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Forgotten Virtues

Part 5: Gratitude

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(12/6) Welcome to Christís Community Church. If you have your Bibles with you, turn to Luke Chapter 17. Now unless youíve been sleeping the past 20 years, youíve probably noticed that the pervasive attitude of recent generations has been one of entitlement. You see, weíve created more than we realize by our actions and attitudes a generation that feels like everyone owes them, and not only that, they feel as if they deserve even more. In general, our culture has become one that refuses to say "no". It shelters our children, it protects them with buckles, seats, and helmets, and even gives out prizes for being in last place. As a matter of fact, I still remember when you used to have to compete, succeed, and win to get a ribbon, to get the prizeÖ not just show up! And yet what weĎve done is created a generation of people that really feel entitled.

Well, today weíre going to talk about the opposite, the forgotten virtue of gratitude. There was a story of a grandmother who was watching her grandson play on the beach when suddenly a huge wave comes along, knocks him down, and takes him out to sea. She cried out to heaven, "God, save my grandson, please bring him back!" And no sooner had the words come out of her mouth then another big wave comes and washes the boy back onto the beach. She looked up to heaven with a frown and said, "But he was wearing a hat!"

Have you ever noticed how some people are never satisfied? Maybe youíve noticed that we take so much for granted today; sometimes even so much so, that you and I have a hard time feeling, or expressing gratitude? Well today, I want to look at what Jesus says about some people who felt entitled and didnít stop to express their gratitude. In Luke chapter 17, beginning in verse 11, the Bible says:

"Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him ó and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" (Luke 17:11-18).

So, we see these ten guys; this is the greatest moment of their lives, theyíre miraculously healed, their disease is gone, their greatest dream has been realized! Theyíre free. They want to go home. They want to see their families. They want to see their wives. But one of them, realizing what just happened, when he saw that he had been healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. And you can see that Jesus was amazed; he asked, "Were not all 10 cleansed???" And so what I take from this, is that itís like they had this entitled mindset, "I didnít deserve this disease. I had this coming. This is what shouldíve happened." And so only one stopped to thank God for this blessing.

My question to you this morning is, "Will you be that one?"

Will you be that one that stops from your busy schedule to express your gratitude to someone who has impacted you? Will you be the one to say thank you to those who are ministering to your children faithfully every week? Will you be the one to thank a coach, a teacher, the leader of your menís or womenís group? Will you be that one that daily pauses to give glory and honor to the One who gave you life? Will you be the one who stops and gives praise to the One, who when you were a sinner, sent his son Jesus Christ to die for your sins, when you certainly didnít deserve it? Will you be the one to stop and show your gratitude?

Or will you be like most people today who would say, "I deserve it. I don't have time to stop!" Will you be the one that continues to live with an ungrateful heart?

Today I want to share with you three keys to cultivating an attitude of gratitude. The first one is to expose any ungratefulness in our hearts.

1. Expose Any Ungratefulness in our Hearts

As I thought about that this week, I realized that though I had dealt with an incredible bit of selfishness in my life, that there was still so much more ungratefulness to deal with. As Iíve examined myself, looking at my life, and the way that I live, Iíve realized that Iím still ungrateful in so many different ways. I still have much work to doÖ

Jesus tells a story that really illustrates this ungratefulness. It is the story called, "The Prodigal Son." In this story, the focus is on the younger of the two sons, but actually itís both of the sons that illustrate this spirit of ungratefulness. Letís read together in Luke chapter 15, at verse 11; the Bible says:

"There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them" (Luke 15:11-12).

So the younger son said, "I want it now. I want to live my life. I don't want to wait! I want what you have and I want it now!" And that is exactly the same mindset that we see so many people have today. Theyíre in their 20s and they feel that they deserve to live at the same standard as their parents are living at now. They want to own their own home. They want to drive the new car. They want to take the same kind of vacations. Theyíre twenty-something and want to live with the same standards or even better than their parents, without putting in the time, without waiting. And yet here the father, I donít know why, but for whatever reason, gives the inheritance to his son.

The Bible says in verse 13, "Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living" (Luke 15:13).

