Robert Jeffress - Count Blessings Not Sheep
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Life is full of toil, trouble and trials. And we all go through times when we wish God had dealt us a better hand. But even when life's circumstances threaten to overwhelm us, God has still given us many reasons to be thankful. Today I want to show you how to grow stronger in Christ by engaging in heartfelt gratitude to God. My message is titled, "Count Blessings, Not Sheep", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In her great book, "The Hiding Place," Corrie Ten Boom shares how she learned to be thankful in every circumstance. She and her sister Betsy had been moved to the horrific Nazi death camp called Ravensbrück. And when they arrived, they found that the barracks to which they were assigned were overcrowded and also flea infested. Earlier that morning Corrie and her sister Betsy had been studying and reading 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that says, "In everything, give thanks to the Lord, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus". And Betsy said to her sister Corrie, "Corrie, I think we ought to thank God for the fleas". Corrie said she was reluctant at first, could not find any reason to thank God for the fleas, but finally she relented and thanked God for the fleas in the barracks.
Well, as the months passed, Corrie and her sister found that they were able to conduct Bible studies, they were able to lead people to faith in Christ, other prisoners, without any intrusion from the guards, intrusions they had experienced in other death camps. And finally, after a period of months, they found out why it is the guards never bothered them or molested them like they did other prisoners in that camp. The reason? You guessed it, the fleas. You know, learning to thank God for everything in our life including the fleas is one sign of being like Jesus Christ. And it's one way we become what Paul is talking about in Colossians 3, a heavenly minded Christian. And today we're going to learn why it's so important to develop that all important attitude of gratitude in our lives as well.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Colossians 3, Colossians 3. Now remember, verses 15 to 17, share four principles for becoming like Jesus Christ in your everyday life. And we've spent several weeks looking at the first three of these four principles.
First of all, remember it's to let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, that is, to have that same absence from turmoil in your life that Jesus experienced regardless of what was happening around him.
Secondly, let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, making God's word a part of your everyday life. Thirdly, and we talked about it last time, a secret to becoming like Christ is to be ministry focused instead of self-focused. Every life exists either to the satisfy yourself or to meet the needs of someone else.
And today we're going to look at that final principle for becoming like Christ, and that is to regularly express gratitude to God. Throughout this letter to the Colossians, Paul talks about the importance of making thanksgiving a regular part of your life. In fact, just notice in these three short verses, 15 to 17 of Colossians 3, how many times Paul mentions the word thanksgiving or thankful. Look at verse 15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which you were indeed called in one body, and be thankful". Underline that, and be thankful. Verse 16, "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts". There it is again, thankfulness in your hearts to God. And then look at verse 17, "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus," here it is again, "Giving thanks through him to God the Father".
Not only do you find the synthesis on thanksgiving in the book of Colossians, you find it throughout the Bible. We don't have time to turn there, but just jot down a few of these scripture references and read them later. Psalm 34:1, the Psalmist said, "I will bless the Lord at all times". To bless means to give thanks to. "I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth". Or Psalm 50:15, "Call upon me in the day of trouble and I will rescue you and you will honor me". Psalm 95:2, "Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to him with Psalms". Why is it the Bible places such an emphasis on being thankful continually? Giving praise to God, thanking him for what he's already done for you is a way that keeps our hearts and affections focused on the things above, where God is. And that's why if we're going to become like Jesus Christ, if we're going to stay focused on Jesus Christ, we've got to learn how we can regularly express gratitude to God.
Let me ask you, is that a part of your life? If somebody who knows you very well, your best friend or your mate, were to use a word to describe you, would they use the word grateful, thankful? The Bible says this thanksgiving ought to be oozing out of every pore in our body. People oughta get splashed with it when they're around us because they hear us continually thanking God for what he's done for us. And when you pray to God, during those times that you talk to your Heavenly Father, are the first words out of your mouth give me, do this, do that, or are the first things that come from your mouth words of thanksgiving for what God has already done for you? Why is it we have such a hard time regularly expressing gratitude to God? Let me mention to you four barriers or enemies to gratitude in your life. Jot these down.
First of all, materialism is a great barrier to gratitude. Materialism is the belief that money or its trappings can satisfy our deepest needs. But have you ever noticed, no matter how much money you have it never seems to be quite enough? Have you ever fallen into that trap and say if I just earned a little bit more money, if I had a little bit more in my savings account, then I would really be satisfied? Let me let you in on a secret, no matter how much you have, it will never seem to be enough. Solomon was the wealthiest man of his day, but he expressed that truth in Ecclesiastes 5:10. He said, "He who loves money will not be satisfied with money nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity".
