Summary: When we lose sight of God, and focus on our circumstances, our gratitude turns to grumbling. But practicing an attitude of gratitude in all things transforms the way we understand God and the way in which we see the world around us.
Thanksgiving Living - Luke 17:11-19 - October 9, 2011
Ten men. Ten life changing experiences. One transformed life. Open your Bibles with me please to the Gospel of Luke. Luke, chapter 17, beginning in verse 11. We are taking a step back from the Sermon on the Mount this morning to look at Living with Thanksgiving. It seems appropriate that we do so, on this weekend of all weekends, as we consider all it is that we have to be thankful for, and how it is that we can live with an on-going attitude of gratitude.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says this, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV) Now that’s easy enough for us to do when things are going well; when the circumstances of our lives bring us joy. It’s far more difficult when the moments of our days are filled with grief, or trial, or despair; when the circumstances of our lives threaten to overwhelm us.
But, that verse makes it very clear that the gratitude we ought to be expressing is not dependent upon our circumstances at all. God’s will for us is this: that in all things we would give thanks to Him. Not for all things – but in all things – and there’s a very big difference between the two. We see that difference illustrated in the life of Pastor and Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, who, upon being robbed, wrote these words in his diary, “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.” (www.crosswalk.com) His response to his circumstances, was not to give thanks for them, but to give thanks in them. He wasn’t thankful that he had been robbed, but, having been robbed he found much to be thankful for.
When I drive somewhere I like to set the radio on “scan.” That way when I hear something I like I can stop it and listen to it for a bit. The downside is that I rarely catch a whole song – usually I just get bits and pieces of it. Some time ago I caught the chorus of a song by David Lee Murphy. I didn’t hear any of the other lyrics but the chorus fit just perfectly into those few seconds before the radio tuned itself to another station. Now this is what I heard him singing, and bear with me if you’ve heard the song before, because you’ll know that what I heard, wasn’t the same as what he was actually singing. But this is what I heard, “There might be a little dust on the Bible, But don’t let it fool ya about what’s inside. There might be a little dust on the Bible, It’s one of those things that gets sweeter with time.” As I repeated the chorus to myself I thought, “What a great song. What a great message.” How many Bibles are sitting on book shelves today just gathering dust when inside of their covers is this rich treasure of God’s word! And the older we get the sweeter God’s word seems to be. I was so into this song and I kept singing the chorus over and over to myself thinking about this great message I was hearing.
Imagine my surprise when I heard the song again, this time in it’s entirety, and discovered that David Lee Murphy wasn’t singing about the Bible after all, but about a bottle – a bottle of alcohol. He wasn’t singing, “There might be a little dust on the Bible,” really he was singing, “There might be a little dust on the bottle.” One little word but it was enough to change my whole perspective of what was going on. Well that’s what happens when we seek to live out God’s will and give thanks in all things – our whole perspective changes.
When we practice gratitude in such a way as that it begins to change the way in which we see the world. Someone once said it this way: “When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.” That’s God’s will for us! That we would stop focusing so much on the circumstance – whether it is good or bad – and that we would put our focus back on to Him where it belongs. And it’s only then that we begin to discover that we can give thanks in all circumstances.
Now, folks, one of the things I’ve discovered as I’ve sought to teach and preach the word of God is that God will often give me an opportunity to put into practice in my own life the very things I seek to share with you. That was true this week. There I was, working on a message about giving thanks in all things, when in reality, thankfulness, because of some of the things that happened during the week, was about the furthest thing from my mind. Instead there was a mixture of anger, self-pity and frustration. And it was only as my focus shifted beyond the circumstances I found myself facing, and back to God, that I was reminded of all I had to be thankful for even in the midst of what was taking place. Focusing on God helps us to put things in a proper perspective and to cultivate that attitude of gratitude within our hearts.