This past Sunday Pastor Ronnie spoke on being grateful and learning to have an "attitude of gratitude" in life. Here is the summary of the main points of the sermon:
- Repent of feeling sorry for myself
- Recognize that my salvation is the source of all gratitude
- Pray to be especially in His presence*
- Read God's Word
- Learn the discipline of thanking God for little things because little things become big things*
- Rejoicing brings peace
- Praise God with other people
- Always be thankful for Jesus*
* Points I will spend more time detailing as they impacted me most.
Prayer is not an easy discipline for some; I know it is neither easy nor natural to me. Yet, it is beautiful and has such power! There is little that compares to the awe of seeing God act as a result of prayer. Truly, it is an incredible thing to see Him respond to a request that has been lifted up and placed in His care. But rather than surplus of lack of prayer in one's life this point was made; “the closer you get to God [through prayer] the more you think about sin”. . .The rebuttal can be made, “But proximity to God should mean thinking about sin less, right?” Wrong! It means thinking about sin more. Why? Because when we are in the presence of such holiness and righteousness, we notice EVERY. SINGLE. INFRACTION. Think about experts in any field – minuscule flaws will stick out to them. Things that casual students and observers would not notice, experts will. Likewise the life of someone that lives so adjacent to God's character will be imbued by it thus creating a hypersensitivity to that which is incompatible with His nature. This intimacy is deep and knowing His heart means every offense - even the "small ones" - will be seen as if under a microscope! While temptation and sin frustrates me and I deeply desire to be rid of it forever, this was encouraging and challenging to hear. As I am noticing sin more it shows the depth of intimacy of my life with Christ, and the reverse is true also; the less I notice sin, the further I am from the heart of God.
Thanking God for little things is a lesson I have been learning in the past several months especially. But understanding the discipline of it can be much more difficult. God does not give permission for grumbling or thanklessness during trial. When it seems impossible to praise God, we have no special permission to disregard that praise for God has still blessed His people with so much.
Any impasse we may reach ought also be understood as a blessing if we focus on Him and seek to thank Him for the little things we have!
Even in severe trial, we have life and breath. In difficult struggles we have family or friends to support us. And in all things, regardless of its ease or difficulty, we have salvation! Thank Him when it is easy, when it is hard, and when it seems impossible for He is good.
Jesus is sometimes more readily grasped as a concept or an idea than as a person but He is a person! His life was real and He lived it and gave it and retook it for a purpose; a grand purpose. Am I thankful for His sinless life? Am I thankful for His victory over temptation? Am I thankful for His lessons and instruction? Am I thankful for His gentleness? His discipline? Am I thankful for His suffering? Absolutely! Yet the most poignant point, for me, was “in your suffering you do not go to the virgin birth. . .you go to Calvary”. Think about it, one does not go to a little baby Jesus in his deepest suffering for He knows naught of it. Likewise, a young Jesus has no relation to the pain he is feeling. But the Man of Sorrows who spent time in the cool of night sweating in agony in the Garden; the One whom we pierced; He who was hung on the tree and scorned, that man knows Suffering and He knows it intimately and that is who he seeks in the throes of his own agony.
What is more interesting than that were two illustrations Pastor gave concerning this suffering. Jesus was eating a meal prior to His great time of suffering. 1) He took bread and gave thanks. 2) In His hands He broke it. Passing it to His beloved followers He told them to eat for it was His body. Jesus had taken a symbol of His pain and suffering and gave thanks for it! It was the same with the cup to symbolize His blood. Of His own volition, He broke it and gave it freely to those with Him. It was all for them, for us. Immediately Psalm 34:8 came to mind, “O taste and see that the Lord is good. . .” Taste, experience, because even the slightest bit of Him proves that He is good! And then my mind was take to Ezekiel who is given a scroll full of curses and judgments for the evil ones of his day. God instructs him to eat that very scroll. He obeys and in Ezekiel 3:3 he states that when he ate it it was “sweet as honey” in his mouth. This sweetness came because Ezekiel recognized that it was truth and faithfulness and justice as God promises to bring.