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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Be Grateful

Craig Smith - Be Grateful

Craig Smith - Be Grateful
TOPICS: Gratitude, Thanksgiving

Christmas is coming, but before Christmas, Thanksgiving, right? This was Thanksgiving weekend and so, we’re gonna take this opportunity to talk a little bit about gratitude. And I know you’re thinking, “Whoa, breaking new ground there, Craig.” Right? Right? It’s Thanksgiving, so you can talk about giving thanks. Yeah, we are. Not because gratitude’s appropriate. We’re gonna talk about gratitude because it’s powerful. Today we’re talking about the power of gratitude. In fact, I’ve really come to believe, as I was saving with this message, I think God convicted me that one of the reasons that I’m not experiencing as much of God’s power in my life as I could is because I am not being as grateful as I should. Gratitude’s an incredibly powerful thing. Now, my obstacle to gratitude, just so you know, my obstacle to gratitude, it’s not pride, it’s not that I’m oblivious, it’s not that I’m self-centered or greedy, I have a particular obstacle to pride in my life and I’ll get to that, and maybe it’s one that you struggle with as well, but before we talk about the obstacles to gratitude, we need to talk a little bit about why I say that it’s powerful.

So why don’t you go and grab a Bible, start making your way to the Gospel of Luke 17:11. We’re gonna read a story today from Jesus’s own life that speaks to the power of gratitude in all of our lives. Now, as you’re making your way to Luke 17, as soon as you get your way there, what I’d like you to do actually is put your finger in it and close your Bible. If you’re looking digitally, just turn it over so you can’t see the face. Okay? Because what I want you to do, actually, I want you to hear this story first. We’ll break it down in a moment, but let’s hear the story in its entirety and this is what it says. “Now, on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria in Galilee. And as he was going into a village, 10 men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and they call it out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us.’ And when he saw them, he said, ‘Go. Show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. And he threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And then he said to him, ‘Rise and go. Your faith has saved you.'”

Let’s break this down a little bit. Luke tells us he’s on his way to Jerusalem and he traveled on the border between Samaria and Galilee. That’s verse 11. Now, on his way to Jerusalem, he traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. And all you really need to know is that Galilee is Jewish territory. Samaria is not Jewish territory. It’s the territory of people who are not the people of God and Jesus is kind of on the border, and so, we expect that in the town, there’s a little bit of a mixture of both. And Jesus comes to one of these towns. Verse 12 says, “As he was going into a village, 10 men who had leprosy met him.” Now, if you’re not familiar with leprosy, let me catch up real quick. It’s a pretty horrifying disease. It’s characterized by open sores and over time, skin begins to fall off. They’ll actually lose fingers and toes, sometimes even their noses will fall off. I was in India earlier this year and I saw some people living on the streets who were clearly afflicted with leprosy. It is a terrible, terrible disease.

But we’re just talking about the physical side of it. There’s a social side to leprosy as well and it’s every bit as bad. And when you had leprosy, you were an outcast. You weren’t allowed to be a part of the community. It was contagious, and so, there was a natural reason to keep them at a distance and people were horrified by the look of the disease and how it ravaged the body. And so, they kind of wanted to be able to not really be confronted with those people. And so, they were pushed to the outside. They weren’t allowed to interact. In Israel, there was a law, actually, that people with leprosy couldn’t be in crowds of people because they couldn’t be in a place where they could accidentally bump up against somebody.

And so, they were intentionally kept out, so much so that if a person with leprosy came into a crowded place, they could be stoned to death for daring to do that. They weren’t part of the community. They couldn’t go into anyone’s home. They couldn’t sleep in their own beds, they slept in streets because they weren’t allowed to enter houses. They weren’t allowed to go to worship. They were really and truly outcast of society, which is probably why we’re told that they stood at a distance because they knew the rules, they knew can’t go close. We got to observe the regulations. We have to observe the rules. We can’t put anybody’s purity or their comfort in danger. So they stood at a distance and they called out in a loud voice. He says, they said, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”

