The Hardest Thing To Do


In this message, we learn that one word from God changes everything.

We are in our series called ‘Take Heart – Strengthen Yourself in the Lord.’ And we’re taking a couple of weeks to just talk about, how do we find strength in this life? How do we deal with difficult situations and circumstances when trials come against us? What we’re talking about is not like a one-time event. Rather, it’s a way of life. It’s really a lifestyle, learning to strengthen ourselves in the Lord. And we started last week and we said that it’s really about winning the battle in the heart. John 16:33 – Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! Strengthen yourself in me, for I have overcome the world.” In other words Jesus says, “I’ve already won all the victory out there. What I want is for you to give me authority, so we can win the victory, the battle in here.”

That if you win the victory in here, you win the battle in here, you will walk in victory out there. You lose the battle in your heart, you will always walk in defeat out there. That the abundant life in Jesus doesn’t go from out there into here. It goes from in here to out there. It’s not your circumstances. It’s what’s in your heart that determines whether or not you have the abundant life in Jesus. So If you’ve got your Bibles, turn with me to 1st Samuel Chapter 30. It’s where we were last week. 1st Samuel Chapter 30 – I want to pick up where we left off because there’s something really important here that I want to get to. And then we’re going to get into the message today. Let me reset the stage of the story for you, so we’re all on the same page. Here you have David, a man after God’s own heart – David, the anointed king of Israel. And I believe that here in 1st Samuel Chapter 30, this is one of David’s hardest days in his entire life. I mean, David had lived a tough life. You think you got a tough life? David had a tough life. He knows what that feels like. He was rejected by his family. He was rejected by Saul, the current king of Israel, his boss. He was rejected by his own nation. He was even rejected by his enemies.

David went and lived with the Philistines, the enemies of the people of God. One day, the Philistines go to fight the Israelites. David lines up to fight with the Philistines against the Israelites, and the Philistines look at them. They’re like, “Man, we’re afraid you’re going to turn on us in battle.” So they sent him home. You know it’s a bad day when you’re even rejected by your enemies, fighting against their enemies. And while David was out with the Philistines headed back home, the Amalakites and other enemy comes in, raids their village, burns everything to the ground, plunders everything, takes all the women and children. And as David and his men get back to the town smoke is still rising from everything that’s burned to the ground. They’re all broken. They’re all distraught. And it says, “David’s men picked up stones and talked of stoning David.” These were 600 mighty men. I guess, it would be like your best friend in life picks up a stone and wants to stone you. They’ve won victories together, defeated giants together; done great things for God together. And here in this moment David is rejected. He is alone. He is abandoned. And he has a choice to make.

Is he going to strengthen himself in the Lord or is he going to weaken himself in his circumstances? And what David chooses to do – in Verse 6 it says, “Strengthened himself in the Lord.” He rallies his men together. They go after the Amalekites. Pick it up with me in Verse 17. It says, “David and his men fought them from dusk until the evening of the next day, and none of them got away, except four hundred young men who rode off on camels and fled. David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. He took all the flocks and the herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock, saying, ‘This is David’s plunder.’” In other words, in the worst moment of one of the worst moments of David’s entire life, he chooses to strengthen himself in the Lord. He rallies his men together. They go after the Amalekites. They get back all of their stuff, all of their belongings, all of their families.

And then they plunder the Amalekites and get a whole bunch of treasure that they didn’t have in the first place. And what we learn from David in this moment is that David’s private victory resulted in a public blessing for his men. David’s private victory that he won the battle in the heart, strengthened himself in the Lord, it resulted in a public blessing for his men. You see, had David never won the victory in here, his men would have never got their families back. They would have never got their treasure. They would have never got extra plunder. In fact, if David had not strengthened himself in the Lord but had looked at the circumstances, weakened himself, given up, whatever, do you know what would have happened? [Laughs] He would have been stoned! His men had stones in their hands. They’re ready to go, man. But David strengthens himself in the Lord, and it’s his private victory that results in a public blessing for his men. And the same is true for you and me. When you win a private victory, it will always release a public blessing into the lives of the people around you.

We are way more interconnected and interdependent than we ever think, and you’ll see it all over the Bible. I mean, Moses wins a private victory when God asks him to go confront Pharaoh. He strengthens himself in the Lord instead of weakening himself in the circumstances, and it releases a public blessing. All of the Israelites get set free from 400 years of slavery. How about Paul and Silas? One day they’re beaten and persecuted, thrown in jail with no cause against them, and it’s midnight. And it says, “At midnight while they were worshipping and praying” – I’m just telling you; you throw me in jail for no reason at midnight, I’m not going to be worshipping. I’ll be saying, “I want my mama.”