You see, the person who worships money, who believes that money can satisfy his needs or protect him against all adversity in life, he's going to be disappointed because he never seems to have enough. The fact is no amount of money can satisfy you. No amount of money can save you from a maverick cancer cell in your body or protect you against every adversity. And so we keep desiring that which never will satisfy us at the expense of giving gratitude to God for what he's already done for us. Jesus illustrated that truth in this famous parable he told in Luke 12. In verse 15 of Luke 12, Jesus said to his disciples, "Beware and be on your guard against every form of greed". That's another word for materialism. "For not even when a man has an abundance does his life really consist of his possessions". We tend to define ourselves in terms of how much we have, what our possessions are. But one day Jesus reminds us we're going to be separated from our possessions. We're going to leave it all behind.
And to illustrate that truth, he told this story beginning in verse 16. And he told them a parable saying, "The land of a rich man was very productive. And the rich man began reasoning to himself saying, 'what shall I do since I have no place to store my crops'"? Here's a man who said he had a problem. His problem was he had too much and he didn't know what to do with all of it. And of course, he came up with this elaborate scheme of what he was going to do to store up enough treasures for himself. But in verse 20 God said to him, "You fool! This very night your soul is required of you, and now who will own what you have prepared"? This man had spent his entire work-life planning, planning, working, working, but there's one contingency he didn't plan for, the only contingency that's certain for any of us, and that is death.
And God comes to him and says, "You fool! Tonight I'm calling in your loan". That's what the word required means in the Greek. It means for a bank to call in a loan. He said, "Tonight," God said, "I'm calling in your loan. Your life is due. You're going to leave everything behind that you worked for. And who will own it"? And then Jesus said in verse 21, "So is the rich man," or "So is the man who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God". You say, "What does this have to do with gratitude"? Here's what it has to do with gratitude. As long as we are pursuing money in the hopes that it is going to satisfy us, we never will be satisfied. It only increases our thirst for more and more and more and robs us of have the ability to say thank you to God for what he's already done. Have you ever seen those movies before where you've got the characters stranded out in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean and the sun's beating down upon them and they've run out of water and they're about to die and what are they tempted to do?
Out of their thirst, they're tempted to reach in and drink the sea water that surrounds them in abundance. Of course, if they do that, that seawater won't satisfy their thirst. It only increases their thirst. It makes them want more and more until it speeds up the process of dehydration and ultimately death. So it is with people who worship at the altar of materialism. When you keep drinking out of that bucket of materialism, thinking, if I can just have this house, this amount of money, this car, I'll be satisfied. It doesn't satisfy, it only increases your thirst for more and more and more and more and keeps you from thanking God for what he's already done for you. The first barrier against gratitude in our hearts is materialism.
Secondly, and closely related to it is comparison. I have a friend who says that comparison is the favorite indoor sport of Christians. We love to compare ourselves to other people, don't we? We compare our cars, our homes, we compare our bank accounts. We compare our children. We compare everything that we have. The problem with comparison is this. There'll always be somebody who has more than you have. Have you found that out? No matter how much you have, there'll always be somebody who has more than you have.
I remember hearing Christian financial consultant ron blue who was in my last church, came to speak one time. He told the story, he said he had a client who was a Christian and a multi-multimillionaire. And this client, this Christian millionaire, who had homes all around the country and flew private jets, this Christian multimillionaire said that he was in a partnership with a saudi arabian oil czar who was worth billions and billions of dollars. And this Christian millionaire said, "Every time I'm around that guy, I feel intimidated". Isn't that ironic?
Here's somebody who has tens of millions of dollars and yet he's intimidated by somebody who has billions of dollars. Listen to me, there's never going to be enough money, because there's always going to be somebody who has more than you do. And that's why Paul wrote to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 10:12 about the folly of comparison. He said their trouble is that they are only comparing themselves with each other and measuring themselves against their own little ideas. What stupidity. The Bible says for you to compare yourself to another person is utter stupidity, why? Because it doesn't take into account, comparison doesn't take into account the fact that God has a unique plan for your life. Again, as long as we're comparing what we don't have to what somebody else has, we cannot thank God for what he's provided for us.
A third enemy of gratitude is the problem of pride, pride. What is pride? It's the belief that any and every good thing in our life is the result of what we have done. We've talked before about the dangers of pride. Just jot down these scripture references that talk about how much God hates pride, that is, taking credit for the good things in your life. Proverbs 8:13 says, "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate," God says. Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes dishonor. But with the humble is wisdom". Or first Peter 5:5, "You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders, and all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud".
