Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Characteristics of a Grateful Heart

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I picture an unthankful person as being something like a container with a hole in it and all the blessings that are in it just leak out.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 24.

 “I was having a lot of trouble—doubts, confusion and problems.” That’s what Sandy, one of our listeners, wrote after hearing the program that aired yesterday. After she listened to Nancy’s teaching she wrote, “I was reminded to quit complaining and start giving thanks for each thing. My joy was returned to me and the burden was lifted.”

We’ll pick up on that teaching that had such an effect on this listener. Nancy’s in a series called The Attitude of Gratitude.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 92:1).

We’re talking about why it’s a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. We looked yesterday at several reasons. We said it’s a good thing to give thanks because God commands us to give thanks. And it’s a good thing because thanksgiving ushers us into the presence of God, and thanksgiving honors and magnifies God.

Then we said that thanksgiving produces the peace of God in our hearts. Don’t worry about anything. Instead pray about everything. Tell God your requests. "With thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, that passes all human comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-9).

Now today we want to look at several other reasons why it’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord. It’s a good thing because thanksgiving is an indicator of our true heart condition, of our true spiritual condition.

Psalm 140:13 says, “The righteous shall give thanks to your name.” The person who gives thanks evidences that he has a righteous heart. Remember we said that the Gospel is guilt, grace, and gratitude.

You see, the person who knows that he was a guilty, undeserving sinner deserving of God’s wrath knows that God has poured out His grace upon Him and that God by His grace has made him righteous through Christ. That person is going to be a grateful person. The person who’s been made righteous, who knows he has no righteousness of his own, he will be a grateful person because he knows he has no hope of ever being righteous apart from the cross and the grace and the love of Christ. So a thankful heart is an indicator of our real heart condition.

It’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord because it’s the will of God.

I talk particularly with young people who are wanting to know about the will of God. Typically we think of the will of God as, “Should I take this job? Should I go to this school? Is it God’s will for me to marry this person? Is it God’s will for me to take this vacation?”

We think about God’s will in terms of things we do and places we go and jobs we have. But when you go to the Scripture and study the will of God, you find out that the will of God is really much simpler than we often make it out to be.

First Thessalonians 5:18 tells us one absolute truth about the will of God. It says, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

I can tell you God’s will for your life, and you can tell me God’s will for my life. God’s will for you and God’s will for me is that in everything we give thanks. In everything.

Then we see that it’s a good thing to give thanks because being thankful is an evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 5 talks to us about being filled with the Spirit, and then it gives us some of the practical out workings of what it means to be filled with the Spirit. So Paul says in verse 18 of Ephesians 5, “Be filled with the Spirit.”

Now you can’t see the Holy Spirit. I can’t look at you and see if you are filled with the Holy Spirit. You can’t look at me and see if I’m being filled with the Holy Spirit. So how can we know if we are being filled with the Holy Spirit?

Well, we can know if the things that follow that verse are true in our lives. One of the things that follows that verse is verse 20: “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

How can I know if I’m filled with the Spirit? If I’m thankful.

You see, when I am filled with the Spirit I can’t whine. I can’t complain. I can’t murmur or grumble. If I’m murmuring or grumbling, that’s saying I’m filled with me. But I can’t be filled with the Spirit and be a complainer at the same time.

So a thankful life, thankful lips, the attitude of gratitude, is an evidence that I am filled with the Holy Spirit. Are you filled with the Spirit today? How can you know?

Well, one way you can know is, “Are you thankful? Are you walking in an attitude of gratitude today?” If so, that’s an evidence that you’re being filled with the Spirit of God.

Then it’s a good thing to give thanks because thankful people are like Jesus.

It was interesting to me as I was doing this study to go through the gospels and find the number of times where the Scripture tells us that Jesus gave thanks. Jesus was a thankful person, and if you want to be like Jesus, you need to be a thankful person.

Listen to a few of these instances when the Scripture says that Jesus gave thanks. In Luke 10 Jesus was praying and the context is that the disciples that he had sent out, 70 of them, to go out and do ministry had just come back. They were so excited about the success of their mission trip.

