Summary: The attitude of gratitude is a conscious choice the Believer makes to the greatest event our world has known - the death and resurrection of Christ. That attitude enables us to live as overcomers irrespective of our circumstances.
LET THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE ELEVATE YOUR ALTITUDE
1. The cartoon by Mike Baldwin on the cover of your bulletin this morning (cartoon shows a long line of people at the "Complaints" window and none at the "Gratitude" window)is an apt description of and sad commentary on the vast majority of us who live in a land, a culture, a society that is more blessed economically, materially, educationally, agriculturally, scientifically, politically, medically, technologically, spiritually than any other nation or generation that has ever lived on the face of this planet.
• And yet in spite of all the benefits we have come to enjoy, we also have the largest number of gripers and complainers and moaners and discontented, dissatisfied people than anywhere else on earth.
• It is quite obvious that having more stuff does not automatically translate into greater happiness, peace, joy, and contentment.
• I’ll let you decide how you would respond to the person who said to me once, “While money certainly doesn’t buy happiness, it definitely makes misery more tolerable.”
2. Last Sunday we reflected on Paul’s words in Ephesians 2 about how God has “raised us up together with Christ and made us sit with Him in heavenly realms”. We noted that it makes all the difference in the world where you are seated and from where you choose to look out on life – whether from a heavenly perspective or from a purely earthly point of view.
• And as those who have been forgiven and cleansed of our sin, raised up with Christ and united with Him, we do have that choice. Thanks be to God.
• And the more we choose the heavenly over the earthly perspective, the more of God’s peace and joy becomes a regular and consistent part of our experience.
3. Today I want us to reflect on another choice we all have that impacts how we engage, respond and relate to the world around us. That choice we all have is whether or not to be a grateful people.
• The dictionary defines Gratitude as “a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation at a benefit received.”
• Now I am sure that most of us have had moments of feeling appreciative and thankful to others for things they have done to benefit us, but I want us to consider developing gratitude not just as an occasional response to some of the more obvious benefits that come our way, but rather as an ongoing way of life – that it becomes the overriding attitude with which we choose to respond to each and every incident that occurs – no matter how outwardly positive or negative it may at first appear. That is something very different.
• In other words that the attitude of gratitude becomes our deliberate and chosen response to a far greater incident or action than any of the other lesser incidents and occurrences – positive or negative - that cross our path on a daily basis.
4. Medical science has started studying the healthful effects of gratitude. Starting in 1997, Dr. Michael McCullough, an associate professor of psychology and religious studies at the University of Miami, conducted a series of studies over the next three years, involving 2,000 people and found the most grateful people tended to be the happiest. BIG SURPRISE! He discovered that there are almost no downsides to living with an attitude of gratitude, rather ``Most grateful people have high self-esteem and low rates of depression and negative moods.’’
• Here are some of the other results of his research:
• "Having gratitude over time loosens the hold of wealth and status and comparisons to what others have.”
• He found that people can learn over time to be grateful, even if they just started out by daily noting four or five things for which they were grateful – even if one of them was just that it was a sunny day.
• "In just two to three weeks they reported being happier," he said. "People close to them could see the difference too."
• In another study, Dr. Andrew Wenger, a psychologist in Pinecrest, Florida, discovered that thankful people became more adept at handling life’s challenges. He wrote, "Grateful people are more likely to be resilient, and they seem to have an easier time overcoming obstacles."
• “Grateful people”, wrote Dr. McCullough, “have a sense of wonder and appreciation”
5. Many philosophers, authors, and religious leaders throughout the ages have sought to encourage the attitude of gratitude within their hearers or readers.
• Buddha is reported to have said: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”