Charles Stanley - Overflowing With Gratitude
In 1621, the settlers, those new settlers to this new land, thanked God for the tremendous crops they had that year and had the first Thanksgiving. And then we come along and George Washington in his first year of inauguration as president, he also recognized Thanksgiving Day. And then we come to 1863, and you have President Lincoln. And he's the first one who made Thanksgiving a real, true, genuine holiday for a day of thanksgiving for our country.
So now, what do we have? Thanksgiving has become a combination of feasting, football, and first to the malls because people are already thinking about it. In fact, somebody told me the other day, well, part of my vacation's going to be shopping. I said shopping? Well, I'm shopping for Christmas. So you know, whatever happened to Thanksgiving? I'll tell you what happened to Thanksgiving. When you don't have it in your heart, you don't practice it. And that's where we are. The most wonderful, blessed nation in the earth, and we're far more interested in gold than we are God.
I can tell you, it not only is showing in the consequences, it will show greater consequences unless we turn around. And usually, tragically enough, what turns us around is troubles, trials, heartache, torment, you name it. But, on the other hand, there's a whole bunch of us still love God and want to be grateful at Thanksgiving and recognize what Thanksgiving's all about. Well, I want you to turn in just a moment to Colossians and Paul talks about overflowing with gratitude. So if you turn to that second chapter for a moment. And I want us to read just a few verses. He's been talking about our relationship to Christ and all that that means.
So he says, beginning in verse six. And, whenever the Bible says therefore, that means on the basis of what I just got through saying. "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, Having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with thanksgiving". So Paul is reminding the Christians and there at Colossae of who they are and why they're where they are and the fact that, on the basis of that, they should be overflowing with thanksgiving.
So as you think about your own heart at this particular time, would you say that you're a grateful person? Would you say that you really and truly are a grateful person, that you acknowledge that God is the source of everything? That you acknowledge the fact that every blessing that comes your way, according to the Scripture, comes from Him? And the truth is a person who is really godly is grateful. So, in thinking about all that and thinking about, what is the key to us having an overflowing sense of gratitude toward God?
Now, I'm going to explain what that gratitude's all about in a moment. Then I want to give you a little test at the end that you decide, on the basis of what a grateful person's like, whether you would fall in that category or not. So, what is the key to that? I want you to notice these words He says, "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him". Now, He said, look this is, once you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. We talk about why we should be grateful. Now, watch this. When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, He didn't save you on the basis of anything you did. You received Christ as your Savior. And besides that, remember, the Bible says in Ephesians chapter one, watch this, He chose you, He chose you before the foundation of the world. There's not a single one of us who can boast of why we got saved.
Someone says, well, the Bible says you have to have faith and I had enough faith to be saved. But you have to remember this: the Scripture also says, "by grace you saved through faith and that not of yourselves". It's not that, not the salvation out of yourself, your faith's not of yourself. It is a gift of God. God has given every single believer, listen, the gift of faith. So He says here, for example, that we come to Him, have received Jesus Christ the Lord, and therefore, we're to walk in Him. And so our relationship, listen, that's a relationship that has been sealed. The moment you trusted Him as your Savior, that seals you as a child of God. That in itself ought to create enough gratitude to last us for a lifetime. But not only that, He says, now having been, now having trusted Him as my Savior, He says, now you can walk in Him. That is, you can walk in this relationship. You can have the kind of personal, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that changes your life and keeps on changing and keeps on working in your life.
And this is what a person who is grateful is all about. "Therefore as you receive Christ Jesus, walk in Him, Having been firmly rooted, built up in Him, established in your faith just as you were instructed and overflowing with gratitude". That is, a person who overflows with gratitude, there are some things that are very, very evident in their life. Because, listen, a person who does not understand the Word of God and a person who's sort of a nominal Christian, they may say, well, I'm thankful. Thankful for what? Well, thankful to be alive and they'd list a few of those kind of things. But what I want you to see here is what He's saying, and that's simply this. There is, there is a degree to which you and I should be grateful to God that oftentimes we just sort of overlook.
So let's take just a moment to think about some things you ought to be grateful for. If I should ask you, tell me what you're grateful for, more than likely most people would start out with their good health or their family and so forth. And so, we're going to get past all that. And let's think about, watch this now, what you should be grateful for, watch this carefully, you listening, say amen? That you had nothing to do with except that you accepted it. So, number one: You were chosen before the foundation of the world. Have you ever thought about thanking God for that? You had nothing to do with that. Then, also, you were indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Well, what's so important about that? Because He's the one who will enable you and give you guidance and direction in your life and the power to do what God calls you to do. You are eternally secure. Once you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, nobody can erase that. Nobody can erase your name from the Lamb's Book of Life in heaven. You're eternally secure. Then, you have the gifts of the Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came into your life, what did He do? Watch this, knowing you perfectly, knowing the perfect will of God for your life He gifted you, God gifted you, enabled you, makes you ready to be able to do and to do well whatever God calls you to do. That's what He does. That's not something we do. That's what He does. Likewise, you have the privilege of having an intimate relationship with God.
