Monday, April 8, 2013

A thankful heart prepares the way.. A Thankful Heart * A key to overflowing joy!

The Lord has shown me recently how important and vital a thankful heart is to our spiritual health. This sounds very elementary, but there is much to be learned here! This teaching was broken up into three parts because it is so long:
1. How God sees a thankful heart & Even when things fell apart
2. The seriousness of unthankfulness & Symptoms of an unthankful heart
3. How to become thankful

God has been prompting me to write this teaching for some time now, and now I know why! The Lord has revealed to me how a thankful heart can change the whole way you see life! It is a flood-gate opener to blessings, joy peace and all sorts of goodness. With thankful hearts, we can even touch the very heart of God, and King David even told us that when we approach God, enter into His gates with thankful hearts!
Psalms 100:4, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name."
I mean it when I say that developing a thankful heart can revolutionize the quality and enjoyment of one's life!

How God sees a thankful heart

Let's say that you had a grandson, and you went out and built him the best backyard playground in town. You spent thousands of dollars on it, and invested countless hours to put this together. When you're all done, you walk your grandson into the back yard to show him to new surprise. He first screams with excitement and then he cries because he thinks of how wonderful of a grandpa he has, and gives you the biggest hug you've ever received. Then for the next month, he can't stop playing in his new playground and continually thanks you up and down for such a wonderful gift. Wouldn't that make you feel good inside for blessing him in such a way? You would probably want to run out and do it all over again, just because he loved it so much and was so thankful for everything you did.

Now consider if you went through all that work and spend all that money, only to have your grandson go jump on the swing a few times and leave, and act as if you haven't invested a dime in it. Never once did he show any appreciation, or thankfulness for all you've done. Wouldn't that make you feel awful? Wouldn't that make it hard for you to continue blessing him in the future?

How do you think God feels, when He's done so much for us (He made us, gave us such wonderful bodies and minds, then when we messed up, He sent His son to die for us, etc.), and then we go throughout the day not even stopping to think about all He's done for us? We're too busy taking our children to the baseball game, watching TV, and countless other things... that we don't even stop to think about all God's done for us. How do you think that makes God feel? Do you think He gets overwhelmed with joy, and can't wait to send us more blessings? If you were in His position, would you feel that way? Wouldn't you want your people to be thankful for the goodness and blessings you have showered upon them?

When we are thankful for the goodness of God in our lives, it touches the very heart of God and encourages Him to shower even more blessings upon us. A thankful heart is truly a floodgate to the blessings and goodness of God in our lives!
Psalms 37:4, "Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."

Even when things fell apart!

A couple really neat stories in the Bible stand out to me when the subject of thankfulness is brought up. One is when Paul and Silas were cast into prison, but instead of grumbling... can anybody tell me what they were upto? Let's see...
"And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." (Acts 16:25)
Now if you ask me, few of us have circumstances like Paul and Silas had to complain about. But instead of complaining, they lifted their hands to the Lord with thankful hearts and began to sing praises! Why? Because they took what Jesus said literally when He told them...

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." (Matthew 5:11)
They were taking God's Word seriously, and praising God despite the physical (here and now) circumstances... shouldn't we be doing the same thing today when things turn black around us?

So what happened to Paul and Silas and their reservations at the local prison? Let's find out...
"And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed." (Acts 16:26)

Their praises during that time touched the very heart of God, and as a result, the very ground the prison was on shook with an earthquake and they were loosed!! All I can say is... WOW! I guess you could say that their singing out in praises in the face of despair touched the very heart of God! My question to you is, would God not be touched by our praises today? Would He not do the same thing for us today that He did for them?
Another powerful story of thankfulness is the story of Joseph. God gave him visions of his brothers bowing before him, but on the earthly plane he was sold into slavery. Did he once complain? Did he once turn his back on God? He was even offered sex by the wife of Potiphar, and turned his back on sin for the sake of doing what was right! So then what happened? She lied about him and had him threw into prison! Come now, how many of us are in such positions? This man was a beautiful man of God, putting His walk with God above everything in life, and yet he was sold into slavery, then cast into prison? If anybody has a place to grumble, I think it ought to be him! But he had his mind so much on the goodness and promises of God, that it didn't even phase him! What happened? God promoted him to an extremely high position in the government, and was put in charge of the food (the #1 need of the land) during a famine!

The seriousness of unthankfulness

An unthankful heart is found in somebody who doesn't appreciate the things that God has given them. Each one of us have been given more than we'll ever know, so there are no excuses for God's children to be unthankful! Unthankfulness is looking at the negative, despite the positive.
God's Word even tells us how people can be given over to homosexuality and all sorts of uncleanliness because they were unthankful:
Romans 1:21,26-27, "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened... For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet."

Symptoms of an unthankful heart

People who are unthankful will naturally have negative personalities, find it easy to complain about little things, or easily become moody. Their minds aren't deeply rooted and grounded in a positive or thankful pattern of thinking, therefore when something comes up that pushes their buttons, they quickly forget about the goodness that God has blessed them with, and begin to complain and grumble in their hearts. This brings about a negative/pessimistic personality or mood. This explains the Israelites when they would go about complaining, even after God has delivered them from the hands of their enemies. In Numbers, we are told of how the Israelites were grumbling over the manna that God was giving them every morning when they woke up, so finally God gave them meat alright... so much that they were vomiting it out of their noses!

