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10 Benefits of Giving Thanks by Charles F. Stanley

“Give Thanks in Everything”

Why this tough but life-giving command can change your entire outlook.

Reading the Bible isn’t always easy.

If you’ve ever thought those words but were embarrassed to speak them, you’re not alone. Sure, there’s plenty within Scripture that we comprehend without much difficulty. But at times we come across a passage that baffles us—or worse, makes us feel angry or annoyed. Sometimes it’s because we simply don’t understand what the Lord is saying through the text. But often the reason for our discomfort is that we don’t like what we’re reading. It’s easier to ignore those verses and move on to more appealing topics than to hash it out with God and do what He says. Reading the Bible is hard because, in the end, it challenges us to change.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 is one of those verses that can really get under your skin: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” But what about those difficult and painful situations? Being grateful for suffering seems to make no sense.

If I were writing Scripture, I would say, “In most things give thanks, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s easy to be grateful for the good things in life—a newborn baby, a raise, a new house, or encouraging news from the doctor. But what if you lose your job, discover your child is on drugs, or are told by the doctor that you have only have six months to live? How can God expect you to be grateful then?

I faced this dilemma some time ago when I hurt my shoulder and experienced excruciating pain. I read this verse and told the Lord, “I know You said this, but it’s not reasonable when I’m hurting so badly. I just don’t feel thankful.” But then I noticed that it didn’t say, In everything give thanks when you feel like it. This command has nothing to do with feelings. It’s a choice to do what God says. Whenever He gives us a command in the Bible, it’s for our benefit.

Gratitude impacts every area of our lives.

By giving us the command to always give thanks, God is not rubbing salt in a wound or calling us to set aside reason. He knows that being thankful in all circumstances has a powerful impact on every area of our Christian life. Here are ten lessons I’ve learned:

1. Gratitude keeps us continually aware that the Lord is close by.Even though gratefulness doesn’t come naturally in difficult circumstances, a decision to thank God for walking with us through life makes us more sensitive to His comforting presence.

2. It motivates us to look for His purpose in our circumstance. Knowing that the Lord allows hurt and trouble for His good purposes takes the edge off the pain. Even if we don’t understand why we’re going through suffering, we can thank God because we know that in His time, He’ll work it all for good. In the meantime, we can rest in the knowledge that He’s using every hardship to transform us into the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29).

3. Thanksgiving helps bring our will into submission to God.When the situation we’re experiencing is the last thing we’d ever want, thanking the Lord is a giant step toward being able to follow Christ’s example and say, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Gratitude helps us acknowledge that God’s will is best, even if it’s hard; in that way, we are able to release our hold on what we want. Although the circumstances may remain the same, submission changes our heart.

4. It reminds us of our continual dependence upon the Lord. Pride, adequacy, and independence evaporate whenever we’re trapped in a situation that leaves us helpless and hopeless. If there’s no way out, thanking God for His control over all things reminds us that He alone is our strength.

5. Thankfulness is an essential ingredient for joy.There’s no way to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16) without giving thanks in everything (v. 18). That’s why ungrateful people are so grumpy. Joy is an inner sense of contentment, which flows from a deep assurance that all God’s purposes are good and He’s in complete control of every situation. With that kind of supernatural joy, it’s easy to be thankful.

6. A grateful attitude strengthens our witness to unbelievers.The world is filled with people who are angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed with the difficulties of life. But a believer with a grateful attitude is like a light shining in a dark place. The people around you will want to know why you don’t grumble and complain the way everyone else does. Then you can tell them about your amazing Savior.

7. Thanking God focuses our attention on Him rather than our circumstances. The key to a grateful heart begins with understanding the Lord’s character because knowing His awesome attributes motivates trust and gratitude. He knows exactly what you’re going through, loves you unconditionally, and understands you perfectly. When you thank Him in tough times, He gets bigger, and the circumstances become smaller.

8. Gratitude gives us eternal perspective. The apostle Paul is an amazing example of a man who suffered extreme hardship yet remained thankful. That’s because he was able to see life from God’s perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, he says our present suffering is “momentary light affliction.” If you’re going through a really hard time, those words may sound ridiculous. Maybe you’ve been dealing with pain your entire life, or a difficult trial has dragged on for decades. It hardly seems momentary or light.

