An Attitude of Gratitude
Well, good morning church family. It’s so good to be able to live stream. Use technology when we’re in the state that we are today. And I just want you to know that what’s really cool about this is hopefully I stay attentive, but I’m watching all of your comments on live feed. Shout out to everybody that’s online watching us right now, and I love to hear all the things that you’re sharing, your thankfulness and just love for each other. And that’s the question I want to ask you this morning. You can comment below here in our live feed while we’re going through this message together. What are you thankful for? What are you thankful for?
Today we are in an uncertain time. What felt like a few weeks ago, we can look to the end of our year and predict certain things that were going to happen. And today we don’t even know what next week holds. And as I thought about this together one of the things I want to encourage us in is this idea of what the Bible has to say about gratitude. And you think about where we are in history right now and all that’s taking place and the uncertainty that we’re facing. One of the things that I think we could really use as people is this thought of gratitude and what the Bible says about gratitude.
And the reason I talk about gratitude is because gratitude is closely linked to hope. When you read this in scripture, you’ll find that God’s word says that God’s people are called to be people of both. People of hope and people of gratitude. 1 Peter 3:15 says, always be prepared to give an account for the hope that’s in you.
Or 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, give thanks in all circumstances. Thanks is this idea of gratitude. The Biblical Counseling Coalition published an article called, “Gratitude Builds Hope.” And they looked at this word gratitude and they saw how it closely connects to this idea of hope for us. They say this in their article, the article of Gratitude Builds Hope. They without gratitude, we will feel hopeless, because hope and gratitude are closely connected. You can’t have one without the other. Gratitude builds hope. And when you think about moments like today, we could ask ourselves, well, how in the world can I have gratitude? There’s this uneasiness over jobs or health, or maybe you’ve watched the stock market. The idea of gratitude isn’t about ignoring the trouble that we’re currently in, but rather I think the biblical approach to gratitude helps us put it in perspective.
Gratitude is important, especially in the lives of believers. Gratitude in fact is contagious. You think of the alternative of what gratitude is. And I often picture Eeyore. You think Winnie the Pooh and his friend Eeyore, if you call it a friend, what kind of person Eeyore is. Well, he is the opposite of hope and gratitude. But when you find someone that is filled with gratitude, even despite circumstances, they might have gratitude. It is a contagious thing to be around. And so when you think in terms of gratitude, one of the passages of the Bible my heart leans toward is Psalm 136 and that’s where we’re going to be this morning. In Psalm 136.
What makes Psalm 136 such a powerful passage of scripture is it’s at the end of the Psalm. Psalms has 150 Psalms. It’s encapsulated in this series of Psalms all about thankfulness. If you started in Psalm 135 all the way to Psalm 150, you’ll see this idea of celebration and thanks and gratitude towards God. But Psalm 136, most particularly, is a Psalm written right after the Babylonian captivity when Israel’s leaving Babylon and they’re going back to their promised land and the rebuilding. And they have gone through a lot together. They’ve seen loved ones die, they’ve lost their earthly goods, they were carried away as slaves. Now they’re coming back and into the land with certainly less than what they had before. And yet in the midst of that, they write Psalm 136. A Psalm of gratitude.
This Psalm is seen as such a Psalm of gratitude that rabbis refer to this as the Great Hallel. Which means, the word Hallel is hallelujah. Out of all of the Psalms, Psalm 136 is the great hallelujah song. And so this is a wonderful song for us when we consider the idea of how we can have gratitude. To begin to fathom what God has for us in Him as we celebrate through this Psalm together. As we ask the question, how can I have gratitude at a moment like this?
So let me ask you this morning, this key question I want to start with. How would you finish this sentence? Give thanks to the Lord because. Give thanks to the Lord because. Is your gratitude and thankfulness, is it based on possessions? Is it based on positions? Is it based on popularity? Is it based on people? I don’t think those are wrong reasons to have a thankfulness. Ultimately God is the giver of all good things. And there could be a thankfulness for the things that we have, for the positions we carry, for the people around us. Certainly you can be thankful for those things. But if you put your ultimate hope in them, you’ll be disappointed.
