The Attitude of Gratitude
Many years ago, in a small, close nit mid-western community a group of women became concerned about a widow and her children. Members of a Methodist Women's Church Circle became disturbed because a widowed church member and her three small children were staying away from services. Several of the women went to visit the widow and found out that with her husbands death times were lean. After paying the mortgage, the utility bills and buy groceries there was precious little left to buy ‘Sunday meet’n cloths’. The widow was simply embarrassed about sending her children to church not looking nice.
Well, the Methodist Women’s Church Circle reasoned that if a lack of suitable clothes was the problem, that was something they could rectify. So the Women’s Church Circle corrected the situation in a generous manner.
The next Sunday, however, the family failed to show up. And then the next. When the widow and her children had failed to appear at Sunday School for three weeks, some of the ladies from the Women’s Church Circle called to inquire about their absence. The mother thanked them sweetly for the clothing they had provided and explained: "I appreciate your generosity, but the children and I looked so nice, we started attending the 1st Presbyterian Church up town!"
Gratitude ain’t what it used to be!
In my text for this evening we see the ingratitude of nine men who failed to show the slightest appreciation for what Jesus had done for them. These verses reveal the scope of ingratitude that too readily rules the human heart. (Read Scriptures here).
If God rated our sins—which He doesn't—but if He rated our sins as either "big" sins or "little" sins, I'm sure that He would rate ingratitude as one of the "biggies."
I. INGRATITUDE IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF PAGAN DEPRAVITY
- “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21, NIV84)
- there are many ways to tell if a person is a true believer or not
- one way is to listen to the way a person talks
- like Peter discovered at the camp fire during our Lord's trial before the High Priest, our speech often "betrays us”
- now, I’m fully aware that the bible is referring to his Galilean accent
- but our speech—that is our choice of words we use to express ourselves—reveals our character; who we are on the inside
- in one of his many altercations with Israel’s religious leaders, Jesus makes it clear that our choice of words gives the world insight into who and what we really are
- “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:33–37, NIV84)
- why didn't the other nine lepers return to thank Jesus?
- ILLUS. Matthew Henry, a 17th century preacher who commentary on the Scripture is still a favorite of ministers today, offers his nine suggestions why the nine did not return: One waited to see if the cure was real; One waited to see if it would last; One thought to himself “I go see Jesus later.”; One decided that he had never really had leprosy; One concluded he would have gotten well anyway; One gave the glory to the priests who professed him clean; One said, "O well, Jesus didn't really do anything." ; One said, "Any ‘ol rabbi could have done it."; One said, "I was already doing much better before Jesus arrived."
- sometimes all the world hears us do is gripe
- we gripe about our work
- we gripe about the people we work with
- we gripe about our present lot in life
- we gripe about what the future will probably be like
- and when it comes to church we’re not much better
- we gripe about the people in our church
- we gripe about the pastor
- we gripe about what the church is or isn’t doing
- ILLUS. John McAuther tells the story about a father, who attended church with his little family. One day on their way home the father was finding fault with everything in the service. As he drove home, he criticized the minister, the sermon, the choir, and everything in general. The man’s son, who had noticed what his father put in the offering plate, said, “Well, Dad, you’ve got to admit, it was a pretty good show for a dollar.”
A. MANY CHRISTIANS ARE AWASH IN A SEA OF NEGATIVITY
- too many believers have forgotten how to "count their blessings"
- instead, we “list our misfortunes”
- "You wouldn't believe the week I’ve had!"
- some of the most negative environments in the world are sometimes found within the walls of a church sanctuary
- I think that few things grieve God more than the negativity and ingratitude of His very own people
- when was the last time you really spent some significant time thanking God for anything other than a quick grace at your last meal?
- ILLUS. The Christian statesman, William Law, once wrote, "Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world! It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms, or is more eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God who wills everything that God willeth, who receives everything as an instance of God's goodness, and has a heart always ready to praise God for it."
- thanklessness leads to a spirit of negativity and gives you a false perception about your life
- that perception is that you probably deserve better!