Right? But in that moment they won a private victory. They strengthened themselves in the Lord and it says, “God brought an earthquake and shook open the jail cells of everyone in the jail, not just Paul and Silas.” Public blessing is released. How about Jesus? When he is on his way to the cross he says, “Father, what should I say? Save me from this hour? No, it was for this very hour that I’ve come.” And Jesus strengthens himself in the Lord. He wins a private victory and it releases a public blessing that you now have the opportunity for eternal life and salvation in him.

You see, your private victory will always release a public blessing. Listen; I can tell you a story of a family in our church that about six years ago there was some tough stuff happening around here. There were some things they didn’t necessarily agree with. And it was one of those seasons where some of their friends were leaving the church, and they had a decision to make. Are they going to weaken themselves in the circumstances or strengthen themselves in the Lord? And they wrestled through it and they walked through this stuff, and in the end of the day they chose to strengthen themselves in the Lord. They won a private victory. And in that moment they weren’t thinking about a public blessing that was going to be released. They were just trying to strengthen themselves in the Lord. But today I can tell you, six years later the public blessing that was released was in the lives of their kids, because today their kids are thriving and flourishing and leading worship every single week for 100s and 100s of HUB students.

They’re some of the greatest next gen leaders that we have rising up right now, and I believe it’s all directly a result because their parents won a private victory years ago. That’s how God works. See, you have to ask yourself the question; how much will my victory bless other people? And you might say, “Well, sure they could have left the church and done that somewhere else.” Maybe, but I tell you what; I don’t see very many families that that happens to. I see a whole lot of people that weaken themselves in the circumstances. Six years go by and they say, “What happened to my kids? I don’t understand why they’re not interested in the things of God.” There’s something that happens when you win a private victory. Whatever it looks like, that releases a public blessing in the lives of the people around you. Dad, you win the private victory over your anger, you just released a public blessing in your lives of your kids. If you’re here and you’re a woman and you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or fear, you win that private victory and you will release a public blessing into the lives of people around you. You’re a student and you win a private victory over temptation, you’re releasing a blessing in the lives of the students around you.

You’re a spouse and you win a private victory, you just released a blessing into the life of your spouse, even if your spouse is the one you’re annoyed at.

Right? I mean, David, he wins a private victory and who gets blessed? The men with stones in their hands! That’s how God tends to work. It’s the economy of the kingdom of God. And so my question for you is, what battle are you fighting today, because it’s sure a whole lot bigger than you? And if you win that victory and you strengthen yourself in the Lord, you will release a public blessing in the lives of the people around you. We don’t know how it works. You don’t calculate it. You don’t get to decide what it is. It’s just a wave that starts to roll and it blesses people, because you chose to strengthen yourself in the Lord. And if you’re here and maybe in the past you lost one of those battles, okay, draw a new line in the sand today. There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And he can turn all things together for the good for those who love him.

You strengthen yourself in the Lord today, and He will start releasing that public blessing in the lives of the people around you today. That’s how it works. Okay? Your private victory will result in a public blessing. That’s so important in this chapter that I didn’t want to skip over it, as we start moving forward. You see, because the question that I realized all of you are really wanting to know is the ‘how’. Right? David strengthened himself in the Lord, and we want to know how. And I told you last week that ‘how’ you strengthen yourself isn’t nearly as important as who you strengthen yourself in. That your ‘how’ can very quickly become your ‘who’. The how can be the thing that you worship and pursue and chase after when He is the one we’re supposed to chase after and pursue and love. And so as we start to step into this question of how, you look at the scripture here with the story of David, and really it’s just one little verse. “David strengthened himself in the Lord.” That’s really all it says. So if we want to know how he did it, we have to look at the totality of David’s life. We have to read through the scriptures and look at how he lived in all kinds of other situations.

And here’s what I really believe. I think in this moment David did the absolute hardest thing there is to do. I think David gave thanks in the midst of difficult circumstances. You say, “How do I strengthen myself in the Lord? How did David do it?” I think he gave thanks in the midst of hard circumstances. Psalm 9:1 – David says, “I give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” “I give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of your wonderful deeds.” You always have to remember, David was a worshipper long before he was a warrior. And if you’re reading the Psalms, you will find that David gave thanks in the hardest of situations and circumstances. And so in this moment his men have stones in his hands. He can smell the smoke of his house burnt to the ground. His wives and his kids are gone. I think he quiets everything down. He takes a moment, closes his eyes, and he gives thanks to the Lord.

