Gratitude is A Choice

Sermon for November 15, 2016


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I begin this morning with the reading of Colossians 3:15-17


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.


Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  


 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


My focus is on verse 16:


Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.


And my focus on this verse is on one word – gratitude.


These first seventeen verses of this chapter are one of my favorite segments of scripture. One reason is that these verses constitute the text from which I wrote my very first sermon 37 years ago next month at the age of 22. The title of that sermon was “What does it mean to do the will of God?”


The second reason is that these final three verses all have a similar theme.


Gratitude, thankfulness, giving thanks.


Suitable for this time of year as we are coming up on thanksgiving. But also suitable, and necessary, for everyday of the year.


I believe that this passage of scripture tells us that gratitude is a choice.


Several years ago, Marelisa Fabrega wrote this about the importance of gratitude:


Gratitude means thankfulness, counting your blessings, noticing simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a miracle, and being aware on a continuous basis of how much you’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present. In addition, behavioral and psychological research has shown the surprising life improvements that can stem from the practice of gratitude.


“Giving thanks makes people happier and more resilient, it strengthens relationships, it improves health, and it reduces stress.”


If we say we are Christians, we need to be grateful people…when it is easy and when it is not. When life is good and when life is not. When we are experiencing peace and when we feel like we are in a blender. An attitude of gratitude and the practice of gratitude are essential if we are going to live as people of faith, hope, and love.


Gratitude is a choice.


But gratitude is also an attitude and a practice. Our main text and its context are a case in point.


Verse 15 tells of gratitude as an attitude which is a choice to live and think a certain way. We choose our attitudes.


When the toilet paper runs out on the roll and the extra roll that we keep near it is gone… It’s horrible, isn’t it?


When the empty milk cartons are still in the refrigerator and a bowl full of corn flakes is waiting in anticipation…It gets ugly…


We choose our attitudes.


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.


Paul says to the Christians at Colossae “do these things. Choose to do these things.”


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts….


You were called to peace


Be thankful


Is there a link between peace and gratitude?


Yes there is!


Notice the progression of Paul’s statement…


We are to let Christ’s peace rule in our hearts.


Who’s peace? Christ’s peace…


And the peace of Christ does what?


Well in Romans 5:1 we read


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,


In Philippians 4:7 we read


And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


And Jesus himself said in John 14:27


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


And then there is the Fruit of the Spirit


Love, joy, peace…


So peace, Christ’s peace, a peace which is qualitatively different from the peace which human culture seeks, matters in this attitude and practice of gratitude. Paul makes this clear in verse 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts


But is peace the chicken or the egg in its relation to gratitude?


Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has written on this matter these wise words:


If we were sitting across the table from each other, you could tell me what’s stealing your peace right now without having to think hard… We know that we can and should pray about these matters. But praying is not all that we can and should do. “Do not be anxious about anything,” the apostle Paul wrote, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).


To put it even more simply: In every situation … prayer plus thanksgiving equals peace.


When prayer teams up with gratitude, when we open our eyes wide enough to see God’s mercies even in the midst of our pain, and when we exercise faith and give Him thanks even when we can’t see those mercies, He meets us with His indescribable peace. It’s a promise.


So, I suggest this morning, that for gratitude to be part of our daily mindset (attitude) and practice, the peace of Christ must be a part of our lives and that requires, as Wolgemuth notes, obedience to God’s will.


Now, let’s move to verse 16, our main verse for this morning…


Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.


Now, the word gratitude appears toward the end of this verse. Which leads me to ask, is it because gratitude is formed as we do these things listed in this verse – teaching and admonishing and singingor that gratitude must underlie these things as we do them?


Or is gratitude part of these other things – the teaching, admonishing, and singing?


My answer is all of the above. In this chapter, Paul lays out a very clear vision of what Christian living is to be. It is a demanding list. It is lists attitudes and behaviors that those who follow Christ are to incorporate. And at the end of this segment, this list, he includes gratitude as part of what they are to exhibit.


But in this verse, verse 16, let me suggest that showing gratitude comes as the message of Christ dwells in us. And what is the message of Christ? The New American Standard Bible translates this verse as follows:


Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.


The word translated as word or message is logos which is the same word that John uses in chapter one of his gospel:


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.


Who is John talking about? Jesus Christ.


So the word of Christ, the message of Christ, is Jesus Himself.


The Christian faith as we know is centered who Jesus Christ is, the one and only perfect, without sin, Son of God who was arrested, tried, crucified, and praise God, risen from the dead!


Shouldn’t this make us grateful? That we gather for worship on Sunday to worship a God who has made it possible for us to be forgiven? That what He offers us can give us hope?


Finally let’s look at verse 17:


And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.


Paul wraps up this segment of the chapter with a summative statement. Whatever you do, do it all in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God the Father though him.


Now I remind us that prior to verses 15-17, Paul makes clear that there are certain ways of living that are not God honoring and needs to be change. But, what Paul is saying here is that if you are truly following the Jesus, everything you do and say must reflect that and it includes giving thanks, being grateful, having an attitude of gratitude…to Christ.


So, gratitude is an important part of our faith. Being grateful is a must these days. Yes we are to be grateful because the Bible says we are to be grateful to the Lord for all that we have from Him. But there are some other sources who have found that gratitude has benefits to our well-being.


The Fabrega article I referred to earlier also said this:


“Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being. The study split several hundred people into three different groups and all of the participants were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the events that occurred during the day without being told specifically to write about either good or bad things; the second group was told to record their unpleasant experiences; and the last group was instructed to make a daily list of things for which they were grateful.”


The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.


Fabrega also notes

“Dr. Emmons’ research shows that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system, and have stronger social relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. He further points out that “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”


Gratitude matters in our faith and relationship to the Lord and it matters to our mental and emotional health and well-being, two things which are related to one another. It also matters in our daily lives.


So gratitude matters.


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And I want to suggest a couple things as to the practice of gratitude in our daily lives:


  1. We practice gratitude when we come to worship. Why do we worship? Because the practice of coming together to worship the Lord is not just Biblically correct, it is also necessary to grow in our faith. We need to come together and worship the Lord on a regular basis. We also gain gratitude as we worship because worship should and must help us recognize the blessings we have been given, especially God’s great grace.


  1. We practice gratitude when we give to the church and others our resources – time, abilities and gifts, and money. Good giving – to serve, to share what we have, to give faithfully – these need to come out of a grateful heart. Paul wrote, in the context of money to be sure, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


But this cheerful giving, this grateful giving, is not just a money issue it is also a whole person issue. Grateful and cheerful giving of our time and our abilities is an act of gratitude. And I have found that as I give of my time, abilities, and money that gratitude grows within me as well.


  1. At the end of the day, write down three things that you were grateful for that day. Maybe one of them will be “that I got through this day!” But start paying attention to what you are grateful for.


  1. Be grateful when all you can give is “five loaves and two fishes.” Practice gratitude like the widow who Jesus observed in the temple during the final week of his life “gave all she had.” Gratitude is easy to practice when we have much but when time, money, our patience is tight and being tested, gratitude is much harder.


Have you ever stopped to consider how the little boy felt when he saw the results of giving Jesus his five loaves and two fishes?



As we enter this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us be thankful and let us give the gift of gratitude and thankfulness as well.






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