Three things they do right here. Number one, they identify Jesus as the source of their help. It’s really important because sometimes we don’t do that, right? Sometimes we get confused about who really is the source of the help that we need. And we can sometimes get confused into thinking, “Well, maybe it’s doctors. Doctors are the source of the help that we need.” And we forget that God’s the one who’s given the doctors their ability to understand the body that God’s made. God is the one who’s giving them the wisdom and their skill, but we begin to think, “Oh, it’s the doctors” Or, you know, we think it’s Google, right? I got a problem, Google’s got an answer. Yeah, but all Google’s reporting is things that people know and anything anybody knows is ultimately a gift from the God who knows all things. And sometimes we get confused about who the source of the solution to our problem is and we don’t go to the source. But they don’t make that mistake, they go to Jesus.

So they identify the source. Second thing they do right is they ask. They’re explicit by, they say, “Jesus have pity on us,” which is to say, “Jesus, do something about our condition. We believe that you can and we’re asking that you do something about our condition.” That’s important too. And sometimes we forget that one. Sometimes we get caught up and say, “Well, God knows what I need so I don’t need to say anything, right? I don’t need to ask,” but yet the Word of God, the Book of James actually says, James 4:2, that one of the reasons sometimes we don’t have is because we don’t ask. He says, “You do not have because you do not ask God.” They don’t make that mistake. They ask, “Jesus, have pity on us. Do something.”

And third thing they do right is they submit to him. Notice they say Jesus and then they use another word. What’s that word? Master. They say, “Jesus, Master.” In other words, they’re saying, “Hey, we know you don’t owe us, right? You don’t have to respond. We’re submitting to you as Master and we’re depending upon your mercy and your grace. We know that you don’t owe it to us.” And that’s actually really important because I think even as Christians, sometimes we can get this one wrong, can’t we? And we don’t like to think that it ever happens, but it does. There’s this subtle danger that we all face of beginning to treat God a lot like Santa Claus, right? We go, “Hey, God, I’ve gone to church a lot over the last couple of months, and I put something in the plate every time it goes around or at least I text in something, I give regularly.”

And, you know, we began to think, “Well, that means that I’m on the nice list, right? I’m not on the naughty, I’m on the nice list. And if I’m on the nice list, you kind of owe me, don’t you?” And we can have that danger, beginning to treat God like Santa Claus. As long as we do enough stuff to stay on the nice list, God has to respond, but he doesn’t. He absolutely doesn’t. They don’t make that mistake, they treat Jesus as he is. They treat him as Master and they say, “We’re, we’re asking, we’re hoping, but we recognize that anything you do, it’s because it’s your will. It’s coming out of your grace and your kindness. It’s not because it’s owed us in any way.”

All that’s fantastic. They do that so right. And when he saw them, Jesus said, “Go. Show yourselves to the priests.” He gives him a command. He acts as the Master that they’ve said he is. It gives them a command. He says, “Do this. Go and show yourselves to the priest.” And that command is interesting. The command is at the same time, it is both perfectly understandable and perfectly confusing at the same time. The command he gives them makes perfect sense and it makes no sense at all. It makes perfect sense because the priests were the ones who were in charge of validating, verifying if somebody had been cured of something like leprosy. Okay? That’s what they did. When somebody was cured of this disease that had kept them from being part of the society, they went to the priest and the priest verified that, in fact, they were healed, that they were cleansed, that the disease was gone, and then it was the priest who was the ones who declared them free to reenter society. So it makes perfect sense for Jesus to them to the priest.

The reason I say it makes no sense is because that’s what you did when you were cleansed of something like leprosy, but these men haven’t been cleansed of leprosy. They’re still lepers when Jesus tells them to go, which means that what he told them to do was actually kind of scary, honestly, because to go to the priest, they would’ve had to go through the crowds and they weren’t allowed to do that. Somebody could have figured out what was going on, they could have been stoned to death. To get to the priest, they had to go into the religious center, and that was the one place above all else that they weren’t allowed to be because they were unclean. So how dare they come to church? They were to go to the priests who would see them as lepers and go, “What are you doing? You can’t be here.” And yet Jesus says, “Go. Show yourselves the priest even though you’re not cleansed.” Why would he do that? And the answer is because Jesus is asking them to demonstrate their faith. See, they’ve stated their faith, right? Jesus, Master, they’ve stated it, but now what he is asking them to do is to demonstrate it.

