As I view the spiritual condition of our society today, it dawns on me that a lot of worldly habits have infected the church. It's often difficult to distinguish Christian brothers and sisters from non-Christian people. In Matthew 7: 15-20, Jesus tells that people will be known by their fruits. One area where peoples "fruit" really shows is when it comes to thankfulness and gratitude.
Does our thankfulness depend on our present conditions? Can we, as God's people claim that we are thankful no matter what? If you were to lose your ability to earn a living, or if you were to suddenly become ill or lose your health, your home or a loved one, would you still be thankful for the things you did have? Far too often we become bitter in our hearts due to unfortunate circumstances.
I once heard the late Billy Graham preach about this matter. In his message, he spoke of a man who had every right to be bitter - but wasn't. This man sat on a hard stone floor that doubled as his bed in a cramped, cold prison cell. He never knew if the footsteps he heard in the corridor would be those of the guards who would take him away for execution. Not a moment passed when he was free of the irritation and pain of the chains and manacles that cut into his wrists and ankles
Cut off from friends and family, unjustly accused, beaten and brutally mistreated, if ever a person had a right to be bitter and complain, it was this man who was languishing, almost forgotten in prison. But instead of complaints, his voice rang out with words of praise and thanksgiving.
This man was, of course, the Apostle Paul. While in prison, he wrote his letter to the Ephesian church. In chapter 5: 19-20, Paul tells us, "Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Look again at that verse. GIVE THANKS ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS - no matter the circumstances.
Giving thanks and praise to God should be one of the most distinctive traits of every believer in Christ Jesus. Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, unsatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. Conversely, nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation, than a true spirit of thankfulness.
There are many stories in the Bible concerning gratitude and thankfulness. One such story is in Luke 17: 11-19, and tells of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus. Only one returned and expressed his thankfulness and gratitude. The other nine left Him without a word of thanks; occupied only with their own selfishness and ingratitude.
I often see this spirit of selfishness manifested in our churches today. Too many times, people take for granted the way others help and reach out to them in their times of need. Above all they fail to thank God for His blessings.
Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as lying, stealing, immorality or any other sin that is condemned by God's word. God's indictment against rebellious ingratitude is spelled out in Romans 1:21. "Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
God doesn't always prevent trials and pain from entering our lives, but He promises He will be with us during those times. In Daniel 3: 19-30, God didn't extinguish the flames when the three Israelite youth were thrown into the furnace; He joined them in the flames and got them through that trial.
God sees us through our trials as well. Maybe not in the way we hoped, but we always come through stronger, wiser, and with more joy. There are many things we need to be grateful for every day, even in times of difficulty. Our material goods, our loved ones, our church family, our Bibles (where we find comfort and guidance), our salvation and His continued presence and power in our lives.
Don't let bitterness rob you of the joy of your salvation. Continually praise and thank our almighty God.
God Bless you all,
Pastor Dave Wetherbee