Do you understand what that means to have an intimate relationship with Him? That you can talk to Him and listen to Him and pray to Him? That God can work in your life and do all the things that are involved in a personal, intimate relationship satisfying every need and every desire of your heart. That's something He did. Likewise, He's given you peace. Show me somebody who's not a Christian; I'll show you somebody who doesn't have peace, I don't care how much money they have. Show me a lot of Christians who are out of the will of God, they don't have peace either. But we have the privilege of having, not only peace with God, but the peace of God in our heart. You know when the final test of that is? When a person comes to face death and know that any moment it could be all over. Then there's no jockeying around about, well, I sorta believe. No, you either have peace or you don't. You either have assurance what the Bible says absent from the body or present with the Lord, or you don't have it. There's no fooling around about it. It's crystal clear and very sharp. Then, there's the unconditional love of God.
Think about this: every single moment of your life, God loves you unconditionally. He doesn't love you if, and, but, when, where, none of that. He just loves you. You say, well, does He love me when I'm sinning? Yes, He does. Well, why doesn't He stop me? He's giving you the privilege to be wise enough not to sin against Him and to walk in obedience to Him. But He loves you just the same. You say, well if He loves me why does He create such pain when I disobey Him? Because He loves you. If He did, listen, if He didn't send you enough discipline, you'd just keep on living in sin. All that is an expression of His love for us. Then, of course, His promise of our protection. None of us know till we get to heaven, and I'm not sure that God'll ever show us a lot of things we say, and now when I get to heaven I'm going to ask this.
Well, I don't know that it's going to make any difference at all about what happened down here when we get to heaven. None of us will ever know how many times God protected us from an accident or from some ill, whatever it might be. We'll never know how many times He protected us until we get to heaven, or we may never know. But the fact that He does all the time in our life. Then, think about this. You have the promise of a bodily resurrection. You have the promise of having a body when you get to heaven. You have the promise of knowing each other in heaven. Where'd that come from? That came from God. Not anything that you and I could possibly do that could create that.
And then, think about this. I don't know where you live. If I should say how many of you would like to live in a little better house, little better home than you live in. Probably most of you would say, well, if I had a choice, I'd yeah, I'd take you up on that. Didn't cost me anything. Well, do you know the one God has prepared for you? Listen, I don't know all the details but I know this: everything about God is fantastic! Everything about Him is perfect. He doesn't do anything halfway. He doesn't leave anything unscrewed, un-nailed. He says, "I'm going to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you," and He has, "I'm coming again to receive you to Myself that where I am there ye may be also".
And then the last thing I want to mention is not any of those. Of all the physical things that I could put my hand on, the thing that you and I ought to be most grateful for is the Word of God. Here's how we know who He is. Think about how blessed you are. Listen, suppose it was in some other language that we didn't understand. So, how can we be grumblers? How can we not be overflowing with gratitude thinking that God has done all of that for us? And every single believer has the privilege of enjoying that or not. And I think one of the good tests of a person's real relationship to God is whether they're grateful or not.
So, what I want to do is, I just want to give you a little friendly test. And if you're watching or listening I will give you a second or two there to go find you a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. And I want to give you a little test that, let's see if you would fall into the category of a person who is grateful.
Number one: If you have a grateful heart, you're going to have a positive attitude. You can't help but have a positive attitude if you have a grateful heart. Look what God's doing in your life.
Secondly, you're going to be aware of God's presence. If you have a grateful, if you have a grateful spirit, you're going to be aware of God's presence because you know that He's the one who is at work in your life creating the things around you that you're enjoying and maybe difficulty, hardship, pain. But you're still aware that God is there helping you through it.
A third one is a humble spirit. A person has a grateful heart is a person with a humble spirit for the simple reason you recognize that it's all of God and none of you. That He's the source of every good thing that comes your way. And so there's a humble spirit. Then there's going to be a sense of peacefulness about you. A person who is overflowing with gratitude is peaceful. Why? Because they've placed their trust in Him; they're watching Him work in their life; they're so blessed in so many ways and they're aware of it.
And, you see, there are many people who are very, very blessed not even aware of it and, therefore, they're not grateful. And then of course, a person who has a grateful spirit is thoughtful of others. If you are a person who has a grateful heart, you're going to be thoughtful of others. What can I do for him? What can I do for her? I wonder how I could help that person or help this person? Then, you're going to be generous because you recognize what God is doing for you. Your gratitude toward God is going to make you a generous person. And you'll, listen, what you'll do is, you'll look for ways to help somebody else. You'll look for ways to show your gratitude.
And, therefore, He wants us likewise to be generous and we're going to be unselfish. We're going to be willing to share whatever we have. In fact, we will do so joyfully because a person of gratitude, it's, it's just in you. It's just flowing. That is, you don't have to wonder about that. That person is going to be expressive. For example, if a person has a sense of gratitude, you know what, they've got to tell it. They've got to talk about it. They're not bragging. What they're doing is saying here's what God is doing in my life. Or they may be saying, let me tell you what God will do in your life if you'll trust Him, if you'll rely upon Him, if you really believe in your heart that He is who He says He is and that He provides all of our needs, meets those needs, whatever they may be. God's already showing His blessing toward you. And we started out by saying a positive attitude and awareness of God's presence, oftentimes, it's our negative attitude. And we're so wrapped up in ourselves, we don't even recognize what God is doing.
