Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Dannah Gresh: Did you know that there’s a solution to the tension you may feel in your interaction with others? Here’s Pastor Sam Crabtree.

Pastor Sam Crabtree: Relationships that are full of gratitude are well oiled and happier than relationships where things are just taken for granted, and nobody says “thank you.” In those relationships there’s a drift, if not a hostility, that feeling, “You’re taking advantage of me!” And that can be avoided by generous thankfulness.

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 1, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: So, speaking of gratitude, do you experience the power of a thankful heart? I think most of us would say we probably need to grow in this area. Over the last couple of years, my sweet husband Robert and I have seen the power of thankfulness firsthand.

As you may have heard, in 2020, Robert had two back-to-back cancer diagnoses—in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Robert’s health situation plunged us into turbulent waters of seemingly endless doctor appointments, tests, treatments, chemo, and surgeries.

But through it all, even in the midst of the most difficult days, I want to tell you that gratitude has been a life preserver for our hearts! During those months while Robert was going through chemo, we made it a practice to write down on a sticky note something we were thankful for every day.

We posted those notes on a wall in our house. In fact, if you go to ReviveOurHearts.com and find the transcript for this program, you’ll find a link there to a video showing our “gratitude wall.” It was a lifegiving place for us throughout that whole season.

Being thankful transforms our perspective on our circumstances, and it can infuse us with unexplainable peace and joy even when things are falling apart around us. Robert and I can both attest to that!

Our guest today, Pastor Sam Crabtree, has a wise perspective on this concept of practicing thankfulness. Sam is a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. He’s a dear friend and the author of a book titled Practicing Thankfulness. Over the years, I’ve been the beneficiary of Sam’s expressions of gratitude numerous times.

Not long ago, Dannah sat down with Pastor Crabtree to talk about this whole idea of gratitude. Let’s listen.

Dannah: Sam, what are you thankful for today? 

Pastor Sam: Wow, well you’re reaching me in Minnesota, where we’ve had a spectacular sunrise this morning! And that was after a torrential downpour at about five-thirty this morning. So we’ve had a lot of rain, when it’s been a very dry summer, followed by a glorious sunrise over these clouds that just dumped rain on us. That’s the first thing that pops into my mind.

It’s kind of temporal and maybe shallow in one sense . . . although Jesus did tell us in His Sermon on the Mount that He makes the sun to rise on the good and on the evil, and He sends the rain on the just and on the unjust (see Matt. 5:45). So, through that sunrise over those clouds, I can be grateful for God’s common grace to us all.

Dannah: Wow! You made a sunrise very theological! 

Pastor Sam: Well, everything is about God. I mean, it’s all from Him and through Him. And if we think right, it’s to Him. So, you can connect God to anything at all!

Dannah: Yes, and I guess that would be one of the distinct differences in someone who doesn’t know the Lord driving down the highway and seeing that magnificent sunrise today and expressing thanks. Our thanks, because we do attribute it to God, we do direct it back to Him.

Would you say that’s one of the big distinctive differences as to how a Christian gives thanks versus those who don’t know the Lord?

Pastor Sam: Well, the salient question in giving thanks is, “To whom?” Because to thank begs for an object to receive the thanks. So, “Who are you thanking?” It’s one of the sad mysteries, I think, of our secular friends who feel thankful. They feel this rising impulse that they should express appreciation . . . but, to whom?

If you don’t know that God is at work everywhere, all the time, in everything, then who are you going to thank? “Chance?” Chance has no authority to do anything. Yes, we thank God for everything.

You’re probably familiar, Dannah, with Abraham Kuyper’s well-worn statement that, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 

So, He’s Sovereign over every molecule, every sunrise, every cloud, every raindrop, every beat of my heart, every blink of my eye. Everything! David described it in a more general sense in Psalm 139:16 when he said, “In your book were written, every one of them, [all] the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

He’s behind it all, underneath are the everlasting arms (Deut. 33:27). God’s at work in and through everything, without exception. As you interview me, I think we’ll expose that a little more from the Bible as we go along.

Dannah: I think what you’re talking about is really important, because there are all kinds of mantras about thanksgiving and gratitude in the world today, but they are not directing it to the right source.

I’m thinking back to a few years ago. The whole world was real excited about this woman, this author, who came out with a new organization system for your house. Women were all like, “I’m going to do this with my house; I’m going to do this with my drawers!”