He went out and squandered his wealth. The ungrateful son blew in a matter of months what took his father probably decades to accumulate. He squandered it, meaning that he wasted it. He spent it frivolously on fast women and wild parties. He wanted it now. He felt he deserved it. But verse 14 tells us,

"After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need" (Luke 15:14).

He blows his inheritance and the Bible says, "He came to his senses." One day he wakes up and comes to the realization of how stupid heís been and how even his fatherís hired men are better off than he is. So he determines to go back and beg for his fatherís forgiveness.

He sets out for home and the Bible tells us in verse 20, "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him."

Everything the younger son had hoped to find in that distant country he discovered back home. The difference was instead of saying, "Father, give me!" he said, "Father, forgive meÖ make me a servant!" Of course, the father didnít ask him to earn his forgiveness, and coming back home his son discovered the meaning of Godís grace!

And so his father throws him this big party and meanwhile his older brother who was out in the field starts having a pity party. Verse 25 tells us, "When he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and soundí" (Luke 15:25-27).

Verse 28 says, "The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friendsí" (Luke 15:28-29).

And so we see the older brother gets the same attitude as the younger brother. I deserve it. I deserve these benefits. I deserve a vacation. Iím entitled to this. And itís just plain ungrateful. I hear it all the time, "Well, if I canít get a good paying job I just wonít work, because Iíd rather do nothing if I canít get the job I deserve." Itís a spirit of entitlement. It is ungratefulness, and we need to expose it for what it is. You see, if we truly got what we deserved, we would be so much worse off. Iím always reminded when somebody asks me how Iím doing that I am doing so much better than I deserve. So number two, we need to recognize how undeserving we are.

2. Recognize How Undeserving We Are

Alan McGinnis in his book, "The Power of Optimism" wrote, "Shortly after the Vietnam War, a friend drove up to a gas station in Arizona during a violent rainstorm. The attendant came out whistling happily as he filled the gas tank." Alan said, "As my friend paid for the gas, he apologized for bringing the attendant out in such a downpour. "Thatís all right," the attendant answered, his clothes dripping water into a puddle. "When I was lying in a foxhole in Vietnam, I vowed that if I got home alive, Iíd be so grateful I wouldnít complain about anything again, and I havenít."

What Iíd like to do for just a moment is to allow God the opportunity to expose to us any ungratefulness in our hearts so that we can deal with it biblically. I want you to be really honest and see what God would say to you about your heart.

Maybe itís physical ungratefulness, those material or financial things. You sit down at home and youíre dissatisfied because your TVís not big enough, maybe your kitchen doesnít have the newest appliances, or your children have to share bedrooms. Just think about it. "I wish I had more money. I wish I had a better house. I wish I could provide more for my kids." If thatís you, then call it what it is. Iím ungrateful!

Or maybe for you itís a relational ungratefulness. You know, it could be that youíre sick and tired of your parents always being in your business. Or you wish your husband was a spiritual leader, would fix things around the house, but heís just not. Maybe you wish your wife was more fun, that she could cook better, or whatever. Be honest.

It could be that thereís little that youíre happy with. Itís a circumstantial ungratefulness. You donít like your job. You donít like your house. You donít like your hair, or maybe your lack of hair, but call it what it isÖ Youíre just ungrateful.

In Luke chapter 12 Jesus said, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. (He said) Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows" (Luke 12:6-7). Be grateful!

Again in verse 22, Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They donít sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" (Luke 12:22-24).

We grumble and complain, yet we are unworthy and undeserving of the favor of which we have received. C.S. Lewis once said, "Christians donít need to be instructed as much as they need to be reminded" meaning that most of us know how to live the Christian life, weíre not lacking in knowledge, we just tend to forget to put it into practice.

The apostle Peter tells us in his second letter, "I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this bodyÖ" (2 Peter 1:12-13).

You see, if we would just remember how undeserving we are. If we could just recognize the ungratefulness in our unworthy hearts it would transform our church, our homes, and our community. You see, truly grateful people are just as rare as an orange shirt at a Baltimore Ravens game. To be truly grateful puts you in a league of your own. It gives you the edge and it separates you from the crowd.