A person of gratitude is going to be a person who is expressive, and you're going to be friendly. Now, I don't think many of us probably like to meet grumpy people because there's nothing very pleasant about them. This is wrong; that's wrong; he did this; she did that; they on and on and on and on they go. And the truth is, if a person is really a person of gratitude, they're going to be friendly. Why? Because you see, their heart is melted. It doesn't take much, it doesn't take much to move the heart of a grateful person. That's just who they are. Then, of course, there's this whole idea of being contagious. Now, all of us have met people that, when we see them, we smile. Amen?
Let me ask you this. Don't you have some people in your life, you don't have to see them, you just think about them and smile? You know what, there's something about them that's contagious. And when you see them, you know, you don't stand off and wait for them. You're out there shaking hands. How you doing? Glad to see you. There's something about it. What is it? Well, ultimately it's Jesus within them. If I say, well, what is it about him or her you like? You may not be able to express it at first. But I'll tell you what it is. Your heart connects to their heart. Because two grateful people, there's a connection. That friendliness, that openness, that genuineness, that honesty, free, what is it? Because a gracious person is rooted and grounded in Jesus Christ. And the love of Christ is a love within them. The forgiveness of Christ is a forgiveness in them. The understanding of Christ is understanding in that person. And then, of course, they're going to be motivated.
Listen, a person of gratitude is motivated, motivated to give, motivated to share, motivated to serve, motivated, you name it, they're motivated. Likewise, they're going to have a servant's spirit. They're going to have a servant's spirit because they want to be used; they want to give of themselves; they want to do what God wants them to do. And, therefore, they're going to have a high level of faith. A person with a spirit of gratitude, they're going to have a high level of faith. Why? Because they're watching God work in their life over and over and over again. They see what He's doing. And, therefore, it's just a part of the way they think. And then, of course, we would say they're going to be fruitful. A person who has a grateful heart wants to give themselves away. They want to be involved. They want God to use them. They don't want to sit around always looking for something for themselves.
And, I would say for you just one last word, and that is, they're going to be joyful. A person with a heart of gratitude, you know what, everything could be wrong in their life. And somehow, deep down inside, there's that joy. Not necessarily happiness, but joy. Joy is that indescribable feeling and attitude and spirit within that, listen, no matter what's going on there's this positive outflow. And that outflow and overflow of gratitude, God is doing something in their life. Now, without looking at anybody else's, can't look at anybody else's, look at your sheet and see how well you did.
Did you check off the things that you thought would be true of you? Put any cross marks by them? Or were you scared to death to do it? And what you have to decide is this: am I really grateful for what God has done for me? Am I really grateful for what He's doing in me? Am I really grateful for the wonderful privileges and the opportunities? Am I grateful for what He gives? Am I grateful for all those things we've talked about? And if you're not, there's only one person who can change that.
You can decide today, Lord, I want to be a believer, a follower of Jesus who is overflowing with gratitude. And when you come down your list and you've got an "X" on it, say I'm going to work on that and this and this and this because, God, that's who I want to be. And you know what will happen? God will open doors in your relationships that He's not opened before because God is going to use your spirit to reach that other person. And it may be people, listen, it may be that in your life it's people who are hurting. And somehow He'll begin to work in your life and other people's lives that you would never imagine. And, and watch this, you know what? It won't be any effort. You won't even have to make an effort. Why? Because it's the flow of God in your life. And this whole issue is about the flow of God and His love and goodness and mercy and kindness and generosity and all that, it's flowing through you. It's a choice you make.
You may say, well, I'm not even a Christian. Does it work for me? No. Because you see, we started out by saying being in Christ, established in Him, rooted in Him, built up in Him, it's all about your relationship to Him. When He comes into your life and you're willing to confess your sin and repent of your sin and surrender your life to Jesus Christ as the final atoning sacrifice at Calvary, that God prophesied it way back yonder, in fact, all the way to the garden when Adam and Eve sinned. Remember what the Bible says? They found them some fig leaves to cover them. God covered them with skins. That meant that God had to kill something and shed blood. First hint of the sacrificial atoning death of His Son. Jesus went to the cross for you. How could you not surrender your life to Him?
Now, listen, you're whole eternal destiny. You're going to die; you know you will. The Bible says, "It's appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment". You're going to die and you're going somewhere. You say, oh I just think you disappear. You may think it, but you're going to realize too late that you didn't disappear. It's a choice you make to receive Christ as your Savior and watch Him work everything we've talked about in your life. You can't beat that. Listen, there's no one who can promise you that but Christ. And I plead with you in His name, Jesus, to surrender your life to Him. Let Him change your life. And you know what? You'll be overflowing with gratitude for all eternity.