And it was all about simplifying things so you could be grateful for what you do have, because when we have excess we lose our gratitude. When we have too much, we don’t take time to be grateful for what we have.

And I was like, you know, “I love the way her drawers look; I love the way that my life is peaceful when I’m organized!” So I’m all onboard, right, and I’m watching her videos. 

And then she says, “Now, before we discard an object when we’re decluttering, we should hold the object (the sock, for example) and say, ‘Thank you, sock. You have served me well, sock.’”

And I thought, “I’m out! This is not working anymore. I’m not thanking a sock!” But, honestly, it opened my eyes to the fact that it was so idolatrous in a way. I can’t explain to you how viral this woman remains, because she’s teaching women to thank their socks, their T-shirts, their old plant pots.

And I think, what I saw in it was an ache that we have to thank something or someone. Do you think we have that in our hearts?

Pastor Sam: Yes, that’s a good question. First, let me backup. I don’t know who the woman was; I don’t know what her program was. I don’t want to overly belittle the anthropomorphization (if that’s a word!) of socks. But if you go through the sock vertically to the God who provided everything that went into that sock . . .

You can look at everything man made—whether it’s your socks, or the audio speaker that you’re listening to this program through, or your steering wheel of your car, if you’re driving right now while you’re listening . . . Anything that’s man made—anything—that thing was made from materials that came out of the earth, and God gave us all those materials. He gave the wherewithal to the inventors of steering wheels and socks and speakers—everything that you have.

Comically and humorously, we can thank a sock, I suppose, but it shouldn’t terminate there. It needs to go right through the sock to where the credit really goes. That sock had no intentionality in blessing your foot or your life. It’s just material, inanimate.

God is personal and living, and we thank Him. This is one of the glorious things about God. When we teach our children to pray, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food,” there’s some good theology in there.

One of the wonderful things about God is that He takes His greatness, and He fastens it upon His good intentions toward us to bless us, to not stop doing us good. He says that we’ll end up with pleasures at His right hand forevermore.

Romans 8:28, we know that “God works all things together for the good of those who love him.” That’s all things, without exception, no exclusions, the whole nine yards—lock, stock and barrel.

This becomes a stumbling block for many, because they wonder if God is at work in the adversity that has come into my life. And the answer is, “Yes,” because, for one thing, He’s never done. He’s never done. When I think of Joseph thrown into the pit by his brothers, God is not done with Joseph.

He’s not done with the brothers, and He’s not done with all of Israel, and He’s not done with you and me in that very historical story. When Joseph is hauled out of that pit and sold into slavery, God’s not done! And when Joseph is framed by Potiphar’s wife and tossed into jail, God’s not done!

And when the dreams of the butcher and the baker are interpreted there in the jail, they forget to tell the king that there’s this interpreter named Joseph, and he languishes in jail a few more years. God is not done!

And then, after the seven years of good crops followed by all this famine, God is not done. He’s not done ever-—ever! I just did a funeral for a guy who died in a bicycle accident. Some might say, “Well, God blew it there!” No, God is not done with him. 

In fact, his death did not stop him from the glory that God promised to him, but his death was the path through which he would get to the glory that God has for him. So, we can be thankful even for fatal bicycle accidents, which seems totally unthinkable and ironic to the world.

Dannah: I think I could listen to you say, “God is not done,” all day long! I think my heart needs that reminder. And if your heart does, too, God is not done—whatever hardship you’re facing, whatever your marriage is going through, whatever sickness might be in your family, or if you’re just tired of this pandemic! God is not done.

I read a really interesting thing yesterday that encouraged me. I think a lot of people are saying, “How do you be thankful in a pandemic when it drags on and you keep thinking, Oh, it’s over now. And . . . oh, no, sorry, not over.

I read the most interesting thing yesterday that reminded me God works all things together for good, and it’s this. In July, a secular group took a survey. It was about their perception of the church. I think it was just over sixty percent of Americans who said, “I see the church helping and doing good things.”

Now, that’s a majority, I wish it were higher. But the thing is, starting in 2010, that number had been declining every year until the pandemic. And now, either God’s church really is working in more practical ways in our American communities, or the people that were becoming cynical about the church suddenly saw that. I think that is one thing that can draw them to the church. The first thing that ran through my mind was, “Oh, Lord, You do work all things together for good, and You’re not finished! You’re so much more concerned with our spirits than our bodies that You would allow this pandemic to draw people, to look and see the goodness of the church.” I’m so thankful that I got to see that!

