Greg Laurie — An Attitude of Gratitude
The title of my message is, "An attitude of gratitude". I don't know what your favorite part of the thanksgiving meal is. For some it is the dessert. For others it is the extra goodies. I think pretty much everybody loves the turkey. Some prefer white meat over dark meat. Some prefer a drumstick. How many of you really like drumsticks? That is a big gnarly drumstick. There is a chicken drumstick. There is a turkey drumstick. You could assault somebody with that thing. Right.
I heard about an industrious farmer. I have told you this before who wanted to make some more money. He bred turkeys. He thought, "There are only two drumsticks on a turkey. If only I could find a way to get some more". He worked in his laboratory and came up with a turkey that had six legs. That is six drumsticks. It was great. Someone said, how did it taste"? He said, "I don't know. We could never catch the thing". Running around. Six legs. Get it. These are the jokes people. By the way it is the same joke I have been using for years.
This is kind of the lull before the storm. Christmas is coming. We have thanksgiving and then we have that crazy event where people attack each other in stores called Black Friday. Then Christmas. That is the big one. The kids love that of course. There is so much excitement in the Christmas season. They have hope for what is to come. Hopefully they will get that new toy. The best thing of all they are out of school. You have got to love that. For some this season is actually kind of hopeless. Why? Because it is a reminder of the fact that their life maybe isn't going the way that they wanted it to go. Maybe it is a marker of time because they remember this time last year a certain loved one was with them that is not with them right now. Maybe something has happened. The marriage is unraveling. Maybe they have had their health break down. Something has happened to make this a hard time of the year. We need to remember there is always hope. What is hope? A good acronym is HOPE. Holding On with Patient Expectation.
I think of Job. You want to talk about a guy who had a bad day. I don't know if there is anyone who ever had a worse day on this earth apart from Christ himself going to calvary than the man Job. One day he lost effectively everything that he held dear. Sure he lost his possessions and yes he even lost his health. He lost people that worked for him. Worst of all job lost his own children. Yet despite this horrific chain of events job still had hope. That brings us to our text. Job 14:7. "There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail". I love that. "There is hope for a tree, if is cut down, it will sprout again and new shoots will not fail".
That verse sums up my life. I come from a family with the name McDaniel. In my family that came originally from Arkansas we seem to either have notorious sinners or notorious Christians. The sinners were big time sinners and the Christians were big time Christians. There seemed to be nothing in between. I had an aunt who was the head of the church of religious science before she died. She actually was the head of the whole church. I had another aunt who died of alcoholism. I had an uncle that died of alcoholism. I had my own mom who ultimately had her life shortened dramatically because of alcohol. Thankfully she committed her life to Christ at the very end of her life. But for most of her life she just chased after empty dreams.
Those are sort of the notorious sinners if you will in my family. Then there were the notorious Christians. I have aunt Flo who is still alive. She is a strong Christian. I have aunt Jo who recently died and is now in heaven. She was a strong believer. And I have my aunt Willie whom many of you know who directs the mission up on skid row that she started with my uncle Fred. With all of these guys my mom married she picked one guy who was different than all of the rest. Most of my mom's husbands fit a certain type. They usually had their shirts unbuttoned a few too many buttons. You know what I am talking about.
I don't want to demonstrate because it will end up somewhere. A photo or a screen shot or whatever. You can undo this button. It is OK. This next button it is getting questionable. This one is borderline. This one. Just don't go there. This one. You are out of control. Ok. You are just out of control. I am going to button this back up. I feel more comfortable that way. A lot of these guys my mom picked were guys like that. You would call them barflies. They were drinkers. They were smokers. She went after guy after guy.
Somehow in the midst of all of these men she picked a man who was different than all of the rest. His name was Oscar Laurie. He was buttoned down. Not unbuttoned. He was from the East Coast. He was conservative. He was intelligent. He was well-read. He was moral. He practiced law. She picked this man. He didn't drink. He didn't smoke. Here is the most amazing thing. He was the only guy my mom ever married who treated me as a father ought to treat a son. Though he was not my biological father he was loving to me. He gave me parameters. He gave me rules. Once when I stole something as a little kid he took me down to the jail so I could talk to all of the guys behind the bars so I would be discouraged from a life of crime. The problem was I thought they were kind of cool. Fortunately I never went that way. He gave me an allowance. I had to do chores. He disciplined me. I loved him and I called him dad.
