Thankful

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When the grace of Jesus flows through our lives, we can’t help but be generous and grateful. Generosity and gratitude are responses to the goodness of God!

Alright, hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. We are so glad that you are here with us. Whatever campus you’re at, Denton, Flower Mound, Lewisville, the Venue, and the extension site watching or listening online somewhere in the world, can we just celebrate each other for a moment? It is so good to be one church that meets in multiple locations because it allows us to do some amazing things together. We can do things together that none of us can do by ourselves. And it is Thanksgiving week. I don’t know about you, but I feel like this year has flown by. I can’t believe it is Thanksgiving and thanks and giving go hand-in-hand. And we’ve been in this series called Overflow where we’re talking about just learning to live with the spirit of gratitude and generosity. And we’ve talked about in this series how we were created to overflow, how we were made to go on this adventure of generosity with God, that Jesus says, “Within us, our river is of living water and not stagnant ponds,” which means we were never meant to gather and hold.

We were meant to receive and release. And we’ve said that gratitude and generosity are a simply a response to receiving God’s grace in our lives. So in Colossians 2, 6 and 7, it says, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as the Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” When the grace of Jesus flows through your life, you can’t help but allow gratitude and generosity to flow out of your life. Or how about Romans 5:17 that says, “Even though death reigned through the one man,” Adam, “how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace, reign — abundant provision of grace and gift of righteousness reign in life through that one man, Jesus.” In other words, it says, “We’ve been given an abundant provision of grace and when the abundance of grace flows through our lives, the abundance of gratitude and generosity begin to flow out of our lives.”

That’s all we’re talking about in this series. And I want to keep going by telling you a story that happened to Jesus. One day, in Luke, Chapter 17, there’s a great picture of all of this, Jesus is walking along with his disciples and it’s a great day. The kingdom of God is there, the power of the Lord is there for Jesus to heal people. He’s been teaching amazing things. The disciples are living out their purpose following Jesus one next step at a time, full of faith and they come in contact with ten lepers. And from a distance, these ten lepers start yelling out to Jesus, “Jesus, master, have pity on us.” Now, you have to remember, leprosy was like the worst disease you could have. It’s an incurable contagious disease. Your body attacks itself, you kind of die a slow death. And because it’s contagious, you lose your family, you lose your friends, you lose your life. So they’re out there hanging out in the wilderness asking Jesus to have pity on them and Jesus says, “Okay, go show yourselves to the priests.”

I’m sure that’s the last answer they were hoping for. I mean, I’m sure they’re sitting there, thinking, “Jesus, like just say like, ‘Okay, be healed. Poof,’ and it’s done.” That’s not what he says. It’s just, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They have a choice. Do they want to obey what Jesus says or do they want to sit down and pout? And it says, “As they went, they were healed. As they went, they were healed,” which reminds us that simple obedience always bring significant breakthrough. If we will just have the faith to take the next step that God asks us to take even though we don’t like it, even though we don’t want him to give it to us, even though we wish he would say something else, if we would just have the faith to take the step he gives us, amazing things start to breakthrough in our life. “As they went, they were healed.”

And all of a sudden, when they realize they were healed, nine of them like man, they were thrilled. They went running home. They kissed their wives. They hung out with their kids. They went back to work. They were distracted by all the things in their life that they missed, that they just took off and went running.

And it says, “But one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned around, went back to Jesus, Got on his knees and began to thank Jesus for the grace of God that just flowed through his life and Jesus is confused. He looks at the one guy and he says, “Where are the other nine? Like I thought I healed ten lepers. Why is there only one? Did the other nine not get healed?” And the guy said, “No, they all got healed. I’m just the only one that came back.” And Jesus looks at the man, and he helps him up, and he says, “Okay, rise and go. Your faith has made you well.” That story bothers me. That story bothers me a lot, actually. You see, gratitude is a big deal to me personally. It’s one of my highest personal values. Gratitude is a big deal. It’s really a big deal for me, for people to be grateful.

And you say like, “Why is it a big deal?” Because when you’re grateful for something, it reveals a posture of humility, it’s a posture of receptivity, it’s a posture of stewardship and appreciation. Like gratitude is a big deal to me. Like have you ever done something really nice for somebody and they never said, “Thank you”? Come on, you’re like, “You have children. You know what I’m talking about.” Right? Like that’s just a big deal. Okay. But that’s not why it bothers me. It bothers me because I see myself in the story. It bothers me because I don’t think that’s a story about ten men. I think that’s a reality that we probably say, “Thank you” to Jesus for about one out of every ten amazing things he does in our lives. And I look at that and I realized that is so much my life, that the grace of God is constantly flowing into my life in all kinds of different ways, in different avenues, in different angles and yet, like those nine guys, I’m busy and distracted, and I want to get on with my life and keep going and maybe throw up a little casual thank you to Jesus.

