Sermon

11-18-2018

“Attitude of Gratitude”

Psalm 138

Thesalonians

Collossians

 

           

            Our scripture this morning takes us back some 4k years to when David was king of Israel. The psalm expresses deep and powerful gratitude he feels toward God. In the first three verses david praises God with his whole heart. He’s all in, he’s not holding back at all. He praises God because God has been faithful to him.

In verse three he says, in the day I cried out you answered me,” verse three it says, “you made me bold with strength in my soul. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you revive me. You stretched out your hand against the wrath of my enemies. Your right hand will save me.”

            Now we don’t know the context of this passage, whether or not David is in a place of difficulty or hardship. We don’t know if things are going well. Verse seven gives us a clue, “though I walk in the midst of trouble, you revive me.”

            When you are in the midst of trouble does he revive you? Do you rejoice, in spite of your situation? Seems to me that we are very happy to show gratitude when things are going our way. It’s a bit harder to do when we are in the middle of trouble. Thanksgiving turns into something else, like thanks-taking.

We may act on the surface like we are thankful and go through the motions, but inside, we are not so grateful. We are not praising god with our whole hearts because we don’t feel thankful. The greater the problem, the harder it is to be grateful.

So how do we enter into thanksgiving with our whole hearts? In the way David speaks of here in Psalm 138? Can we do it by just putting on a pair of thanksgiving colored glasses? [put them on]

Maybe this can help me focus my mind and heart on everything I see to remind myself what I have to be grateful for. Another thought might be to adopt a phrase and repeat it over and over again, “I’m going to have an attitude of gratitude.”

Anything we might do to increase our sense of gratitude, will be of great benefit to us in life.

A few years ago my wife and I went to help serve and then eat the Thanksgiving meal served every year at our church in Minneapolis. We didn’t have any family in the area and We often volunteered to help serve the meal, and then have our meal sitting with the visitors who may be sitting alone.

After serving, we dished up our meals and went to sit down. We spotted a man who was sitting at a table by himself looking out the window. We went over, sat down and introduced ourselves.

He greeted us with a warm smile. We found out that “Clarence” lived in Minneapolis with his daughter who invited him to come and live with her after hurricane Katrina.

As we talked over turkey and dressing, he told us that he was from New Orleans and that he and most of his family were there the Hurricane. He then went on to tell us about that night in 2005 when the hurricane stormed into his neighborhood.

Everyone in that part of the city was told that the levies would protect them. They waited in their homes as the hours ticked away and the wind and water battered the city. The category five storm had weakened some and would be a category three when it made landfall with sustained winds of 130 mph and a storm surge from 10-14 feet.

The hurricane caused over 100-billion dollars in damage, and whole sections of the city remain uninhabited. The loss of life was devastating, 18-hundred and 33 people were killed by the storm.

Clarence shared how he sat in his home, waiting for the storm to pass. When the levies were breached, millions of gallons of water poured into the city and his neighborhood. Clarence’s home became a trap. The water came through the cracks, then the windows as he moved upstairs hoping he would be high enough to survive.

When the water was waist deep on the second floor, Clarence tried to get out the window, but he couldn’t it had bars on it.

Just in the nick of time a neighbor swam into his entry door and up the stairway to where Clarence was standing. Together, the two swam back down the stairs, out the door and to the surface. They climbed onto the roof of his house thankful to be alive.

We continued listening as he shared his story. He and some of his neighbors waited on the roof of their houses for several days until they were rescued and taken to dry ground at the silver dome.

With tears in his eyes, he told us that he lost a brother, his uncle and several friends in the flood as well as his home and all of his belongings. But then, he turned to us, looked us right in the eye and said, “It was a really hard time in my life, but I am so grateful.” Surprised by his words, we asked him to tell us more.

He said, “Without God, I never would have made it through that time. When the hurricane hit, I started praying and I never stopped. God was there for me and my family and He still is. I am very blessed.”

We had no idea that on this thanksgiving day we would be blessed to share this moment with Clarence. We had come to help but left feeling like we had received so much more than we gave. His continued attitude of gratitude in the face of such loss was beyond amazing to us.

An attitude of gratitude, whether we are talking about David and Psalm 23, or Clarence from New Orleans, we get a glimpse of what it means to be grateful in the face of extreme hardship.

I’d like to share a passage from Colossians mentions the words thanks and gratitude 3 times in two short sentences.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he writes, “Be joyful always; pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of Christ Jesus for you.”

When I reflected on this scripture and prepared this message, I thought of Clarence and his attitude of gratitude. He had lost everything; his home, his belongings, family members and friends, but he never lost his faith and trust in God.

And because of that, he was able to come out of that devastating experience with gratitude and even joy. And he was able to share his gratitude, his joy and his faith with others.

We may look at these words from Paul and think, “Wow, that sounds like too much! Be joyful always, pray without stopping, be grateful, no matter what happens? That sounds impossible!

If you happen to be thinking that way right now, I’m with you. I feel the same way. It is impossible to have such an attitude of gratitude, on our own.

But when God’s Spirit enters in and works through us, it changes everything. God knows us so well. He knows that we’re human and that we can’t be joyful all the time, pray without stopping and be grateful in all circumstances, but, God also knows that His Spirit has the power to transform our lives.

When we choose to focus our attention on faith instead of fear, God’s Spirit changes us. When we choose to focus on prayer instead of despair, God’s Spirit transforms us. When we choose to focus on gratitude instead of regret, God’s Spirit has the power to change our lives.

All of us face difficult challenges in our lives, and when we do, the last place most of us want to focus is on joy and gratitude. But, Paul’s invitation to us today, is to practice focusing on what we have to be grateful for every day, so that when challenges do come, we might be able to see how God is working through them and be strengthened in our faith.

Clarence faced an extremely difficult time in his life. He lost just about everything: his home, his belongings, family members and friends, but he never lost his faith and trust in God.  And because of that, he was able to come out of that devastating experience with gratitude, and even joy. And he was able to share his gratitude, his joy and his faith with me, and now with you and with everyone he meets.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be a little more like Clarence. I’d like to practice focusing daily on gratitude and see how the Spirit begins to work. Here are some ways to practice gratitude:

1) keep a gratitude journal

2) tell someone in your life daily what you’re grateful for in them

3) serve others out of your gratitude.

When we cultivate gratitude in our hearts, the natural response is that we want to serve God and others. This Thanksgiving I invite you to join me in practicing gratitude, not just on Thanksgiving day, but every day.

Even if you’re not feeling it, especially when you’re not feeling it, think of one or two things that you’re grateful for and pretty soon, that gratitude will grow and God’s Spirit will work through you to spread that gratitude and share it with everyone around you.

After worship today, we have an opportunity to join together for some fellowship time. I want to invite you to consider sharing with someone else what you’re grateful for about them. It will make their day and I’m sure it will make your day as well.

Gratitude tends to be contagious. Let’s spread our gratitude and God’s grace around and watch it grow!

 

Please join me in prayer:

God, on this day, we focus our attention on gratitude. We thank you for our loved ones, our homes, our bodies, our life experiences, that have all brought us to where we are today. No matter what circumstances we are facing in our lives, remind us that you love us unconditionally.

Thank you for your love and your grace that bless our lives every day. Let’s pause now in a time of silence, to thank God for the many blessings in our lives…

Bring to mind the things you just thanked God for in your prayer.