We are continuing on with our I AM series. This morning I want us to consider the importance of being grateful and thankful. We all have friends in life, but, best friends are awesome to have; someone who is appreciative, thankful and warm hearted. Please and Thank You are something we teach our kids from a young age. Why? Because we want them to grow up and be kind and respectful. Thank you. Two of the most pleasant words someone can experience. Thank you is satisfying to all involved; one has had the pleasure of giving and the other receiving. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29).
We live in the First World where the problems of life are very different from the time that the Letter of the Hebrews was written. Those believers were persecuted and scattered. They feared for their lives and well-being. Many would have been jobless and possibly homeless. They were reminded that their new found faith welcomed them into a kingdom that could not be shaken, quite the contrast to their reality. In light of this, they were exhorted to be thankful, literally to have grace, thereby worshipping God in reverence and awe. Troubles come and go, but thankfulness is meant to be constant in the heart of the believer.
We live in a culture that is so full and rich, and yet in some ways poverty and troubles find us. There is so much to be thankful about and yet I’m kind of getting tired of all the negativity I see all over the news-world. Our First World problems are so insignificant in comparison and yet our we find our culture full of complaints, criticism and condemnation. I believe there should be a considerable difference between the world around us and the life of a believer. I am reminded that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). So much to be thankful for…
The Ten Lepers
Turn with me to Luke 17:11-19. Ten lepers were miraculously healed. Their troubles were significant; a horrendous and painful disease, rejection, poverty, isolation to name a few. They ask for Jesus to have pity on them. As they went to see the Priest, the normal procedure when a leper was cured, they were cleansed. This also freed these men to return to their families and rejoin their communities. Everything changed because of what Jesus did. Leprosy was a slow death sentence in Jesus’ day. He literally saved these men from a lifetime of hell on earth, so to speak. So why wouldn’t all 10 return to thank Him? It’s easy to complain, criticize or condemn the nine, just like our broken world, but Jesus focused on the one. The one leper completed his faithful by returning to give thanks.
We may have troubles in this life. However, when we are healed, forgiven, delivered, or set free, let’s be like the one leper who returns in faith and thanksgiving. Will you be the one who’s grateful? Will you grow your daily attitude of gratitude on the realization of what Jesus has done for you?
God’s Will for You
The Apostle Paul was a man who knew the amazing grace and mercy of God. He also experienced pain and persecution personally. He had to learn how to be content in all kinds of circumstances. In 1 Thess 5:16-18, he gives us three keys to the Christian life; Be joyful always; Pray continually; Give thanks in all circumstances. Each of these statements speak of a moment by moment engagement. This might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but Paul is trying to capture the heart of the believer first, then the practice.
· Be Joyful Always
A little surprising coming from Paul who suffered so greatly. It is similar to rejoice in the Lord always. Being full of joy and rejoicing is a high-water mark of the believer. In the midst of life, we enjoy the results of being full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace… In other words, joy is not something Christians work up out of their own resources. Sometimes our resources are limited or low due to challenges and struggles. This is the moment we want to engage our faith and invite the Holy Spirit to release joy into our lives.
· Pray Continually
“It is not the moving of the lips, but in the elevation of the heart to God, that the essence of prayer consists” (Lightfoot). It is impossible to continually and verbally pray to God; we have jobs and circumstances that don’t allow us to pray. It is the attitude of prayer that Paul is addressing. To pray continually we must grow conscious of God’s presence being with us at all times. To pray continually we must understand our dependence upon God for all we have and are. To pray continually we must learn to yield ourselves to him in obedience to his will. Ephesians 6:18 speaks of this type of prayer – “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”
· Give Thanks in All Circumstances
Paul had learned that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). We are not giving thanks for all circumstances because some situations are not godly but broken or even downright evil. Even in our difficulties and trials God is teaching valuable lessons. In other words, we recognize that God is Sovereign and worthy of our thankfulness in all of life, the good and the bad.
“For this is God’s will” almost certainly refers to these three practices; they form a unity and belong together. I am sure all of us have questioned what is God’s will at some point in life. There are times that we need God’s guidance revealed to us in specific circumstances. In the process of discerning God’s will we can learn to be joyful always, pray continually and give thanks in all things.
I am thankful is the theme of today’s message. We are told in the Scriptures that every good thing comes from God (James 1:17). But there are challenges and struggles in life and we have to learn how to approach them appropriately, joy-full, prayer-full and thank-full.
Try these exercises whenever you find yourself in difficult circumstances and needing to strengthen your grateful perspective:
· Think of someone that has blessed your life. Give thanks.
· Think of something that has blessed your life. Give thanks.
· Take a moment and remember that God is the source of our good.