James Merritt - Thank You Very Much
Well, I want to say good morning to those of you who are watching online and those who are watching by television. And, this is one of the largest crowds we've had in a long time. And, I don't get really jacked up too much. I was preaching one time at the SBC, and we had probably 15,000 people. And, one of the guys leaned over and said, man, this is a great crowd today. Are you impressed? I said, not really. He said why? I said, well, like Winston Churchill said, if I was being hung, the crowd would be twice as big.
So, I'm not really all that enthused, but I want to thank you for being here today. It is, as you're going to find out, a Superbowl Sunday for our church, and I've got some exciting things I want to share, but let me begin by telling you about a man, maybe you've heard of. His name was Rudyard Kipling. At the turn of the 19th century and early 20th century, he was at the peak of his career. He was one of the most widely read men in the world. In fact, he won a Nobel prize for literature. His children's series that some of you parents still use called the Jungle Book. His children's series is still widely read today. And, his literary work, as you can imagine, made him a ton of money.
Well, there was a newspaper reporter that wanted to interview him. And, so when he got to his house, he said, Mr. Kipling, he said, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to about $100 a word. Now, this was back in the turn of the 19th century. That big money. Every word he writes about a $100 a word. Well, Mr. Kipling raises his eyebrows. He said, well, really? I wasn't aware of that. Well, the reporter cynically reached into his pocket, pulled out a $100 bill, gave it to Kipling, and said, okay, Mr. Kipling, here is a $100 bill. Give me one of your $100 words. Kipling looked at him, and looked at that $100 bill, folded it up, put it in his pocket, and simply said, thanks.
Now, that word, thanks, may have been a $100 word 100 years ago or 200 years ago. But, I want to tell you, today, it would probably be more like a million dollar word, because, frankly, we're living in a society today, in a culture where it's a word that's too seldom heard, too rarely spoken, too often forgotten. It seems like today, I don't know if you feel this way or not, it seems like we swim in an ocean of ingratitude and we walk in a desert of gratitude. In fact, let me tell you why I said that. When I read the following newspaper headline, I could not believe my eyes. This was a newspaper. This was the headline, rather than being grateful for his life, Raphael Samuel is suing his parents for bringing him into the world without his consent. I'm not making this up.
Here's what the newspaper said. A 27 year old man from Mumbai, India claims his parents were selfish, and quote, had me for their joy and pleasure, unquote. He went on to say, quote, I want everyone in India and the world to realize one thing, that they are all born without their consent. I want them to understand that they do not owe their parents anything. He then said this. If we're born without our consent, we ought to be maintained for our entire life. We should be paid for the rest of our lives by our parents to live. If I had been his dad, I'd of made sure every gun in my house was locked up. And, by the way, I don't think he's gonna get very far. I think his chances in court are pretty slim, because both of his parents are attorneys, okay? It's kind of a justice thing.
Well, if you're new to our church, we're in a series that we're calling No Hard Feelings. And, what we're doing is we're looking at various emotions that we all carry and that we all experience. And, look, I'm gonna tell you something that's true about every one of us, including me. There's very few things in your life more important than your feelings. I mean, how many times have you said to somebody, this is how I feel. You don't respect my feelings. Feelings are very important. How many times do we not do what we think we ought to do, but instead we do what we feel like we ought to do? How many times have you gotten in trouble, because you did what you felt like you ought to do? And, see, feelings are important, because feelings determine our attitude and our attitude determines our altitude.
Now, although you cannot necessarily choose how you feel, you can choose your attitude. And, one of the greatest antidotes to negative feelings and negative emotions is what I call the attitude of gratitude. I want to talk about it today and let me tell you what a big deal it is to God that you're thankful. This is how important it is to God. Being thankful is so important to the God that created you, it is a command. He doesn't say we ought to be thankful. He doesn't ask us to be thankful. He doesn't request us to be faithful. He doesn't suggest that we're thankful. It's actually a command. He says, I want you, I command you to be thankful.