The reason for that is those things were never intended to last. They fade. Possessions fade, positions fade. Possessions and popularity and people. It can all fade. Gratitude based on temporary pleasures will only last for a temporary time. On top of that, you can even consider there are plenty of people in this world that may not have much but their heart is full of gratitude. How do we have gratitude? Well, the Psalmist gives us two reasons that he starts in Psalm 136 and I really want to just focus on these two ideas. And the rest of the Psalm becomes an example to us as to this thought that the Psalmist carries for us in the very first verse. The psalmist gives two reasons why we should have gratitude. It says in Psalm 136:1, if I summarize these two points for us, we give thanks to the Lord, one because God is good. And two, because His love endures forever.
Psalm 136:1 says that. Give things to the Lord because or give things to the Lord for and his answer for he is good. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever. Now, you look at those two answers and you might say to yourself, you know, I’ve heard this before, right? But the question for us is how do those simple phrases lead us to gratitude? How are these thoughts what stirs within us this heart of thankfulness and celebration towards God despite any circumstance that we face? How does this build hope? Give thanks to the Lord for his good, his steadfast love endures forever.
Well, let me reverse the thought for us and just consider it this way. What are two reasons we lack gratitude? What are two reasons we struggle to find gratitude? If you take what the Psalmist is saying, you just consider for a moment maybe the antithesis of these statements. We lacked gratitude when a gift is not wanted or needed. Or at least we don’t recognize it for what it is. So what I’m saying is when we see a gift but we don’t realize we need it, therefore we don’t declare it as being good. We see it as not good.
You ever in your life been sought after maybe someone or gifted something that you didn’t really want? Someone pursues you that you don’t feel comfortable being around or you don’t want to be around, it’s hard to see that as good, right? Or you ever been gifted with something that you didn’t want or need? Maybe you can appreciate the sentiment of it, but do you really appreciate the gift for what it is? Maybe you start wondering through your mind, Oh no, this person gave me this gift. Can I regift it? Do they expect me to put it somewhere when they come to my house they can see it? I don’t even need it. I’ve got a lot of these things or I’ve never wanted this thing. And so it’s hard to appreciate a gift when it’s not wanted or needed or you don’t recognize it for what it is.
And this is what the Psalmist wants us to realize. The reason we should give thanks to the Lord because He is good. The ultimate gift that brings every other good thing is God. And so it’s when we see the goodness of who God is, that we begin to celebrate the presence of God with thankfulness in our life. And it builds gratitude and ultimately it brings hope. If you don’t see His goodness, perhaps it’s because you don’t see how He is good or why He’s good. And that’s what the rest of the Psalm is about. He presents this statement to us over God being good. The theological thought, God is good. And then from that thought, he then shares that the rest of the Psalm how we can picture the idea of God’s goodness in our life, because we could be asking, especially in tumultuous times, how do I know that God is good?
Or the other thought. We lack gratitude for two reasons, right? We see a gift does not want it or needed. Or the other one is we lack gratitude when a gift becomes an expectation, not an appreciation. When you see it as something that’s owed to you rather than something that’s gifted to you out of grace. That’s what the Psalmist is wanting to us to understand in this statement. He says it over and over, his steadfast love endures forever. And this idea of God’s love, some translations say mercy. It’s the Hebrew word, “chesed.” And what it’s communicating for us is covenantal language. And so here’s what we need to ask ourselves, when it comes to the idea of God and his presence in our lives, do you deserve him?
See, if you feel God owes you, then you’ll lack gratitude. This is where religion gets it wrong. Religion will tell you, you do these performances and you obligate God to have to give you something. It becomes an expectation rather than a gift of grace. But Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us, for by grace you are saved through faith, not of yourselves. It’s a gift of God, lest anyone boast. And so what we do when the idea of religious thinking is we put on this performance as if it obligates God. So the boasting belongs to us and therefore we have no gratitude for the gift we receive from him. And so the question we ask, or the reason that we might lack gratitude is because we treat God as if what he provides is expected rather than gifted. So if you feel God owes you, you will lack gratitude.
