Monday, November 28, 2011

The Attitude of Gratitude

Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, November 27, 2011

1 Thessalonians 5:14-24, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

To have the mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude.  And to express the mindset of Jesus Christ is to give thanks in every situation. 

What do you think about those two statements?  Are they true?  Are they false?  Are they correct?  Are they incorrect?  Let me repeat them for you one more time, and you listen, and evaluate them with me, will you, please?  Statement number one: to have the mind or mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude, or, we might say, a thankful heart.  And, then, statement number two: to express the mindset of Jesus Christ, to display this attitude of gratitude, is to give thanks, is to allow the joyful appreciation that is in one’s heart to overflow in thankful praise.  What do you think about those statements? 

Caught somewhere between the exhilaration of summertime, with its vacations and sunshine and the day-by-day count-down to Christmas day – only 28 days of shopping left – sandwiched between soccer practice and band contests, car-pooling and punching a time clock, is a single, solitary day, set aside for most all of us to assemble with family and friends, to eat some turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie and to remember – yes, I said, “remember” – to give thanks for the blessings you have received.   With all the hype and hoopla related to ‘Black Friday’, midnight madness, 10p.m. pandemonium, we need a reminder, don’t we, that this past week, the emphasis is meant to be, not on shopping, but on saying “thank you” to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. 

To have the mindset of Jesus Christ is to have an attitude of gratitude.  And to express the mindset of Jesus Christ is to give thanks in every situation.  For the Christ, as we say, these things out to be “No Brainers”, completely obvious, right?  But how many of us didn’t realize or remember that these verses are in the Bible?

An attitude of gratitude.  Expressing that heartfelt gratitude by way of thanksgiving, using one’s lips to say, “Thank you, God…  Thank you!”  These things are at the heart and center of what it means to be a Christian.  But, how is it that so many Christians don’t know that or don’t show that? 

Clustered in a series of what I call ‘Biblical Universals’, ‘Biblical universal statements’ including: verse 14, “Be patient toward all men,” verse 15, “Don’t repay evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all,”  verse 16, “Rejoice always,” verse 17, “pray without ceasing,” verse 21, “test all things,” and verse 22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” 

Nestled so neatly, and almost inconspicuously, in that grouping of ‘Biblical Universals”, are these words: read them, hear them again, with me, will you, please?  In everything,” there’s that universal language again, right?  Paul says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you, for you.” 

What do you think about those words?  I don’t know about you, but at first glance – honestly – this preacher’s response is: “What?  Paul?  You’ve gotta be kidding!  In everything give thanks?!”  Is this guy nuts or what? 

Pardon me if I sound a bit irreverent in saying that, but, honestly, haven’t you thought the same thing?  “Paul, what do you mean, ‘In everything give thanks?  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus?” 

Well, first of all, notice with me that Paul does not say, “For everything give thanks…”  You know, “God, I thank You for cancer…  God, I thank You for suicide… God, I thank You for drunk drivers who kill innocent little children…  God, I thank You for abortion…”  Guided by the Spirit of God, the apostle Paul’s exhortation to us is not, “Give thanks for all things…”  Why?  Because, from God’s perspective, not simply from our limited, human perspective, but from God’s all-knowing, eternal vantage point, some things – really, a lot of things – are bad, tragic, wrong, yes, even wicked and sinful and disgusting.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul’s divinely-inspired teaching for us here is not “give thanks for all things…”, but what?  “Give thanks in all things!”  But, what’s the difference? 

Let me give you a simple, short answer to that question: Romans 8:28.  The difference, the distinction between giving thanks for cancer and suicide and mass murder and poverty and starvation, and giving thanks in things like these is huge.  And it revolves around the truth contained in these words: Romans 8:28, “And we know that  all things,” there’s another one of those ‘Biblical universals’, “And we know that all things, God is at work, making all things [ultimately] work [out] for good, for those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 

In other words, what Paul says to us here in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, this ‘Biblical Universal’ about the Christian mindset and its expression in joyful praise, what is it?  It is a statement, a declaration, an exhortation, that is in keeping with or an outgrowth of the fact that God is sovereign!  That He is bigger than, and, ultimately in control over, the ‘biggies’ in our lives, things like cancer, and unemployment, and suicide and divorce, and doubt and worry and disappointment and fear! 

Do you believe in the Sovereignty of God?  Do you?  I mean, who’s going to hold the universe together if He doesn’t?  President Obama?  Congress?  The Federal Reserve?  I mean, who’s going to make the sun go down tonight and cause it to rise again tomorrow morning?  The weather man?  Tony Romo?  Last night’s winner of Dancing with the Stars? 