You know, the Book of James says, “Faith without works is dead.” And that doesn’t mean that it’s a question of you got to have enough faith and enough works to kind of balance these two sides of the coin. No, no, no. When he says, “Faith without works is dead,” what he means is faith without works isn’t faith. What he means is that real faith is both stated and demonstrated. Do you hear me, Church? Real faith is both stated and demonstrated. If we don’t demonstrate it, it’s not actually faith. Several years ago I was climbing in Yosemite National Park. I had my nieces with me and I set up a top rope, which is where I’m belaying. The rope goes up, it goes through a carabiner and goes down to them. They’re never in any danger because there’s no slack in the rope. As they move up, I take up the slack and so they really can’t fall. One of my nieces was climbing. She’s about halfway up and she stopped and she made the mistake of looking down, right? She looked down and she was done. And I call her and I said, “What are you gonna do?” And she goes, “I don’t wanna do this anymore.” I said, “Okay, not a problem. Let go of the rock, lean back on the rope, and step off that little ledge you’re on.”

That was her response. Nothing happens. And we were there for a long time and I remember at one point, I called up to her, I said, “Hey, Emerson, do you trust me?” Right? I mean, “Do you have faith in me?” And she said, “Yes.” She stated her faith in me. I said, “Great. Then just let go of the rock, lean back on the rope and step off that ledge.” Nothing. Which means if we’re gonna be completely honest and realistic here, it means she didn’t really trust me, not enough. She didn’t really have faith in me. She stated faith, but she didn’t have a demonstrated faith. Actually, what ended up happening was I actually had to do a complicated transfer of the rope to somebody else. I had to get another rope, climb up to her, set up a new top rope, pry her off of the rock, and carry her down forcibly because she stated her faith but she didn’t demonstrate it, which means it wasn’t real faith.

And that’s what James means when he says, “Faith without works is dead.” Faith without demonstration isn’t really faith. Real faith is both stated and demonstrated. And what’s great here is that the lepers demonstrate their faith. They demonstrate it in obedience to his command, and that’s why this next verse is so powerful, “And as they went,” he says, “They were cleansed.” Did you pay attention to that? Do you notice that? “As they went, they were cleansed.” They weren’t cleansed when they asked to be cleansed. Not in that moment. They weren’t cleansed when Jesus began to speak to them, not in that moment. As they went, in obedience to his command, as a demonstration of their faith, as they went, they were cleansed.

I wonder sometimes if we don’t experience frustration with God because we feel like he’s not listening, he’s not answering our prayers, and we tend to ask the question, “What’s wrong with God?” Right? “Why aren’t you paying attention? Why aren’t you… What’s your problem?” Right? And maybe the problem is that we’re asking God to do something when, in fact, there’s a gap between our stated faith and our demonstrated obedience and God’s waiting for us to deal with that, to obey what he’s already called us to do, that we know about, that we haven’t been willing to kind of get an order yet, and yet we’re still demanding that God pour blessing upon blessing into our lives.

So I think we need to ask what’s kind of a difficult question, but it’s such an important question, and it’s this, where is there a disconnect between my stated faith and my demonstrated obedience? Where is there a gap between the faith that I say I have and my willingness to obey God’s Word? And it may very well be there even in this moment, something immediately comes to mind, and that’s the Holy Spirit. Something immediately comes to mind that you go, “Well, I know what God’s Word says about how I’m supposed to live, I’m just not quite doing that yet.” Understand that may be one of the biggest barriers that you’ll ever experience to receiving all that God really does long to pour in your life. He’s too good to continue pouring blessing into the lives of those who are disobedient because the blessing won’t serve to draw you closer to God. They’ll actually create a barrier that he loves you too much to allow to be there. So we have to ask the question, where is there a disconnect? Where is there a gap between my stated faith and my demonstrated obedience? They don’t have one. And what’s the result? As they went, they were cleansed.

