Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Nov. 24, 2019
1Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
3Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
I want to speak to you this morning about God’s invitation to thankfulness.
God invites us to worship and live with thankful hearts.
I view it as an invitation and not a command. It’s hard to command people to be thankful. Let’s try it . . . on the count of 3, I want you to all be thankful.
1-2-3, be thankful!!! . . . . . . . . . . . . do you feel any different?
I don’t know that God can command us to feel grateful, but God does invite us to cultivate gratitude in our hearts and live lives centered in gratitude.
Over and over again we read of this invitation in the scriptures.
Colossians 3:15-17 – And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 4:2 – Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.
I Thessalonians 5:16 – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Note: “in” all circumstances, not “for.”
The Book of Psalms, the hymnal of the ancient Israelites, tells us that when God’s people worshiped, thankfulness was a key ingredient.
Psalm 9:1 – “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 95:2 – “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
Psalm 69:30 – “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.”
Psalm 100:4 – “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.”
That verse is very helpful because it has “thanksgiving” as a noun, and “give thanks” as a verb.
It’s seems to me we’re talking about the verb this morning.
In the book of Revelation we get a glimpse of the worship of heaven, and to no surprise, that worship involves giving thanks to God.
Ch. 7: 9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11And all the angels stood around the throne . . . and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
So it’s clear that God hopes and calls us to be grateful people. It’s to be part of our orientation towards life and towards God.
God calls us to thankfulness and gratitude for several reasons, one of which is that gratitude is good for us. Gratitude is one of the most important assets that we can have for our lives. It’s also one of the most researched topics today. Sometime google, “The Benefits of Gratitude.”
Benefits of Gratitude
- Mental/Emotional Wellbeing (Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D)
- Grateful people are happier, more contentment
- Grateful people don’t compare themselves to others
- Less resentment & bitterness
- Less depression
- Better self-esteem
- Lower levels of stress – gratitude is a relaxed state of being, which is very good for us to be in!
- Health Benefits:
- Grateful people report fewer aches & pains
- Exercise 33% more
- Lower blood pressure – negative emotions constrict our blood vessels, raising blood pressure. Positive emotions have the opposite effect.
- Stronger immune system– Immunoglobulin A, an anti-body which fights off viruses.
- Help you live longer.Optimism and positive emotions have been shown to extend people’s lifespans. Given all the benefits of gratitude, many conclude that gratitude does, too.
- Grateful people sleep better – keeping a gratitude journal increases quality of sleep & length of sleep, gratitude is a relaxing emotion, help you get to sleep faster (2011, Applied Psychology)
- Grateful people therefore have more energy.
- Relationship Benefits: (U. of KY, 2012)
- More empathy, more compassionate, more kindness
- Less aggression, more harmonious relationships
- Create a positive feedback loop.When we’re grateful, we are more likely to be empathetic, to understand others, and to act pro-socially towards them. This causes others to feel grateful and act pro-socially toward us, and so on.
- Grateful people have increased Mental Strength.
(Psychology Today, 4/3/15)
Studies on Vietnam Vets & survivors of Sept. 11, showed that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience. Recognizing all that you have to be thankful for —even during the worst times—fosters resilience.
- Gratitude builds Character (from Positive Psychology)
- Humility – Less self-centered
- More kind & giving – Less materialistic
- More optimistic – more resilient
- The Apostle Paul taught that gratitude leads to peace.
Phil. 4:6-7 – Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Later on – 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things . . . and the God of peace will be with you.
But there’s one more reason why gratitude is beneficial for our lives, and it’s deeper and I would argue more significant than anything I just mentioned.
- Gratitude puts us into the perfect posture before God.
Gratitude reminds us that we are receivers of God’s beautiful gifts, not creators of God’s beautiful gifts. Gratitude, by its very nature, includes humility and praise. “I have been blessed and it wasn’t of my own doing. Thank You, God!”
Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Gratitude reminds us that everything we have comes from God. We may have played a role in nurturing these gifts, but we didn’t create life, we didn’t create the land, air, sea & sky. We didn’t come up with the idea of family. We didn’t recruit & train the friends in our lives. God gave them to us. We didn’t come up with the idea of church. Jesus said, “I will build my church.” – it’s a gift to us. We didn’t come up with the idea of Christmas, of God visiting this planet in Jesus of Bethlehem. All these things and more are God’s gift to us!
Gratitude reminds us that life is God’s gift to us, and that we want to spend our days with our eyes and our hearts wide open to see and give thanks for God’s gifts!
The Mr. Rogers movie came out this weekend, so I’ll close with this Mr. Rogers story. One time the National Press Club invited the Reverend Fred Rogers (he was an ordained Presbyterian ministery) to one of its much publicized luncheons.
The events are famous for bringing together top diplomats, government officials, leaders in business and industry, sometimes heads of state, and the press, of course. When Mr. Rogers was the speaker, attendees joked ahead of time that it was going to be a “light lunch.”
Mr. Rogers began by taking out his pocket watch and announcing that he wanted to start his speech with two minutes of silence during which he invited each person present to remember people in their past—parents, teachers, coaches, friends, and others—who had made it possible for them to accomplish so much and to be where they were today. The room grew quiet as the seconds ticked away. A reporter said that, “one could hear all around the room people sniffling as they were moved by the memories of those who had made sacrifices on their behalf and who had given them many gifts.” (Thomas Long, Testimony, p. 110).
I’ll leave you with one last thought:
I read this week that gratitude is addictive – releases dopamine, which gives us a natural high and makes us want more and more and more.
Let’s be people who get addicted to gratitude!
It’s one of the few addictions that can only help us!