When the apostle Paul writes what he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 about the Christ-like mindset, an attitude of gratitude and the expression, the overflow of that attitude in thanksgiving, he is not talking non-sense!  No!  His words could not be more clear, could they?  He is talking sovereignty!  The over-arching ability and authority of God, and – and – His always, ultimately [universal statement], good plan at work, being carried out for, in behalf of, to the benefit of those who are His children! 

“In everything give thanks…”  That’s the first line of this powerful November 27th, June 12th, February 6th, April 20th exhortation, isn’t it?  By the way, I threw in those dates that are not today’s dates, why?  To remind us that this teaching is a 24/7, 365 teaching!  It is good, helpful, needful, for every day of the year, and every minute of every day!  “In everything give thanks,” that’s the first line of this ‘Biblical Universal’.  But, what about line two?  It says, “for this is the will of God…”  “For this is God’s will…” 

Is the will of God something you struggle with, something you have trouble figuring out?  “God, should I do this, or that?”  God, should I choose this, or that?”  Take a look.  Could it be any clearer?  No need to cast lots here.  No need to put out a fleece here.  The will of God is clear.  What God wants, by the way, that’s what the phrase, “the will of God” really means.  “What God wants” is clear.  Very clear.  He wants His children to trust in His sovereignty!  And, like His Only Begotten, to surrender to His good and perfect plan, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”  And, then, with that Christ-like mindset, to praise Him!  To thank Him for what He’s going to do, how He will display His power, His wisdom, His mercy, His faithfulness in, and yes, through the good, the bad and even the ugly!  “In everything give thanks…”  “For this is God’s will…”

Section number three, two words, we might wish, right, that they were two different words.  But what words are those two words?  “For you”, or “Concerning you”. 

Are you a child of God?  Truly?  Are you a Christian?  Really?  Then these words, these two words are written to you.  An attitude of gratitude, one of the most significant characteristics of the Christ-like mindset, is to be your attitude.  Giving thanks, using your lips to offer up a sacrifice of praise that blesses the name of our Father in heaven, that is to be your consistent and constant activity! “give thanks in everything for this is the will of God for you…”  That’s three-fourths of the verse, right?  What is the last fourth?  “In Christ Jesus”.

Beloved, do you realize the magnitude of those three words?  “In Christ Jesus”?  Those three words are enormous, in their meaning and importance.  How do I know that?  Well, consider, first of this powerful set of contrasts: in the darkness, in the light, in sin, in the Savior, dead, alive, lost, found, perishing, possessing everlasting life, deceived, disobedience, enslaved and separated from the life of God, enlightened, obedient, freed and brought into communion with God.  I know that’s a long list of pairs, contrasting pairs everyone of which, by the way, is found right here, in the Scriptures.  It’s a long list of contrasting pairs, I know.  But think about the list, the contrasting pairs.  The first one I gave, the first of each pair, who does it describe?  Someone who is “in Christ Jesus”?  In the darkness, in sin, dead, lost, perishing, and so on?  Do those words describe someone who is “in Christ Jesus”?  The Bible’s answer to that question is clear, isn’t it? 

None of those words or phrases, ‘Biblical universals’, none of those words or phrases describe someone who is “in Christ Jesus”!  No!  But, listen, the words “in the light” do, don’t they?  The words, “in the Savior” do, don’t they?  The words, “alive, found, and possessing everlasting life” do, don’t they?  And, so, for the person for whom those words are true and accurate, for the person who IS “in Christ Jesus”, why shouldn’t he be “thankful”?  Why shouldn’t she give to God the praise?  He’s “in Christ Jesus”!  She’s in the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life!  He has every reason - universal statement again – she has every reason to pursue and to possess the joyful Christian mindset and its expression in daily giving of thanks! 

But, here’s the question of the hour: “In Christ Jesus”, “in the Light”, “in the Savior”, do those words describe you?  Are they true of you? 

One more ‘Biblical universal’: 2 Peter 3:9, “[God] is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  Another verse about the will of God.  But is it saying that all will ultimately be saved?  Later on in the same chapter Peter makes it clear that God allows for the will of men to be exerted against His will and for rebellious man’s will, in cooperation with Satan’s will, results in some, in many, perhaps in most people being “led away with the error of the wicked.”  (2 Peter 3:17)

God doesn’t want you to be lost, dead, perishing, in sin.  His desire for you is that you be saved.  But you, you must “hear His voice.  You must not harden your heart.”  (Hebrews 3:7-8)  You must open the door to Him. 

The joyful Christ mindset, would that it would be true of you, starting today.  Hear His voice, open your heart, to Him… 

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