That is why it was hard one day when I came out of school and my mom's Cadillac was packed up with all of the luggage. I said, "What is going on"? She said, "We are leaving". I said, "Where are we going"? She said, "Hawaii"? I said, "Where is dad". She said, "He is not coming". I didn't see Oscar Laurie for many years. After I became a Christian I wanted to try to find him. There was someone here in the church that worked for the bar association. Not that kind of a bar. For attorneys. That other kind of a bar. I tracked my father down. This was before Google by the way. It would have been a lot easier with that.
I tracked Oscar Laurie down. He was living in a city called Red Bank in New Jersey. I called his office. I got him on the phone. I said, "I am in New York speaking". I briefly told him a little bit about my life. I said, "Maybe we could have lunch together". He said, "No. Come to my home for the weekend". I was reluctant because he had a new family and I didn't want to come in and mess things up for him. "No. I want you to come". I went there with my wife Cathe and our oldest son Christopher. I got off of the train and there was my dad. I tell you he looked just like he looked before. Older of course. We spent time together. Reconnected.
The greatest thing of all was in that time together I was able to lead him to Jesus Christ. That is another story. That was the best part. He told me about our family crest. Laurie. The family I was adopted into is a Scottish clan. The crest of the Laurie family is interesting because it is basically a brown tree stump that has been hacked off with tiny stems of growth shooting out. It is being nourished by the stump by the tap root. The family slogan or motto is repullulat. That is a word that means "It buds afresh".
I thought about that and thought that is my life. I was cut down. My upbringing. I was the most likely to amount to nothing. I was the most likely to end up like the notorious sinners in my family. But by the grace of God and his intervention he changed me. I was cut down and life came out instead. Then fast forward many years when the Lord called our son Christopher home to heaven in 2008 I was cut down again. I didn't know if I could survive that quite honestly. It was so devastating. With the passing of time, though we still miss our son with all of our heart, it began to bud afresh again. That sums my life up. That brings me back to this passage that I just read. Job 14:7. There is hope for a tree. If it is cut down, it will sprout again and new shoots will not fail.
Sometimes we are cut down in life. We think this is the end. Not necessarily. God can intervene. He can bring new life. He can bring, as the scripture says, beauty out of ashes. Go back to the story of job again. When that horrific news came to him that his children had died. Listen. Seven sons and three daughters. Gone. What did job do? Job 1:20 says, "Job stood and tore his robe in grief. He shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship". What? He fell to the ground to worship?
Yeah but Greg the story of job. God blesses him in the end. He gets back everything that he lost. Wait a second. Job never read the book of Job. He didn't know what was going on. This is a godly man. So much so that the Lord was bragging on him in heaven. God said, "He is a perfect and an upright man. One that fears God and shuns evil". He didn't know that narrative. He didn't know that the Lord gave permission for the devil to bring calamity into his life. All job knew was one day he woke up and everything that could go wrong went wrong. Yet when he heard the news he worshiped. If we read that he fell to the ground and cried, it would have made sense. If we read that he fell to the ground and began to shake a fist at anger at God it would have even made sense. We read he fell to the ground and he worshipped. Why? Because he was a godly man. Out of the abundance of a heart a man will speak. When you are a godly man or woman and you are pressed by life I believe prayer will come out of you. When someone says, "I lost my faith through this crisis," my response to that would be good. Get rid of that faith. That faith isn't worth 10 cents.
Anybody can praise God when the sky is blue and the sun is shining. If you can praise God when the roof caves in and when the bottom drops out and when things go wrong that says to me one thing. You are a true follower of Jesus Christ. Job went on. To say. "Naked came I from my mother's womb, I will be naked when I return. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord". That is called the sacrifice of praise. When we worship even if we don't feel like it. We worship when we are hurting. We worship because God is deserving of our praise. The Bible repeatedly urges us to worship no matter what.
Sometimes it is a sacrifice to praise. Sometimes I am not in the mood. Is that true of you too? I do it anyway because God is worthy of my praise. Notice it says, "The fruit of my lips". That means I verbalize it. Have you ever looked at someone that you really care about and thought, "I love them so much". But you don't say it. You think, "I love them so much". Guess what? They can't read your mind. Men I am talking to you. When is the last time you just said to your wife, "I love you"?