But I don’t know that I really have this overflowing spirit of gratitude for all the amazing things that he’s constantly doing in my life. And so when I read that story, it bothers me because I see the brokenness of my own life. But I’m inspired by this one guy and I want to be like him because he teaches us what it looks like. How do you cultivate a spirit of gratitude in 3 really simple things? These are going to be really fast, if you want to have a spirit of gratitude, gratitude simply requires awareness. It says, the moment that the guy – here, it says, “…as he realized he was healed.” He was aware. He was aware of what Jesus just did for him and that started his journey of gratitude. Can I tell you something? I think we are so unaware of what God does for us. We are so busy and so distracted and so full of complaining and frustration and confusion and all the things in our lives that we’re really like just not aware.

We’re not aware of how good he is, how gracious he is, how kind he is, how compassionate he is. And it’s not just true with God, it’s true with the people in our lives that are kind and gracious to us. We’re just not aware of all the amazing things that happened for us. And until you become aware of what someone else has done for you, it’s impossible to really be grateful for it. And so here’s what I would say to you today, you have more in your life to celebrate than you do to complain about. The problem is, you’re probably just not aware of it. You have more in your life to be grateful for, than to grumble about. Problem is, is you’re probably just not aware of it. You have more to give thanks for, than to be grumpy about. Elbow the person next to you. Problem is, we’re just not aware of it. You see what gratitude does, is it helps us focus on what God has done for us instead of what God has yet to do for us.

Gratitude keeps us focused on what we do have instead of what we don’t have. In fact, Matthew 4:17, Jesus says, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” in other words he says, “Change your thinking because hope is here.” Change your thinking because hope is here, so be aware of it. Which means, if I have more to complain about than to celebrate, I’m focusing on the kingdom of darkness, not the Kingdom of God. Because when I’m aware of the kingdom of God, I change my thinking and I realize, hope is here, so all of a sudden I become grateful for the grace of God that’s flowing through my life. Does that make sense to you? Gratitude requires awareness. Until you become aware of what other people and God are doing for you, you can’t be grateful. Second thing is, gratitude requires intentionality. It says, when he saw he was healed, he turned around and went back to Jesus. He took a step. He moved in a direction. He intentionally went out of his way to go back, look Jesus in the eyes, get on his knees and say, “Thank you for doing this for me.” See, gratitude requires intentionality. It requires you actually moving like actually opening your mouth, actually writing a card, actually responding and doing something because here’s the deal, I think we assume most people know we’re grateful. But gratitude is not assumed, gratitude is expressed. Just so you know it’s not gratitude until it actually comes out of your mouth. Until it’s actually put into the atmosphere, until it’s actually expressed.

I’m sure those other 9 guys if you went and saw them, it would be like, “Oh bro, I’m so thankful for Jesus. He gave me back my life.” And I would say, “Then why didn’t you express it?” So I’m not really sure you actually are grateful. Maybe you’re entitled, maybe you’re busy, maybe you’re distracted. Here’s the deal, gratitude is inconvenient. Because guess what? All 10 of them wanted to go back home. They haven’t been home in years. But there was an inconvenience the 1 guy was willing to give up because he wanted to be grateful, because he was aware of what Jesus did, so he took in intentionality to go on and express it. Which brings me to the last thing and it’s, gratitude requires humility.

He went all the way back to Jesus, got on his knees in front of Jesus and basically said, “You did for me what I could never do for myself.” Gratitude requires humility, which is why we struggle with gratitude. Our pride kind of gets in the way. Because here’s what we think, we think, “Oh yeah, they did that for me but I could’ve done it for myself. Or it really wasn’t a big deal or anything, if they would have done this, then I would’ve been thankful. This is not so — ” you know, like all those different kinds of things. Okay listen, gratitude is humility. It’s acknowledging that someone else did something for you. It’s putting yourself in a posture of submission. It’s coming under them. It’s saying, “I needed you. I am thankful for you. You spoke to me, you encouraged me, you helped me, you blessed me, you provide for me. You did something for me that I needed.” That’s humility.

And what’s interesting is, God’s grace humbles you. And when you’re humble, you’re able to receive more of God’s grace. That’s why James 4:6 says, God opposes the proud, he gives grace to the humble. God’s grace will humble you and when you’re humble, your heart is open to receive even more in the grace of God. You see all these 3 things are us, this is worship. It’s all it is. You wonder, why do we sing songs? That’s part of the church thing, we do 3 songs and then you kind of go move on with it. It’s overflow. All worship is, is overflow. Worship is, “I’m aware of what Jesus did for me. I intentionally have showed up, I’m going to open my mouth and raise my hand and lift my voice. And I’m going to humble myself to acknowledge that he did something for me that I could never do for myself.