- negativity leads to a bitterness about your circumstance
- bitterness leads to envy and jealousy
- envy and jealousy can have disastrous consequences
- ILLUS. The best illustration of this downward spiral is seen in the life of Saul Israel's first king. Saul found himself unable to be thankful. He had made David the commanding general of all his armies. Under David's leadership, Saul's army won victory after victory and defeated all of Israel's enemies. Instead of being thankful, Saul was ungrateful—especially when he heard the women of Jerusalem singing, "Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed tens of thousands." It was not long before bitterness began to seep its way into Saul's heart. He began to stew and brew about this young man who seemed more popular than he. Finally, his bitterness gave way to jealousy. He could not stand the sight of David and sought to kill him.
- we see happy people all around us and feel as if God has cheated us
- our pride wells up and says, "I deserve better than this."
- ILLUS. The great American writer Henry Ward Beecher once wrote, "Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grow. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves."
II. CHRISTIANS ARE TO GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES
- “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57, NIV84)
- “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:28–39, NIV84)
- in tribulations, we can give thanks to God
- in anguish we can give thanks to God
- in persecution . . .
- in famine . . .
- in nakedness . . .
- in peril . . .
- in threat of death . . .
- because we are not merely conquerors, but "more than conquerors" through Christ Jesus our Lord
- one commentary writer translates that word "conquerors" as "super-invincibles"
A. THANKSGIVING HELPS US TO RECOGNIZE GOD IN EVERY EVENT
- one leper came back to thank Jesus
- one our of ten
- “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 he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:15–17, NIV84)
- like many of us, they took the blessing and ran, never thinking to return to the one who provided the miracle
- ILLUS. Some years ago, I came across an anonymous poem entitled: The Remorse of Nine Ungrateful Lepers:
I meant to go back, but you may guess
I was filled with amazement I cannot express
To think that after those horrible years,
That passion of loathing and passion of fears,
By sores unendurable—eaten, defiled—
My flesh was as smooth as the flesh of a child.
I was drunken with joy; I was crazy with glee;
I scarcely could walk and I scarcely could see,
For the dazzle of sunshine were all had been black;
But I meant to go back,—oh I meant to go back!
I had thought to return, when my people came out.
There were tears of rejoicing and laughter and shout;
They embraced me,—for years I had not known a kiss;
Ah, the pressure of lip is an exquisite bliss!
They crowded around me, they filled the whole place;
They looked at my feet and my hands and my face;
My children were there, my glorious wife,
And all the forgotten allurements of life.
My cup was so full I seemed nothing to lack!
But I meant to go back, —oh I meant to go back!
- ILLUS. Mark Twain perhaps said it best, "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principle difference between a dog and a man.”
- while this is true of some men, may it never be true of God's people
B. THE SCRIPTURES COMMAND US TO GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, FOR THIS IS GOD'S WILL FOR YOU IN CHRIST
- thankful prayer is not an option for the believer
- it's God's express will for your life
- “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19–20, NIV84)
- we can thank Him for the promise of victory which will eventually come
- we can thank Him for the strength He gives us to carry through
- we can thank Him that things are not worse than they already are
- ILLUS. Snoopy is getting dog food for his Thanksgiving Day dinner and he is aware that everyone else in the family is inside having turkey. He meditates and thinks to himself: "How about that? Everyone is eating turkey today, but just because I'm a dog I get dog food." He 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."
- ILLUS. In her book The Hiding Place, Corrie Ten Boom relates an incident which taught her about being thankful. She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. Upon entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. One morning their bible reading was I Thess. 5:18, "In everything give thanks." Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted. She finally succumbed. During the months spent at that camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without the guards interfering. It was several months later when they learned that the guards would not enter the barracks because of the fleas.
- Andrew Murray, a South African missionary, wrote, "To be thankful for what we have received, and for what my Lord has prepared, is the surest way to receive more."
- a prayer of thanks offered to God is a statement of faith that says, "No matter how bad this situation might be, I know that God is going to bring me through it."
Have you maybe meant to go back to God and thank Him for all the blessings you have received in your life? Have you learned to thank Him in every situation and circumstance? If not, you need to come and spend some time this morning at the alter pouring your thanks out to God.