And, there was a man in the New Testament by the name of Paul, went through a tremendous amount of suffering and heartache, and he wouldn't... Listen, he went through the kind of things, it would cause the average person to be bitter, to be ungrateful, to be less than thankful. As a matter of fact, he went through some things that for some of us, we would be mad at God and shaking our fist. And, yet, listen to these words he wrote in a book called I Thessalonians.
If you want to turn to it. It's in the New Testament. It's about five or six, seven, eight books back from the end of the Bible. Go to the I Thessalonians, chapter five. This is what Paul wrote. Give thanks, by the way, that's in the imperative mood of the Greek language, Give thanks in all circumstances. Why? why should I do that? For this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Now, I know I'm speaking to some people right now, in this room, watching on television, watching online, you don't feel very thankful. As a matter of fact, you may even resent what I've already said, because you're sitting there thinking, buddy, if you knew what I was going through, you wouldn't tell me that.
If you knew what I had been through and what I think I'm about to go through, it... I don't think you'd really want to go there. I just want to give you one piece of advice, even though you may not feel thankful, you can be thankful, and we'll prove that to you. Even though you may not feel thankful, you can be thankful. And, Paul, this great man of God who, by the way, wound up in prison and wound up beheaded for his faith. This great man of God tells us why we ought to be thankful and how we ought to be thankful. By the way, parents, this would be a great lesson to teach your kids. This will be a great lesson, grandparents, to teach your grandchildren. He says three things. He says, number one, we should be habitually thankful. We ought to be habitually thankful.
Now, we all know that we ought to be thankful, at least for certain things at certain times, right? So, we all ought to be thankful at certain times for certain things. But, what Paul says may shock your system, 'cause listen to what he says. He says, give thanks. Now, that's okay. We could live with that, but then he says this, in all circumstances. Excuse me? Yup, it's what he said, give thanks in all circumstances, literally in the Greek language, it says in all things. Now, I'm gonna be honest, and if you're feeling this way, I'm with you. Those last three words make that kind of hard to swallow. It makes it kind of difficult. I could tell you as a pastor and any pastor who'd tell you this is worth his salt.
There've been times in my life it was a battle to be thankful. There've been circumstances in my life, the last thing I wanted to do was to be thankful. If Paul has said give thanks in most circumstances, we would've said, okay, I can live with that. Or, if Paul had said, give thanks in the good circumstances. Okay, well, I can live with that, or give thanks most of the time, we could live with that, because most people, obviously, we don't have any problem with thanking God when things are good, and things are going, and things are flowing, and everything's coming up roses. But, Paul says, nope. We're to give thanks in all things at all times.
So, since we're talking about feelings, let me just stop and give you a word of caution, okay? Let me help you on something. Nowhere in the word of God, will you ever find where God commands us to feel thankful. Okay? So, I want you to understand, I'm not commanding you to feel... I can't command you to feel anything. I can't even command some of you to stay awake in my preaching. So, how am I going to command you to feel thankful, right? I mean, so he's not saying, there's nowhere where the Bible says feel thankful, 'cause we know this, feelings are affected by a lot of things. They're affected by the weather, by the temperature, by the function of your liver, by how much rest you got the night before, how the stock market's doing. I mean, a lot of things affect our feelings.
Here's the good news for us. Giving thanks has nothing to do with feelings. Did you hear? Everybody hear what I said, giving thanks has nothing to do with feelings. Here's the dirty little secret. You can be thankful even if you don't feel thankful. So, and I don't mean to sound ugly when I say it, you say, I wanna tell you something. I just don't feel thankful. Read my lips. I don't care. Neither does God. You can be thankful without feeling thankful. So, if Paul says it doesn't matter whether things are good or whether things are bad, we are to give thanks, and again, giving thanks is a big deal to God.
