To appreciate means to value something or somebody highly. On Wednesday night I asked, 'what have you come to appreciate more since COVID started'. Based on some of the answers it was clear that people are most appreciative of people and the things that helped them to deal with being alienated from them. They appreciated the technology that enabled them to do things like Face Time and Zoom.
Since we've had to be separated from people, having things like that helped to make that separation more bearable. I'm sure when local businesses started opening up people appreciated them more than ever. When we're separated from something or someone we appreciate their value more. However, we shouldn't have to be separated from them in order to show more appreciation for them.
1) We need to appreciate things.
When we see verses like Matt. 6:19-20 where Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven, not treasures on earth and vs. 33 where he says, 'seek first the kingdom of God', we might think that it's wrong to enjoy our material possessions. But that's not true.
1st Tim. 6:17, "Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
The point is we shouldn't put our trust in money or make the pursuit of material things our priority in life. But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy them. We see here that God gives us things for our enjoyment. We can take pleasure in the material things God blesses us with.
It's fun to get something new. When someone gives you a gift you get excited. Or if there's something you've been saving up for and you finally get it you enjoy it. That's not wrong; you don't have to feel guilty about that. God wants you to enjoy it.
However, if you spent your rent money on something for yourself or if every time you get some extra money you spent it on yourself instead of saving it or blessing someone else, that would be wrong. The parable of the rich fool in Luke 12 showed us it's not wise to be selfish. But in the right context, we can enjoy the things we have.
But we need to make sure we appreciate these things. Have you ever seen people who weren't appreciative of anything. They didn't take care of it or treat it as special. Not that we're supposed to worship material things, but we are supposed to take care of them and show that these things are important to us.
When we do this we show that the person who gave it to us is important. Sometimes the gift isn't costly but it's valuable to us because we value the person who gave it to us. So we show our appreciation for the gift mainly because we appreciate the gift-giver. We recognize the care and thoughtfulness of the person who picked it out and gave it to us.
We need to do that with what God gives us. Even the everyday things. It might be easy to overlook the need to appreciate things like the clothes on our back, roof over our head, food on the table, a car that runs, a job to go to, etc. But we should stop and take a minute to be thankful for these things.
I said earlier that we appreciate things more when we have to go without them. It's easy to lose appreciation for the everyday things like food and shelter but if we were hungry and homeless I'm sure the appreciation would come back quick. We take for granted that our car starts every day when we leave for work until the day it doesn't start. We complain about our job until the day we're let go.
God may need to send us a message if we fail to appreciate the blessings he gives us. It's ok to enjoy material things but it's important to show appreciation to God and others for the material blessings we have.
2) We need to appreciate people.
Sometimes people don't feel appreciated. They do for others or go out of their way for someone and receive little thanks for it. Instead of being appreciated they feel taken for granted. So it's nice when people extend appreciation for the things you do or what you mean to them.
I received a card this week where the sender showed appreciation for me and our friendship. Not that I felt unappreciated but the card showed the person wanted to remind me of what they were appreciative for. There have been many people in the church who have shown their appreciation to me time after time.
One reason I might not receive appreciation is because the things I do are routine. When something is done on a regular basis it tends to get overlooked. We don't thank someone for doing the dishes, the laundry or mowing the lawn because these things are mundane, regular chores. But what if they didn't get done? How long would it take before someone appreciated them? Recognize and be thankful for the routine things people do for you.
If you're a supervisor you might not think you need to show appreciation for the people who work for you because they're just doing their job; it's what they're getting paid for. But we like to be acknowledged when we do a good job, right? People become more motivated when they're shown appreciation for a job well done. And I'm sure because they're doing a good job that's making your job easier.
It might not be a person under you but rather a co-worker along side of you. Show them some appreciation for doing their job which allows you to do your job without having to pick up any slack.
We need to do that in the body of Christ. We know the eye can't say to the foot, "I have no need for you". Because of that, we need to show appreciation for those who are serving the Lord. We might not be meeting in person right now but people are still doing things for the church every week. Some things aren't currently being done because we're not at the church but the work of the church continues and we need to show appreciation for it.