Now, one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back praising God in a loud voice. I love that. It says, he came back praising God. It doesn’t say he came back and praised God. It says, he came back praising God. Notice he didn’t get back to Jesus and then utter his praise. As he was going, he was praising God, all along the way. And it says he did it with a loud voice. I love it. Literally in the Greek, I kid you not, in the Greek, it says, “He came back praising God with mega voice.” How awesome is that? In other words, it wasn’t just out loud, it was loud. Other people heard it. This was public praise. This was a public celebration of what God had done. It was a public pointing to who was the source of all that.

And he threw himself, verse 16, “He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” And he was a Samaritan, which probably matters for two reasons. Number one, it’s surprising because you sort of expect that the Jewish people would have been the first to praise God and thank Jesus for that because they’re the ones who knew God best, and so, they should have been the first to praise and give thanks. But it’s the foreigner. It’s the person who’s not part of God’s people yet. And I do wonder sometimes, that challenges me a little bit because I wonder sometimes if sometimes the people of God should be the first to praise, but we’re sometimes the slowest of praise because we’ve almost become blinded to the reality of the blessings of God in our lives that are there every moment of every day. We’ve almost come to take them for granted so much that we stop giving thanks for them just because we don’t really even see them anymore.

And so, it’s the person who’s not used to this experience of God in his life who sees it most vividly. And it challenges me as someone who knows Jesus and lives daily in his presence. I wonder sometimes if I’ve actually gotten too familiar with all his blessings, so much so that I’ve ceased to be grateful in the way that I should. I think the second reason that it’s significant that he’s a Samaritan is because it makes what happens next all the more surprising because what happens next is really pretty astounding, and it’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen to somebody who’s not part of God’s people.

Verse 17 says, “Jesus asked, ‘So were not all 10 cleansed? Weren’t they all cleansed? Are any of them still lepers? Did it not take for a few of them? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ And then he said to him, ‘Rise and go. Your faith has saved you.'” Now, I need to talk a little bit about the translation there. I don’t often do this, but I think it’s important here. If you’re following along, I am reading the New International Version and if you’re following along, you may notice it, that I actually translated that last phrase just a little bit differently.

In fact, most modern translations say, “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well.” Or something like that. Kind of speaking to the idea that faith has resulted in the cleansing of your skin, your leprosy is cured. Some of you may have a footnote there and if you look down the footnote, it may say what I’ve said here, which is, “Or possibly your faith has saved you.” And there’s a debate among scholars here that the word that’s being used here could mean physical healing. It’s possible. And maybe they don’t wanna push it too far, but I actually think that we need to push it a little bit here because I think what Jesus is saying here is, “More than just your faith, your demonstrated faith has cleansed you of this physical condition.” I think Jesus is saying something more than that.

And there’s two reasons why I say that at that. The first is just that it’s true for all 10 of them, that their faith has cleansed them, right? All 10 of them have stated their faith, they’ve demonstrated their faith and it was because of that, that their skin was cleansed. They’ve all experienced that. There’s no real need to say it of this man. The second reason I say there’s more going on here is that the word that he uses is different than the other words for healing in this passage. There’s been two other words for healing. They were the standard Greek words for healing and cleansing when you’re talking about physical things. They’ve been used a couple of different times in this passage. Here though, Jesus changes his language. He uses the Greek word, “sozo” And don’t worry, there’s not gonna be a quiz later like you don’t need to know that, but what you do need to know is that sozo is the normal biblical word for salvation, for eternal life, for the forgiveness of sins.

And it’s interesting that Jesus shifts the word. Luke, in his writings, almost always uses this particular Greek word to speak about salvation and not just physical healing. And so, I’m quite confident that what Jesus says here is not, “You’ve been cleansed of your physical condition.” He’s not saying, “Your faith has cleansed your skin.” What he’s saying is, “Your faith has cleansed your sin.” He’s saying, “You’ve been saved. You have eternal life. You’re adopted into the family of God. You weren’t part of the people of God before, but guess what? You now are. God is your Father as well as mine.” He says, “Your faith has not just cleansed your skin, it has cleansed your sin. You’re forgiven, you’re free.”