Wouldn't you hate to have God as your enemy? Well, the Bible said God is opposed, he is the enemy of those who are proud. But he gives grace to the humble. Why does God hate pride so much? It's the top seven of things he hates in Proverbs 6. Why does he hate pride so much? Think about this, God's plan in this world is to draw people to himself. He's doing everything he can to draw you and me to himself. And yet when we're infected with pride, when we start taking credit for the good things in our life, we are failing to give credit to God. You can't give credit to God if you're taking credit for yourself for something in your life. And therefore pride turns our heart away from God.
We see that in the case of Lucifer, remember Lucifer? Originally was the chief of all the angels before God cast him out of heaven and he became Satan, the arch enemy of God. Why did God cast Lucifer out of heaven? Ezekiel 28:15 and 17 tell us God was addressing Lucifer, and he said, "You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you". Here's the very first sin in the universe. What was that unrighteousness that God saw in the recesses of Lucifer's heart? Verse 17, "Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty. You corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor. I cast you to the ground. I put you before kings, that they may see you". Lucifer's problem was he started taking credit for his beauty, for his wisdom. And of course, that led to the next step. He said, "I want to be like, God. No, scratch that out, I want to be God". It all started with pride, taking credit for the good things in his life.
Now, let's be honest. We all have a tendency toward pride. We all have a tendency to take credit for good things in our life. Somebody compliments our beautiful home and we think, "Well, if you worked as hard as I do, maybe you could have a beautiful home, too". Or somebody says something nice about our appearance and we say, "Well, of course I look great. I work out, I watch my diet". Or somebody pays a compliment about one of our children. And we say, "Of course we have wonderful kids. Just look at their parents. Why wouldn't they be wonderful"? Well, the Bible says humility is the recognition that any and every good thing in our life is the result of what God has done for us. You can't give God credit and take credit yourself for the good things in life. Pride is a tremendous barrier to gratitude.
Fourth, a barrier to gratitude is busy-ness. You know, life is moving so quickly that we many times just fail to stop and take time to give God praise for what he's done for us. Remember the story in Luke 17 about the 10 lepers that Jesus healed and only one of them returned to give thanks to Jesus? And Jesus looked around and said, "Now, let me remember. Weren't there 10, instead of just one? Where are the other nine"? Many times it's just busy-ness of everyday life that keeps us from expressing gratitude to God. Those of you who are parents or grandparents, have you ever had this happen? You knock yourself out to do something nice for your child. You're so excited about the gift or the activity you've planned for them. And the day comes, they receive the gift, and you stand there and you wait and you wait and you wait for those two words. And finally you say, "Aren't you going to say something"? And they roll their eyes and they say, "Thank you". As if to say, "You moron, don't you realize the only reason for your existence is to do nice things for me"?
Now, how does that make you feel as a parent when you do something so nice for your child and they never once take time to express their gratitude? How does that make you feel? The same way it makes God feel when we fail to thank him for his unexpected and undeserved blessings in our life. Well, how can we become more thankful in our life? It's one of the principles for becoming like Jesus Christ. How can we develop that attitude of gratitude? Let me give you three suggestions from God's word. First of all, list God's blessings in your life. Take an inventory. In 1 Corinthians 4:7 Paul said to the Corinthians, "For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it"?
Paul was saying to the Corinthians, before you get over intoxicated with this attitude of pride you have, I want you to do an inventory of every good thing in your life. Just write it down from top to bottom, all the good things in your life. And once you've completed that list, ask yourself this question. What of all of these good things are not ultimately a gift? Something that other people have done for me or ultimately that God has done for me. Every good and perfect gift comes above from above, James says. When you think about it, every gift comes from God. And if it comes from God, why do we boast as if it has not come from God? Let me give you six things to help prompt your thinking that you ought to express gratitude to God for, that ought to be on your list. You may come up with other things, but here are six things. First of all, our material blessings.
Now, I read a survey that said 38% of Americans are dissatisfied with their income. Maybe you're a part of that 38%. Maybe you're not, maybe you're not dissatisfied, you're just not particularly thrilled with your income. You never think about it. Well, maybe you ought to think about it. Listen to the words of 1 Timothy 6:7-8. Paul said, "For we have brought nothing into the world, and so we cannot take anything out of it either. And if we have food and covering, with these we should be content".
How many of you know for sure you're going to be able to eat today, the rest of the day? How many of you know you've got something that's going to be waiting for you for lunch or for dinner? How many of you have a place to sleep tonight? You know for sure that you're not going to be out in the elements tonight, you have a roof over your head tonight. Now listen to what Paul was saying. If we have food, we know where our meal is coming from, if we have a place to sleep, we ought to be content. We ought to be satisfied. We're better off than millions and millions of people in the world today. And anything we have beyond our food and our covering, that's gravy, that's extra, that's undeserved. I don't know what your income is, don't need to know, but I'll say this just by statistics, every one of us in this room today are wealthy compared to the rest of the world.