Summary: A Thanksgiving sermon reminding us that attitude is in our control.
An Attitude of Gratitude
Pastor Chuck Swindoll captures the necessity of a positive attitude:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
I love that last line: “…we are in charge of our attitudes.” I have to agree with Pastor Swindoll. The older I get, the truer that has become. So it was with the Israelites in the Old Testament. The Psalms, the Hebrew song book, if you will, are filled with songs of thanksgiving. No less than 15 psalms have “thanksgiving” in the title, and a full 24 of the psalms give specific command to “give thanks.” Psalm 100 is one that includes both. Give thanks!
Why did the ancient Israelites have so many songs about thanksgiving? The songs were reminders. So often throughout the early books of the Old Testament, God was always reminding the people that when they made it to the promised land, got settled there, got comfortable, were warm and well-fed, not to forget Him. God would say, “Don’t forget the reason you’re where you are. Don’t forget to ‘give thanks’.” Don’t forget to have an attitude of gratitude.”
Psalm 100 is one of the songs the people would sing as they were going into the Temple. It served to set the attitude of the people’s heart as they went into worship. It was a reminder that when you come to worship, bring this attitude…have this attitude within you. It certainly gives the indication that gratitude was a matter of choice. Gratitude is a decision of the will, and if a decision of the will, the choice resides squarely with us.
Deciding to be thankful is no easy task. It takes work. Did you know I introduced pink eye purple hull peas to Boyle County, Kentucky? It’s true. When we moved our family to Kentucky, we got homesick. So homesick, in fact, that I decided I would plant a garden because we were going to miss pink eyed purple hull peas for the first summer in like…ever! It was our first full summer in Kentucky. The parsonage in Junction City sat on a two-acre lot on School Street. Forget for a moment the idea that a church would own a home with a two-acre lot for the preacher to maintain. That’s a different discussion, but the lot provided a wonderful place for me to plant a crop of pink-eyed purple hull peas.
I had grown up having to help my grandmother tend her garden in the spring and summer months. Hated it, I tell you. Never thought I’d find myself planting my own garden. It’s funny what remedies you find for homesickness. It didn’t take long for me to remember how much work a garden requires. You know what I discovered? I discovered that the same soil that would grow those purple hull peas that I so longed for was the same ground that would grow weeds. That’s right! The same ground that grows the good crop can just as easily grow the bad crop. Weeds grew easily. It took no work to help the weeds. It took intentionality and tender-loving care to grow the peas. But, I wanted the peas so badly, I was willing to put in the work. The payoff was worth it. I had a bumper crop of pink-eyed purple hull peas; plenty enough to fill our freezer, and with leftovers to share with the folks of Boyle County who had no idea about pink-eyed purple hull peas.
So it is with cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Left alone, the garden of our lives will grow weeds. Things like bitterness, envy, hatred, anger and so on. Those things need no help. They are the natural outgrowth of sin. Perhaps that’s the reason God kept reminding the Israelites not to forget. Perhaps that’s our greatest work, too. Remembering.
Clovis Chappell, a preacher from another generation, says the reason we are so thankless is because we are so thoughtless. It’s interesting to me that we have to be reminded to give thanks, that we have to be told to give thanks. In Luke 17, we find Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. He enters a village along the way and ten lepers approach him calling out asking for him to have mercy on them. Jesus saw them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” They went, and were healed. Only one of the lepers returned to give thanks to Jesus for what he had done. Luke tells us he was a Samaritan. Let’s not get lost in the meaning of that fact, but Jesus did ask about the other nine. I wonder if the percentages in that encounter holds true today—only 10% of the people truly live lives of gratitude.