Summary: Thanksgiving

The Attitude of Gratitude

[2] I hope everyone had as good a Thanksgiving as my family and I had. It was a truly blessed day. We were able to sit around together and actually think about what we were thankful for.

Thanksgiving is one of those days when we usually find some time to be thankful. We look around and see all our family and friends; We go around the table and say what we’re thankful for; We feast on some of the best food around. Thanksgiving is a day of thanks!

But how do we translate that into a daily mentality. I mean, how can we become people who possess an [3] attitude of gratitude all year long. Wouldn’t it be sad if Thanksgiving and other selected times throughout the year we were thankful – as opposed to being content and thankful most of the time? We ought to and can be thankful people. We shouldn’t just have times when we’re thankful. We should possess an attitude of gratitude that typifies who we really are.

But first, let’s take a little quiz to see if we already have an attitude of gratitude or if we need some help in this area. The answers are multiple choice – a. gratitude, b. grit, c. grouch.

So when it comes to life’s circumstances and what goes on each day, how do you respond? with a. gratitude, b. grit, c. grouch.

1. You are in the 10 item express lane at Publics with your 2 cans of green beans, 1 can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and your debit card in hand. The person in front of you has 17 items, (you know because you counted them), and a checkbook that they have to dig deep down in their purse to find. How do you respond?

A. Gratitude for the Green Bean Bake your family will enjoy.

B. Grit your teeth and wonder if the guy ahead of you failed math or reading.

C. Grouch by yelling at the cashier, “Checkout Line Violation! 17 items! 17 items!”

2. You receive a letter from the IRS, stating you will soon be receiving a $1,000 refund on your tax return, how do you respond?

A. Gratitude to live in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

B. Grit your teeth about the other $10,000 you paid in taxes last year.

C. Grouch and rip the letter to shreds because you deserve more.

3. You receive a letter from the IRS, stating you will be audited. How do you respond?

A. Gratitude to live in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.

B. Grit your teeth and call your accountant.

C. Grouch write the paper an angry letter about tax oppression in the USA.

4. You are driving your daughter to school, and as you drop her off, the car in front of you decides to just park there, trapping you in the school parking lot. How do you respond?

A. Gratitude to spend some time just to think and pray.

B. Grit your teeth as you try and patiently wait out the other driver.

C. Grouch and honk your horn continuously until you sound out “move your car” in Morse code.

Let’s see how we did. If you had all A’s, you need to preach this message. If you had all B’s for your answers, you need to take a breath and chillax. If you had all C’s for your answers, you may need therapy. If you had a mixture of A’s, B’s, and C’s, welcome to the club. Most of us would probably say that we could be more consistent with our thankfulness. Most of us would say that its sometimes hard to be thankful when we go through difficult times. But I’ll bet that most of us would say that we want to be more content and thankful in our lives.

So how do we do that? How do we become people with an attitude of gratitude? Let’s go [4] to the book of Philippians and let God teach us through the life and inspired words of Paul.

[Read Philippians 4:4-7.]

First of all, an [5] attitude of gratitude begins with prayer.

Last week we talked about how the God of the universe wants to listen to us. He leans in to hear us when we pray to Him. He wants and enjoys hearing the words come out of our mouths directly to Him. If we want to be a thankful person we need to be a praying person.

So often the trials of life bog us down. So often the business of life distracts us. So often the labor of life wears us out. What do we do when life’s needs overwhelm us?

Sometimes we worry. Sometimes we panic. Sometimes we rack our brains trying to figure it out. Sometimes we work even harder. But the answers, the relief, the wisdom, the forgiveness, the deliverance, the direction, and the peace is only a prayer away. Look at the passage again.

[Read Philippians 4:4-7.]

When the reality of ‘God the advocate’ sets into our minds appreciation sets in. Thankfulness sets in. The attitude of gratitude begins. Listen to the lyrics of the song “Oh God Where Are You Now” by the David Crowder Band.

Oh God, hold me now.

Oh Lord, save me some how.

There’s no other man who could raise the dead.

So do what You can to anoint my head.

Oh God, where are you now?

Oh Lord, say somehow.

Oh God, hold me now.

Oh God touch me now.

There’s no other man who could save the day.

There’s no other god who could raise the dead.

That’s the God that we serve. The God who can raise the dead! The God who wants to hear from us! The God that will answer our prayers! [6]

[Read Matthew 6:25-33.]

When we put Him first we can count on Him to provide for us. God loves us so much and wants for us to talk with Him about our needs, our concerns, our love, our hearts. When we pray to Him by faith, knowing that He has our best interest at heart, His peace comes to us and sooths our soul. Peace that tells us everything will be alright. God is taking care of me. Everything will be just fine.

The attitude of gratitude begins with prayer. That’s where it starts.

But also the [7] attitude of gratitude abides by focus.

[Read Philippians 4:8-9.]

We have got to maintain a pure and positive thought life if we want to remain thankful people. Just because we start out right doesn’t mean we’ll finish well. Just because we want to be thankful doesn’t mean we’ll actually be thankful. Like every other virtuous endeavor, we need to keep our focus so we stay on track.

Have you ever noticed that you start to take on the personality of the people you spend a lot of time with? Have you ever noticed that you start to take on the attitude or behaviors of the tv shows you watch and the music you listen to? You know the old saying, “garbage in – garbage out”.

[‘Stage-pull’ illustration.]