The word appreciate is not in the NIV. But the synonyms grateful and thankful are. Interestingly, the word grateful only appears once and that's in Romans 16:3. We covered Romans 16 a few weeks back in my sermon on greetings. In that chapter is a long list of people Paul wanted the Romans to greet when the letter arrived. The first ones listed were Priscilla and Aquila.
Rom. 16:3-5, "Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house."
Paul said he and all the Gentile churches are grateful to them. Here we see a few reasons why. They were fellow Christian workers. We know from Acts 18:1-3 that they were tent makers and Paul met them in Corinth. He stayed with them and learned the trade of tent making. Vs. 18 says when Paul left Corinth to sail for Syria, Priscilla and Aquila went with him.
When they got to Ephesus, Paul went on but Priscilla and Aquila stayed. Soon after they met Apollos. Vs. 24-25 says that he was an educated man who had a thorough knowledge of the scriptures. He taught passionately about Jesus but knew only the baptism of John. Vs. 26 states that "when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately."
After listening to Apollos, it became clear to Priscilla and Aquila that he didn't know about baptism in the name of Jesus. So, they invited him into their home so they could spend some time with him and teach him more sufficiently. This shows they were knowledgeable and able to teach. Apollos went on to be a valuable asset to Paul and the church.
We need to appreciate those who've been influential in teaching us the truth. Have you been taught the way of Christ more adequately? Did someone spend time with you and help you understand more about God? How have you shown them appreciation for that?
Paul also said Priscilla and Aquila risked their lives for him. We're not sure exactly what Paul is referring to here, but if you read through Acts 18, you'll see that Paul had some issues with the Jews there. So with Priscilla and Aquila taking him in, they may have brought trouble on themselves.
In vs. 9-10, Jesus spoke to Paul in a vision, encouraging him to not be afraid to keep preaching because no harm would come to him. Vs. 11 says, 'so Paul stayed for a year and a half'. This tells me that Paul was thinking about leaving because of the threat of danger, perhaps primarily to Priscilla and Aquila. But whatever the risks were that Paul was referring to, they were willing to put their lives on the line for him.
If you knew someone risked their life for you I would think you'd be quite appreciative of that. There's no greater sacrifice one could make than their life. Even though Priscilla and Aquila were still alive Paul knew they valued him so much that they would've been willing to lose their lives in order to help him and Paul wasn't going to forget that.
There have been and continue to be people who risk their lives for the sake of Christ. They worship in places where it's illegal to be a Christian. You'd be put in jail, or worse, if you're caught with a bible. Christianity has continued large in part because there have been people who valued the gospel more than their very lives. We owe them much appreciation for their sacrifice.
Has anyone ever taken a risk for you? Maybe the risk was financial, maybe it was physical. Maybe you were afraid to do or face something and there was someone there to go through it with you. How did that affect you? Let's make sure we appreciate those who selflessly go above and beyond for us.
Paul said that not only he but all the churches needed to be grateful for Priscilla and Aquila. Their service not only benefited Paul, it benefited the whole church. By helping Paul they were helping the continuation of the spread of the gospel. By them inviting Apollos into their home and teaching him they were helping him to be more influential to more people.
When people serve, it may benefit someone directly, but that in turn can benefit countless other people. There's much to be appreciative of when someone serves in the name of Christ.
Paul mentions that a church met at Priscilla and Aquila's house. They were willing to open their home so God's people could meet and worship and see God's work being done. The people had a safe and welcoming environment where they could worship freely and talk openly about God, his word and his work.
Not that they needed to meet in secret but the things they did and talked about may not have been as well received out in the open. We think about that with the benefit of having our place of worship. If we held a church service in a public park it might not be an issue at first but eventually it would cause a problem and we would be asked to leave.
But at the church building we're free to worship, preach, teach, discuss and fellowship without anyone telling us we can't. We should appreciate that we have a place to come to where there are no concerns or restrictions to talk about Jesus or the bible.
Think about those who open up their homes like Priscilla and Aquila did. Some use their homes as respite places for traveling missionaries or pastors. I remember when Sharon sold her home in B-Ville and bought a house on the north side to run the women's residency ministry.
