have picked up a habit of complaining years ago in their homes and now it is in their nature. Some do it so regularly they don’t even recognize it as a problem. Some of us even come to church and complain. "I hope they don’t sing too many songs today. It is too cold in here. Would you look at that, someone’s sitting in my chair. Can you believe it, the preacher’s preaching to long again and we’ll never get a seat at Home Town Buffet for lunch." People say all that and don’t even know they’re complaining. It’s a bad habit, but even worse than that it’s sin.

5. We Are Ungrateful People Because of Circumstances

It is hard to rejoice and be thankful when the bills are piling up and the company is considering layoffs. And often the reason behind our ingratitude is bad circumstances.

Remember when Moses took the Israelites into the desert and they became entrapped by the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army in heavy pursuit of them they complained. Exodus 14:10-11 says, "the Israelites looked up and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They said to Moses, ’Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die." The Israelites first reaction to their tough circumstances was to grumble. Maybe today, it is hard for you to be thankful because you are trapped by a situation in your life that is really tough.

Now I don’t know what specific reasons cause you to be ungrateful. It could be a combination of many things. Pride, affluence, habit or circumstances. But whatever the case, I think we all wish we could learn to be more thankful and to develop a spirit of thanksgiving in our lives. So, here are four steps to having an attitude of gratitude…

1. Remember How Much Gratitude Pleases God

Gratitude makes God happy. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 says, “They raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang, ‘He is good; his love endures forever. Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.” God’s presence came to the temple in response to the thanksgiving that was coming out of it. God loved to hear the praise from the temple and so He drew near. It appears that thanksgiving and praise are the key to manifesting the presence of God. It pleases him.

2. Avoid Complaining At All Costs

Complaining and grumbling are the biggest barriers to gratitude. And we need to learn to catch ourselves when we complain and stop it right away. Numbers 11:1 says the Israelites “complained about their hardships and when God heard it his anger was aroused.” And we need to avoid complaining like the plague because God hates it and it ruins our spiritual lives. Psalm 77:3 says, “I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed.”

Bob Russell writes, “I really believe the most important step in developing inner peace is to quit complaining and start praising.”

Paul wrote in Philippians 2:14, "Do everything without complaining and arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."

3. Make a Personal Choice To Rejoice

It maybe difficult to be thankful at certain times we need to make a personal decision that we are going to be grateful people even when we do not feel like or when it is hard. The apostle Paul wrote these words from prison. "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say it rejoice." Notice Paul says rejoice twice. Paul made a personal choice to be grateful despite his circumstances. He decided that even though he was in prison it didn’t matter. He was going to praise and thank God anyway. And it transformed his perspective.

Doctors Minerth and Mier have a book entitled, Happiness is a Choice. And I would add to that. That gratitude is also a choice. We have to make a consciuos decision that we are going to be grateful despite the circumstances of our life. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Francie Swartz in her book Chicken Soup for the Soul tells about a guy named Jerry who was always in a good mood and always had something positive to say. And when asked how he was doing he would always say, "If I was any better I’d be twins." Jerry was a restaurant manager who everybody loved to work for because he was so positive. And Francie said, "I don’t get it Jerry, you can’t possibly be upbeat all the time how do you do it?" And Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself Jerry you have two choices today: you can either choose to be in a bad mood or choose to be in a good one. And I choose to be in good mood." "Oh its not that easy," I protested, Swartz writes. "Yes it is," Jerry responded, "life is all about choices." Well several years ago, Jerry’s restaurant was robbed. The thieves panicked and shot him and he was rushed to the emergency room. He spent 18 hours on the operating table and several weeks in intensive care but he survived.

And later she asked him how he did it. He said, "When I was laying on the floor I remembered I had two choices, I could choose to live or I could choose to die. I chose to live. The paramedics were encouraging, but when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the looks on the faces of the doctors and nurses I got really scared. Because in their eyes I read he’s a dead man and I knew I needed to take action." And there was a big burly nurse shouting questions at me and she asked, ’Are you allergic to anything?’

’Yes,’ I replied. And the doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. ’BULLETS,’ I answered. And over their laughter I yelled ’I’m choosing to live, operate on me as I am alive not dead.’ And Jerry lived thanks to the skill of the doctors, to his attitude, and to the grace of God. And Francie Swartz says, "I saw Jerry six months after the accident and asked him how he was doing and he replied, ’If I was any better, I’d be twins." And much of life is determined not by circumstances but by personal choice. It matters how you choose to live. And so I challenge you to begin to make a personal choice and decide that you are going to rejoice in the Lord no matter what.

4. Develop The Daily Discipline Of Giving Thanks

In order to be thankful people we need to start to give thanks everyday. We need to discipline ourselves to find something each day that we should be thankful for to God. In Daniel 6 we read that Daniel got down on his knees three times everyday and prayed and gave thanks to his God. And how many of us do that? We often think we’re good if we give thanks once a day. So, I want to challenge you to begin a regular routine of finding something everyday to give thanks for. No matter how small your blessing is, you learn to search out the positive in the midst of the negative and give thanks for what you do have. An old hymn says, "Count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

The story is told of two old friends who met on the street. One of them looked sad, almost on the verge of tears. His friend asked, "What has the world done to you, my friend?" The sad fellow said, "Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me $40,000." "That’s a lot of money." "Yes, but, two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew died, and left me $85,000 free and clear." "Sounds like you’ve been blessed...." "You don’t understand!" he interrupted. "Last week my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a $250,000." Now he was really confused. "Then, why do you look so sad?"  "This week... nothing!"  Is that the way we live before a gracious and loving God who gave himself for us?

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