Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

A Grateful Soul


A Grateful Soul



Having just observed the Thanksgiving holiday, one topic on my mind has been the subject of gratitude. Cicero wrote that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others”. Obviously this man thought that gratitude played a major role in developing one’s character, or on the other hand, without it, personal growth would be impossible. The Bible places tremendous emphasis on this quality and often connects it to the practice of prayer:


  • But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving” (Philippians 4:4).

  • Always giving thanks for all things” (Ephesians 5:20).

  • We give thanks to God…praying always for you” (Colossians 1:3).

  • Overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:7).

  • Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).

  • Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15).


Challenges to Gratitude


  • It is easy to forget that God is the source of our daily food when many people in this country no longer live on farms and thus are rather disconnected from the struggle that produces “food”.

  • We live in an age characterized by the power of negative thinking and a constant (and carefully calculated) sense of personal dissatisfaction” (The God Who Hears, W. Bingham Hunter, p. 113).


What we are, possess and have experienced are never quite enough. There are always others with whom we can compare ourselves. Media advertisers and image makers daily exploit the insecurity resulting from our lack of personal beauty, charm, intellect, strength, talented children, clothing, expensive cars, popular toys, exciting vacations, large homes, academic degrees, satisfying careers and meaningful relationships. It is hard to feel glad that God made you, if you wish he had made you tall instead of short, or smarter than just plain average” (p. 113). We fall into the trap of envying the person who might have a better paying job rather than just being thankful we are able to provide for our families. We might be disappointed that we do not have the body of an athlete rather than being grateful we are healthy. “Does it help or hinder the desire to say grace over a hamburger to know that ‘you deserve a break today?’ and ‘You’re the one. We do it all for you’” (p. 114).


Instead of appreciating the gifts, blessings and talents that we do have, much of our modern culture tries to get us to comparewhat we have with what others have. As a result, we need to be very aware of the attempts of manipulation around us and we must constantly think against the grain of our modern culture (Romans 12:1-2).


I Am Thankful for My Existence


I am wearied by the unbeliever who complains that if God exists, then why has God brought so many people into existence who never wanted to live in the first place and who simply have a miserable existence. While an atheist might make this argument, I do not find the so-called “miserable people” agreeing with this assessment. It has been my experience that this argument about all the “miserable people” says more about the personal misery and frustration of the atheist than the actual level of personal happiness among those in third world countries.


  • God did not have to create anything, particularly you and me” (p. 111). We see this truth demonstrated in what Paul said about the true God, “nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything” (Acts 17:25). “Given the perfection of His person, it is certain that God does not need us to talk to Him because He’s lonely or insecure, nor does He have to depend on our advice or help in running the universe. Yet He commands in Scripture to pray suggesting that Hewants us to pray; He actually enjoys our prayers (‘the prayer of the upright is His delight’ Proverbs 15:8)’”(p. 79).

  • Neither pain and hurt, nor success and greatness produce any exceptions”… to thanking God and being grateful for our existence.

  • Thus, being under no compulsion to create mankind, and knowing that such an act would cost Him the life of His only Son, God willed and chose to create us, “For you created all things, and by your will they were created” (Revelation 4:11).

  • Second, in creating humanity God did a great work. He could have made us without His image, without personality or abilities such as thinking and communication. Yet He gave every one of us a great deal more, ‘You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet’ (Psalm 8:5-6)” (p. 112).


We Have Benefited


Even if one could find the person who has suffered the most in this life, and that people in the world would classify as a miserable existence, even this person has derived enjoyment from living. In fact, I often find that those that the world classifies as “unfortunate” are often some of the most happy, and those who are classified as “privileged” are at times the most miserable. The rabbis had a saying, “He that gets enjoyment out of the world without giving thanks, has committed a sacrilege; he has defrauded the Lord” (p. 112).


Avoid The Extremes


Two things I asked of You, do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).


  • I am impressed that this man felt that being “average” was a blessing.

  • When people move away from God, they often move toward one of two extremes. They may end up in the corner of self-deprecation, that is, “nobody loves me”, “I am justified in stealing because nobody is looking out for me and I must look out for myself”. Or, the second corner is an unhealthy pride, “Hey, look at me, I don’t need anyone. I especially do not need any God watching out for me, rather I did it all by myself”.

  • Both situations are lifestyles centered about ingratitude. One lifestyle says that God is not taking good care of me, so sin is justified and the other mentality says that all the prosperity I am enjoying is due to my own efforts, and I owe God nothing.

  • Observe that gratitude exists in an honest heart. To claim that sin is justified or that pride is justified are both “deceptions and lies” (30:8).

  • Notice that this is a prayer (“I asked of You”). Not only do our prayers need to include a constant stream of gratitude, but this writer also prayed that God would protect his heart from situations and attitudes that would move him away from such gratitude. A grateful soul consciously works at remaining thankful.


Remember to Look Up


When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4).


  • We find it hard to be thankful because of the pace of modern life. Many people are so busy that there isn’t much time to think, let alone count our blessings. Hiking in the mountains encourages my sense of creatureliness. It is hard to find God in the concrete, steel and plastic in which modern man lives, moves and has his being” (p. 115).

  • It appears that ancient man was equally surrounded by all sorts of distractions and demands upon his time (Luke 8:14 “choked with worries and riches and pleasures of his life”).

  • One can certainly find God in the big city, although we sometimes struggle with gratitude when we are constantly hearing negative news. Instead, we need to remember that whatever bad that exists in the world is not God’s will or plan. God made everything good (Genesis 1:31). In addition, the news is only 30 minutes long and concentrates on the worst in man. In contrast to the nightly news, one could spend weeks on all the good that happened in one day on this planet.


God Has Been Doing A Lot


The devil tries to bring us into a narrow field of vision where it does not seem like God is doing much in our world today, yet the big picture is:


  • God continues to hold the entire universe together on a daily basis (Colossians 1:17).

  • God continues to provide for the needs of the entire creation (Matthew 6:26).

  • God’s word continues to bear fruit anywhere it goes (Colossians 1:6).

  • Jesus continues to intercede for His people and for anyone who desires to come to Him and be forgiven (Hebrews 7:25).

  • God hears and responds to every prayer offered to Him.

  • Look at your own level of personal growth and from where God has brought you (Ephesians 2:1ff).



Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017