But Jesus told them that they should be thankful not just because the demons were subject to them, not just because they had power over Satan, but even more because of their relationship with God.

And then He turned His eyes toward heaven and He began to pray to God. And He says in Luke 10,

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth [I thank you], that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in your sight” (verse 21, NKJV).

Jesus is giving to God thanksgiving. “I thank You Father.” He had this intimate relationship with His heavenly Father, and it was a thankful relationship. The specific thing He was thanking God for here was that God has been so kind as to reveal the mysteries of who He is and how He works to simple people like us.

Jesus was thankful that God had revealed Himself to those disciples. So He stopped to say, “Thank you, Father.” Jesus was thankful.

In John 11 we see Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. And the Scripture says, “[When] they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying, Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me’” (verse 41). I thank You that You have heard me.

“And I know that You always hear me” (verse 42) And then He went on to pray that God would do this miracle so that the people would know that Jesus had really come from God. But before He made His request, He thanked God.

Have you ever stopped to thank God that He listens to you? If you’re a child of God, if you pray in the name of Jesus and by virtue of His righteousness, if you approach God through Jesus Christ, Scripture says God hears what you ask of Him. He listens.

And Jesus said, “I thank You that You always listen.” You know we’ve all had the experience of trying to call someone and getting a busy signal, or trying to call and finding that they’re not home and they’re not home and they’re not home. We keep calling, and we really need something, and they’re not there.

But you’ll never find that true with God. Any time we call, He’s there. He hears. He’s listening. He’s answering.

Then we see Jesus on multiple occasions being thankful and expressing thanks for food, for the simple provision of our daily bread. At the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus took the loaves, John 6, and when he had given thanks he distributed them to the disciples. At the feeding of the 4,000, He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, and then He broke them and gave them to His disciples (see Mark 8:1-10).

I have to confess that for me, often times saying thanks before a meal is just a routine and one that sometimes I even overlook. But for Jesus it wasn’t just a routine. It was an important part of His life recognizing that every good and perfect gift comes from above and that we are not to partake of something before we have thanked God for it.

Do you thank God of the little things? Do you thank God for the daily things? His provision is so rich, so abundant. When we thank Him, we’re being like Jesus and we’re saying, “Lord, I recognize that You are the source of this gift. If it weren’t for You, I wouldn’t have any of these good gifts.”

Then we see Jesus at the Last Supper in Luke 22. He took the cup before He gave it to His disciples. And what did He do? He gave thanks. And He said,

"Take this and divide it among yourselves.” And [then] He took bread and gave thanks and [He] broke it, and [He] gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (verses 17-19). 

He was thankful even as he was getting ready to go to the cross to lay down His life for the salvation of the world. What was He doing? He was giving thanks. So it’s a good thing to give thanks to the Lord because when we give thanks we’re being like Jesus, who was thankful.

Finally, it’s a good thing to give thanks to God because thanksgiving is the eternal occupation of heaven. Revelation chapter 4 tells us that the living creatures, the angels of heaven never cease to "give thanks and glory and honor to Him who sits on the throne who lives forever and ever" (verse 9, NKJV).

And then in Revelation chapter 11 we read that,

The twenty-four elders who sat before God on the throne fell on their faces and [they] worshiped God, saying “We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned” (verses 16-17).

So what are they doing in heaven today? They’re giving God thanks. The angels are thanking Him. The citizens of heaven are thanking Him. Those who’ve gone before us—my dad is there this morning and my brother David is there. They’re giving thanks.

When we give thanks to God, we do two things. We join in with that chorus in heaven. We sing with them. We give thanks with them. And we’re getting prepared for what we will spend an eternity doing in heaven.

For you see the thanksgiving we offer here is really just a dress rehearsal, a practice, for what we will spend all of eternity doing in heaven.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been providing some compelling reasons to develop a thankful spirit. She’ll be right back with the second half of today’s program.