How many of you are here with your husband or wife right now. Raise your hand. Turn to them and say it. I love you. Say it. Was that so hard. I didn't say kiss. What is the kiss? This is church. I am just kidding. That is awesome. To verbalize our love for one another when you get together with your family tomorrow. Tell them you love them. Why? You don't know that you will be here next thanksgiving. You don't know that they will be here next thanksgiving. Do you have anything to lose if you say that? Do it. You will find it is something you will be glad you did.
Here is Job offering his praise to God. He had an attitude of gratitude. We are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Jesus Christ concerning you". That verse does not say, "In some things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". Or, "When you are in the mood give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". Or, "When circumstances are perfect, give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you". It says, "In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you". There are no exceptions. There are no excuses. Nothing is beyond these parameters. In everything give thanks.
Then there is Daniel. Here is another man of God. A man of prayer who was an advisor to the king. The other advisors of the king were upset that Daniel was so loved by the king and respected by him. They were sort of dismissed and ignored. They said, "We have to get rid of this creep. He is getting all of the attention. Let's bring this guy down". The problem was Daniel didn't have any skeletons in his closet. They googled his name. They couldn't find anything on him. They decided to get a law passed that would trap him because they knew Daniel had this interesting habit. His habit was everyday he would open up his windows and get down on his knees, face Jerusalem, and give thanks to God. They said, "This guy prays like clockwork. You could set a clock by his prayer schedule. Let's pass a law no one can pray to any God except to the king".
They brought that to the king and that appealed to his ego. He signed it into law not realizing he was dooming his friend Daniel to death. Or at least it would appear so. Then we read this in Daniel 6:10. "When Daniel knew the writing was signed, he went into his house, and his windows were open and his chamber was toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously". Daniel had an attitude of gratitude. I love verse 10. "As he had done previously". This is what he always did.
Here was the problem with Daniel. He had never read the book of Daniel. Just like Job hadn't read Job, Daniel hadn't read Daniel. He didn't know he would be thrown into a den of lions. He didn't know he would be delivered from the lions. He didn't know any of the story, but he got down and he prayed anyway. This is what he did know. He knew God was good. He knew God was in control. Daniel gave thanks. Then there is Paul and Silas. They are thrown into a Roman dungeon for preaching the Gospel. Their back is whipped. Their feet are in stocks. They are in the worst conditions imaginable. We read in acts 16:25, "At midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God and the prisoners heard them".
The problem with Paul and Silas is they had never read the Book of Acts yet. They were living the Book of Acts. They didn't know when they started praising the Lord that there was going to be an earthquake and that the jailer who whipped them was going to be converted. All they knew was they were in a hellhole but they were going to make the best of it with an attitude of gratitude so they started praising the Lord. Do you have that attitude? The most vivid example of giving thanks in difficult circumstances is Jesus Christ himself. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23, "I received from the Lord that which I delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'take and eat. This is my body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me.'"
In contrast to Job who never read the Book of Job or Daniel who never read the Book of Daniel, or Paul and Silas who had never read the Book of Acts, Jesus knew the whole story. Jesus knew the future. He knew what was coming down. He knew he was not going to be delivered from that cross. In fact, he knew he was going to be betrayed by one of his own handpicked disciples Judas Iscariot. He knew that the others were going to go into hiding. He knew that Simon Peter was going to openly deny him. That is because Jesus was God and he was omniscient. All-knowing.
If you knew how bad things were going to go, would you give thanks? Jesus did. He gave thanks knowing everything that was about to happen. He was about to look into the throat of hell and bear the sin of the world, yet he gave thanks. Was that because it was going to be easy or pleasurable? No. Far from it. He gave thanks because of what it would accomplish. We must remember despite our immediate circumstances God is always at work. The greatest good of all time came from the worst travesty of justice.
The Bible says, "We live our life like a story that has been told". In every good story there is conflict. That is what makes a movie interesting. That is why you like certain films and you watch them again and again. Here is the good guy. Here is the adversary. Here is the conflict. Good guy overcomes it. Prevails in the end. We like stories like that. Jesus was in the middle of a story. He knew how it would end. He knew ultimately the resurrection would come. Then the ascension soul come. Then the salvation of all of those who put their faith in him would come.
Despite how awful it was he knew the greatest good would come from the worst thing imaginable. You might be in the earlier part of your story and it is not making sense. You are in that conflict section. You are saying, "I don't like the way this story is going". Just remember there is an Author of your story. There is a God who is in control. Though I don't know your story exactly, I know this much. It is going to ultimately end with these words, "And he or she lived happily ever after".