Sometimes there are things and people in our lives that are just bad for our attitudes. They’re always griping and complaining about something. And the more you listen to them the more you find yourself looking at things negatively as well. The glass now looks half-empty instead of half-full.

That’s no way to go through life. There’s so much good going on in the world, but we sometimes don’t see it because our focus is off. We’re always looking for the bad instead of recognizing the good. That kind of negativity kills a person’s joy.

What’s pulling you down in your life? Who is pulling you down? What’s keeping you from having a positive, thankful attitude? We need to fill our minds with pure, positive thoughts if we want to maintain a thankful mindset. Focus on what’s good in your life. Focus on what’s good in the world. Focus on what’s good in the church. The attitude of gratitude abides by focus.

And finally, the [8] attitude of gratitude moves us to trust Jesus.

[Read Philippians 4:10-13.]

Did you notice that twice in that passage Paul said that he had “learned” how to be content. It didn’t just come naturally. He had to learn how to be content and happy with the life that God had called him to. I think its this way with most of us. We have to learn this thing called contentment while we live in this body of sin. Paul had to learn it too.

So what were some of those lessons Paul learned? How did God choose to teach Paul contentment and true joy? Some of the best of life’s lessons are learned through life’s experiences. Turn with me to the [9] book of II Corinthians where undoubtedly Paul was learning how to be content.

[Read II Corinthians 6:3-5, 11:23-28, Acts 16:25.]

Paul had been through it! God called him to a difficult, but meaningful life. He went through more than most of us could even imagine! But that was the life God called him too and it was the life that God used him in. He used him to write much of the New Testament during these difficult times. He used him to plant many churches during these difficult times. And he even used him to heal people of their diseases and ailments during these difficult times. But they were difficult times.

During the trials Paul learned to be content. So much so that while imprisoned him and Silas were singing the praise of God. I think if I got thrown into prison I’d probably be singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I see, nobody knows but me.” But Paul? No way. He was imprisoned, simply for preaching the gospel, but his joy overwhelmed the moment. He turned life’s lemons into lemonade and started a worship service right there in his jail cell. Paul had learned to be content.

And learning the attitude of gratitude enabled him to handle those future trials by trusting Jesus for the strength to go through them well. And remember, Paul never escaped life’s trials. Even to the end of his life when he was martyred for his faith. Let’s look at the passage in Philippians again.

[Read Philippians 4:10-13.]

This power doesn’t mean that we get some kind of super-human strength like Superman and can take on the world! It also doesn’t mean that anything we want to do we can just do as long as it’s ‘in the name of Jesus’. What it does mean is that whatever God has called you to do, you can do when you put your faith and trust in Him. God will give you the strength to handle whatever He wants you to handle.

I can do this because Jesus is in my life. I can have joy through pain because Jesus is real. I can be thankful for life because Jesus is so good to me.

Warren Wiersbe wrote a book called “Victorious Christian” about a woman named Fanny Crosby. Crosby was the author of over 8000 songs including several that we sing in churches today. In fact she wrote so many that she had to write under pseudonyms just so she could get more of her songs into the hymnbooks.

At 6 weeks of age Fanny Crosby developed a minor eye inflammation and was taken to a local doctor for treatment. However, the doctor who treated her used the wrong medicine on her eyes and she became totally and permanently blind because of his carelessness.

Interviewed years later, Fanny Crosby said she harbored no bitterness against the

physician. In fact, she once said, "If I could meet him now, I would say thank him, over and over again for making me blind." She felt that her blindness was a gift from God to help her write the hymns that flowed from her pen.

How could Fanny Crosby, blinded by a tragic failure of a careless doctor, be filled with such joy and power? Because she kept her heart focused on God. She looked up toward God rather than around at her disability and weaknesses. As with Paul, she was convinced that she could do all things through Christ who gave her strength.

When you learn to be content with your life and learn to trust Jesus with your life, all of your life, you get this incredible joy that empowers you through this journey. That’s the kind of attitude we all want. One of contentment, joy and gratitude.

Are you struggling to keep an attitude of gratitude all year round? Let’s look at one more passage that ought to cause us all to rejoice in the God we serve. [10]

[Read Romans 8:31-32.]

God is on our side. He has done so much for us when we really didn’t deserve it. He still does so much for us now when we really don’t deserve it. He is there for us and will never let us down. What an incredible source of joy for us today and every day.

But if you’re struggling with being thankful, remember:

[11] The attitude of gratitude begins with prayer. Be more disciplined with your prayer time with God. Don’t let it become a meaningless ritual. Make it a special part of your day when you spend time talking with the One who created you, who loves you, and who died to save you. Pour your heart out before Him every single day. Don’t let a day go by that you don’t spend time talking with God. He really is listening. Also:

[12] The attitude of gratitude abides by focus. Keep your mind focused on what’s good and pure in life. Don’t let the media, or even people, to waste your time and your mind with negative, sinful images. What do you need to cut out of your life that’s bringing you down? Who do you need to spend less time with because they’re bringing you down? Don’t let anything get in the way of your focus. And finally:

[13] The attitude of gratitude empowers us through trusting Jesus. Remember who God is. Remember how He loves you. Remember the times He’s walked you through a dark time in life. Remember that you can do all things through Him who gives you strength. Remember and trust. He will give you the strength to make it through this journey of life.

[14] [Invitation to raise hands for prayer.]

[15] [Pray.]