And as he just gives thanks for who God is, all of a sudden he started to remind himself who God is and what God has done in his life, and it’s his gratitude that strengthens himself in the Lord. You see, gratitude doesn’t change my circumstances. Gratitude changes me. David’s gratitude didn’t change the reality of his situation, but it changed something in him. You can picture it, right? His eyes closed in just prayer. “Lord, thank you, that together we killed the bear.” “Lord, thank you, that together we killed the lion.” “Lord, thank you, that together we killed Goliath. God, I was a boy and together we killed Goliath. God, thank you that you’ve kept me safe from Saul all these years. [Laughs] God, thank you, that you’ve promoted me and chosen me to be the anointed king of Israel. God, thank you that you’ve always provided for me and met all my needs, and even though it’s been hard you’ve never left me nor forsaken me.” And you can see this faith rising up in him as he gives thanks, because it’s God’s faithfulness yesterday that gives you the faith you need for today.

Gratitude builds your faith. If you thank him for what He has done, you will start to have faith for what He wants to do. In fact, Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.” In other words, when you give thanks you’re starting to believe that He is good and His perfect love will cast our your fear. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. When we give thanks you start to believe that He is good, and His perfect love comes and casts out your fear. Listen; I’ll give you a real practical example from my life. One of the battles I have to fight every single week is the sermon, okay? It’s like one of the greatest battles in my life. People say that most people have more fear of public speaking than they do of death. So I have to fight the greatest fear that mankind has every single week. Okay? So you can pray for me for that.

Or we’ll give you a turn up here and see how that goes.

Every week I’ve got to fight this battle. And to be honest with you, there’s a lot of weeks when it starts going by and the stress and the pressure and the anxiety starts building up, because I know man, Sunday comes around really quick every week [Laughs]. And when it’s like the middle of the week and the message isn’t coming together and the pieces of the puzzle aren’t fitting and I can’t find a verse, and I feel like I’m not getting revelation, the stress and this anxiety starts to build up on me and I start getting freaked out. And the more I look at my sermon and the more I look at the notes, the more I weaken myself because I’m weakening myself in the circumstances. I’m looking at a blank piece of paper or a piece of paper that doesn’t have anything good written on it [Laughs]. And the more I look at it, the more I start to get stressed and anxious. And so I’ve had to learn to teach myself that in those moments I need to just stop everything and start giving thanks to the Lord. In fact, right next to my chair where I spend most of the time prepping my messages there’s a whole file folder of all the old sermons I’ve ever had.

And sometimes I’ll just sit there and I’ll look at it, and I’ll just start giving thanks. “God, thank you. Thank you for this example of your faithfulness yesterday that you’ve provided, that you gave us that series and that message and that revelation, and you came through here. And God, you love these people way more than I love them, and so you’re going to give me something to say. And I know there’s great revelation and manna from heaven that you’re going to release over this place.” And as I start giving Him thanks for what He has done, all of a sudden this peace and this strength starts to come over me. Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And if He was faithful yesterday, why would I doubt that He is going to be faithful today? Gratitude strengthens yourself in the Lord. And the truth of the matter is, is it’s impossible to be grateful running 100 miles an hour. It’s impossible to be grateful running 100 miles an hour. We live way too fast lives to really be grateful people, if we’re just honest. [Laughs] Go ahead and say it. Surprise! Alright?

We live way too fast to be grateful people, because when you’re running 100 miles an hour you’re never grateful for where you’ve been. All you’re focused on is where you’re going. And I think we engage God like a fast food restaurant. We pull to the drive through. We take whatever He has given us and we run down the road, because we’ve got somewhere to go, something to do, somewhere to be, and we’re never thankful for what He has already done. And so we have this small faith because we’re not looking back at how He has already provided and moved in our lives. And you know it’s true! I mean, think about the guy that’s got to close a business deal. Right? A business man; all week, what’s he doing? He is stressing about the business deal. Wherever he is, that’s what he is thinking about – stress, anxiety, pressure. “I’ve got to close this deal. I’ve got to make it happen. Oh man!” With weeks going by the pressure is mounting, and what starts happening as the pressure mounts? He starts throwing up those prayers like, “God, please, I need your help. Close the deal for me. God, I really need you to come through on this one. We’ve got to get this deal closed.” And what does God do? Because God is good he helps you close the deal. And you get the deal and you go to bed that night, and you wake up the next morning and you don’t take any time to give thanks to the Lord. And so what happens? You’re already stressed about the next deal.