Numbers 11:18-20, "And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the LORD which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?"

They were unthankful for what God hath done for them when He brought them out of Egypt, and complained about the food that He was miraculously providing for them. He even said that through complaining, they had despised the Lord their God!! As a result, He gave them all the meat they could handle until it was coming out of their noses and was loathsome unto them.

Unthankful people are known to be bitter or unforgiving towards themselves, God or other people. In Matthew 18, we see a picture of the unthankful servant who was forgiven of a great debt, but could not forgive his fellow servant of a much smaller debt. If a person is bitter or hold things against others, then it shows us that they are unthankful for what God has done for them.

Matthew 18:32-35, "Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
If we don't want to be called "O thou wicked servant" on judgment day, then it is a 100% necessity that we forgive those who have offended us. The Bible is even clear that if we don't love one another (and bitterness is proof of hatred), then we are abiding in spiritual death:

1 John 3:14, "...He that loveth not his brother abideth in death."
Unthankful people are always looking down upon themselves or suffer from low self-esteem. God's Word tells us that we have been created in the very image of God, and knit together by the hands of God in our mother's womb, and when we see ourselves as failures, we are in turn being unthankful for the person that God has made us. If we see ourselves as ugly, then we are claiming that God's creation (our bodies) are ugly. Would you walk up to God and dare tell Him that something He made was ugly? I should hope not! But that's what we do every time we look at ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves as ugly. The same is true with our minds and intelligence. Despite the vast amount of technology we have today, to create a computer processor chip that will do millions of transactions in mere seconds, yet weighs no more than a quarter, there's nothing that man has created that will even come close to the complexity of the human brain. Far too often, we take lightly the wonderful and dynamic gift that God has given us when we consider ourselves dumb or less than brilliant! Each one of us were created in the very image of God, and gifted in many ways, and it is a crying shame when we refer to ourselves as anything less than downright amazing!

Unthankful people are never satisfied with what they have been given, but always want more. This is an obvious sign of an unthankful heart. Greed is a sin that causes us to become unthankful for the things that God has blessed us with. When we become greedy, we are thinking about things we don't have, rather than things we do have.

Unthankful people don't take care of the things God has given them. Those who are thankful for the good things that God has given them will take good care of those things, whether it be their mind, car, body, spouse, children, job, etc. Taking good care of the things which God has given us shows Him that those things mean something to us and we are thankful for them. Not that we ever should worship the things God gives us, but we should take good care of them.

All of these symptoms should not be found in our lives, but if they exist (and I doubt many of us are immune!), there is something we can do about it. Develop a thankful heart! So the next question is....

How do you become thankful? 

Whatever you think about throughout the day, will affect your whole personality and mood. If you spend your day thinking about golf, you will become a golf fanatic. If you spend your time thinking about traveling, you'll want to always be going somewhere or doing something... you will spend your day daydreaming about being somewhere on vacation.

If you spend your day thinking about the negative things around you and things you can complain about, you will develop a pessimistic personality. It will pull you down, and since pessimism and optimism are opposites, whichever one you allow to feed your mind will eventually push the other one farther and farther away.
One of the vital steps to developing a thankful personality, is to meditate (that is to think about often) the things that you have in your life to be thankful for. Make a list of the things God has done for you, and keep those things on your mind throughout the day. It may take a little more work at first, especially if your mind is programmed to think negatively. This process is the tearing down of strongholds and the renewing of your mind as God's Word tells us:

Romans 12:2, "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

How do we renew our minds? Do we renew them by sitting in church, daydreaming about other things? No, we renew our minds by feeding and meditating on uplifting things (blessings in our lives) and the truth in God's Word. A pastor can help feed us the truth is he or she is preaching the Word of God as the Word was meant to be preached, but it is upto us to take what we hear and allow our minds to feast upon it. Philippines tells us what we are to set our minds upon... which includes the things that are uplifting, lovely, of good report, etc.

Philippines 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

Why are newborn Christians so on fire for God? Because their newborn experience is fresh on their mind... they think about it all the time, and since it's a glorious thing to think about, they are naturally all fired up over their new found relationship with God! The same is true when a person first comes into the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They are on cloud nine, because they are meditating or thinking often about the great gift they have been given! The reason so many Christians lose their fire, is because they've stopped thinking about the wonderful gifts they've been given. We as Christians should continue in this excitement and think often about our relationship with God and the blessings He's given us. If we do that in our everyday lives, we will come into perfect peace:
Isaiah 26:3, "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee."

My challenge to you is to stop and ask yourself, "What have I been thinking about for the past week?" If you want to change the way you perceive things, then you'll have to change the way you think. If you want to develop a thankful heart, then you'll need to meditate and think about the good things God has blessed you with. Even if it seems you have nothing to be thankful for, you have been blessed far beyond those living in the OT era, because of what Jesus has done for YOU! Healing, prosperity, joy, peace, and deliverance are all parts of what Jesus has done for YOU! God's Word tells us that ear hath not heard, nor eye seen the great things that lie ahead for those who love God! Every one of us have a LOT to be thankful for!
1 Corinthians 2:9, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him."

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