That’s overflow. And overflow is simply God’s grace flowing through your life in gratitude and generosity can’t help but come out on the other end. You see, gratitude keeps your heart healthy. It’s fascinating, 10 guys got healed of leprosy but only 1 guy was touched by Jesus. Ten guys were healed by leprosy, only 1 guy Jesus say was made well or whole. So 10 guys got cured from their disease, only 1 guy left with a healthy heart. This is what gratitude does. It protects your heart, it keeps you focused on the goodness of God instead of the brokenness of the world and it moves you from focusing on the generosity of his hands to the love of his heart.

You see, 1 Thessalonians 5 says, “Be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

We’ve spent so much time in church talking about what’s God’s will from our life? Should I take this job? Shall I marry this person? Should I go to this school? Should I buy this house? Should I do this thing? What’s God’s will for my life? Well, he just told you. Be joyful always, pray continuously, and give thanks in all circumstances. In other words, spirit of gratitude is God’s will for your life. Why? Because God knows it’s impossible to enjoy life without a grateful spirit. Track it backwards, be joyful always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances. When I give thanks for what God has done for my life, I am praying, I am talking to God. And when I am talking to God, I am focused on his presence and the bible tells us that in his presence is fullness of joy. So it is actually impossible to enjoy life without a spirit of gratitude because gratitude brings me into his presence and his presence is where joy is found.

That’s why Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving in your heart.” In other words, we get into God’s presence by giving thanks to him and guess what? Psalm 16:11 says, “In his presence is fullness of joy.” So maybe — just maybe we’re kind of miserable in life because we’re not grateful. You say but there’s a lot of things in my life that I don’t like. I know but you have more to celebrate than you do to complain about. You have more to be grateful for than to grumble about. Because guess what? Jesus says, “Repent, change your thinking, the kingdom of heaven is here. Stop focusing on what’s wrong with the brokenness of the world. Start focusing on what is right with me and my kingdom and what I have shown up to do. And when you do that, that’s my will for your life. You’ll start talking to me and when you start focusing on me, guess what? Now joy will start flowing through your life and you’ll actually enjoy your spouse, and your job, and your life, and your hobby, and the things you have, and the calling on your life and all the things that get us all worked up and stressed out, we start to enjoy them because we’ve learned to become grateful for them.” Does that make sense to you?

Okay. But that all starts with grace. It all starts with God’s grace flowing in, changing us and flowing out in gratitude, in generosity. You see, gratitude keeps hope alive in your heart. And you say, “Why?” Because when I thank God for what he has done, I have hope for what he has yet to do. So maybe — just maybe, not only have we lost our joy, maybe we’ve lost our hope because we’re not aware, intentional, or humble enough to just give thanks to God for who he is and what he has done. Are you with me on that? Okay. So here’s what we’re going to do today because it’s Thanksgiving week, instead of talking more about giving thanks, we’re going to give thanks. So here’s what I want you to do. Grab those two cards you got when you came in.

If you didn’t get one, our ushers are going to come with all the campuses. They’re going to walk up and down the aisle, you can just wave your hand and they’ll give you one. I want you to make sure you have two cards. I want you to take those two cards out and what we’re going to do is we’re going to put our faith in action. Instead of talking about giving thanks, we’re just going to take a few moments to give thanks together. And so I want you to grab the first card and here’s what I want you to do — if you don’t have a pen with you, there’s pens in the seats back in front of you and what I want you to do is for the next few moments, I want you to write a single thank you card to somebody in your life. I want you to think of one person in your life. It could be your spouse, your kids, a friend, a neighbor, somebody that has just blessed you in this season. And here’s what I want to challenge you to do. I want you to pick somebody just like really in your life. Don’t pick like a random person that’s way on the outskirts. I want you to think about someone that you are grateful for and yet you don’t often tell them how grateful you really are.

And so for the next few moments, will you just go ahead and write them a thank you card. Thank them for whatever. And I’m going to ask you to turn it in so you can write it in any way that you want. This is going to be for you to actually by faith give it to them or it’s just going to take two or three minutes here together and actually write that down because this is what followers of Jesus do. They overflow with the spirit of gratitude. So who’s that person in your life? Be aware of who they are and what they do. Intentionally write it out and humble yourself enough to acknowledge that you need them in your life. Every person in this room should be able to do that. Regardless of what you believe, there is someone in your life, maybe even in your past that has been good to you. Put your faith on paper and your gratitude in action.

