"Developing a Thankful Heart"
Giving thanks always and for everything is not easy. Some people have difficulties in life, and the idea of being thankful makes them feel like they have to be happy. What’s the difference between a thankful heart and feeling happy all the time?
Developing A Thankful Heart
A. On Wednesday, our house will be filled and on Thursday a meal fit for king will be served. Stories will be shared. You will hear laughter, maybe a few sarcastic remarks between siblings, but overall it will be a great two days with the kids and our grandson. But there is a truth that I will share. As much as Kerri and I will strive for it to not happen, there will be stress. There will be stress preparing the food, making sure everyone has just what they want, how the table will be set and what we will do in a crowded home. Yes, as much as we will try, my guess is, there will be some stress at a time of year we call Thanksgiving.
B. Let me start today with another meal story. It wasn’t Thanksgiving. In fact, it wasn’t in this country. It is found in the pages of God’s Word, in the Gospel of Luke, over in chapter 10. It the story of Jesus going to a home of two sisters who were dear friends – Martha and Mary.
C. I want to tell you the story (recap Lk 10:38-42). Martha was busy getting everything ready, she was stressed out and pulled in many directions. In her frustration she comes in to where her sister is sitting listening to Jesus and interrupts the conversation. “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Don’t you love it when someone talks about you in third person like you are not even there? Mary probably felt awkward, knowing she should have been helping get the meal ready. But Jesus turns this conversation around.
D. “Martha, Martha.” I think Jesus was very kind and compassionate to her. He is not angry or frustrated, but he wants Martha to understand a bigger truth than just a good meal. He tells her, “You are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed.” Jesus then uses the table talk that Martha had started by telling her that Mary has chosen the right portion (not from the table Martha set, but from the table of life).
E. So we come to Thanksgiving and we have a feast set before us, but here is my spiritual question, “How do you choose the right portion?” I want to develop a heart that is thankful, a heart that desires the right stuff from life.
I. A Thankful Heart
A. Listen to 1 Thes. 5:16-18. Paul doesn’t just say, “rejoice, pray and give thanks.” Paul combines those words with “always, without ceasing, and in all circumstances.” That’s not easy. I can rejoice when things are good. To be honest, I pray more when I am hurting than when I am happy. Giving thanks is something I seek to do often, but I can’t say I “give thanks in all circumstances.’
B. You may have seen a trailer for a new Tom Hanks movie where he plays Mr. Rogers. What Mr. Rogers is known for is the ability to live out this passage. Throughout history we read and learn of people who seek to live this passage every day and in the process develop a thankful heart.
C. The passage we center on begins in Eph. 5:15-16. Learning how to live as a Christian is a growth process. Not one of us here is as perfect we ought to be. The truth is, we live in a fallen world and we are people who face trails and temptations and fail to achieve the perfection we desire. But before you beat yourself up too much, stop and sit with the passage today. Life is much what you make it as it is what happens in our surroundings. The Message says, “Watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get.”
D. A thankful heart starts with being intentional. Every day I have to decide what frame of mind I want to live out that day. I can be bitter or thankful. I can complain or compliment. But each day I need to look carefully at how I walk. I need to be wise and realize that the time I have right now is the only time I will have right now.
E. Live today with joy of knowing you are saved, you are loved by God, you are cherished by many within this congregation and you make a difference in the life of someone. Live today wisely.
II. Giving Thanks Always
A. Let’s jump to the verse that smacks around those of us who identify as Eeyore. You know who you are. The verse we have to face is verse 20. Listen as I read vs 20.
B. The problem is when you take this verse out of the context of the verses before/after it. The idea of giving thanks always and for everything is based upon being filled with the Holy Spirit (vs 17-18). When God lives within you, sanctifies, and seals you, an ongoing spirit of thankfulness is the natural outcome.
C. The difference, for me, between happiness and thankfulness is that happiness puts the focus on me, and thankfulness puts the focus on others. In this case, the focus is on what God.
D. I will not say that a person is happy all the time. God gave us many emotions and sadness, grief, loneliness are all emotions that people face. Paul doesn’t have us cover them up or deny them, but in the midst of them Paul helps us find a thankful heart because we belong to Jesus.
E. Paul faced what he called “a thorn in the flesh.” What it was is debated, but the fact that Paul asked God to remove it three times is significant. The answer Paul got was not “okay, you have been good enough so I will take it away.” The answer Paul got was “My grace is sufficient.” Sufficient for what? For Paul to find God in the midst of his suffering. Paul’s answer was that he would glory in his weakness, for there is where he found God’s strength.
F. Give thanks always and for everything to God.
A. I hope you have a fantastic thanksgiving. I hope that you are surrounded by people you love and love you. I am looking forward to all of my kids coming home and any stress that may stem from that will be a blessing – because God brought them safely back to their mom and me.
B. Thanksgiving is a wonderful time of reflecting on all the good that God continues to do. I hope you will be back tonight as we celebrate that idea in prayer and song.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister