*If you have small children what do you say most frequently to them?
*Many possible answers “No!” or “stop”
*But what I hear a lot from parents is… “Say please” & “Say thank you”
*I find the “please” part is easier because it can be coerced from the youngster.
*I can dangle a sucker in front of a child and tempt them with “say please.”
*I can also offer them punishment…”If you don’t say please, you can’t have the sucker.”
*I can always get a “please”…because I can withhold the sucker until I do.
*This is called “operant conditioning”…training for responses through rewards and punishment…works pretty good.
*The “Thank you” part can be a bit trickier…they already have the sucker…I suppose I could snatch the sucker from their little hands and demand “I said, say ‘thank you'”
*But I can’t do that…so I can only plead…”Say thank you” and I am left to their current mood as to whether they will say the magic words.
*But are the words magic? Do they actually do anything other than make us feel like we are being better parents?
*If I coerce a “thank you” are the little ones really being thankful and if not…why do we do it?
*If we have to condition them for thanksgiving, it is really thanksgiving?
*Does teaching youngsters to say “thanks” actually impact their hearts, do they become thankful?
*Evidently we believe the answer is “yes” otherwise why would we so diligently try to elicit the words from their mouths?
*I’ve never heard a parent say to a very little one “Feel thankful.”
*The request is very simple…”Say thank you.”
*But does this actually work in terms of producing “thankful” hearts?
*The answer is, I think…it depends.
*If a child lives in an environment where they are trained through operant conditioning (rewards and punishment) to say “thanks” but that is all they experience then it is unlikely they will come to have thankful hearts.
*However, in most cases I know of…training them to say “thanks” is just one part of a larger strategy their parents employ that is aimed at teaching them to be thankful…not just say “thanks”
*This three part strategy usually involves these three themes:
- Say the words… “thank you”
- Reminding them of the reasons they have to be thankful.
- Modeling the reality of “being thankful” in front of them…show them.
*As children get older parents will sometimes add something to the simple request of “say thank you.”
*They will begin to encourage them with things like this…”be grateful” or “be thankful.”
*Now you have gone from a simple request…”repeat these two words…thank you” …something you do…to something very complex…”Be thankful.”
*This is significant jump…from “doing” to “being”
*Isn’t this what parents are really after…”be thankful…have this kind of heart.”
*Do we really just want our children to grow up and say the “magic words” “please and thank you”…because we have conditioned them with a “carrot and stick” approach?
*Or do we want our children to “be” someone with a certain kind of heart?
*Why do we want that? Because we love them.
*”Because I love you, I want you to be happy…and to be happy…you must learn to ‘be thankful’…to have this kind of heart.
*People who do not learn to be thankful…are not happy, fulfilled people.
*Certainly they do understand how to enjoy and celebrate God.
*Suppose your child falls and scraps his knee and is crying buckets of tears…I hope you don’t quote Romans 8:28, and instruct them on how God will work this out for his good…
“And now say “thank you God” for the good God will bring from that bloody knee!”
*Why not? Because it would be dumb and cruel.
*Because this is very mature thinking…too mature for a child…often too mature for adults.
*So, in order to get to their hearts…we start simple…”Say, thank you” for what is good in their lives…
*Maybe, someday, they will be able to be thankful, even when all is not going well…they will have a thankful heart…they will learn to “be” thankful…even when they don’t feel thankful.
*This is why we tell them “say thank you” whether they feel it or not…because “being” thankful, must be independent of “feeling” thankful.
*What does it mean to have a thankful heart?
*Do I have to feel thankful to be thankful?”
*What does “feeling” thankful even mean?
*What could be some possible factors for feeling thankful?
*Full stomach, good nights sleep, good mood caused by your brain experiencing some feel good natural chemicals: maybe you are enjoying a healthy dose Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin.
*Do I “feel” thankful when things are going well but not when things are going poorly? If so, what does that tell us about “feeling thankful”?
*And if you were to tell someone that they should “feel” thankful…how would you go about telling them do that?
*Is the pursuit of “feeling” thankful the goal, or is the goal to pursue having a thankful heart…to “be thankful”
*”What is the difference; isn’t a thankful “heart” feelings of being thankful?
*In America…the heart is the “feeling” part of you and the brain is the “thinking” part.
*In the Bible, the heart is the seat of the will…it is the thinking, deciding, choosing, believing part of you.
*A thankful heart; ultimately is a heart that chooses to be thankful.
*We tend to think when it comes to heart issues it doesn’t count as much if we have to choose.
*”I don’t want you to have to choose to love me, I want you to just love me.”
*”I don’t want you to choose to be thankful for what I did for you, I just want you to be thankful.”
*The idea is…if we have to choose…if it isn’t “natural” and “reflexive” somehow it’s not real.
*I would like for my heart to be full of thanks no matter what comes my way…I would love to never have to choose to be thankful…because I just am…swimming in gratitude.
*The reality is that now we can “be becoming” thankful people…this requires lots of choosing on the path to being.
*Ultimately, when this life is over…we will fully be what we are now becoming.
*So for now…I think it’s a false distinction between “being” thankful and “choosing” thanks.
*Sometimes you “feel” thankful, sometimes you don’t.
*But at anytime…we can choose to be thankful…this how we “become” thankful people.
*This ongoing choosing is a key part of the process of becoming thankful people.
*So parents…keep telling your children “Say thank you”…but make sure it is a part of a larger strategy.
*Look at Ps 100…a Psalm of being thankful.
Psa. 100:0 A psalm. For giving thanks.
Psa. 100:1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. 3 Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
*Very simple arrangement of this Psalm
- 1,2: Say the words: “Be thankful”
- 3: Here’s why
- 4: Say the words
- 5: Here’s why
- Say the words: 1,2, 4
Shout for joy! Shout=A battle cry.
*The word means sound the “Trumpet”…its like “Charge” towards joy!
*Picture an army where morale is low, fear is creeping through the ranks…then someone, or a few people speak works of courage, or maybe the bugle blows…and then shouts of courage begin to spread through the ranks.
*It started with one or a few and spread to the many.
*This is the Psalmist blowing the horn…to arouse energy, emotion…if not that…then action.
*Don’t like the military analogy…same concept is true for families, work places, sports teams.
*Enthusiasm inspired action is contagious even as morale deadening negativity can be.
*So there is a “trumpet” call to worship…to thanks.
Worship the Lord with gladness (delight).
*Same word used of God’s original life calling on Adam
Gen. 2:15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (Worship and obey)
*Worship is the essential calling of our lives…it is a choice, an ongoing decision.
*Doesn’t mean we are to sit in church and sing songs for a living…it is worship as in Romans 12:3…worship as offering your life to God.
*Here in this Psalm…coming together in a public worship service is part of this life of worship.
*Doing the work of worship.
*This is another area where we believe that if “feelings” of worship are absent then the worship is not authentic.
*But what does that even mean?
*Could you not have great “feelings” and yet be far from God in your life?
*Could you not have terrible feelings and be very close to God?
*There are songs I like better than others…they make me “feel” a certain way…but I’ve seen videos of people crying, eyes closed, hands raised at a Beatles concert.
*The work of worship is the choice of worship…regardless of feeling.
*Work to delight in him…choose to move his way…say the words.
*I have heard it said “Don’t sing this if you don’t mean it.”
*No, we are singing because we believe it but we may be currently having trouble “meaning it”…we sing so our hearts can catch up with our heads.
Enter his gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise:
*Here the stress is on worship, thanksgiving in community.
*Great to walk on a fall day all alone and be thankful…but we are much more susceptible to the whims of our own emotions when we are all by ourselves than when we are in community worship.
*I imagine there are many here in this room who did not wake up feeling full of thanksgiving…some of you did, not all.
*I imagine that “shouts of joy” would be very annoying for some, maybe more than some.
*But…you are here…and you know that being here is better for your soul than not being here.
*Because we are shaped by God through worship together.
*When I first began to walk with God in college…I loved church…I went from near total boredom and dislike of public worship…to a great love for being with others in worship.
*When my church gathered for worship…I was there.
*They could have read the phonebook and though I would have gotten nothing from that…I was being changed by being in the presence of the Saints, worshipping together.
*I don’t understand the language of “I don’t get anything out of it.”
*I do, I always do.
- Here’s why: Verses 3, 5
Know: This word has a broad range from “knowing some facts to the knowing of sexual intimacy.
*When parents tell their kids “say the words”
*They also follow up with the reason…”Say thank you that she shared that toy with you.”
*As the child matures a bit, the parents add some things like…”Say thank you for the way they shared…wasn’t that kind.”
*What just happened…the gift was connected to a quality…kindness.
*Second part of the strategy: “here’s why”
*Say the words…here’s why.
*The Lord is God: he made us, we are his, we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
*The Lord is God…isn’t this like saying “God is God”?
*Lord is Yahweh: the proper name of the one true God.
*God is Elohim: the plural of majesty. Could be used of any person who is great, powerful.
*So the one true God is the majestic one, the powerful one…it is all about him.
*Know that its all, ultimately about him, his glory…know this in your head, embrace this in your heart.
*Know that God is Lord (boss)…he made us, we are his…he has right of ownership…we belong to him.
*But in case this sounds too impersonal…know that God is shepherd…we are the sheep of his pasture.
*The Lord is good, his love endures forever, his faithfulness through all generations.
*This is covenant language here.