But Paul is comparing our situations here on earth with what’s awaiting us in eternity. For him, a 40-year stretch of pain and hardship was no match for the “eternal weight of glory” awaiting him (2 Cor. 4:17). What an amazing thought—your present pain has the potential to produce incomparable glory for you in heaven. Now that’s a big reason to thank God!

9. When we’re wearied by our circumstances, thanksgiving energizes us. Most of us can handle short trials, but if they continue for a long period of time, the emotional and physical strain is exhausting. Should ongoing illness, unresolved relational problems, or continued financial pressures become more than we can bear, it’s time to start thanking God because He has promised to give strength to the weary (Isaiah 40:29). He’ll release His supernatural energy within us so we can patiently endure the trial and come out victorious on the other side.

10. Gratitude transforms anxiety into peace, which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:6-7). I learned this principle through a very difficult experience. When I was feeling anxious about the situation, I discovered that complaining, getting angry, and arguing with God didn’t change my circumstances. Finally, in desperation, I began thanking Him. Only then did I receive His incomprehensible peace. My situation didn’t change for quite a while, but God’s peace guarded my heart all the way through that trying time.

What will you choose?

The choice isn’t always easy. Most of the time, we’d rather get out of difficulties than thank God through them. But have you ever considered that He may actually want you to stay in a painful situation for a time? I know this may not sound like something a loving God would ever do, but remember, His goal is to do what is best for you, not what’s comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable.

The Lord’s purposes for your life extend beyond your days on earth. He’s working for your eternal good. Begin thanking God today, in whatever circumstance you find yourself. After all, what’s the alternative—bitterness, resentment, and grumbling? God made you for something far better: eternal, sustaining joy. The transformation starts with two simple, small words offered from the heart: thank You.

Say them over and over. And then say them again. Your joy will be radiant—a light shining in a dark and desperate world.

 

 

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Dr. John Piper on Having a “Gratitude Ethic”

How Does Gratitude Motivate?John Piper image

On May 29 [1983] in my message on Galatians 5:1-5, I opposed the “Gratitude Ethic” which says: “God has worked for me, now I will return the favor and work for him;” or: “God has given me more than I could ever pay back, but I will devote my life to trying.” But the question was raised by Steve Roy after the service whether there may be another way gratitude could motivate obedience that does not involve a debtor mentality. So I spent about six hours on Memorial Day trying to think that question through. Here is where I am.

Definition: gratitude is a species of joy which arises in our heart in response to the good will of someone who does (or tries to do) us a favor. We do not respond with gratitude to a person if they accidentally do us a favor. Nor do we respond with gratitude if they do us a favor with mercenary ulterior motives. On the other hand, we do respond with gratitude to a person who tries to do us a favor but is hindered by circumstances beyond his control—say, he sacrifices his life to bring us medicine in the jungle but it turns out not to heal. We still feel gratitude toward him. Therefore gratitude is not merely the response of joy to a benefit received. It has special reference to the good will of another person. A person whose joy centers only on a gift received with no sense of joy in the good will of the giver, we call an ingrate. So gratitude is a species of joy which arises in response to the good will of someone who does (or tries to do) us a favor.

This joy, like all joys, has in it an impulse to express or display the value of its cause. This is a crucial insight for understanding how gratitude motivates behavior. It is the nature of joy to demonstrate or express the value of its cause. When something gives us joy we feel an impulse to show the value of it by our words or actions.

The intensity of this joy and its expressive impulse is determined by three varying factors:

1) the importance to us of the gift offered (We are more thankful for a winter coat than for an ice-cream cone);

2) the sacrifice it cost someone to give the gift (We are more thankful if a person risks his life than if his gift is of no inconvenience);

3) our own sense of unworthiness to receive the gift (We are more thankful for free gifts than earned wages).

The question how gratitude can properly motivate good behavior is the question: how should we express or demonstrate the value of God’s good will toward us? Gratitude is the joy that arises in response to God’s good will toward us in all his gifts. This joy has an impulse to express the value of that good will. How should it do so?

Answer: It should express the value of God’s good will in a way that honors the nature andaim of that will and does not contradict it. (For example: I should not try to show my gratitude to someone who just paid my way through an alcohol treatment center by throwing him a beer party.)

Let’s take God’s good will expressed in sending his Son to die, for example. The nature of that act of love is that it was unconditional, undeserved, a gift of sheer grace. The aim of that act was to unleash a power of forgiveness and renewal that would transform people into reflectors of God’s glory. So the way gratitude for this act of God’s good will toward us should express itself is by saying and doing what honors the nature of it as free and theaim of it as God’s glory.