You know how I know that? When you go back to the Old Testament, I bet you, some of you wouldn't never heard this before. When you go back to the Old Testament, there were a lot of sacrifices that... And offerings that the nation of Israel had to give. God laid them all out and they were to be done on a regular basis. I bet some of you don't know this. Did you know that one of the offerings that they were to give was called a thank offering. On a regular basis, the nation of Israel was reminded, you've got to give a thank offering. It was designed to remind God's people of their need to be thankful. So, here's what they were to do. They were to bring a sheaf of grain or some oil and wine as an offering of Thanksgiving to remind them how our God had always provided for their needs and how they were always be grateful for what God had done for them.
So, Paul says, and he's very careful in how he says it, he says, give thanks. And, there's a big word I don't want you to miss. He said, give thanks in all circumstances. He didn't say give thanks for all circumstances. He said, give thanks in all circumstances. In another words, we may not be thankful for trouble, but want to be faithful in the midst of trouble. Now, that raises a question that I wanna answer for you today. One of the big questions I get asked so much, and I preach messages on it, why the bad things happen to good people? Let's make it more specific. Why do bad things happen to godly people? They go to church, they paid their tide, they read their Bible, they pray, they tell people about Jesus, they go on mission trips, they give money to charity, and yet they wind up with the short end of the stick.
Why does God let that happen? Why does God allow bad things to happen to godly people? Can I tell you one reason why? Because, God wants to move you to Thanksgiving. God wants you to understand just how powerful Thanksgiving is. As a matter of fact, in another book that Paul wrote to another church, Paul was writing about all the difficult things that Christians experienced, from oppression, to persecution, to death. And, he's writing to this church. And, I mean, they're in the middle of it. They're in the thick of it. They're in a forest fire and listen to what Paul wrote. Listen to what he said. He said, all of this is for your benefit. And, they're going, what? Stay with me. All of this is for your benefit so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause Thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Now, I want to tell you two true stories. This is... I'm not making these up, illustrate what I'm talking about. California, there was a sharp looking businessman, and he was at a luncheon, and he was there to give his testimony, and this was his testimony. Listen to what he said. He said before I knew Christ, I had nothing. My business was in bankruptcy. My health was ruined. I lost the respect of the community and I almost lost my family. Then, I accepted Christ as my savior and Lord. Here's what Jesus did for me. He took me out of bankruptcy. Now, my business has tripled his profits in the last three years. My blood pressure dropped to normal. I feel better than I have felt in years. And, best of all, my wife and children have come back to me, and we are a family again. God is so good. And, I am so thankful. What a testimony.
Almost on the same day in China, an old beaten down former university professor gave his testimony. This was his. Before I met Christ, I had everything. I made a large salary. I lived in a nice house. I enjoyed good health. I was highly respected for my credentials and profession. I had a good marriage and beautiful children. Then, I accepted Christ as my Lord and my savior. As a result, I lost my post at the university. I lost my beautiful house and car. I spent five years in prison. Now, I work for minimum wage at a factory. And, I live in pain from my neck that was broken in prison. My unbelieving wife rejected me because of my conversion. She took my children away and I haven't seen her or them for 10 years, but God is so good. He loves me. He has a plan for my life. He is always faithful. He has never left my side and I am so thankful. Two men were thankful. One man gave thanks because of what he had gained. The other man gave thanks in spite of what he had lost.
Now, listen to me carefully, listen to this next statement. If God is sovereign and God's in control of everything. And, if God is good all the time, listen to what I'm about to tell you. Don't miss this now. That means that everything that happens to you, everything that happens to you also happens for you. I don't get an amen to that, but it's worth one. Everything that happens to you also happens for you, and God's gonna work it out for his glory and your good. And, that's why Paul can say you ought to give thanks in every situation, because regardless of how bad it may seem to you, God says, let me tell you what I'm doing. I'm using this to manifest my presence. I'm using this to show you that you need to depend on me. I'm using this to show you that I will not fail you. And, I'm always faithful. I'm using this to grow you and I want to move you to Thanksgiving.
