Attitude can have an incredible impact on our lives. The longer I live the more I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond. And because this is true, I believe that the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, how much money I have in the bank, my successes or failures, what other people think of me or say about me. Attitude is more important than any of these things. You see, if I have a poor attitude, it doesn’t matter how much talent I have or how many resources God put’s at my disposal. Because if my attitude is wrong, then I am defeated before I even attempt the simplest task.
You are all probably familiar with Philippians 4:13. Let’s say it together this morning. “I CAN DO all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Well, Paul’s attitude is found in the first three words of that verse, “I can do.” Without this same positive attitude, this willingness to attempt great things for God, then I cannot access the strength Christ is willing to give me to do His will. We spend more of our time fretting and concentrating over the things that can’t be changed in life than we do giving attention to the one thing we can control: our choice of attitude. Our upcoming Thanksgiving holiday should remind us that one of these necessary positive attitudes is the attitude of gratitude.
Scripture is full of passages that instruct Christians to continually choose to practice an attitude of gratitude. Three times in our text for today Paul urges us to “……BE THANKFUL”. In Psalm 100:4 we are instructed to enter God’s presence “…with Thanksgiving and praise.” Romans 1 describes the wrath of God against an ungrateful people when it says, “…..although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him.” So repeatedly, we are instructed to be grateful people.
Well, how would you go about describing a grateful person? What actions or qualities would you look for? This morning I want to suggest three such attributes of a person who chooses an attitude of gratitude. The first one is this….
1. One way—perhaps the most common way in which the tongue hurts is when it is used for what is known as gossip.
They never forget that He is the source of all the blessings of their lives. The simple act of saying “THANK YOU GOD” infers that I am not thanking myself–that all that I have comes from God. So grateful people are in effect humble people. They do not pridefully look at themselves as the source of their blessings in life but instead attribute everything to God. Grateful people believe James 1:17 that says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
You see ingratitude begins with PRIDE. Pride can make us conceited, confident in ourselves. We begin to believe we brought the good things to our lives instead of recognizing God as the giver of every good and perfect gift.
Another attribute found in grateful people is this:
2. They live their day-to-day existence in ways that say THANK YOU GOD…
People who are truly grateful live every day of their lives as a way to show their gratitude to our Heavenly Father. They think of their days as offerings to God–as a response to all He has given them. The apostle Paul wrote, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all…..those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
The word “compels” means literally, “leaves me no choice.” Paul is saying, “I have no choice but to respond to the love of Christ with my whole being—to use every day of my life to say thank you, thank you, thank you!” We live for God because in Jesus Christ He lived,and died for us.
As John Versteeg said, “A Christian is one who majors in appreciation.”
3. Grateful people focus on what other people need instead of on what they want.
As they look at the immense needs of others, they become grateful for their own blessings. They acknowledge that this holiday is ThanksGIVING not ThanksKEEPING. They live simply so that other, less fortunate people can simply live. You know, I think that an attitude of gratitude is the crucial difference between being a victim or a victor over the events of life. We cannot control what will happen to us in life. But we can control our response.When we face the inevitable tough times of life—and all of us do—we are free to choose our attitude. One alternative is to choose the attitude of resentment–to decide to focus on the bad and ask angrily: “Why did this have to happen?” The other alternative is to simply choose to be grateful. This involves thinking through every facet of an event and asking: “What is there here to be thankful for, and what can I use amid all this wreckage to build a better future?” This optimistic choice is encouraged in the Bible. James said in essence, “Consider it pure joy my brothers–be thankful my brothers when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”[ James 1:2-4 ]
How to you access the courage to keep on trying even in the worst of times?
One way is by learning to choose gratitude rather than resentment. This is what our Pilgrim forefathers did back in 1621. That little band of Puritans set out on the Mayflower for Virginia, only to get blown off course and finally come to shore hundreds of miles to the north at Cape Cod. For 13 long weeks they bounced around on the rough Atlantic until, at last, they landed at Plymouth. They had hardly established themselves when the cold Massachusetts winter was upon them. They faced that bleak winter without adequate stores and it wasn’t long until there were more crosses in the cemetery than there were citizens in the log stockade. By April only fifty of the original one hundred and two had survived.
A real discussion arose as to whether those remaining should all give up and go back to the Old World, but they decided to stay on and plant one crop—a few acres of corn and barley. When the time for the first anniversary of their landing rolled around, discussion arose as to how it should be observed. Some proposed a Day of Mourning, when attention would be focused on all those who lay in unmarked graves in foreign soil. But the others said, “No, a Day of Thanksgiving would be more appropriate. After all, fifty of us have survived. We have gathered in a good harvest. The Indians have been our friends. Let’s focus on what we have going for us, not on what we have going against us.” And it just could be that THAT was the turning point in the founding of this country! Had those Pilgrims chosen to mourn rather than give thanks to God, I doubt that they would have found the courage to hold out as they did! Think what this approach to life could do for you.
The next time you are up against it–shattered by the unexpected or the catastrophic, I challenge you: instead of asking “Why has this happened to me?” Ask “What is there here to thank God for? What can I use to build toward the future?”
This is the secret of making the most of life, not just the best of it.