The other thought is this. If you think God can’t love you, can I just honestly tell you, you think too much of yourself. Because what he’s saying in this steadfast love that endorsed forever, is God’s love can overcome in any situation and circumstance. This Hebrew word, “chesed,” is covenantal love. And what’s important to understand about covenant to love is it’s really a paradigm shift in the way that we understand love in our culture today. In America, this idea of love is a junk drawer word. We say the word love about everything. And typically when we talk about love, we describe it as a feeling. I love you because I feel like I should love you. You make me feel good or we love people because of what they give to us, therefore, we respond in love. But that’s not covenantal love. That’s not biblical love.
Certainly love has feeling with it. Certainly love can can be birthed out of someone else loving you or providing for you. The Bible tells us we love him because he first loved us. But what makes covenantal love really the picture that’s being painted here about the Lord is that his love, first Corinthians 13:8, tells us, never fails. Covenantal love never fails. And covenant to love is more than an emotional love. Covenantal love is a decision of the will. And what it’s saying to us is while we were unlovable in the conduct of our lives, Jesus still loves us. Romans five eight tells us he demonstrates his love towards us and while were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And so the biblical picture of covenantal love is to help us understand that what God gives us isn’t an expectation, but rather should birth within us an appreciation because God doesn’t owe us anything. Yet He chooses to love us anyway. We can’t do anything to obligate that love. Yet He loves me now more than he ever will despite what I ever do or don’t do. Not because I’m good, but because he’s good. It’s not about my nature. It’s about his nature. God is love. And he extends that love towards us covenantal, unendingly, without fail.
Gratitude in our lives suffers when we make ourselves big and God’s small. When we think he owes us. But yet the reality is even today is a gift. And his presence of his love is a gift. So the idea of gratitude is to remove ourselves from the throne of our position and put God in that place. Celebrate His presence in our lives. Let me just give you an example to think about this. When you consider the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were were created. The Bible says something interesting about their lives. It tells you, they don’t have any clothes. And that’s a weird phrase to make. I mean, what is the reason the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve don’t have any clothes? Why do they even have to mention that? Well, it makes for interesting children’s stories, right? Rather than Adam, we should probably call him Tom because he’s beeping behind a bush. But when you think about that, what it’s saying to us is Adam and Eve had nothing. They didn’t even have the shirt on their back, but yet they had everything. Why?
Because their value wasn’t measured in possessions or position. Their value was measured in their identity in God. And so from that place of gratitude they had everything that they needed before the Lord. Let me just give you this observation, when your life is filled with value and belonging from God, the result is you serve from a place of having been filled and not for the purpose of needing filled.
What I mean is when God made Adam and Eve and it tells us in the garden of Eden, they don’t have the shirts on their back. They had nothing yet they had everything. It’s from that place God says, go into the world, be fruitful, multiply and subdue it. And what he’s saying to them is, since God has filled you, you’re not going into this world to seek the things of this world to fill you up because God himself has filled you up with his goodness. And therefore you serve from a place of not needing things, but rather giving things because you’re flowing full of the goodness of God. His value, his worth, his identity being placed in your life.
That’s why the Psalmist, when you look at Psalm 136, this phrase is uttered 26 times. If you want to memorize 50% of a Psalm today, all you’ve got to memorize is just this one statement. His steadfast love endures forever. The Psalmist says it over and over in every verse, your steadfast endures forever. Why does this psalmist repeat this phrase 26 times? May I give you just maybe a suggestion? I think it’s because your enemy wants to take your eyes off of Christ and rob you have the greatest possession that you have in Him. The greatest identity that you have through Him.
His steadfast love endures forever. Not because you’ve obligated them, but because his covenant of love has been gifted to you by his grace. It’s not because you’re good, but because he’s good. Even right now in these moments, your your heart can find a place to rejoice because you’re loved to a degree that you’ve never been loved in Christ. All that you need in him. God is good. And the Psalmist goes on from that, verse two and three he wants us to see the goodness of God. He tells us, give thanks to the God of gods. His steadfast love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His steadfast love endures forever. So he’s saying, look, consider the position of the person that cares for you. This idea of God of gods is Elohim. This doesn’t literally mean gods as you think of God, but it could mean anything. Any ruler, anyone of any authority.