People open up their homes for bible studies and get-togethers; people who have welcomed the idea of using their home for God's purposes. They have chosen to use the home that God has blessed them with to serve him and invite people for fellowship. We need to appreciate those who open their homes for God's business.
After the church was broken into, someone who was concerned for my safety offered me the use of their home to do my work. My place doesn't have an extra room where I could do that so this person extended their hospitality to me. Although I haven't taken them up on their offer yet, I'm still very appreciative of it nonetheless.
We need to appreciate people.
3) We need to appreciate God.
We can take things for granted, we can take people for granted, we can take God for granted. How? When I talked about our need to appreciate things, I said how exciting is it when we get something new. But what happens after a while is the newness wears off and we're not as excited about it as we were in the beginning.
The same can happen with people. When we start a relationship we're in that "cloud nine" stage where everything is new and exciting. But after we've been with the person for a while that wears off.
It can be the same way with God. When we first came to Christ we may have had this excitement. We couldn't get enough of the word, we read it all the time and we were thrilled when God revealed the truth to us and we understood it. We experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit when we felt differently than we ever did before. We were happier, more at peace. We couldn't wait to get to church.
But, after a while, that enthusiasm subsided and suddenly these things became more mundane, perhaps even a chore. We began to lose the excitement and began going through the motions. When these things happen, we may be at a place where we have lost our appreciation for the things of God. At our baptism we felt on top of the world but over time we began to slip back into the world.
Maybe we need to echo David's prayer in Psalm 51:10-12, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."
If David is asking God to create a pure heart in him then David has allowed impurities into his heart. If David is asking God to renew a steadfast spirit within him then David has started to waver in his faith and dedication. David asks God to restore the joy he once had about his salvation. He wanted that willingness back so he would keep going.
One meaning for sustain is feed or nourish. David may have been lacking spiritual nourishment. We can relate to that. When we start to lose appreciation for God we will begin to do the things of God less. When we neglect our time in the word or time in prayer or time with God's people we will become malnourished and unhealthy. Rekindling the fire will bring back health and vitality.
In Rev. 2, Jesus told the church in Ephesus that they had forsaken their first love. He told them to repent and do the things they did at first. The Ephesians started out loving, passionate and on fire. But over time the flame became smaller. They needed to stoke the fire and throw some logs on and get that fire blazing like it was in the beginning.
Have we lost any of the passion we had at first? Have we started going backward and allowed the worldly ways to creep back into our lives? Have we lost appreciation for God's grace, mercy, forgiveness and love? Do we take any of these things for granted? Are God's word or his church losing their appeal? Do we connect with him in prayer as much as we used to?
Is it exciting to see someone get baptized or do we just say, 'that's nice'? Do we appreciate God and the things of God as much as we used to? If not then we should pray for the joy of our salvation to return. We need to pray for a spiritual renewal. Appreciation is not something we automatically have-it's a choice we make.
In my first point I talked about having appreciation for the material things God has given us but we also need to thank God and show appreciation for the things money can't buy. These are the more precious things. God's love, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the spirit, wisdom, understanding, Jesus' friendship, etc. There are many hurting people in the world. They're looking for love, joy and peace but are finding only vain substitutes.
Ecc. 2:24-26, "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
The one who has a relationship with God is given the wisdom, knowledge and happiness that enables him to see what's really important in life. We see how precious life is and we understand the importance of enjoying life and finding satisfaction in what we do with our lives. The Christian sees the importance of focusing on the treasures of heaven and recognizing the eternal value of spiritual things.
But the person who doesn't know God is putting his efforts into perishable things; things that won't last. He toils and labors for food that spoils. He works his whole life, seeking more but enjoying less. His life isn't satisfying; it's grueling.
What people desire the most of all but can't find is what we have found through Christ. But do we view these things as the precious gems they are? Do we see the advantage and privilege we have as children of God?
1 John 3:1a, "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" Notice the exclamation points. This is joy, excitement...appreciation.
What are you grateful for? Who are you grateful for? How do you show it? Perhaps you've heard this cheer before: '2-4-6-8, who do we appreciate?' Not that we need to formulate a good, old-fashioned cheer but maybe we could show some of that same enthusiasm in letting people know how much we appreciate them. So, I'd appreciate it if you would show what and who you appreciate.