The Greatness of Gratitude

Bible Book: Matthew  15 : 36
Subject: Thanksgiving

It is strange to hear the things for which some people are thankful. In a Sunday School class one Sunday the teacher asked the children to share some of the things for which they were thankful. One little boy shot his hand into the air. When the teacher called upon him, she asked, “Well, Billy, for what are you thankful?” The little fellow replied, “I am thankful that I am not a turkey.”

There is always something for which we can be thankful. I heard about one man that is so thankful he even says, “Thank you,” when an automatic door opens.

Sometimes even a group can be thankful. A certain church found itself burdened with a very tedious, pious, and self-centered pastor for a couple of years. Then came the day when he was called to another church. He announced his resignation by saying, "Brethren, Jesus he sent me to you and Jesus is now calling me away." There was a moment's silence and suddenly the congregation rose as one and began to sing "What a Friend We Have in Jesus!"

In advertising its Thanksgiving dinner, a restaurant used the following ad, 'Thanksgiving made easy.' Actually, thanksgiving is not all that easy. A truly thankful heart requires commitment and tenacity. We are prone to be selfish, proud and arrogant. The Bible commands gratitude because an attitude of gratitude requires consecration and humility.

In our text today, we observe the occasion when Jesus fed the hungry multitude with a very small lunch. In recounting this incident, all the Gospel writers include a very important action on the part of our Lord. Jesus is said to have stopped before multiplying the fish and loaves in order to give thanks to the heavenly Father. We note here an attribute in the life of Christ which is significant, He was thankful, He was grateful.

We see this thankful spirit in our Lord on more than one occasion. Even in the upper room with His disciples, He was thankful for bread and cup though it signified the horrible death He would die for our sins.

Christ wondered at the lack of thankfulness in those around Him. Once he healed ten lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. He asked what had happened to the other nine men. The Lord marveled that a spirit of ingratitude could permeate the life of people who had received so much from God’s hand.

Why is gratitude important anyway? We see from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that gratitude is something very important to the Lord, He ordered it from us all in all circumstances. But what does it accomplish to be thankful? Does being thankful actually produce any important results? Be assured that God does not require us to do anything that is not good for us. If we are told to be thankful, then thankfulness has some incontestable and definite positive part to play in our lives. Today I want us to look at the Greatness of Gratitude. We shall not only see that thankfulness is something God expects, commands and orders from us, but we will see why it is so important in our lives.

I. Gratitude is Great for your Body

The Bible declares that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You were created by God as an intricate and complex creature. Proper food, sleep and exercise help to keep you fit and feeling good. But you were also made to have fellowship with God. One way that you stay in tune with your Creator is through gratitude to Him for your life and daily blessings. It would be awful to be an atheist, for you would feel grateful for blessings in life and not know who to thank!

Actually, God has designed you to be physically blessed by the attitude of gratitude. We are learning more everyday about the dangers of stress and depression. Doctors and scientist continue to discover through data and tests that stress and despondency lead to psychological problems, disease and early death. God knew this long before we figured it out. Proverbs 17:22 states, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

According to medical research, cheerful people resist disease better than glum ones. In other words, the surly bird catches the germ.

During the Civil War President Abraham Lincoln was criticized for his cheerful spirit. He replied, “With the fearful strain that is upon me, if I did not laugh I should die.”

II. Gratitude is Great for your Mind

Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Gratitude can help you cope with life’s problems. "Matthew Henry, the well-known Bible commentator, was once robbed by thieves who took all of his money. Opening his diary later that evening, Henry wrote, 'Let me be thankful, first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they didn't take my life; third, because although they took my all, it wasn't much. And fourth because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.'" [Servant, Jan 1994. Page 15.]

The story is told of a gifted preacher who suffered a nervous breakdown. During one of his periods of extreme anxiety, a friend told him that with the Lord's help he could overcome his depression. The key was to practice thanksgiving. He suggested that the minister think of all the people who'd had a special influence upon his life over the years. Then he asked, "Did you ever thank any them?" The downhearted man confessed that he couldn't recall ever doing so. His friend challenged him to think of one person and write to him, expressing his appreciation, The pastor took his advice, and when he learned that his letter had greatly encouraged the recipient, his heart was lightened. So he jotted down the names of all those who had helped him. Before exhausting his list, he had written about 500 letters. As he counted his blessings, the cloud of despondency began to lift. Realizing that the Savior had been showering him with encouragement through these individuals, his thoughts turned heavenward. Soon he began blessing God daily for His love and goodness.

I challenge you to keep a “thanksgiving” journal for one year of your life. In everyday write at least one thing for which you are thankful that day. It may be a simple walk you take, a special smile of a loved one or friend, the sun shining upon you, or the rain falling on the earth - but find at least one thing for which you are thankful and write it down. Then each day, read the previous entries. By the end of the year your entire life could be changed as you begin to understand just how blessed you are.

III. Gratitude is Great for your Soul

Thanksgiving causes us to enter the presence of the Lord.

Thanksgiving routs the enemy.

Thanksgiving aides our prayers.

Thanksgiving helps make our deeds acceptable to God (Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”) Note that Jesus gave thanks prior to various miracles.

Thanksgiving keeps us from many evils. Look at Romans 1:21, and 2 Timothy 3:1-2. Remember the murmuring of the children of God in the OT.

A man once kept a daily account of his service for the Lord along with the blessings he received in return. In one column he listed what he did for God; in another what the Lord did for him. When he recovered from an illness, he put that down. If a friend helped or cheered him, that too was noted. All the favors and mercies he experienced were carefully recorded. But he gave up after just a few days of bookkeeping. "it's no use," he said, "I can never get these columns to balance. I am always hopelessly in debt!" Yes, God's benevolence far outweighs anything we can ever do for Him.