Pastor Sam: Yes, God does not waste one thing, not one event, not one sliver, not one shred of our experience does He waste. He’s always doing more than we’re able to see or comprehend. 

In our limited wisdom, we wouldn’t plan a pandemic so that the church could grow up and toughen her spiritual muscles, as it were, and shine light to the world, but God in His infinite wisdom might do it that way—in the same way that in His infinite wisdom He might have Joseph thrown into a pit by His brothers, because by doing that, He is actually saving those brothers!

Dannah: Hmm, wow!

Pastor Sam: They wouldn’t picture it; they couldn’t picture it; they couldn’t imagine it! But God was saving them through their wickedness towards their brother.

Dannah: Think of that! Okay, tell us. As you have studied the Scriptures on the topic of thankfulness, looked through them, why should we be thankful? What does the Bible tell us about why we should be thankful?

Pastor Sam: Where do we start? Thankfulness is all over the Bible. It’s not trivial or inconsequential. I would assert, and I do assert, that therefore it’s not purely elective. It is a difference-making fork in the road for each individual. (I’m getting at your question at why would the Bible want us to be thankful?)

One reason is because it makes the difference between whether we're going to become mature spiritually or immature. Like a thankless brat . . . picture a two-year-old who refuses to be thankful and throws a hissy fit and stomps and screams.

There are adult versions of those temper tantrums, where people shake their fists at God as though He’s blown it when, as we said a moment ago, He’s not done. Thankfulness, or not, is the difference between developing a humble spirit or a spirit of entitlement

It’s like an angry prison inmate who demands, “I want what I want when I want it, and I want it now!” And the reason he’s in jail is because he thought somebody else’s stuff belonged to him right now.

Thankfulness is the difference between becoming sweet or becoming bitter. I dread the possibility of becoming a cranky old codger! And thankfulness is a key to that. 

It’s the difference between enlarged faith or hardness. In fact, Jesus attributes divorce to hardness of heart. I think thankfulness or not is the difference between beauty and ugliness! Think of the thankless White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia who makes things always winter but never Christmas!

The difference between thankfulness and thanklessness is the difference between wisdom or self-deluded folly. The classic text, I think, from Paul in Romans 1:21 is that, 

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or [here it is] give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

That whole text goes on to give a litany of outcomes from that hard heart. So, one reason to be thankful is that it makes a difference in what we become. We’re on a path, and there’s a fork in the road. We can be thankful or not thankful, but we can’t choose to ignore the destination that that fork in the road will put us on, based upon our decision to be thankful or not.

Another reason to be thankful to God is because He gave us everything! It’s all from Him, and it’s entirely fitting when we’re the beneficiaries of something to thank the Benefactor. That just makes good sense as well as being spiritually healthy and psychologically healthy. God deserves honor for everything.

Many people, when they think of thankfulness, think of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that says in everything give thanks. That’s right. That’s a good text, and it’s a good simple phrase to remember. “In everything.” 

As though I’m skiing down the hill and I break a leg? Well, in that situation I can be thankful I didn’t break both legs or break my neck or something like that. And that’s true, it’s valid to thank God for a bunch of things. I don’t have leprosy, I can be thankful for that; that’s legitimate.

But the Bible doesn’t only have 1 Thessalonians 5, it also has Ephesians 5:20, which says we ought always to give thanks for everything, not just in everything, but for everything. So it’s a biblical command. It’s a fitting command, because God has given us everything. We have nothing that we did not receive.

We didn’t create anything out of thin air. Everything we have is received. That includes material things, but it also includes opportunities and insight—the ability to see things. The ability to grasp and understand things is a spiritual gift from God, and we ought to thank Him when we have an, “Aha!” moment. We say, “Oh, I get it!” Well, that just came from God.

Dannah: Yes, it really does change the way you see. You see the glass as half-full or the glass as half-empty, right? And when you’re thankful, you’re able to see, “It’s half-full!” That’s good news!

Pastor Sam: It has a horizontal effect. Thankfulness or thanklessness are both causal in relationships. Relationships that are full of gratitude are well oiled and happier than relationships where things are just taken for granted, and nobody says “thank you.” In those relationships there’s a drift, if not a hostility, then that “You’re taking advantage of me!” That can be avoided by generous thankfulness. 