Which raises an important question, right? Was that also true of the other nine? Did they all experience a cleansing of their sin or did the other nine only experience a cleansing of their skin? I don’t think that the other nine were saved by their faith here. They experienced a blessing by their faith. They had a healing, a cleansing because of their faith, but I think it’s only this man. It’s certainly the only one that is given this incredible statement. All of them received the blessing. All 10 of them received a blessing. Let’s be really clear about that. Because of their faith, they all received a blessing directly from God, but only one of them receives a much greater blessing, salvation. And the question is why him? Why did he get what the other nine didn’t? What did he do that allowed him to receive with the other didn’t? As Luke tells us, “He threw himself at Jesus’s feet and thanked him.” That’s what he did that they didn’t do.

And I believe that the point of this story, which is confirmed by lots of other stories in Scripture, this is not an isolated truth, we see this principle over and over again in God’s Word and the principle just basically this, it’s that gratitude sets the stage for so much more that God wants to do in our lives. Do you hear me, Church? Gratitude sets the stage for so much more. God has so much he wants to do in your life and every blessing you’ve experienced up to this point is really just a taste of so much more. Every encounter with God you’ve had up to this moment is just a hint of the intimacy and the depth of relationship that God wants to have with you as his child. But it is gratitude for what God has done that sets the stage that unlocks the door for so much more that God wants to do in your life. Why is that? Why is gratitude that powerful?

I think we could probably spend a lot of time talking about it. Let me just give you two reasons why that is. The first is just this, it’s that gratitude breaks the power of greed to draw us away from God. Gratitude breaks the power of greed to draw us away from God. Greed is an incredibly powerful thing as well. The problem is that greed takes us away from God. And I know well, our natural tendency is to think that other people are greedy. We’re not greedy, right? And yet, I think biblically, greed is basically, it’s the insatiable longing for what’s next. That’s all it is, right? It’s the, “Oh, this is great, but I kind of thought it was also gonna have… No? Really? Well, this is awesome, but what else you got for me? This is fantastic, but I was also hoping maybe we…” So it’s that insatiable… And the problem is that constant looking to what’s next, we’re kind of like Hansel and Gretel. Remember them? Following the crumbs and each crumb takes us ultimately into a dark forest and into a place of incredible danger that we would never have gone on purpose, but following that insatiable longing for what’s next, ends up in the household of the enemy, ready to be thrown into the oven. Fattened up by our own hungers.

It’s interesting, Romans 1:29, God’s describing a group of people who are far away from him and he describes these characteristics of these people who are far from him and going farther. He says,” They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity. They’re full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice.” That’s a pretty scary list for greed to be included in, isn’t it? Greed is powerful. Greed draws us away from God, so how do we keep that from happening? Gratitude. Gratitude breaks the power of greed to draw us away from God because in gratitude, we take our eyes off of what’s next. Honestly, in gratitude, we even take our eyes off the thing itself that we’ve been given and we look to the Giver. And when we looked at the Giver, we stop caring so much about the thing that was given and we stopped caring completely about the thing that we were hoping might’ve been given but hasn’t. I mean, we stop worrying about that and we focus on the Giver and so, gratitude breaks the power of greed to pull us slowly, but undeniably way from God.

Second reasoning, I think gratitude is so powerful is because gratitude actually draws us towards God. Gratitude breaks the power of greed to draw us away, but gratitude actually draws us towards God. It’s interesting. Psychologists have known for a long time that speaking gratitude, expressing gratitude to another human being actually makes us feel more connected to that person. It makes us feel warmer towards that person. And when we feel connected and warmer towards a person, we tend to take the steps necessary to move towards that person. It’s one of the reasons why in counseling, in marriage counseling, we often tell people that one of the most powerful things you can do in your marriage is take some time to express gratitude to each other. Take some time to go to your wife or your husband, “I’m grateful for you and I’m grateful to you for this thing that you do, and this thing, and this thing, and this thing.” Because the way that God’s built us is that when we express gratitude, we feel more connected and when we feel more connected, we move in the direction of that person. It’s true in our relationship with each other, but it’s certainly true in our relationship with God as well.

