As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving together the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that it was time for a “Gratitude Check” as we look to God’s Word today. He reminds us time and time again of the importance of examining ourselves through the lens of the Holy Scripture. And so, what we’re going to study today is a direct reflection of what God has revealed to me through his Word and through my attitudes.
The Bible tells us in James chapter one at verse 23 that,
“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:23-25).
And so, what I want to share with you today is one of the greatest areas of transformation in my life as I have allowed the Word of God to renew my mind. You see, for many years, deep inside I was probably one of the most discontent and ungrateful people you ever met. Whatever I had, whatever blessings there were, was never enough. I was quiet, but always ungrateful, always living for tomorrow, always living for what could be rather than what was; and it was in that season of my life that God finally got my attention.
Now for the last 15 plus years, I’ve honestly been overcome by the goodness of God through the work of the Holy Spirit and his grace. Because of the truth of God’s Word, I’m satisfied, content, and grateful; and yet it all boils down to choosing to have the right attitude. It’s a choice that’s recorded in Philippians chapter 2, where the apostle Paul writes while under house arrest for preaching the good news about Jesus Christ. It’s under those circumstances that he said in verse five,
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Now that’s an immense statement, because as you look at what Jesus endured for us, the Bible says in Isaiah chapter 50, verse 6,
“I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6).
And so, Jesus suffered and died for us. He didn’t come for himself, he didn’t come to be served, but to serve; and you can’t find one instance where Jesus complained or was ungrateful. As a matter of fact, in Isaiah chapter 53 it tells us,
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
And the Gospel of Matthew testifies that, “When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, "Don't you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?" But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge…” (Matthew 27:12-14).
And yet, the Bible tells us that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Now this word translated attitude from the original Greek language literally means to exercise the mind, to feel strongly by sentiment or opinion, and to be disposed in a certain direction. And so, it’s a determination, it’s a conviction, it’s a state of mind, that our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus.
The problem is, that there’s a battle going on in our minds and most of us deal with negative thoughts in many different areas. You know, we’ll take something that’s not really that big of a deal and make it into a big deal. We’ll grumble and complain, taking something that’s negative, a worry, a doubt, or fear and let it grow into an enormous snowball of a problem in our minds. And so, we must confront any personal areas of negativity, because the Scriptures tell us that our attitude, our thought process, our state of mind, should be as that of Christ Jesus.
Today I want to challenge you to do a gratitude check, to be honest, to take off the religious mask, and allow the Spirit of God to help you overcome those areas of negativity. You see, the reality is that before we can defeat a negative attitude we need to identify those root areas of sin, of covetousness, and those unrealistic expectations that have blossomed into feelings of discontent. And so, we want to invite the Holy Spirit to illuminate those things, because the Spirit of God is going to help us to overcome those areas of negativity so that our attitude is the same as that of Christ Jesus.
You see, I love this, because what’s so amazing is that God never asks us to do anything that he doesn’t also give us the power or ability to do. And so, if you want to have the same attitude as Jesus, if you want God’s Spirit to transform your life, and you want to know the goodness of God in your life every single day you can. And it begins, number one, by putting on a new attitude.
The problem is that many people have subconsciously decided to be miserable, they’ve determined that their purpose is to be on a quest for things to grumble and complain about, and if that’s the attitude that you have, the good news is that you’ll find what you’re looking for. Pastor Craig Groeschel once illustrated this comparing a vulture with a hummingbird. Now both of them spend each day on a search, but the vulture finds dead things, disgusting things, things that stink; and the hummingbird finds flowers, nectar, and sweet things. The reason why they find these things is because they find exactly what they’re looking for. And in the same way, if you want to find things to grumble, whine and complain about, those negative things, you’ll find them too. But if you want to find contentment in God’s goodness and his presence, Jeremiah tells us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). And so, you can find what you’re looking for, because it’s all in your mind. The Bible tells us in Proverbs chapter 23,
“As a person thinks within themselves, so they are…” (Proverbs 23:7, NASU).
And it’s like what some of us used to think when we were children. You’re on the playground and you know that if you touch or get kissed by a girl, you’d better watch out because you’re going to become a girl, and so you run. Everybody is running and screaming, and in the same way, whatever you think about, whatever you dwell upon, you’ll become like that. Not that you’ll become a girl, but as you think within yourself, so you are. And it’s so subtle, this battle within our minds, and yet very quickly we find ourselves embracing something that isn’t or doesn’t have to be.
For example, my schedule is pretty busy seven days a week, just pushing through the daily responsibilities of prayer, studying the word of God, of administration, preparing for meetings, planning Wednesday night worship and Sunday’s celebration. And honestly, it can be pretty draining, because no sooner do I get done one meeting, class, or worship service, then I have to begin preparing for the next. And what used to happen to me is that I would crash on Sunday evenings and Mondays would be spent trying to recover from the headache, mild depression and feelings of discouragement. Mondays were really tough spiritually, emotionally, and physically; it was kind of like having a cloud over my head all day long, but I chose to accept it as the price for what I do. That is, until I determined to change my attitude, to put on the mind of Christ, and to wake up Monday morning anxious to begin the week, anxious to meet with my Heavenly Father, and looking forward to spending time in prayer and in the Word. Once I began to renew my mind, to have that change of attitude, I began to grasp the heart of Psalm chapter 118, where the psalmist said in verse 24,
“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalms 118:24).