And as you get close to the bottom, what’s the last 10% that you’re holding back. If you’ve never said I love you and you do, write it. If you’ve never said that one thing that feels vulnerable, or exposing, or humbling, have the faith to go a little farther to express your gratitude to someone in your life who reflects and reveals the grace of Jesus to you. As you start finishing up that first card, I want to tell you that I’m grateful for you. I’m grateful for this church and you are this church. I’m grateful for the way you show up, for the way you’re faithful, for the way you give, and serve, and invite people who don’t know Jesus. I’m grateful for the way you live on mission. I’m grateful for the way you embrace change. I’m grateful for the way that you say, “Jesus is Lord of our family and we will follow wherever he wants us to go.” I’m grateful that have you decided to be a part of this family and get rooted and established in Jesus.

I’m grateful for your faith, I’m grateful for your kindness. I’m grateful for your mercy, for your unity, for your desire to love people and lay down your life so other people can find Jesus. I’m grateful for you. It feels good to have people tell you they’re grateful doesn’t it? To be aware and to be intentional. So as you finish that up I want you to grab the second card and here’s what I want you to do on this card. I want you to take a moment and I want you to write a thank you to Jesus. I want you to take a moment and I want you to think about what you actually want to thank God for. And if you’re here and you don’t believe in God and somebody invited you today, you’re like I don’t even know if I believe. Okay, here’s what I would just say. Why not just be thankful for any of the good things in your life? Regardless of what you believe, it can’t hurt to write something down that you’re actually thankful for. But for those of us that are followers of Jesus, what are you specifically thankful to him for, just this year even. Sometimes we make it so ambiguous and in this big kind of gray area of like, “I’m just thankful he’s God,” like okay, but specifically like this year. But this year has been hard. “I know.” For a lot of us, this year has been hard and yet you still have more to celebrate than complain about. You still have more to be grateful for than to grumble about. So what are those things? Maybe it’s, “Thank you Jesus, just for my family, for restoring my marriage, for healing my body.

Thank you for a new job. Thank you for new friends. Thank you for grace from my failures. Thank you for kindness for my life, mercy and compassion for my pain. Thank you for this church. Thank you for your voice. Thank you for your word and for the way that you’re just gentle and leading me into green pastures. Thank you that no matter what I did this year, you haven’t left me nor forsaken me.” Who is Jesus to you and what has he done for you? Because I think we can come to church every single week and we can be like the nine guys. We can come in and come out of here so fast, asking God to do something for us that we forget to be aware of what he has already done for us. We can make all these desperate pleas for God to move in our life and when he does, we forget to be intentional, to go back and humble ourselves. Say, “Jesus, everything I have has come from you.” This is putting your faith in action. It’s putting your gratitude on paper because God has been good to you this year. He’s been kind, and loving, and it’s healthy for your heart to stop for a moment and acknowledge that. Psalm 136:1 says “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever”

And sometimes when we get to these moments, we can sit here and quote a bunch of Psalms, a bunch of things that other people said about giving thanks to God, but today is not about quoting Psalms. Today is about you writing your own Psalm. Today is about you saying, “Jesus, this is what I’m thankful for because you realize we are the lepers.” They had leprosy of the body but we have leprosy of the soul. And without Jesus walking into our lives, and rescuing us, and healing us, we are left to wander the wilderness alone, dying, and broken, but the moment we respond to his invitation, we become saved by grace through faith. The leprosy is gone. His grace flows over our lives and everything changes. So this Thanksgiving, let’s be aware. Let’s be intentional. Let’s humble ourselves. And so you can take all the time you want over the next few moments to do that, but here’s what we’re going to do by faith. For the next moments is, we want to overflow. I don’t want you to just write it down and do whatever you do with it, but the card you wrote to people, I want you to have the faith to give it to them this week. Mail it to them, hand it to them, look them in the eyes, and tell them you’re grateful and that you love them. But the card you wrote to Jesus, for the next few minutes, our worship team is going to come back out at all over our campuses and they’re going to lead us in a song, and while they do that, I want you to respond by faith, and I just want you to come up to the front and lay it down. I want you to literally think that Jesus is here because he is right now.

I want you to come up at whatever campus you’re at and just lay it on the platform. Be aware, be intentional. Just humble yourself for a moment to say, “Thank you Jesus.” And if you want take a moment, take a moment and stay up, and talk to God, and be thankful, but it’s a sign of faith. See, that guy, everyone else went back to their life. And if we just dismissed your right now, we would all just go back to our life. There is something about actually turning and going back to God to say, “Thank you Jesus for who you are and what you’ve done.” So for the next few moments, I want to invite you to respond by faith. Jesus, we thank you for who you are, for what you have done. Thank you that we were the lepers crying out to you and you had mercy and compassion on us. So today God, we respond with the spirit of gratitude. We move by faith and overflow with thanksgiving because your grace flows through our life. In your name we pray. Amen.

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