Expressing gratitude actually creates a feeling of connection and causes us to do the things necessary to move towards him. But you flip it around, a lack of gratitude actually drives a wedge between us, right? I see this every single day on I-25. I do. Because when I’m on I-25, I’m a pretty nice guy and so, when I see cars trying to merge in, you know, I hit the brakes and I give them some space and I’ll give them, you know, that little come on in and they go in and I feel good about that and all I want in return is the wave, right? I just want them to look in the mirror and go… And when they do that, I feel good about those people. I do. Like it’s hard not to. They give me the wave and I’m like, “I bet she’s an amazing leader at her company. I bet he’s a great dad.” On the other hand, when I don’t get the wave, that is not how I think about those people. When I don’t get the wave, I’m like, “What do you think you got in there by your superior driving skills?” And then it goes further. Then I’m like, “I bet they’re driving to a puppy kicking convention. I bet that’s the kind of person they are. I bet that’s…” There’s a wedge right there, right? Right?

But here’s the thing , guys, the power of gratitude is that it works the other way that when we express gratitude, we feel better about that person, we feel connected, we begin to move towards them in tangible ways. That’s how it is with God. But when we don’t express gratitude to God, it creates more… Have you ever had this experience that somebody has done something for you? They’ve given something to you and you know you need to say thank you but you just somehow time got away from you? You didn’t send the text, you didn’t make the phone call, you didn’t say the words. But I’m going to. But the longer that the gratitude goes unexpressed, the more awkward the relationship gets, right? Because like, “I don’t even wanna see the person because I haven’t said it, but now it feels weird to say it and I’m gonna look horrible for saying it now and it’s three months after the fact. But if I don’t say it, I look horrible and it’s better if I just avoid them,” right? That’s the problem with ingratitude and it works that way with God. A lack of gratitude can actually create a sense of distance between us and God, so give thanks. Gratitude draws us toward God and you say, “Give thanks for what?” For everything. For everything.

James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father.” Everything good in your life, it’s from God. Do you understand that? Everything good in your life is from God. And we can get off track on that, we can get confused about it because sometimes we confuse the source of a blessing with the delivery system for the blessing, right? “Well, it’s not God, the doctor took care of me.” Who do you think gave the doctor the ability to understand the body that he had designed? God did. Right? It’s like you get packages at Christmas, a relative sends you packages, you don’t grab the packages and run out to the FedEx guy and go, “I’m so grateful for this. Thank you so much. You’re the best.” You know, we don’t thank the delivery. I mean, it’s okay to say thank you, but the kind of gratitude I’m talking about, it’s directed towards the source of the blessing, not the delivery system for the blessing. But we get confused about that.

James says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father.” There’s a million blessings in your life right now. They call for our gratitude and the gratitude that we give is powerful. And this is why we ultimately say, “The gratitude sets the stage for so much more that God wants to do in our lives.” But gratitude can be hard. It can. And we all face obstacles because we hear this truth and like, “Well, yeah, why am I not more grateful then? Why do I struggle? And the reality is we’re all dealing with certain obstacles. Let’s talk about a few of them. Maybe for you, the obstacle is farsightedness. Farsightedness is the ability to see things far away, but the inability to see them up close. I can see things far away, fine, but age has caught up with me. And the closer things are, the less in focus they are.

That’s farsightedness and that can happen spiritually too. We always see the things that we want God to do that he hasn’t done yet. We see those in stark clarity, but the things that he’s already done, that they’ve become so familiar and they’re almost out of focus because they’re so familiar that we don’t really see them anymore. So we need to take some time. Maybe this week would be a great time to step back, take an hour and sit down and look right around you and just start writing down all the blessings, to bring them into focus in that way. Maybe that’s your obstacle, maybe farsightedness is your obstacle. Maybe your obstacle is what I call the comparison conspiracy. Because one of the greatest obstacles to gratitude for many people is the tendency to compare what we have to what we think other people have. Right? It’s hard to be grateful when you feel like, “What we have doesn’t measure up to what they have.” And I call it a conspiracy because we live in a culture that demands that we compare what we have to what we think other people have. And I say think what other people have because the reality is we’re not seeing the truth. Like social media, right?

