Peninsula Community Church
November 27, 2011
Do you have a Grateful Heart?
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison– that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Churchill Illustration – Winston Churchill told the story about a little boy who was playing on a pier. All of a sudden he fell off the pier into the water. He did not know how to swim and was in serious danger of drowning. A very kind-hearted young soldier saw this, and he immediately jumped off the pier and swam towards the little boy. He put the boy on his shoulders and brought him back up to the pier quite safely. This young man saved the boy’s life. The boy had been playing with other little boys, but his parents were nowhere to be found. The soldier drove the child to his parents’ home and left the boy there. The young man did not even think of receiving any reward. He was a very kind-hearted person, and he was extremely happy that he was able to save the life of this little boy. A few days later, the boy’s parents came to look for the soldier. Everybody was helping them look for him, because they thought that the parents had come to give him a reward for saving their child. Finally they found the soldier working at the pier. The parents approached the young man, and the father said, “Where is our son’s hat?” The young man was shocked. He said, “I tried to save your son’s life and I did save his life. Now you are asking me for his hat?” “Yes,” replied the parents. They demanded, “What did you do with our son’s hat? What is wrong with you? We want to know where the hat is!”
The Scriptures are replete with encouragements to be thankful and grateful.
- Psalms 100:1-5 (A Psalm for giving thanks.) Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
- Psalm 107:22- And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
- Psalm 147:7
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre!
- Philippians 4:6
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- It is important to note that the last five chapters of Psalms all begin with the admonishment to praise the Lord!
So what are the signs of a grateful heart? Let us look at a couple of things together.
1. The first sign of a grateful heart is a humble heart. A humble person is generally thought to be unpretentious and modest. A humble person is someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. A humble person will also manifest a healthy limit of their talents, their ability, and their authority. They do not reach for that which is beyond one’s grasp. When one is walking in humility they do not have to profess their humility. They do not have to let anyone know because those around them will know that one is humble because they will present an attitude that exemplifies their humility. They live out the admonition “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2). When one is prideful they will present a different attitude.
A government official who came into President Lincoln’s office was startled to find the chief executive shining his own shoes. “Sir,” he gasped, “surely you do not polish your own shoes!” “Of course,” replied the humble President. “Whose do you polish?”
All of this is illustrated in the life of Jesus. “Jesus did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). If we truly follow Christ’s example, then humility will be a way of life, a habit of submitting to God’s will and a lifelong commitment of devoting ourselves to God’s calling. When one is truly humble there are no private agendas, you know where the other person stands without reservation.
The highest title God ever allows in His church is that of “servant.” Are you willing to serve people as Jesus did? We cannot die for people to save them as Jesus did, but we can “die to self” to enable us to tell people that Jesus died for their sins, and thus serve them in the greatest way possible. Therefore, a grateful person is a humble person and is willing to serve others.
2. A second sign of a grateful heart is a God-centered and others-conscious heart. I suspect that for many of us, our Christian experience is too often influenced by our circumstances. When we are “up,” God is great. When we are “down,” God is distant. If things go our way, we have much for which to praise God. If times come that would test our patience, we are tempted to give up. To be God-centered is to realize that God is at the heart of life. It is God that influences and invades all of reality. Why does this matter? How will this enable me to be a grateful person? Because, our happiness is not dependent on personal experience, but on God’s grace and love for me. Again we hear the Psalmist call out in Psalms 100:1-5 “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Grateful people are free to be giving and caring because they are centered on God, and they are centered on others, not on themselves. Grateful people who are God-centered and others centered are loving people who want to bless others. A grateful person is humble and they are God-centered and others-conscious.
3. A third sign of grateful heart is a full heart. No matter how little one may actually have compared to others, a grateful person feels like he is full because he is grateful and full of thanks. A grateful heart brings contentment. One of the problems that exist in our culture is that people are not content with their possessions so they buy things they can’t afford in hopes that it will bring a sense of contentment. So much of advertisement plays on this concept of discontentment. If you buy this car, drink this soda, have McDonalds for breakfast or wear a certain style of clothes and you will be content and happy. Let me make it clear that that this does not mean that we do not desire better things or that we are not to seek improving our current status. It simply means that we must be aware of desiring the things that we can not have or afford. Discontentment is the enemy of a grateful heart. Once again we refer to the words of the Psalmist – Psalm 100:4-5 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. The grateful person has an unlimited capacity to enjoy God’s blessings, no matter how few or how many they may be. Let me tell you this; we all have many, many, many blessings from God. The grateful person, even in the midst of heartache and loss, is going to feel full. It is interesting to note that while Paul was in prison he wrote the Church of Philippi that he has all he needed.
Philippians 4:18-19 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. How could he think of himself as full in that situation? Paul had a grateful heart. Even when he was missing some blessings that people would consider pretty important, he felt full because a thankful person always has a sense of fullness. Paul believed that God’s goodness and God’s blessings were so abounding that he goes on in the next verse to reassure the Philippians that there was enough for them as well. Not only is there enough for me sitting here in my prison, but there is enough for you as well. How is your fullness meter? Do you have a sense of fullness or emptiness as you look at your life these days? Could you say with Paul, “I have everything that I need. God’s grace is abounded to me. I am full?” You see, Paul didn’t have “all” in terms of creature comforts. But I’ll tell you what he did have—he had Christ. You may have lost a mate. You may have lost a job. You may have lost a friend. You may have lost the dearest possessions in the world to you. There may be things on your wish list for this year but don’t let your wish drive your success or your feeling of fullness.
Where does God find you with these characteristics? Do you have a grateful heart or an ungrateful heart? Is your heart proud, or is it humble? Is it God-centered and others-centered, or is it self-centered? Is your heart full, or is it empty? The answer to those questions may be seen in whether or not you have an attitude of gratitude. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.