So, how should we be thankful? When should we be thankful? We should be habitually thankful. Now, if that didn't kinda rub you raw a little bit, let's take another shot. Paul says, not only should we be habitually thankful, Paul says we should be happily thankful, happily thankful. See, Paul says, now watch, he says in all things give thanks. In all things give thanks. Now, let me tell you why this is such a cool thing Paul says, here's what I've learned. I'm having to really deal with some issues right now with some couples that want to get married. And, frankly, they're not living in the will of God right now. And, I've kind of made it plain to them, if you want me to marry you, you've got to get some things straight before we do this. And, I can't marry you if you're not gonna let God... Put yourself in a position where God can bless you.
And, I spent over an hour this, last week, week before last, I spent over an hour with this couple, and I was trying to get them to hear me say one thing. Listen to me, I've learned that anything that God commands me to do is always from my best, and anything that God commands me not to do is always from my best, and it's always for my benefit. And, here's what I've seen in my life. A grateful person will be a happier person. A grateful person will be a holier person. A grateful person will be a healthier person. Listen to this. There are many well substantiated medical studies that have found that if you're grateful, if you'll be in an attitude of gratitude, continuously, gratitude increases patience. It decreases depression. It replenishes willpower. It reduces stress. In other words, being a faithful person, won't just help you live longer, it will help you live better.
I read this the other day. Somebody said, if you want a good night's sleep don't count sheep, count your blessings. Pretty good. Count your blessings. Medical researchers have now discovered that gratitude is the one emotional trait that is most likely to benefit not just your physical health. It has been proven to overcome things like stress, high blood pressure, and anxiety. That's why I love what one preacher said. He said, a grateful heart will lead to a healthy heart. That's why when the Bible says, give thanks, it's not just good advice, it's a divine command. It's not an option. It's an obligation.
So, in other words, let me make this as strong as I can. You are just as obligated to give God your thanks as you ought to give God your tithe. You're just as obligated to give God your thanks as you ought to give God your time. In other words, to flip it, it's a sin to be ungrateful. It's not a weakness to be ungrateful. It's a wickedness to be ungrateful. It's not a flaw to be ungrateful. It's a failure to be ungrateful. It is a fist in the face of God not to be grateful. I mean, think about this. When you give something to someone, when you give a gift to someone, there's usually one of three reasons why you give something to somebody, either because they need it, they deserve it, or they want it. That's the three reasons you give a gift, either, okay, you need it, you deserve it, or you want it.
Now, therefore, here's what that means, when you don't give something to someone that they do need, or they do deserve, or that they do want, you just robbed them of the blessing. I want to tell all of you today. There is no greater way you can bless anybody, you really want to be a blessing, whether it be God or human beings, there is no other way you can bless them, no greater way than to just thank them. Just show your gratitude. Let me give you some examples. Let's go back to that guy in India. Have you ever just thanked your mother and your dad just for bringing you into the world? Have you ever thanked that person that cared enough about you to share the gospel and lead you to Jesus? Have you ever thanked that coach or that teacher that helped you turn from the wrong path to the right path?
Okay, here's one. When was the last time you thanked a police officer, or a firefighter, or a first responder for the service that they give to the public? I don't say this to brag, but I was driving into my neighborhood one day. This has been about three weeks ago, and God is so good, because thank God I was going the same where this police officer was parked on the side, 'cause I was speeding. And, so he's just right before I was turning into my... To where we live in our subdivision. And, I went past him and boy, the Lord just spoke to my heart, and I backed my car up, and I rolled the window down.
Well, it's not easy to do that these days. And, so this officer kind of rolled the window down and I... It was a lady officer. I said, ma'am, I said, I just want to thank you for what you do every day. You're underpaid. You're overworked. You guys, most of you guys, I said, most of you really do you... Many of you, just almost all of you, not all, but you do a great job. And, I just want to thank you for the service that you give to the community. You know what her response was? Are you kidding me? I said, no, ma'am, I'm serious. She said, you just don't know how much we need to hear that. How about all the things in life? Listen. How about all the things in life that you experienced, and enjoy every day, and you don't even give them a second thought, you don't even thank God for any of it.