Certain attitudes are thus ruled out: any attempt to pay God back would contradict the nature of the act as free and gracious. Any attempt to turn and become God’s benefactors is ruled out as dishonoring to the nature and aim of the divine act. That was my point last Sunday. But there are some proper ways for the impulse of the joy of gratitude to find expression:

1) the admission that we don’t deserve Christ honors the gracious freeness of the gift.

2) Words of love, praise and thanks will pop out like fruit on the branch of gratitude.

3) Trust in the forgiveness and renewing power unleashed in the cross honors its aim.

4) Acts of self-denying love also show how free we are made by the all-sufficiency of the gift of love in the cross.

This is how I see gratitude motivating obedience to Christ. It does not prompt us to pay him back or to meet his needs. As a species of joy it has in it an impulse to show the value of God’s good will. What shows the value of God’s good will in its true nature and aim are words of praise, a heart of trust, and a life of love.

Thankful for you,

Pastor John

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. May 31, 1983. Used by Permission.

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2013 in Attitude, John Piper

 

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The Quest for Joy Can Only Be Found in Jesus Christ by John Piper

Did you know that God commands us to be glad?

 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

1) God created us for his glory

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth,… whom I created for my glory.” (Isaiah 43:6-7)

God made us to magnify his greatness – the way telescopes magnify stars. He created us to put his goodness and truth and beauty and wisdom and justice on display. The greatest display of God’s glory comes from deep delight in all that he is. This means that God gets the praise and we get the pleasure. God created us so that he is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

2) Every human should live for God’s glory

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. So our first obligation is to show God’s value by being satisfied with all that he is for us. This is the essence of loving God (Matthew 22:37) and trusting him (1 John 5:3-4) and being thankful to him (Psalm 100:2-4) It is the root of all true obedience, especially loving others (Colossians 1:4-5).

3) All of us have failed to glorify God as we should

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

What does it mean to “fall short of the glory of God?” It means that none of us has trusted and treasured God the way we should. We have not been satisfied with his greatness and walked in his ways. We have sought our satisfaction in other things, and treated them as more valuable than God, which is the essence of idolatry (Romans 1:21-23). Since sin came into the world we have all been deeply resistant to having God as our all-satisfying treasure (Ephesians 2:3). This is an appalling offense to the greatness of God (Jeremiah 2:12-13).

4) All of us are subject to God’s just condemnation

“The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

We have all belittled the glory of God. How? By preferring other things above him. By our ingratitude, distrust and disobedience. So God is just in shutting us out from the enjoyment of his glory forever. “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

The word “hell” is used in the New Testament fourteen times1—twelve times by Jesus himself. It is not a myth created by dismal and angry preachers. It is a solemn warning from the Son of God who died to deliver sinners from its curse. We ignore it at great risk.

If the Bible stopped here in its analysis of the human condition, we would be doomed to a hopeless future. However, this is not where it stops…

5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners…” (1 Timothy 1:15)

The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20). This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans 3:25-26). “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.

6) The benefits purchased by the death of Christ belong to those who repent and trust him

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out” (Acts 3:19). “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

“Repent” means to turn from all the deceitful promises of sin. “Faith” means being satisfied with all that God promises to be for us in Jesus. “He who believes in me,” Jesus says, “shall never thirst” (John 6:35). We do not earn our salvation. We cannot merit it (Romans 4:4-5). It is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is a free gift (Romans 3:24). We will have it if we cherish it above all things (Matthew 13:44). When we do that, God’s aim in creation is accomplished: He is glorified in us and we are satisfied in him – forever.

Does this make sense to you?

Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in your life.

What should you do?

Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you from the guilt and punishment and bondage. “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Start banking your hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin’s promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God’s promises. Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises, which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).

The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict between our happiness and God’s holiness. Being satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.

“You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11)

 

*John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, and studied at Wheaton College, where he first sensed God’s call to enter the ministry. He went on to earn degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary (B.D.) and the University of Munich (D.theol.). For six years he taught Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in 1980 accepted the call to serve as pastor at Bethlehem. John is the author of more than 30 books, including Desiring God, The Pleasures of God, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, What Jesus Demands from the World, and Don’t Waste Your Life. DesiringGod.org provides a huge selection of God-centered resources from the prolific ministry of John Piper with free audio and video sermons, books, conference teachings, and articles like this one.

 

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