Jesus acknowledges this in todayís story. He asked in verse 17, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this (one)" (Luke 17:17-18)?

What I want us to do for the rest of our time together is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. You see, gratitude is an expression, not just an emotion. Gratitude is a demonstration rather than a sensation. The whole purpose of gratitude is not that you feel it, but that you would show it. Gratitude not expressed is not gratitude at all. So how do we go from being entitled, from being ungrateful to being grateful? How do we cultivate an attitude of gratitude?

Number one, we expose any ungratefulness in our hearts. Number two, we recognize how undeserving we are. And number three, we remember the One who is worthy of our praise!

3. Remember The One Who Is Worthy Of Our Praise!

Itís living moment by moment, day by day, remembering and acknowledging that we are undeserving of any of Godís blessing and praising him for every one of them.

Luke tells us in chapter 17, "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked himÖ" (Luke 17:15-16).

I love the way this is described, and yet I wonder how many of us, if any of us, if IÖ express my gratitude often enough and with enough passion? I think probably not, because I know that gratitude is an expression, and the best expressions of gratitude are just a little bit over the top. This one man came back praising God in a loud voice, throwing himself at Jesus feet to thank him.

I am reminded of a woman who had lived a sinful life, she heard that Jesus was eating at a certain house, and went there with an alabaster jar of perfume. The Scripture tells us in Luke chapter 7, verse 38:

"As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them" (Luke 7:38).

She made it a point to express her gratitude to Jesus for the miracle of her salvation, for the forgiveness of her sins, and her actions were notable, because of her expressions of gratitude for the One who is worthy of all praise.

Today I want you to join me in making a decision that every blessing God gives us, weíre going to turn into praise. Thereís a verse that Matt Redman wrote in his song "Blessed be your name" that says, "Every blessing you pour out I'll turn back to praise." And this is so important because every blessing we donít turn back to praise turns into pride. Just think about it. We find ourselves thinking, "I deserve this. I had this coming. I want more, and I want it now!" Itís pride and itís entitlement. But instead weíre going to choose to pause, to stop, and to give God the praise, because he is the giver of all good gifts. He deserves the credit and so therefore weíre going to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

Next week weíre beginning a new series called, "Perspective" and thatís what Paul had. He had perspective and he said it this way and I love this in Philippians chapter 4, he says:

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation... I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:11-13).

We see from Paul that satisfaction isnít really dependent upon your external circumstances. He says that "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation." You see, this is something you learn, it's a habit. You train your heart, your mind, and your spirit, because you can do anything through Christ who gives you strength. Therefore having an attitude of gratitude is something you learn.

But by nature, most of us are not grateful. Weíre not because weíre sinners. By nature I'm not content. By nature I am very dissatisfied. By nature I am a complainer. But Iíve learned the secret of being content. The Bible says in Ecclesiastes, "Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite" (Ecclesiastes 6:9). Or in other words, better what you have before you, then the longing and hunger for something more. Better the blessings that God has put right here than longing for what I wish I had. Better for what the eye sees, than a roving of the appetite.

Here's what the Bible says in Proverbs chapter 15, "The cheerful heart has a continual feast. Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil" (Proverbs 15:15-16).

You see, itís the roller coaster nature of our existence. We all go through ups and downs again and again and I encourage you to take a look at where you are, to examine your life right now, and make a choice to say, "This is good enough." Look at your situation with the eyes of contentment, recognizing the presence of God in the details of your life, and accept each day with a sense of gratitude. Face each moment with a sense of assurance, knowing that whether itís easy or not you can endure it through Christ who gives you strength.

That's what Paul is talking about in Philippians. He says that whether he has little or a lot it doesn't matter, because he knows that he has whatís most important of all and thatís the presence of Jesus Christ and the assurance of his power to see him through.

If you want to be happy, practice saying, "This is good enough." That means you learn to live in the moment. Decide to appreciate all that there is to appreciate in each and every moment of your life. And determine to turn every blessing into praise.

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