*God has initiated relationship with us.
*The God…of trackless space, infinite power and holiness…limitless lifespan…prior to everything else both in priority and in existence.
*This God, has initiated a relationship based on his promises to us…his commitment to us.
*Give thanks for this.
*Jesus sent out 72 of his followers to proceed him to the various towns he was going to visit…to prepare them for his coming and his ministry.
*Later when they returned…they were exited by the display of power they had experienced.
Luke 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” 18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
*This was directed to those 72…its not a universal promise that we can mess with snakes and scorpions and not get hurt.
*It was not telling them to give it a try either…it was symbolic of the reality that as they were obedient the enemy was not going to be allowed to stop them.
*The gospel, promised in Genesis after the fall…where the “seed” of Adam would crush Satan was being fulfilled now in their midst.
*So…Jesus is saying…don’t miss the point here…”Don’t be excited that demons can’t stand up to you…of course they can’t…but its because of me…the covenant promise is being fulfilled.”
*Be thankful…most of all…that I have redeemed you.
*Last week: we looked at ordered hopes.
*Hope fulfilled=cause for thanksgiving.
*Its entirely proper to be thankful for lesser hopes fulfilled…but the anchor for all lesser hopes is our greatest hope…the gospel.
*I am grateful that God has provided this daily bread…the day may come when I am too sick to enjoy a meal…but then the day will come again…when I am enjoying life, meals again in the new created heaven and earth.
*The gospel that the covenant God initiated to save us is the anchor for all lesser hopes
- Say the words
Luke 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” 14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. 15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan. 17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
*I wouldn’t judge the other 9 to be bad people…perhaps in their excitement they forgot to go back…it happens.
*Maybe they were welcomed back into their homes…and enjoying a reunion.
*But one came back…and expressed his thanks.
*It is interesting to notice that the 10 were “cleansed” and the word “cleansed” is used of ceremonial cleansing…they were no longer unclean because of their disease.
*But 1 was told “your faith has made you well”…”well” is a word for that means more than “feel better” it means… “saved, delivered…to be put in right relationship with God.”
*He was not saved by his act of thanksgiving…his faith, Jesus said has saved him.
*His faith was expressed, revealed in his act of thanksgiving.
*Say the words.
*Whether you feel like it or not…say the words.
*We speak out what is in us.
*It is also true that what we say to ourselves…over time…shapes what is in us.
*Say the words…”thank you”
Eph. 5:20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
*We tend to not ask for what we think we have a handle on…so when things are going well, we don’t ask as much.
*We forget our deep and ongoing need… we believe there are times when…”I got this…God I’ll get back to you when I don’t.”
*Likewise…why “thank God” for something he didn’t do?
*A paycheck “I earned”
*A project “I completed”
*Why thank God for a sunrise (isn’t that what the sun does?) or another day to rise (what’s so special about this day…I have to go to work).
*Say the words…we tell our kids that…because we know it has shaping value in their hearts.
*Doesn’t have to be a long prayer…try this…as you move through your week…”Thank you.”
*For many things, through the day, under your breath…say the words…”thank you.”
- Remember the anchor
*Daily, at least…weekly for sure…remember the ultimate hope, the ultimate reason to be grateful.
*The Lord is God…it is all about him.
*And he has made us his people…he has initiated relationship with him.
*Be thankful for the gospel…doesn’t matter much whether you feel thankful…it does matter that we “are learning to be thankful” for the gospel.
III. Learn from others
- Say the words
- Tell them why
- Model for them:
-Children who have multiple role models do better as they grow up.
-7 non-family members who are confirming with their lives, the values of their parents.
*I have addressed it this morning…but in this Psalm we see…”he made us” “we are his”
*It is thanksgiving in public not in private.
*Becoming a thankful person is not 3 easy steps…but 3 key life choices…
- Say the words…it matters…”Thank you”
- Remember why…small things, but especially the anchor for our souls (hopes)
- Immerse yourself in community.
*Prov. 13:20 “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”
*Wise is not smart in proverbs…wisdom is “truth applied to life”
*Truth…who God is, what life is really about.
*Surround yourself with people who are living lives of ongoing reorientation…committed to continually getting back on track.
*Practically what this means is that in my collection of “wise guys”…my battle buddies…we take turns helping each other get back on track.
*Speaking into each others lives, often without even intending to.
*My heart is cold, ungrateful…focused on the negative…and a friend expresses what he is thankful for…and it is that bugle blowing…waking up my heart.
*Do not underestimate the importance of God’s great gift of community.
*Church…was his idea…and he has made us, he knows us.
*So, if you came with a heart of Thanksgiving…we need you, we need to be around you.
*If you came and your heart feels cold…I congratulate you on a good choice…you came.
*Now, let’s spend some time “saying the words.”