He’s saying that this leader, this authority of all authorities, his steadfast love for you endorse forever. His steadfast love endorsed forever and the Lord of lords. All of all of the leaders, all of the rulers, he is Lord of lords and he cares for you. His steadfast love endorsed forever. And then the Psalmist goes, if you’re asking this question, well it skeptically or you struggle with this idea of God’s love for you and you think, okay, how do I know that his steadfast love endures for me? Well, then the Psalmist goes through the rest of this Psalm just gives two illustrations and I want to go through these quickly.
But the question we ask ourselves is, what is our evidence for his goodness and his everlasting love in our lives? How do I know that God cares for me in this way? My completeness can be found in him. How can I have gratitude, right? Verse four to nine, he gives the first illustration, and it’s creation. How do you know God’s goodness and everlasting love is here and desires to be made known in his people? Number one, creation.
Listen to this, to him, who alone does great wonders for his steadfast love doors forever. To him who by understanding made the heavens his steadfast love endures forever. To him who spreads out the earth above the waters, his steadfast love endures forever. To him who made the great lights, his steadfast love endorsed forever. The sun to rule over the day, his steadfast love endures forever. The moon and the stars to rule over the night, his steadfast love endures forever. So where does the Psalmist go for us to understand God’s love and his grace poured out through this covenantal way of loving? Creation. Creation. Colossians 1:15-17 tells us that Jesus made all things. Spiritual, the whole spiritual world Jesus made. And the physical world, the universe Jesus made, and he holds all things in his hands, even in these moments. And his steadfast love endorsed forever.
Have you ever considered why God made creation? I think this is exactly why the Psalmist goes here. He goes all the way back to creation so we can think about creation. Because in the days of Adam and Eve, at the end of creation, he gives us this declaration of the significance of humanity. So let me just ask, have you ever considered why God made creation? Well, if you consider it from God’s perspective, what does he need? He doesn’t need anything. He didn’t even need creation.
God lacks nothing. He didn’t create creation for himself, although creation certainly declares his glory. Everything God does, declares his glory. But why does God make creation? Well, it tells us on the sixth day when God made man, he makes mankind as the last of his creation. And he makes us different than anything he creates. He makes us in his image. And he tells us to rule over creation. So why does God make creation? He makes it as a gift to humanity to declare his glory over us. It’s for our benefit. That even in these moments, wherever you’re listening to this from, you could look out the window and see the magnitude of his glory radiating beyond you. So you can see the goodness of who he is in your life. God made all of this, not because he needed it, but because you need. As the evidence of his glory made known in your life. Were we owed it? No. No, even today is a gift. Even these moments together online, it’s a gift.
Then when you look in verse 10 he goes on and gives a second example for us, and the second example for the evidence of his goodness, he says to us is salvation. So I’m just going to read verse 10 to 16 but this story goes on from verse 16 all the way down to verse 25. And listen to this. He says, to him, who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, his steadfast love endures forever. And brought Israel out from among them his steadfast love endures forever. With a strong and outstretched arm, his steadfast love endures forever. Him who divided the Red Sea in two, his steadfast love endures forever. And made Israel pass through the midst of it, his steadfast love endures forever. And overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, his steadfast love endures forever. To him who led his people through the wilderness. His steadfast love endures forever. And he goes on from there and describes how he led them through the wilderness into the promised land.
Now, why is this important? Well, for Israel, you think in this Old Testament passage, this is the place where they find identity. This is the place where they saw themselves as God’s chosen people. They were saved, they were rescued as slaves from Egypt and brought into the promised land, given this new identity and that identity comes from God. The Passover happened in Egypt, if you remember the story. And Egypt, the final night where they were set free, God tells him to sacrifice a lamb, apply the blood to the top of the doorpost, and those that do by faith, God would allow them to go. The death angel was coming through the land and he was to take the firstborn and God would set them free.