Dannah: Yes, I was actually reading an article the other day about this. I’m always fascinated by science. I’m not afraid of science, because over and over again I see it affirming what is true in God’s Word.

When we are thankful, it releases serotonin in our brains, and that makes us feel peaceful. This article was saying the relationships where more thanks is expressed tend to be the ones we are drawn to, because we feel more peaceful in that relationship.

I was like, “Huh, that sounds like the positive consequences of God’s Word blessing our relationships.” I want to talk more about thankfulness tomorrow, but I know there are a lot of women listening right now who might even be feeling cynical as you listen!

Thankfulness seems hard, because you think, But you don’t know my husband! But you don’t know my circumstances! But you don’t know what my family is walking through!” Or, You don’t know how lonely I feel!

What would you say to the woman who is feeling just really overwhelmed by life, and she just looks around, and it’s hard for her to see what she can be thankful for?

Pastor Sam: Well, first of all, I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed. I know what it’s like to feel pressure. I know what it’s like to feel disappointment. I know what it’s like to feel betrayal. I don’t want to diminish those feelings in that woman. Those are real. They are burdensome. They are a drain, and it’s hard to function, especially when they pile up.

Second, I would say that though I don’t know her husband and I don’t know her physical ailments and I don’t know the particularities of her circumstances, I do know her God. Her God is sufficient in all of these things, without exception!

There’s never a time when He’s not sufficient. As the writer of Lamentations 3:21–23 says, “These things I call to mind and therefore I have hope. Great is Your faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning.” (paraphrased)

There is a tailor made, customized, enabling grace for that woman’s circumstances, whatever they may be. There’s no exception. And so, we look away from our circumstances to the God who is working all things together for the good of those who love Him—including difficult husbands and health issues and financial pressures and rebellious children and whatever can be draining a person. 

I think we can become thankful when we haven’t been thankful. God is able to grow us in that respect, and so we can ask for it. We can ask for His help.

I think of thankfulness as being a divinely given spiritual ability to see grace! It’s the corresponding desire to affirm that grace and the Giver of that grace as good. 

So, here I have this very difficult husband, and I have these financial pressures and health issue and everything that’s going on. I can ask God to give me a thankful heart, because it’s a divinely given thing, and it’s an ability to see.

So, I can ask God to help me look at my circumstances through a different lens or from a different angle. And He wants to do it, He wants me to be thankful. That’s why He commands me to give thanks. So He will help me do what He commands.

Even the request, “Lord, help me be more thankful than I am. Right now I’m not thankful, but I want to be!” That’s a gift from Him, that grace to desire to want to become what I’ve not yet become. That desire is an evidence that God is already at work!

So I can ask for an increase in my desire to affirm the enabling grace that He gives, and to affirm Him as good in giving me both the circumstances I’m in and the grace to respond to those circumstances in the way that would be most helpful and healthy and beneficial. 

Dannah: I love that.

Nancy: And where would we be without God’s amazing grace? You know, thankfulness is connected to grace. In fact, our Spanish-speaking friends get that, because the word for “thank you” in Spanish is gracias—“graces.” 

We’ve been listening to a conversation between my cohost, Dannah Gresh, and Pastor Sam Crabtree. Sam is the author of a book called Practicing Thankfulness: Cultivating a Grateful Heart in All Circumstances.

As I read this book Practicing Thankfulness the first time, I was freshly inspired by the beauty, the necessity, and the power of a grateful lifestyle. I found myself thinking, Every believer needs to read this book!

Well, it’s a book we’d love to get into your hands. This week Sam’s book is our way of practicing thankfulness when you make a donation of any size to support the outreaches of Revive Our Hearts. We’re a listener-supported ministry, and that means we depend on friends like you to help sustain the production of this program, as well as our many other ministries.

You support us with your prayers and with your financial giving. So, from my heart, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” If the Lord is putting it on your heart to make a donation today, you can visit us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Be sure to ask about Sam’s book on thankfulness when you contact us.

Tomorrow, Pastor Crabtree will help us look for something he calls, “chains of blessings.” Find out what that means tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

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About the Hosts

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Guest

Sam Crabtree

Sam Crabtree

Married to Vicki since 1973, and a former public school teacher, Sam has been a pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis since 1997. His book Practicing Affirmation (God-centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God) exemplifies his reputation as an affirming individual. His desire is to image forth Jesus.