So, maybe some of these things will help push your Thanksgiving button, okay? Maybe, this will help. If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than 1 million people who will not survive this week. If you've never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pains of starvation, you are ahead of more than 500 million people around the world. If you can attend church, thank God you're here. Choose where you go to church or choose not to go to church, without fear of being arrested, tortured, or killed, you are more blessed than 3 billion people in the world. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, or a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, or in your wallet, or even some spare change, you're among the top 8% of the wealthiest people in the world. And, if you can read a book, you are more blessed than over 2 billion people in the world who can't read at all. No wonder God says give thanks in all things. Now, you may not always feel thankful, but you ought to work harder to think about saying thank you, 'cause listen to me, it is better to say thank you even if you don't mean it than to mean it, but never say it. Jack, you'll love this. I'll remember the story of Fran Tarkenton, who played for University of Georgia. Great quarterback, Fran Tarkenton was playing quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, and he wants blocked for a running back in a tight game. And, the play went well and then Vincent scored a touchdown.
Well, after the game, they were all in the locker room and Coach Bud Grant was the coach at the time. He was thanking all the players for their effort and their hard work. He thought this... He thanked this lineman for the way he blocked. He thanked this defense line for the way he rushed the pasture. He thanked his quarterback for the way he covered the wide receiver. He was thanking everybody, but he never said a thing to Tarkenton. So, later, when everybody was quiet, kind of quieted down, he walked over to Coach Grant and he said, hey, coach, you never thanked me for blocking on that play, but you thanked everybody else.
Well, Coach Grant said, well, Fran, I didn't think to thank you because you always do what you're asked. I didn't think I needed to say anything. And, Fran Tarkenton smiled and said, well, you better do it if you ever want to see me do it again. Say thanks. We should be happily thankful. We ought to be habitually thankful. But, then Paul said, we should be humbly thankful. Now, listen to what he says. The greatest reason why we ought to be giving thanks, the greatest reason why we ought to be grateful all the time in all things is this, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. That's all you need to know. I told you I don't even need to say anything else. This is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Look, it's true. You're watching me right now. I don't know what you're going through. I don't know your circumstances. I don't know what troubles on your back. I don't know what problem you might be experiencing, but I will tell you this. If you are completely ungrateful, if there's not even an ounce, of a fraction, of an iota, of a scintilla of gratitude in your heart, you are out of the will of God. You're not living in the will of God, if there is no gratitude in your heart. Now, be encouraged. Here's the good thing. When Paul says, this is the will of God, let me tell you why that so encourages me. When Paul says, this is the will of God, what he's saying is this is not only what God wants you to do, this is not only what God is commanding you to do, listen, this is what God will enable you to do.
See, how do you know that? Because, God never commands us to do anything that he doesn't give us the power to do. So, I know you can be thankful. I don't care whether you feel like it or not. I know you can be thankful. I don't know how deep your trouble is. I know you can be, because this is the will of God for you. So, I know I can give God thanks in all things, because it is God's will to do it, and what God wants me to do, and what God wills me to do, and he enables me to do. So, remember what I've told you. God's will for you is always what's best for you. Always, not what's good for you. What's best for you. And, I'm telling you, I've learned it in my life, an attitude of gratitude will change your life. It will shield you from cynicism. It will keep you from criticism. It will protect you from pessimism.
If you draw close to God, it will draw you close to God, and it will draw God close to you. So, if you have a heart for God, I was reading about David in my quiet time this morning, a man after God's own heart, if you've got a heart for God, you'll have a grateful heart. And, by the way, it will change the way you see things. In fact, one of the greatest ways to change, if you need... If you say I have a bad attitude. I just, I got these negative feelings. I'm just a negative kind of feeling person. If you want to change how you feel about things, just start being thankful, 'cause here's what it will do, it will change the way you see things. And, I'm going to tell you something, that when I first read it, I thought, I can't believe that's true.