And from that moment on they celebrated the Passover. And the Passover became a picture, a way of identity for them as seeing themselves as God’s chosen people. But as you read the rest of scripture, what you find is the Passover becomes an image of the salvation God would ultimately bring for all people in Christ that put their faith in him. That salvation just isn’t given to everyone, but it’s for those who put their faith in Jesus. And so what happens in the New Testament? Then the night Jesus was betrayed on the Passover night, Jesus fulfills the Old Testament by becoming that lamb for us. He lays his life down. And when you read every one of the gospels, they all come to this pinnacle moment of this new covenant, this new Passover where Jesus will defeat death and sin.
And in Matthew 26, in Mark 14, in Luke 22, in John 13, the night of the Passover celebrated where Jesus pulls out communion. Some might refer to it as sacrament. Jesus, on the Passover night, he pulls out communion. And now he identifies himself as that Passover lamb for us. And the picture of this Exodus, this picture of freedom, in Psalm 136, not just becomes an identity for Israel as God’s chosen people, but for anyone who puts their faith in Christ. His steadfast love endures forever.
1 Peter 1:12 tells us that even the angels long to look into this moment. The angels are mesmerized by God who would become flesh and give his life for you. Why would he do that? Because he owed you? No. But because of his covenantal love towards you. His steadfast love endures forever. When you look at the pages of scripture, what you see in the gospels is that story told over and over again. And it’s not to the religious heart, honestly, it’s to the rebellious heart. Jesus had adversity with religious people because they couldn’t see their need for God. They thought that they were good enough. But it was the rebellious heart that came to Christ. God didn’t owe them, but he loved them and transformed them. Even to the point when they had nothing in Jesus, they found themselves having everything they needed. Their hope was not intended to rest in things. Though it’s great to have gratitude towards things, but to recognize in the things that you have that God calls us to ultimately see all good things as coming from him.
The things of this world will pass, but what you have in Christ will last. And so when you think in stories of the Bible, like the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53 to John 8:11, the woman is brought before Jesus and they’re ready to kill her, and Jesus looks at the crowd and says, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And one by one they begin to drop their stones from the oldest person to the youngest. And Jesus turns and looks at the woman and says, no one condemns you. Neither do I. Go and sin no more.
In our religious way of thinking we oftentimes like to reverse that, right? Go and sin them more and then Jesus would say, and neither do I condemn you. We make ourselves look lovable, therefore God will love us. That’s the way that we think. But that’s not what Jesus says in this story. Jesus says, I condemn you no more. Go and no longer sin. His steadfast love transformed her. Do you see what I’m saying about the significance of Christ? If we think religiously, we get it wrong and we wane in our gratitude. But when we see Jesus for who he truly is, that love transforms us and leads our soul to sing. His steadfast love endures forever. To the point that he would even come to the woman caught in adultery and say, I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.
You think of the story in Luke 19 of Zacchaeus. You know the story Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, right? He climbs up in a Sycamore tree for the Lord he wants to see. The first 10 verses of Luke 19 share that story with us. If you ever wonder why Zacchaeus would be climbing the Sycamore tree? I know sometimes we like to think, well he’s a small man and he needs to see in the midst of a crowd. But reality is, that’s probably not the only reason, it may not even be the main reason Zacchaeus climbs the Sycamore tree. Because Zacchaeus was a tax collector. And in Jesus’ day, tax collectors were seen as less than animals. People would walk on the other side of the street to get away from. They would spit out of them. They would treat them like dirt. They were considered enemies among the people.
And if Zacchaeus, being a smaller man wanted to get near Jesus, he would have been elbowed out of the way, treated very disrespectfully, would have never seen Christ. So rather than getting near the crowd, he decides to climb up in the Sycamore tree so he can look over and see Jesus. And Jesus knowing out of this entire crowd who Zacchaeus was, and the way people viewed him, you know what Jesus does? He does something so contrary to culture that out of this entire crowd that Jesus could have chosen to go towards anyone, the person that Jesus chooses to walk up towards is Zacchaeus. And when he gets to Zacchaeus, he says something that’s culturally so astounding. Zacchaeus, he says, come down from the tree because I’m going to your house today. Zachias has Jesus in his home. And Jesus dines with Zacchaeus, the enemy.