To help you show the kind of appreciation we’ve been hearing about, get a copy of Nancy’s new book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. You can ponder more deeply the important teaching you heard today, and go through the 30-day devotional included at the back of the book.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you Choosing Gratitude. Take advantage of this offer at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.

Now, let’s enjoy more teaching with Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The Masai tribe in West Africa have an unusual way of saying, “I thank you.” They say literally, “My head is in the dirt.” When the Masai express thanks, they literally put their foreheads down on the ground. They want to acknowledge gratitude with humility.

I’m told that members of another African tribe express gratitude by saying, “I sit on the ground before you.“ So when one of them wants to express gratitude to another, he sits in front of the hut of the person to which he wishes to express gratitude. He just sits there in humility for an extended length of time.

We want to look today at some of the characteristics of a grateful heart and contrast those with the characteristics of an ungrateful heart. And the first characteristic we see of a grateful heart is that a grateful person is a humble person.

I thank you. My head is in the dirt. I sit on the ground before you. I’m humble before you. A grateful person is a humble person. A grateful person feels a great sense of unworthiness. His heart attitude is, “I have so much more than I deserve.”

I can still remember my dad who’s been in heaven now for twenty-some years. When people would ask him how he was doing he’d say, “Better than I deserve.” He was a grateful man.

I’ll tell you one of the reasons he was grateful was because he was humble. He never got over the wonder of the fact that God would have saved him. Because he was humble, he was grateful. He always felt like he had so much more than he deserved.

An ungrateful person has a proud heart. A grateful person has a humble heart; an ungrateful person has a proud heart and ingratitude reveals a proud heart.

You see an ungrateful person feels, “I deserve so much more than I have.” He forgets that he’s a debtor, that he owes everything he has to God.

John MacArthur in his commentary on the New Testament says,

The person who elevates self above all others will feel that he deserves everything good he receives, and therefore feels no need of gratitude for it. Although he may not put it into words, the ungrateful person despises the very idea of grace, which denotes goodness received that is undeserved. This is a particularly noxious sin to God, whose wrath is revealed against sinners for being ungrateful.

The person who elevates self, the proud person, will feel he deserves everything good he receives.

  • We are a society of people who feel that we are owed a lot, that we always are owed more than what we have, that we deserve what we have and that we’re owed more.
  • So we feel like we deserve a paycheck. We’re owed a paycheck. We put in those hours; we deserve to be paid.
  • We feel like we’re owed good health, healthy bodies.
  • We feel like we’re owed happiness.
  • We feel we have a right to have a happy marriage.
  • We feel we have a right to have children who are healthy.
  • We feel we have a right to have circumstances turn out the way we want them to turn out.
  • We feel we have a right for the sun to shine on our outdoor wedding or our party. We feel that we’re owed these things.

That sense of deserving good gifts is an expression of pride; whereas, the grateful person has a humble heart.

Henry Ward Beecher said,

Pride slays thanksgiving, but an humble mind is the soil out of which thanks naturally grows. A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.

So in looking at a grateful heart compared to an ungrateful heart, grateful person is a humble person while ingratitude reveals a proud heart.

I want us to see another characteristic of grateful hearts compared to ungrateful hearts. A grateful heart is God-centered and others-centered; whereas, an ungrateful heart is self-centered.

Grateful people tend to thank and talk to other people. I can remember when we were growing up my dad telling us, “When you’re talking to people, make sure and ask them questions about themselves and don’t talk about yourself, because people don’t want to hear you talk about you.”

Well, a grateful person is thinking about others, interested in others. But ungrateful people tend to focus on my needs, my feelings, my desires, my hurts, my rights, how I’ve been treated, how I’ve been neglected, how I’ve been failed, how I’ve been wounded, how my parents wronged me.

And unthankful person is full of himself, and his whole world revolves around himself. He seldom pauses to consider the needs and the feelings of others. He’s selfish.

Ungrateful people as a result typically are demanding people, but grateful people are free to be giving and caring because they’re centered on God, and they’re centered on others, not on themselves.

Grateful people who are God-centered and others-centered are loving people who want to bless others. But ungrateful people, because they’re self-centered, they’re bent on, "What will please me? How can I be satisfied?”

