This morning, we’re continuing on our message series about the power of God.
With Thanksgiving this coming week, it seemed appropriate to cover the topic of gratitude. Obedience is the behavioral key to unlock the power of God in and through our lives, but gratitude is the key attitude to unlock the power of God in and through our lives.
Over and over again throughout the Bible, we find that in the midst of lack, in the midst of betrayal, in the midst of hopelessness, in the darkest and most impossible days of life; that gratitude unleashed the power of God to do the impossible!
Have you ever noticed that it is often not those who have much who are most thankful, but those who are in need who are the most thankful? I recently saw a quote that, “It’s not the happy people who are thankful, it is the thankful people who are happy.”
Choosing an attitude of gratitude, no matter our circumstances, can change everything for us because it changes our perspective. Even if we have such a rotten attitude that we can’t see anything to be grateful for, we can begin by looking at God. Just realizing who God is and all that He has done for us and has promised yet to do for us begins to break up the hardness of our hearts and produce in us a more grateful attitude.
Thanksgiving opens the gates of Heaven for us!
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
There is a common thread that we find throughout the scriptures and we’re going to take a look at it today in three separate instances. In them we find a backdrop of impossible and dire circumstances and how choosing to give thanks in the midst of them unlocked the gates of Heaven and released a miracle to transform them!
15 As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Great need and impossible resources with which to meet it. Looking to God and being thankful for the little that they had unlocked a miracle that multiplied that little to exceed the need! There is so much more to this account, but it was the grateful attitude of Jesus that overcame the grumbling and the lack around Him. This wasn’t the only time, either!
Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it all away.
Gratitude, brokenness, servanthood.
Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6:
5 loaves of bread and 2 fish fed 5,000 men not including women and children with 12 baskets full of leftovers
Matthew 15, Mark 8:
7 loaves of bread and a few small fish fed 4,000 men not including women and children with 7 baskets full of leftovers
Of course, we’re all familiar with this account where Jesus does just the same. In fact, He does it symbolically as a prophetic act of what He was about to physically do. Gratitude, brokenness, servanthood.
20 When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21 And while they were eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely you don’t mean me, Lord?”
23 Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
25 Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely you don’t mean me, Rabbi?”
Jesus answered, “You have said so.”
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
30 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
In the midst of lack, in the midst of betrayal, in the midst of hopelessness, in the darkest and most impossible days of life; gratitude unleashes the power of God to do the impossible! Jesus gave thanks and sang songs of praise on the darkest night of His life. Gratitude, brokenness, servanthood.
The final account where we see this same act taking place is after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The backstory is a long account, so you can read it yourself beginning in Acts 21 when Paul is nearly killed and then arrested for sharing the good news about Jesus. Acts 21-27 is an amazing account in a movie-like series of events full of action, adventure, drama, and court room battles.
It all is leading up to Paul appearing before Cesar in Rome, Italy. The last part of his journey to Rome as a prisoner takes place via ship. Winter was soon arriving, similar to what we’re experiencing now. A strong northeaster made an already long and dangerous journey now deadly with hurricane-force winds. Despite warnings from Paul that the trip would be disastrous to ship, cargo, and their own lives, they continued onward.
15 The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16 As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, 17 so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”
29 Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.” 32 So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.
33 Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. “For the last fourteen days,” he said, “you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food – you haven’t eaten anything. 34 Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. 36 They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. 37 Altogether there were 276 of us on board. 38 When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.
39 When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could.
41 But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.
42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.
1 Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.
7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.
Over and over again throughout the Bible, we find that in the midst of lack, in the midst of betrayal, in the midst of hopelessness, in the darkest and most impossible days of life; gratitude unleashed the power of God to do the impossible!
Whatever our circumstances, whatever impossibilities we may be facing, we can look to God, give thanks, and be generous with whatever we have. This attitude of gratitude can unlock the power of God in and through our lives in tremendous ways!