And five minutes into the next day already stress and anxious and pressure and all that’s building up. How about the person that has jobs and tasks? You want something in your life to change and so you’re stressing out. “Oh man! It just – the pressure mounts and pressure mounts. Lord, please help me.” He helps you. You go to bed that night. You wake up the next morning. You don’t think twice about it. You don’t say thank you. And what happens? You start stressing out about the next thing. How about the stay-at-home that’s like, “I can’t get through one more day with these kids.” [Laughs] I don’t know if I’m going to make it to the end of the day. Lord, you need to help me or I’m going to kill somebody here by the end of the day. I’m just saying it’s going to happen.” [Laughs] And what does God do? He comes through and He helps you get to the end of the day. You wake up the next morning. You don’t take any time to give thanks. And all of a sudden you start getting stressed and anxious and pressurized for that day. We live way too fast lives to be grateful people. And it is impossible to have a big faith without the spirit of gratitude. It’s impossible, because you never look back to thank Him for what He already has done. So you’re always going to be stressed out and anxious about what is yet to come.

I mean, are you creating space in your life to just give thanks to God for what He has done. A grateful heart will always live a peaceful life. In fact, think about it like this. Gratitude is like the reset button of life. Okay? It’s like the reset button of life. When everything is crazy and out of sorts, gratitude is the button you can press that brings everything back into alignment. It’s like your computer. When it goes crazy and nothing is working and you’ve got the pinwheel of death or the thinking thing that’s happening, I don’t know how you respond. I just go, “Bloop, bloop, reset”, right?

Because I’ve got no idea how to fix the thing, so I’m just going to reset it. It brings everything back into alignment. That’s what gratitude does. No matter how crazy your life is, when you give thanks it brings everything back into alignment. That’s why we worship every week, one of the reasons. Not just singing songs or not just killing time, and if you don’t like the song and you don’t want to sing, then just give thanks. I mean, this morning I don’t think I sang one whole song because I was just giving thanks to God.

“God, thank you for who you are. Thank you for what you’re doing. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your character. Thank you for your love.” I mean, just give Him thanks. What does it do? It brings you back into alignment and presses reset on the day, on the week, on the month, on the year. You strengthen yourself in the Lord. Listen to me. A worshipper cannot be a worrier. A worshipper cannot be a worrier. Why? Because worship will always displace worry. You can be a worshipper or you can be a worrier, but you can’t be both. Matthew 6:33 – “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and everything else will be given to you.” In other words, give Him thanks. Seek Him, worship Him, and all of a sudden you have this peace like and everything else will be taken care of. In fact, when you’re giving thanks, it’s not that God becomes bigger. It’s that God becomes bigger to you, and He starts looking bigger than your circumstances. And catch this. If you become a worshipper, you no longer have to be a worrier.

If you become a worshipper, you no longer have to be a worrier. Why? Because John 16:33 – “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world.” In other words Jesus says, “I’ve already won the victory out there. You start worshipping me. You don’t have to be a worrier anymore. You just step back in here.” Oh my goodness! The battle belongs to the Lord. Lord, you’re going to take care of this. Exodus 15:3 – “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” God’s got this one and you step back and you just worship. Why? Because you just won the battle in here, so now you’re walking in victory out there. Become a worshipper. You don’t have to be a warrior in this life. Some of you are here. That’s all you do, it’s war and battle. You war and battle everyone and everything around you all the time. God is saying, “You can stop fighting. You can put the sword down. You can stop being worried about is your armor okay. Just start worshipping, because the battle belongs to me.”

Listen; Psalm 16:5 and 6 – “You have assigned me my portion and my cup. You have made my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” Okay, do you know what that means? That means in Jesus you have a great life. That’s what that means. In Jesus you have a great life. “The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you”, and yet we don’t believe that, do we? Why? Because we’re too busy peeking over the fence to see what’s going on in our neighbor’s field. Right? What’s he got over there? That’s a nice car.