Let me ask you a question. I want you to imagine that you are competing in the Olympics. And, I want you to imagine that you're about to go and there's three medals now, the gold, the silver, and the bronze. I want you to imagine that I ask you this question, before going in. Suppose I said to you, you're not gonna win the gold medal. I want to tell you that upfront. However, you're gonna have a choice. You can either win the silver medal or the bronze medal. Now, which one did you take? And, before you answer that question, think it through, because I know what most of you would say, and this is what I would have said just, well, I'll take the silver medal. You ready for this? Believe it or not, in a study of Olympic medal winners, they got some unbelievable results.
Most people assume that the silver medal winners would be happier than the bronze medal winners since they received the higher honor, they were in second, not third. That wasn't the case. They couldn't believe it. Why? They said, why? Why are the bronze medal people more grateful than the silver medal? The bronze medalists were in... Who had came in third place were happier than the silver medalist who came in second place, and when they asked them why, here's what they said. The silver medalist, they weren't happy they got the silver. They were unhappy they didn't get the gold. The bronze medalist said, we're just glad we got a medal. See, what happens to us is not nearly as important as how we perceive what happens to us. It all depends on your perspective, so I can complain because the weather's raining or I can be thankful that the grass is getting watered for free.
That was good. I can complain because roses have thorns or I can be thankful that thorns have roses. I can whine because I have to go to work or I can be thankful I got a job. I can gripe because I've got to do housework or I can be thankful I have a house to work in. I can grieve all the failures of my parents or I can be thankful they allowed me to be born. I can choose to be grumbly hateful or I can choose to be humbly grateful. It's all up to you.
I want to be like that 98 year old woman. She was laying on her death bed. And, her grandson was by her side. She had been asleep for a while and all of a sudden she woke up and she looked at her grandson. Actually, she looked up to heaven and she said, oh, God, I'm so thankful. Her grandson said, granny, what are you thankful for? She said, it just hit me. I only have two teeth, but thank God they meet.
When Abraham Lincoln was the president of the United States, he started a very unusual Thanksgiving tradition that every president since then has followed. You may know what it is, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, he pardoned a turkey, and following his tradition, ever since, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, a turkey is brought into the rose garden where the commander in chief, the most powerful man in the world grants that big bird a pardon. And, that turkey is then taken to a Virginia farm where he's granted immunity and he lives at all of his days until a natural death.
And, that may bring a smile to our face. And, I'm not trying to be funny when I say this, but I read that, and I thought, without Jesus we're all just a bunch of turkeys heading to a slaughter. We're just a bunch of turkeys heading to a slaughter, but because of the grace of God, and the son of God, and the love of God, and the mercy of God, and the salvation of God, we can be granted spiritual immunity, free of sin, and we can enjoy eternal life forever. And, that's why, that's why, because of Jesus, every day is Thanksgiving day, because of Jesus, every day is Thanksgiving day. And, that's why every day, before we get out of bed, we ought to look up to that God, and simply say, thank you very much.
Would you bow your heads just for a moment? And, those who are watching online, right now, would you just bow your heads just for a moment? We ought to be thankful, but can I just be honest with you if you're listening to me? If Jesus Christ is not your Lord, if you've never trusted Jesus who died on the cross and came back from the grave so that he could come into your heart, he could give you spiritual immunity, he could forgive you of all of your sins. If you've never trusted in him, God doesn't want to hear anything... God doesn't want to hear your thank you until you give him the one thank you he wants to hear. And, that is "Lord Jesus, thank you for dying for me. Thank you for coming back, and Lord, today, because you're offering eternal life, I'm going to accept it, and thank you for giving me the chance".
So, I'm asking those of you in this room and those of you watching right now, if you have never trusted in Jesus Christ, as your Lord, as your savior, there's nothing that makes our church more thankful than to know that people are coming to Christ, which they do every week. I'm gonna ask you right now, if you would like to receive the greatest gift you'll ever receive, and be thankful for it the rest of your life. Just pray with me, right. Just say:
Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner. I need a savior. I can't save myself, but I accept by faith that you died on the cross for my sins. And, I believe in my heart that God raised him from the dead. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, right now, for speaking to me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, right now, for saving me. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for forgiving me. And, now that you come into my life, help me every day to show you how thankful I am by living always for you.