And in Jesus’s day, the people that you eat with, they’re considered friends. Jesus, without saying anything, is communicating something to all of society about us and the way that he sees us and how he loves us in our sin. Jesus goes into Zacchaeus house, and it completely transforms Zacchaeus life. That to the point Jesus in his conversation with Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus shares to him that he’s going to give back to everyone he’s taken from as a tax collector, four-fold. His life had been transformed with such gratitude because the goodness of his God.
Do you see God’s goodness as something you need? Or do you see God’s goodness as something that you’re owed? Does salvation and his creation show you your need for him? If not, we won’t have gratitude. But if you see today as a gift and you see the love that God extends to you in salvation as a gift, your heart sings with praise. Not because your hope in this world, and it’s not to ignore the challenges we face in this life. It’s not to say that things aren’t hard. But it is to say that we have a greater hope that transcends us all because God’s love will never end. His love for you will never end.
Friends, my hope for all of us, in thinking about this is that our hearts would bow in reverence towards this King. He didn’t owe it, but he extends it. And the Bible says to us, whoever calls on the name of the Lord for salvation is saved. His love rescues us. Don’t assume that you’re beyond God’s love, and if you do, you think too much of yourself and too little of God. If God can share these words with the woman caught in adultery, if God can share these words to Zacchaeus, God’s love can be extended towards you.
That’s this picture of salvation that the Psalmist has given. That this identity of the Passover is to be your identity, if you would embrace Jesus. And in embracing Jesus to see his gift, not as an expectation, but an appreciation for a King who loves you. Even when you didn’t love him back. It transforms your life and causes your soul to sing with praise towards God. That despite anything that happens in life, this will never be taken from you because his covenantal love will never end. You are safe in his hands. Which is why the Psalmist ends this way. Give thanks to the God of heaven, in verse 26, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let me give you this last illustration. I’ll be done and we’ll close with a song together.
There was a farmer, he was a poor farmer. He was a carrot farmer. And the carrot farmer one day was pulling up his harvest of carrots and out of the ground came the greatest carrot he had ever harvested. And he thought about this carrot. This carrot was so precious to him. He didn’t want to just eat this carrot. So he decides that he wants to gift this carrot. And the person that he thinks of that’s most important to him, in these moments was the King. Because his King was a good King. His King cared for the people, his King had even cared for him. And so he decides to go to the castle and deliver this carrot to the King. And when he walks into the King’s presence, there’s also a nobleman there.
And the nobleman sees this farmer bringing the carrot and he thinks to himself, how silly. This King doesn’t need a carrot. This King has whatever he needs. This King has many carrots. But when the poor farmer brings the carrot before the King, he says to the King, King, this is the greatest carrot I’ve ever harvested in my life. And because you’ve been such a good King, I just want to give this to you out of appreciation.
And when the King receives the carrot, though the King has many carrots, the King is blown away by the demonstration of this poor farmers love because he knows that this came out of struggle for him. And the King responds and says, you know farmer around your land, you’re surrounded by farms. And I own all of those farms. And I want to give you those farms. And now the farmers just blown away by the love. He walks out in celebration because all he really wanted to do was just love his King out of the love that his King had shown to him.
And the nobleman sees this and he decides, you know, if the King does that with a farmer over a poor carrot how about I go out and just buy the greatest gift I can afford for the King? And so he goes out and he buys the fanciest horse that he could find and he brings it into the King and he offers it to the King. But the King sees right through what the nobleman is doing. He says, I know nobleman that you’re giving this gift because you saw what I gave to the farmer. But I’m not going to give you a gift in return. He said, you know, the farmer gave out of a love for me as his King. But truthfully, nobleman you’re giving to me not because you love me, but because you love yourself.
You know when it comes to God, I wonder how many of us, or how often we might worship, not because we see our King is good, but truthfully we love ourselves. And all we really want is for the King to do things for us. When we think about gratitude, it doesn’t start with we come to God because I want. Truthfully, it starts with we come to God because of who he is. He is good and his steadfast love endures forever.
The question for us this morning, when it comes to gratitude, do you see your King this way? Do you see him as good? And do you see the things that he provides or just the provision of himself as being something that you’re owed or something that he’s gifted? Do you see his love for you as unconditional? Never ending. Regardless of what today holds or tomorrow, his love endures forever.