Or we’re trying to expand our fence, so rearrange what’s inside. “The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you.” That means, within your boundary lines the life you have right now – Ephesians 1:3 is true – “You have been blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” In your boundary lines right now, that’s where the abundant life resides. It’s not in your neighbor’s field or in changing your boundary. It’s right what you’ve got in your boundary lines. It is finished. You don’t have to work or earn or approve or strive anymore with God.

In the boundary lines – that’s where the freedom of the Lord is in the boundary lines. You are a co-heir with Christ. What does Christ have? Come on, what does Christ have? Everything! And if you’re a co-heir with him, it means you have everything in your boundary lines. Everything! I know some of you are looking at me right now and you’re like, “Then why do I smell manure in my field?

It’s just called fertilizer.

Listen; God loves you. He wants you to flourish, so He will put a little fertilizer on the garden every now and then [Laughs].

To make things grow. Or you’re thinking, “Man, who do I got that rain cloud rolling in?” Because every field needs water, so God is going to water your field [Laughs], so it will grow and flourish. That’s why James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers”, when he faced trials of any kind, because God is spreading fertilizer on your field that you will grow and flourish and become everything he’s called you to be. Listen, some of you need to hear this right now.

In your boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you. If you’re thinking about giving up on your marriage, the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you. If you’re thinking about giving up on your kid, the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you. If you’re stressed out and you think you need a different job or different circumstances, God says, “The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for you”, as they lie right now. And so you have a choice to make. Am I going to give more authority to what God has said or to how I feel? What has more authority in your life? What He has said or how you feel? And while our feelings are real, our feelings often don’t accurately depict the truth. Some of you are hurting today and your feelings are real. I’m not questioning your feelings in any way, shape or form. I’m just saying sometimes I know my feelings don’t accurately depict the truth. This is where faith comes into play.

Hebrews 11:1 – “Faith is being sure of what I hope for, certain of what I do not see.” In those moments that’s where you just start giving thanks and you say, “God, I can’t see it, but I’m going to choose to give thanks anyways.” “God, I’m not really sure what’s happening here, but I’m going to give you thanks. I’m going to give you thanks for what I do see and the good things that are there. I’m going to give you thanks for who you are and how you’re moving in my life. I’m going to start giving thanks for what you’re going to do in advance before He even does it.” Start changing your prayers from “God, I need you to meet my needs” – to how about, “God, thank you that you are going to meet my needs.” How about instead of “God, I need you to rescue my marriage?” – say, “God, thank you that you are going to rescue my marriage, and I’m going to thank you in advance before you’ve even moved on my behalf and my family’s behalf.” Start thanking him for what He is going to do. When you start getting grateful for what is, you will no longer be consumed with what isn’t. Every person who is consumed with what is not currently in their life, it’s because they’re not grateful for what is currently in their life. Boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places. In fact, let me ask you to you like this. When in life are you the strongest?

When in life do you feel or are you, do you think you are the strongest? Here’s what I think we would say. I think we would say we’re the strongest when we’re in control, when life is perfect, when we’re achieving and performing, and self-made and totally independent. We don’t need anyone or anything else. Okay, do you understand that’s when you’re the weakest in life? You are the strongest in this life when you’re overflowing with gratitude. It’s when you’re the absolute strongest in this life is when you’re overflowing with gratitude. Satan cannot defeat a grateful person. In fact, have you ever met a defeated, grateful person? Have you? Because I want to meet him. Seriously, I’ve never met one. I’ve been thinking about this all week. I’ve never met a defeated, grateful person. Why? Because when you’re grateful you can’t be defeated. No circumstance can come into your life to defeat you because you’re already grateful. You know that He is good and His love endures forever. So you rise above everything.

You see, the reason you’re the strongest when you’re overflowing with gratitude is because gratitude is the natural response of the heart that’s receiving from Jesus. It’s the heart that’s receiving his grace, his mercy, his love, his forgiveness, his Holy Spirit, his provision. Paul says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” In other words Paul says, “It’s in my weakness I’m ready to receive His strength. It’s in my sin I receive his righteousness. It’s in my failure I receive His victory. It’s in my desperation I receive His hope.” In fact, Romans 5:17 says it like this – “How much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through one man, Jesus Christ!” How much more will those who receive reign in this life? You want to know when you’re the strongest? It’s when you’re ruling and reigning with Jesus. And when does that happen? When we receive his abundant provision of grace and gift of righteousness. And what’s the natural response? To be overflowing with gratitude.