Social media is one of the best ways to be drawn into the trap of conspiracy, but understand that, you know, we look at social media we’re like, “Man, their marriage is amazing. They’re always going on dates and they love each other.” It’s actually a little sickening how much they seem to love each other on Facebook, right? “On their family, they’re so great. Their kids are all…they look so good. My kids are filthy all the time. Those kids are clean and… Oh, and she keeps tweeting about all these incredibly cute and brilliant things that this three-year-old is saying. This is ridiculous. It’s like a philosopher. I’m not getting that with any of my kids.” Right? Yeah. Listen, it’s a lie. Social media is a carefully curated, perfectly positioned optical illusion, but we’re called to compare what we have to what we think they have and ours doesn’t look as good and our gratitude goes away. So maybe you need to take a fast from social media or just ask the Holy Spirit to keep you from living in this constant trap of comparison because it’s hard to be grateful when we’re living in this tendency to compare. And maybe that’s your trap.

Maybe your trap is the lie of self-sufficiency. Another word for that’s pride. Very hard to be grateful when we’re proud because the problem is that when we’re grateful for, when we say thank you for something, what we’re basically saying is, “You did this. I didn’t do it.” And that’s what doesn’t work with pride, right? That’s why gratitude is so dangerous to pride because if it’s a gift, I didn’t get it. I didn’t grab it for myself. If it’s grace, I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it. The very act of saying thank you indicates, “I’m not all that.” The lie of self-sufficiency, pride, can be a tremendous obstacle to gratitude. Maybe you just need to humble yourself and start saying thank you because the fact of the matter is, you’re not all that. None of us are. Maybe for you, it’s the guilt complex.

Sometimes we are reluctant to say thank you for things because we can’t get past this idea we just don’t deserve them. I’ve done so much wrong, I’ve committed so much sin, I’ve broken so many promises. I’ve hurt so many people. I’ve done all these things wrong and so many times I’ve failed to live up to their expectations that are reasonable. It’s my fault… And saying, “I’m not enough.” And because of that, it’s hard to say thank you because we just feel like we don’t deserve any of it. Maybe that’s you. You know, the bad news is, you’re right. You don’t deserve any of it from God. The good news is it doesn’t matter. The good news is God doesn’t bless you, he does not give to you, he does not pour grace out upon you because you deserve it, he pours grace out upon you because he loves you. And the wrong that you’ve done makes no difference to that. That’s why he sent Jesus, this is the Gospel. God loves you so much, he sent his own Son who died on the cross to pay for every wrong you’ve ever done so that it wouldn’t have to get in the way. He rose from the dead. It’s a fact of history. He offers salvation by faith and when we take hold of that, we are forgiven.

We don’t live in guilt, we don’t live in shame, except of our own doing. When we insist on feeling so bad about all we’ve done, and that keeps us from being grateful, we are kept from experiencing the power of God, but it’s because of anything that God has done. He’s done everything to remove it, we just keep bringing it back up. And so, maybe we need to fully embrace the grace, that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Or maybe your big obstacles, the one that is for me, and that’s the fear of joy. And some of you are like, “What are you talking about?” I’m not talking to you. Some of you immediately went, “Oh, I’m not the only one?” Yeah. There is this thing called fear of joy. I struggle with it. And the reason is because joy is an incredibly vulnerable thing to feel. Because as soon as I take joy in something God’s done, “Well, then what happens if it goes away? What happens if it turns out not to be everything else? So what happens if, if, if, if, if?” When I express joy, I’m kind of settling up camp on this blessing. And, “What if it changes? What if the ground shifts? I’ll look like a fool.” So joy can be a scary thing for some people, for some of us, and that keeps us from celebrating. But that’s a danger.

