Summary: We need to ask God to change our hearts from 1. Complaints to Praise. 2. Criticism to Encouragement. 3. Cynicism to Faith.
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Immediately they ran toward the nearest fence. The storming bull ran after them in hot pursuit, and they realized that they were not going to make it. Terrified, one man shouted to his friend, “Say a prayer, John. We’re in trouble ” John said, “I’ve never prayed out loud before. I don’t know what to say. “But you have to ” yelled his companion; “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” said John, as he ran with all his might; “I’ll say the only prayer I know. My father used to say it at the table: Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.”
Some people pray only when they are in trouble. Even fewer pray a prayer of thanksgiving. There is an interesting paradox in our culture: the more we have, the less thankful we are. The more we have, the more we want. The more we have, the more we are aware of what we do not have, and if we should happen to forget, the advertising world is ready to remind us. If you were not already aware of the holiday of Thanksgiving, you would completely miss it if you only looked at the stores and listened to the media. It seemed like we have been totally bypassing Thanksgiving — moving straight from Halloween to Christmas. We went from a holiday of fear to one of hope without thanksgiving in between. But the reality is that it’s a grateful heart that moves us from fear to hope. Without Thanksgiving we are not ready for Christmas. A grateful heart brings about an expectant heart. You cannot be hopeful about the future without being thankful for the past and grateful for the present.
How do we develop a grateful heart? I am convinced that this is the work of God that only happens through prayer. We need to pray for three things. The first is, we need to pray that God would move our hearts: From Complaints to Praise. Can you imagine how different the world would be if beginning today people would not complain about anything? The world would be a completely different place. A new joy would begin to take over the world just because of that one minor change. But, now, can you imagine how different you would be if today you would stop complaining? There would be a whole new you. A new joy would begin to take over your life, and you would have a whole new outlook on the world. Some people would hardly have anything to say. If you would just stop complaining your relationships would be different, your job would be different, your home would be different, and your church would be different.
I went into the office of a pastor here in town, and he had sign on the wall with the word “whining.” Over the word was a circle with a slash through it. He wanted his office to be a no whining zone. I thought as I saw it: “Been there, heard that.” Our daughters are trying to turn their children’s hearts from whining to gratitude. “You need to be thankful for what you have,” they keep repeating in the hope that one day the message may get through. But, somehow, whining is the siren heard throughout our culture. Here we are with more luxuries, more food, more things, more of everything than anyone else in the world, or in the world’s history for that matter, yet whining is often the language of choice.
One of the things that so impressed me about the impoverished countries of Honduras and Haiti was that the Christians there were so joyful. They live in abject poverty, often not having enough to eat or the basic necessities of life, but they are full of praise to God. Their worship is exuberant and joyful in the midst of overwhelming deprivation. But so often in the United States, where our main problem is having too much to eat and too many things to buy, we are focusing on what is wrong rather than all the blessings that overflow from our lives. Try a little experiment this Thanksgiving. Announce that not a single word of complaining can come from anyone’s lips and see how difficult it is. See how accustomed we have become to looking at the negative instead of the positive in life.
Hear the Word of God as it says, “Do everything without complaining or 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 as you hold out the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16). Having a heart that has developed a spirit of gratitude and put aside complaining is one of the evidences of reality of God’s Spirit in our lives to an unbelieving world. If we are as negative and cynical as the rest of the world, or worse, what does that say to those who are watching our lives? Constantly, on our lips, should be words of praise. We ought to sing the words of the Scripture which say, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. . . . Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name” (1 Chronicles 29:11-13).