Suddenly, I found myself making a choice to focus not on what has been, but instead on what could be; acknowledging that Mondays were a gift from God, they’re his day, and just like the other six days of the week there’s no reason why I have to accept it as a bad day. By focusing on God’s goodness and faithfulness I’m able to receive each day with gratitude, knowing that there’s no reason why I have to expect it, anticipate it, and make it a bad day. And so, Mondays are better and I can rejoice with the psalmist saying,
“Better is one day in your court than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10).
God is renewing my mind, correcting my attitude, and Mondays are better because I choose to rejoice and be glad in it. I can see God’s hand at work in each new week and I receive it with gratitude, knowing that it was my attitude that needed to change. The apostle Paul said it this way in Ephesians chapter 4,
“You were taught… to put off your old self… to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self…” (Ephesians 4:22-23).
We’ve been called to have a new attitude, one like that of Christ Jesus, where we can say, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” And so, I can testify that today I’m filled with gratitude, my circumstances haven’t lightened one bit, in fact if anything the burden has increased, but inwardly the Spirit of God has changed me. My attitude has become more like that of Christ Jesus, because I’ve put off the old self and have been made new in the attitude of my mind. Therefore, number two, you and I can choose gratitude.
You see, it really depends on your perspective. You know, whether the bucket is half empty or half full; and life is good. Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a better wife, never would’ve dreamed of so many kids running around my house, and certainly couldn’t imagine pastoring a church full of people as wonderful as each of you. I’m grateful, I’m enjoying life more than ever before, I’m content, and I know this is God’s will for all of our lives. Sometimes, it’s just that we need a “Gratitude Check” so that we can be made new in the attitude of our minds, purposefully putting on the mind of Christ and choosing gratitude. The Bible says it this way in first Thessalonians,
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
And so, we’re going to choose gratitude, because this is God’s will that you should be made new in the attitude of your minds, that your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus and that you give thanks in everything, pray continually, and are joyful always.
Yet what we often find ourselves doing is grumbling and complaining about what we have or what we don’t have. Maybe it has to do with your body, your job, your spouse, your children or whatever, but it’s all negative. But we’re going to choose gratitude, we’re going to be thankful for what we have, not just this week, but we’re going to choose gratitude 365 days a year.
The apostle Paul said, “I’ve learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.” And do you know what his secret was? Well, here’s what he said, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13). Now maybe you wonder how that’s going to help you to be content, how that’s going to help you be thankful, but here’s what Paul was saying. If he could do everything through Christ, then God has given him everything that he needed to do what he wants him to do. And so, right now at this very moment, you lack nothing that you need to accomplish God’s perfect will for your life; and if you lack nothing to do what God wants you to do, then what more should you desire?
You see, it’s a choice, it’s a mindset, it’s choosing your attitude. You can choose gratitude, because God has given you everything that you need to do what he wants you to do. Through his presence, his power, and his strength, he’s given you everything that you need to carry out his perfect will in your life. And that’s why Paul could say, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength”.
You choose gratitude, because the Bible says in Ecclesiastes chapter 6, Solomon writes:
“Better what the eye sees than the roving of the appetite…” (Ecclesiastes 6:9).
You choose to be made new in the attitude of your mind, you choose gratitude, you choose contentment, because the roving of the appetite is “meaningless, a chasing after the wind”. And the Bible says this in Proverbs chapter 15,
“The cheerful heart has a continual feast. Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil” (Proverbs 15:15-16).
You choose gratitude and the Bible says that you’ll have a cheerful heart. You’ll have a continual feast, because of what God has done. You’ll be able to say, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” because you’ll know it, you’ll see it, and you’ll thank him for it (Psalm 118:24). You can have that gratitude, that thankfulness, because “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).
So, the next time you want to grumble and complain about your husband you choose to focus on the positive. You focus on the fact that he’s been a faithful provider for years, that you’ve never had to worry about having food on the table. Or husbands, maybe you’re tempted to complain about her whatever, but you just thank God that she loves your kids like no other mother you know. The next time you want to grumble about your house, you choose to thank God that you’ve got a roof over your head. And the next time you want to complain about your job, you choose to thank God that you’ve got a stupid job, because a lot of people don’t.
You see, there’s a battle in your mind, but it is your choice to whom you will obey. Your spiritual enemy wants to steal your contentment and joy in the Lord, but you choose gratitude instead of allowing Satan to deceive you. You choose to believe the great wisdom of Solomon who said in Ecclesiastes chapter 4,
“Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
So, you don’t allow yourself to be deceived, you don’t get caught up in those lies, and you don’t chase after that second handful when you’ve already got one handful and the peace of God. Jesus warned us in Luke chapter 12, to be on guard against all kinds of greed saying,
"A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
You know, I love Thanksgiving for many reasons; but one of the reasons is that it’s not over commercialized like so many other holidays are, and therefore it’s the least expensive of the holidays. I love it, because I believe that gratitude is a believer’s greatest asset against the material temptations of this world. And I especially love it, because I love giving thanks to God.
The Bible tells us the story of 10 men, 10 lepers in Luke chapter 17, 10 guys whose lives have been destroyed by this terrible disease. And verse 13 tells us that they cried out to Jesus, he healed all 10 of them, and their lives were forever changed. They went from being complete outcasts to being completely healed. And yet, out of those 10 guys, nine of them went on their own way never to return, but verse 15 tells us,
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him… Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:15-17).
Out of the 10, nine of them took the gift of God without a second thought, but one of them, one of them chose gratitude.
Here’s my question for you as we close, here’s the application, “Will you be the one?”
The apostle Paul tells us, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). You should have the same attitude as Jesus. You should have the mind of Christ. And that’s why the Bible tells us in Romans chapter 12,
“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
You see, it’s all in your mind. Will you be that one? Will you choose gratitude?
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 19, 2017
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.