Then I want us to see another characteristic of a grateful heart compared to an ungrateful heart. A grateful heart is a full heart while an ungrateful heart is an empty one.

You know how little he may actually have compared to others because a grateful person feels like he’s full, because he’s grateful. No matter how much a person may in fact have, if he’s not a grateful person, he’s going to live with this constant, gnawing sense of emptiness.

I picture an unthankful person as being something like a container with a hole in it, and all the blessings that are in it just leak out. It may be full of blessings, but they don’t stay. They leak out because the person doesn’t have a grateful heart, so that person always feels like they’re empty. Their heart is empty; whereas, the grateful person has an unlimited capacity to enjoy God’s blessings no matter how few or how many they may be.

Let me tell you this: Nobody has few blessings from God. We all have many, many, many blessings from God. But unthankful people always feel empty because their blessings are leaking out through those holes of ingratitude.

The ungrateful person can’t enjoy the blessings he has. He’s going to feel empty. But the grateful person even in the midst of heartache and loss is going to feel full.

There’s a great illustration of this principle in the book of Philippians. The book of Philippians is really a rather lengthy thank-you note written from the apostle Paul to express gratitude to the believers in Philippi for what they had done to minister to Paul’s financial and material needs while he was traveling around and planting churches, and Paul wrote a thank-you note.

He says in Philippians chapter 4,

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in your early days with the acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need (verses 14-16, NIV).

Paul’s writing to say, “Thank you,” to express gratitude. Now having expressed his appreciation for their latest gift, Paul who is sitting in the heart of a Roman prison while he’s writing this letter and is deprived from all but the minimum necessities, he makes what I think is a remarkable statement.

He goes on to say in Philippians chapter 4, “I have all, and abound: I am full” (verse 18, KJV). Where are you Paul? In a Roman dungeon? And you’re saying, “I have all and I abound; I am full”? How could he think of himself as full in that situation?

I can tell you what I would have been thinking in that situation—about all the things I didn’t have. Because, you see, I have naturally an unthankful heart.

Paul believed that God’s goodness and God’s blessing were so abounding, that he goes on in the next verse to reassure the Philippians that there’s enough for them as well.

He says I’m sure that "my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (verse 19, NKJV). Not only is there enough for me sitting here in my prison, but there’s enough for you. In your place of struggle, you can be full if you have a grateful heart.

So do you have a sense of fullness or emptiness? Could you say with Paul, “I am full, I abound; I have all”?

You see, Paul didn’t have all in terms of creature comforts. But I’ll tell you what he did have. He had Christ. And Paul said, “If I have Christ I have everything.”

  • Do you have Christ?
  • Do you have His grace?
  • Is there grace greater than all your sin that God has poured out in your life?

Then you have everything.

You may have lost a mate. You may have lost a child. You may have lost a job. You may have lost a friend. You may have lost the dearest possessions in the world to you. But if you have a thankful heart, you can still through your tears have a sense of fullness.

Where does God find you with these characteristics? Do you have a grateful heart? Is your heart proud, or is it humble? Is it God-centered and others-centered, or is it self-centered? Is your heart full, or is it empty?

The answers to those questions may be seen in whether or not you have an attitude of gratitude.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She contrasted an ungrateful person with a grateful one. Which described you more?

Nancy’s book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, will help you become more and more of a grateful person. She’ll show you why gratitude is so important, and she’ll walk you through a process of applying gratitude in your life everyday.

When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send this new hardcover book by Nancy. Just ask for Choosing Gratitude when you call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. Donate any amount online and we’ll send you Choosing Gratitude.

Do you remember to thank God when He answers your prayers? Nancy will show you why this is so important. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts. Now, let’s pray.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: O Father, would You give to us grateful spirit? Make us thankful people. We have so many reasons to be thankful, and yet, Lord, we confess we forfeit much of the joy and the fullness that we could have because of the sin of ingratitude.

So Lord, wherever You find us this day, may we be humble and repentant and thankful before You. I pray in Jesus’ name with thanksgiving, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

 

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