Let me try to illustrate it for you like this. Let’s say, you owe $100 million of debt. Okay? Can we all agree that’s a bad day?
That would be like David’s bad day here in 1st Samuel 30. It’s a bad day. It doesn’t matter how you got it. You owe $100 million of debt. And it’s starting to cave in on you. People are coming to collect. They’re trying to do all kinds of things to you. I mean, it’s just life is falling apart. And so one day service is over, you’re leaving, you’re walking through the parking lot, and a man in the parking lot walks up to you and he hands you a folded piece of paper. And you reach out and you take it, and you open it up and it’s a check for $1 billion. Okay? That’s a really good day.

How are you going to respond? You’re going to freak out. You’re going to start jumping around like, “Oh my goodness! Oh, my goodness, how did you know? How did you know about this? Thank you so much! You have no idea this is going to pay off my debt and I’ll be able to bless all these people. It’s going to change my whole family and the trajectory of my life.”

And you’re going to hug the guy and kiss him. You don’t even know him, but you don’t care. You’re going to hug him and you kiss him. You couldn’t care what anybody else thinks walking around in the parking lot. You’re just going to be jumping up and down. [Laughs] “Oh my goodness!” Overflowing with gratitude. And if you get in the car and you drive home and you get a flat tire and it’s raining outside, you’re still jumping around [Laughs] in the rain with a flat tire, because you just got something you could have never got yourself. Now, let’s say you’re that same person. You owe $100 million of debt. You’re walking through the parking lot. Same man walks up to you and tries to hand you a folded piece of paper. And you look at him and you say, “No thanks. I’m good. Me and my family, we got this figured out. We’re working on a payment plan. It’s going to take me 8500 lifetimes.”

“But I’m well on my way to get into my goal for this lifetime. So we’re good. We’re self-made. We’re dependent upon no one or nothing. We will figure this out and we will make it happen.” And you walk away. Okay, first of all let’s just say you’re dumb.

Just put that out there, so we all agree on that one.

Is there any way you can create a sense of gratitude in your heart towards that person? No. Why? Because you never received anything, and it’s impossible to be grateful if you haven’t received anything in the first place. So there’s no – you can’t manipulate your heart enough to be grateful, because you didn’t receive anything. Now let’s say there’s a third person. You owe $100 million of debt. You’re walking through the parking lot. A man walks up to you with a folded piece of paper, reaches out and he gives it to you. You take it and you say thank you, and you stick it right in your pocket. You never open it up. So you don’t know what it says. You just say thank you and you put it in your pocket. And because you have no idea what’s on it, you will say the words thank you but you’re certainly not living with a heart of gratitude. So there’s a huge difference between saying thank you and being grateful.

Matthew 15:8 – Jesus says, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” In other words, these people have received something from me, but they have no idea what it is that I’ve given them. It’s like a folded up piece of paper in their pocket. They have no idea what they really have. So they say thank you, but there’s no gratitude bubbling up and overflowing out of their heart. And I tell you this story to illustrate this to you, because here’s the reality. Gratitude is the natural response from the heart that receives from Jesus. Gratitude is the indicator in your life to tell you if you’re fully and freely receiving everything Jesus has given you. And I’m telling you, what he is offering you is better than a check for $1 billion. Some of you are like, “I’d take the billion.” Okay.

Come on! Jesus is offering you salvation, an eternity in abundance, in freedom, in destiny, in purpose, in kindness, in a co-heir, and co-ruler, co-labor. I mean, the Holy Spirit of the Living Go power and his presence. I mean, what he is offering you is so much better than $1 billion.

And gratitude is the determiner, the indicator in your heart to let you know whether or not you’ve opened up that check and actually received it. He who has been forgiven much loves much. Can’t help but respond that way. Freely you have received; freely give. You can’t give thanks if you haven’t first freely received. Gratitude is acknowledging your dependence on Him. It’s saying He did something for you, you could never do for yourself. And while that may be considered weakness in the kingdom of this world, that is the pinnacle of strength in the kingdom of God. And so my question for you is this. What does your gratitude level today tell you about how you’re receiving from Jesus? Because they’re totally related. Gratitude is the natural response of a heart that receives from Jesus. Which means the reverse is true. Grumbling is the natural response of a heart that resists Jesus.