You know, I’ve shared over the last couple of years, my youngest daughter has had this chronic abdominal pain, leg issues, dietary issues, fainting, it’s just a whole bunch of stuff. We’ve gone to so many doctors and we’ve heard so many diagnoses, “All you just need to do this.” And we would get that diagnosis. It turns out, no, they didn’t help at all. A couple of months ago, we had another one, she has a vein that’s pretty constricted and need to put a stint in there and that’ll take care of everything. They did the surgery. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing the fear of joy dance around each other. Like I don’t even wanna ask her, “How are you feeling?” Right? And I don’t think she’s wanted to answer that question. And so, I’m just kinda like, “Hmm” Then I read this and I thought, “Yeah, I need to pay attention to what God’s Word says in my own life.”

And so, I went to her and I said, “Okay. We’ve got to have this conversation. How are you feeling?” “Better? I’m feeling better. Yeah. I mean, the surgery pain is still there, but I’m not having the same pains. And I’ve got… Every now and then, I’ve got some other things.” But yeah, I could see it in her. I was like, “I’m sorry that you inherited that from me. I can see that fear. But she said, “Yeah, I’m doing better.” And I thought to myself, “You know what? I need to celebrate that. I do.” Thank you. That’s what I’m doing right now. This is a scary thing for me because I’m going, “Well, what if it doesn’t fix everything?” Doesn’t matter. She’s better. But what if the old pain comes back? Doesn’t it matter? Right now, she’s better. I got to celebrate that. And, in fact, I had the thought, “What if the full healing that we’re longing for is waiting on the horizon?” And maybe what, that’s part of so much of what God wants to do, but until I celebrate what he’s already done, maybe that door is closed.

Gratitude sets the stage. It unlocks the door to so much more the God wants to do. And so, I’m not gonna let that be the cause of not experiencing everything else that God may have for us in that. I don’t know how it’s gonna play out. It doesn’t matter. My little girl’s better right now and I praise God for that and I celebrate that. Gratitude sets the stage for so much more he wants to do. So two quick questions for you. Number one, which of these challenges is most challenging for you? Which of these two obstacles or the several obstacles is most challenging for you? May not be the fear of joy for you, but I bet one of those you’re like, “Yeah, that’s me.” And this is a great week to deal with it. So question number two, will I push through this obstacle? Will I push through this… How will I push the… What will I do this week to push through this obstacle? What step will I take to push through it? What step will I take to begin overcoming this obstacle? Would you pray with me?

God, as your people, we thank you and we confess to you. We thank you for all the good that you’ve done in our lives. We thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ and salvation through his blood. We thank you for his mercies that are new in our lives every morning for the millions of blessings around us. We give you thanks and we ask for your forgiveness for all the ways that we have failed to be as grateful as we should. We ask that you give us the strength of your Holy Spirit to change that and through our gratitude, move deeper into our relationship with you and into all that you still have for us.

If you’re a follower of Jesus, would you just begin praying with people around you? People watching online right now. Because I believe wherever you are, there’s some people listening to this. They don’t have a relationship with this God that we’re talking about. And maybe for the first time you heard about his goodness in the gift of his Son and maybe the first time the light bulb came on, you went, “That’s what this is all about?” It is. God loves you. Not a generic you, he loves you personally so much that he sent his own Son to die for you. Jesus went to the cross to pay for every wrong that you’ve ever done.

So you can continue to feel guilty for all your sin, but forgiveness is waiting. Freedom from it is waiting. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead to prove that it was waiting, that sin was defeated, that guilt was gone, that death was doomed. And he’s offering it to you right here, right now. He’s offering you forgiveness, he’s offering you adoption into his family, he’s offering you relationship with your Creator. And if you don’t have that, you can have it right now, wherever you are. This is what you say to God. You just have this conversation in your heart. You say:

God, I have done wrong. I’m sorry. I know the wrong I’ve done is what’s gotten in the way of our relationship, and I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying for me. I believe you rose from the dead and I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness and new life. The salvation that came to that leper in addition to the cleansing of his skin, you offered forgiveness of his sin. You’re offering that to me right now. I’m ready to say thank you. I’m ready to receive it fully. Jesus, come into my life. I’m saying yes to faith in you. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

Are you Human?:*