VIDEO & NOTES: THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF GRATITUDE
Here is the video, along with the notes, for my teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, November 24, 2019.
THE LIFE-CHANGING POWER OF GRATITUDE
Part 1 of SURVIVING THE HOLIDAYS. Various passages.
THE HOLIDAYS: TIMES OF MIXED BLESSINGS
We've arrived again at the Holiday season. And it's the most wonderful time of the year. Or maybe not. Maybe you're dreading extra hours cooking and cleaning. Or the weird people in your extended family. Or there's not enough cash to splash on Christmas gifts for your family. For some, the Holidays are reminders of grief and loss. Maybe you work in retail and for you it's just weeks and weeks of stressed out, grumpy, customers and the relentless pressure to beat last year's sales.
I can think of a thousand ways the Holidays just aren't that wonderful. So can you. But that's not why you came to church today. No, I hope you came to church to connect to a loving God, to find hope, to find some life hacks that will help you survive the Holidays. Maybe do more than survive, actually thrive. Today's hack is this: Gratitude changes everything.
An attitude of gratitude leads to calm in the chaos and many other benefits. Let's take some time to discover where gratitude comes from and what difference it makes. Then, we'll see how to practice gratitude every day.
GRATITUDE: WHERE IT COMES FROM
Gratitude flows from seeing all of life as a gift. Everything is a gift ultimately from God himself, but usually through someone else - a friends, family member, co-worker. Every breath, every friend, every plate of food, every thing - breath, smiles, happiness - comes from someone.
We can be grateful for people and their gifts in our lives. For example:
Their love: (Colossians 1:3-4) We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God's people
Their support: (Philippians 1:3-5) I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
The book of Psalms is full of thanks to God for who he is and what he does for us:
Goodness and love: (1 Chronicles 16:34) Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Providing for our needs: (Psalms 107:8-9) Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 9 for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Saving us from sin and death: (Psalms 118:21) I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
Eternal hope: (Hebrews 12:28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe ...
Gratitude is our natural, reflex action when we acknowledge that everything is a gift. When I'm looking for fuel up my gratitude, I read Psalm 145. It's full of reasons:
(Psalms 145:8-9) The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.
(Psalms 145:13-16) The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does. 14 The Lord upholds all who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down. 15 The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. 16 You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Our lives are full of benefits we didn't earn. They come from God, but he sends them through all kinds of people and situations. The one thing that blocks gratitude is pride; thinking that I earned everything, deserve everything, and I'm entitled to everything. The Bible corrects that attitude:
(1 Corinthians 4:7) "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"
It's easy to think that our hard work, intelligence, or skill, is the reason for everything. I talked to a man who was a successful business owner. Looking back on his life, he said to me, "I'm a self-made man." He meant he got rich by his own hard work and nothing else. That perspective makes it tough to thank God and, actually, it's not true for any of us. We have received so much we did not earn. The Bible says:
(James 1:17) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father ...
When we think that way, it's easy to be thankful. Now, let's explore how gratitude helps us. It has so many positive benefits.
GRATITUDE: HOW IT HELPS
Dr. Robert Emmons is the world's leading expert on gratitude. His scientific research has uncovered all kinds of benefits. Gratitude will change your life. He writes about the benefits created by an attitude of gratitude:
We enjoy every moment. Gratitude takes our minds off yesterday's mistakes and sorrows. That way, we can enjoy fully today.
We are healthier: Gratitude boosts the immune system.
We experience happiness. Gratitude blocks toxic, negative, emotions and overwhelms regret, envy, and resentment. It combats depression.
We feel less stress. Gratitude helps us heal from the hurts in our lives.
We act more confident. Gratitude reminds us that someone - God and friends and family - care about us.
We get connected: Gratitude helps us feel less lonely or isolated.
The Bible talks about an extra benefit that flows from gratitude - peace:
(Philippians 4:6-7) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we add thanksgiving to our prayers, God fills us with peace; that is, inner calm in the chaos of life. That kind of peace transcends our understanding; it is so counter-intuitive that we can't really explain it, but we know it's real.
GRATITUDE: HOW TO GET THERE
Now, let's talk about some practical ways to develop an attitude of gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal. You can buy journals that have "gratitude prompts" already written in them. I bought one like that for my daughter when we she went off to college. An example of a prompt is: "Why am I thankful for water?" Or you can create your own journal and write your own prompts, such as: what have I received from God today, or how have I helped someone else today?
One section of my prayer journal is for gratitude. One of things I've written in there and I review it nearly every day is Psalm 36. It fuels my gratitude to level 11:
(Psalms 36:7-9) How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. 8 They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. 9 For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.
I turn that passage into a prayer of thanks: "Thank you God: You love me. You protect me. You provide for me. You bless me with good things and you give me life." Wow! Five huge reasons to give thanks all the time, no matter what happens.
Use concrete reminders to be grateful. I read about a family that kept a gratitude jar. At the end of every day, they put their loose change in the jar and that reminded them to be grateful for all they had. When the jar gets full, they take it to a local charity.
Another concrete reminder is to:
Develop a habit of a daily quiet time. Take 15-30 minutes at the same time and place every day to do three things: think about your life, talk to God, meditate on a Bible passage. That daily time to review and renew will change how you think and speak about your life. Instead of complaining and dreading, and regretting, you'll be thanking God.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Connect your life to Jesus. God's greatest gift of all and, therefore, the greatest reason to give thanks is his own Son, Jesus Christ. Trusting in Jesus brings us the gift of eternal life, which is life with God now and forever:
(John 3:16) God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Believing in Jesus is believing that he is our God, that he came into the world to take away our sins, and that he died on the cross and rose again to bring us home to God. It's deciding to follow Jesus and his teachings as the way to truly live.
Once you connect your life to Jesus, you will find that it is really easy to have a constant attitude of gratitude. There's just so much to thank him for. You'll feel more positive, you'll be healthier, and less stressed out.
CONCLUSION: PRACTICING GRATITUDE
You might be thinking that gratitude is unrealistic in hard times. Dr. Emmons discovered just the opposite in his research on people with debilitating physical illnesses. When he asked them to pick one thing they felt grateful for, they couldn't settle on just one. And, their gratitude was an extremely intense positive emotional experience. They were grateful for things we normally overlook. He concluded that gratitude is always possible no matter what's going on around us.
There are always reasons to be thankful.
Surviving the holidays is possible. If you adopt an attitude of gratitude, you can have inner peace in the storm and calm in the chaos