And so any and every place that you’re grumbling in your life right now, you’re resisting Jesus. You’re grumbling about your marriage, you’re resisting Him in that area. You’re grumbling about a circumstance, you’re resisting Him in that area. You’re grumbling about finances, you’re resisting Him in that area. You’re grumbling about a situation with a group of people, you’re resisting Him in that area. And here’s something that I want you to catch. It’s if you ever get annoyed by someone else’s worship, what you need to remember is they just realized they got a billion dollar check. So they’re going to be jumping around all day long. So just understand that you’re walking through the parking lot and they don’t really care, because they just figured out –

– what they got. And if you ever reverse it, if you ever wonder why somebody isn’t worshipping, it’s because they either didn’t take it or they’ve never opened it up. It’s in their pocket, but they have no idea what they have.

Listen; gratitude is the pathway to strength. Can I real quickly just link three verses together for you to pull this all together? This is quick. I think this is helpful, okay? Gratitude is the pathway to strength. Let me pull this whole thing together. Psalm 100, Verse 4 – It says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” In other words, gratitude is the key to entering the presence of God. Gratitude is the thing that draws us into the presence of God. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” Gratitude is about our awareness of Him; not His acceptance of us. Okay? Giving thanks doesn’t mean all of a sudden God says now He will accept you. Giving thanks means you’re now aware of Him. It’s like a kid at Christmas, right? They can be in the room running around, playing, and not paying any attention to you, but the moment you give them a present and they open it up, the gratitude causes them to jump into your lap, to hug you, to kiss you.

Grandparents know this really, really well. Right? Why? Because gratitude will always cause the receiver to seek the giver. Think of the 10 lepers in Luke 17, right? I love the language. It says, “They stood afar off from Jesus and cried out, ‘Master, have pity on us.’” I think a lot of us, we stand far away from Jesus and we say, “Jesus, please change our circumstances. We don’t need anything – just change our circumstances and we’ll be good.” And what does Jesus do? Because he knows kindness leads us to repentance he says, “Okay, go show yourselves to the priest.” It says, “As they went they were healed.” And when they were healed, nine of them went back to their lives and only one, when he realized he was healed, turned around, ran, got on his knees, grabbed Jesus and thanked him, it says. Jesus says, “Rise and go. Your faith has made you well.” In other words, it was gratitude that brought him into the presence of God. Nine men saw Jesus from afar. The only one who got into the presence was the one who gave thanks.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” So gratitude will bring you into the presence of God. Okay? That’s Psalm 100, Verse 4. Psalm 16, Verse 11 – just link these with me – it says, “In his presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 100, Verse 4 – “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” Okay? Gratitude brings us in his presence. Psalm 16, Verse 11 –“In his presence is fullness of joy.” In other words, when we’re aware of his presence we’re overcome with joy. It’s where you know you’re fully known, fully loved with no fear of rejection. It’s where you discover who he is and find out who you know are. It’s where you believe you are forgiven and loved and wanted and accepted, which some of you – this is the only place in your life where you ever feel that and you get into his presence. It’s where heaven comes to earth. It’s where everything is made right. It’s like Mary, after Jesus’ death and crucifixion, she is devastated. It’s the worst day of her life. She is standing in the garden, crying, sobbing, and all of a sudden the resurrected Jesus appears to her. And she cries out, “Rabboni!”

In other words, the presence of God overcame her with the fullness of joy. In his presence is fullness of joy. And one more – Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” When we’re in His presence and we’re overcome with joy, that joy becomes our strength. All of a sudden we’re like, “Man, God is with me. You can say or do whatever you want. God is with me.” He is not just with me. He is for me. The battle belongs to Him. He is my mighty strong tower. He is my fortress and my refuge. This confidence rises up inside of you. The joy of the Lord is your strength. You see, gratitude is the pathway to strength. Back it up – Nehemiah 8:10 – “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” You want to strengthen yourself in the Lord? Okay, this says you need joy. Where do I get joy? Psalm 16:11 – “In his presence is fullness of joy.” Not just the little joy; fullness of joy.

Okay, good. Presence – then where do I get his presence? Psalm 100, Verse 4 – “Enter his gates with thanksgiving.” Gratitude is the onramp to a lifestyle in the pathway of strength. Gratitude opens the door for what’s already yours in the first place. An ungrateful heart will always live a defeated life. You will never be strong until you can first learn to be grateful. 1st Thessalonians 5:18 – “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We think God’s will is who we should marry, what job we should take, what house we should live in, what city we should move to. Yes, but it’s a lot simpler than that. It’s just to give thanks in all circumstances. Why? It’s not because He needs it. It’s because His motive is love and He wants you to be free. And He knows gratitude is the pathway to strengthening yourself in Him.

What if every time life starts to fall apart you, like David, stop to give thanks? I’ll acknowledge right now. It’s like the hardest thing to do. Look, I don’t want to do it most of the time. I want to complain about my circumstances. I want to grumble. Do you understand that the spirit of grumbling can only be displaced by the spirit of gratitude? It’s not a spirit that you can bind, rebuke, or cast out. It’s a posture of the heart. It has to be displaced by gratitude. And so what if when life is falling apart you stopped and you just started to give thanks? You just started to say, “God, thank you, that you’re going to meet all my needs according to your glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” “God, thank you, that I can be confident of this. I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. God, thank you, that you will never leave me nor forsake me.” You will be amazed that how fast you start to strengthen yourself in the Lord by just giving thanks. And so here’s what we’re going to do together today.

We’re going to apply our message right now and strengthen ourselves and take communion together. Okay? So our ushers are going to come forward to start passing out the elements, and here’s what I’d ask. Just put your stuff on the ground for a moment. Just be still for a few more minutes, because if you engage with God right now you’re going to walk out of here strong in the Lord. As the elements come by, this is for anyone and everyone who has put their faith in Jesus. And maybe today is your day for that where you reach out to grab a hold of his forgiveness and his love for you. But here’s what I want you to do. As the elements come to you, I just want to invite you to give Him thanks. Where do you need to just give thanks right now? Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do, to slow down and just have a posture of gratitude.

And here’s how I would challenge you. Don’t just honor Him with your lips. Let your heart be close to Him. Thank you, Lord, for my marriage. Thank you, Lord, for my friends. Thank you, God, for my health. Thank you, God, for your provision. Thank you, Lord, that I’m alive and here today. But just as we say I can be alive and free in you. Thank you, Lord, for forgiveness and redemption, for mercy and kindness, for faithfulness. Thank you, that you are my strong tower, that you are my mighty warrior, that you have not left me nor forsaken me. Thank you, Lord, that the boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me right now as they lie.

Can you just give Him thanks? Tune out those circumstances and tune in to His goodness. Holy Spirit, come. Holy Spirit, move. Holy Spirit, may we encounter you. Where have you been grumbling, complaining, criticizing, whining? That’s an area; just repent to the Lord. Say, “Lord, I repent that I’ve been grumbling in these areas, negative, complaining.” – whatever it may be. “I’ve been weakening myself in the circumstances. I repent. I choose to change my mind and change my life in the way I’m going. And I look to you and I give you thanks.”

Because you are good and your love endures forever. And as you’re giving Him thanks right now, you’re getting on the pathway, the highway of strength, because it’s gratitude that leads you to presence, presence that releases joy, and joy that empowers strength. You see, if you even think of Jesus at the Last Supper, he was sitting there and it said, “When he had given thanks, he broke the bread and said, “This is my body”, and passed it out to his disciples.” I don’t know about you, but if I was Jesus and I was about to go to the cross, I think I would have looked at the 12 disciples and I would have said, “Guys, it’s time for you to give me thanks for what I’m about to do.”

“You have no idea where I’m going or what’s about to happen. So give me thanks that I’ll be strong.” No, that would have just weakened Jesus. Instead, he gave thanks. And he looked at Judas in the eyes and he broke bread, which was going to represent the tearing of his body. He poured out the cup, which was going to represent the pouring out of his blood for the forgiveness of your sins. And it was all because he gave thanks that made him aware of the presence of the Father. Presence of the Father filled him with joy, and that joy strengthened him, to be strong in the Lord and walk forward with God in victory in this life. On the night the Lord Jesus was betrayed after he had given thanks, he took the bread and he said, “This is my body broken for you. Do this is remembrance of me.”

After you have given thanks to him, lets receive this wholeness together. And in the same way after the supper Jesus took the cup saying, “This is the cup of the new covenant – my blood which is going to be poured out for you. I’m going to be poured out so that you can be poured into.” In other words, it’s in your weakness you will receive my strength. Can you receive the strength of the Lord together in this moment? So Lord Jesus, right now in this place we choose to strengthen ourselves in you. We give you thanks. Do you feel strong? Do you feel strengthened? Did you press reset and get your eyes off the circumstances and get your eyes on his goodness? Because he is here and he is in this place.

So Lord, we thank you and we worship you, and we give you gratitude from our hearts, because you have given us a check that’s worth more than $1 billion. You’ve changed it all, Lord.

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