A Thankful Heart
Posted on 01/16/2011 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (does not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
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*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***
Today, I'd like for us to talk about a subject we've already discussed recently, but I believe it is something that would be hard for us to talk too much about.
If there is any one thing that can completely transform our lives, this is near the top of the list. If you just grasp and put this one thing into practice, you will almost effortlessly overcome worry, doubt, depression, and stress. Your entire outlook on your life will take a 180 degree turn, and you may even find more of your prayers getting answered.
Of course I'm not talking about some sort of magic pill. In a way, I almost wish I was, because then I could sell it and get rich. But worldly riches will only make us poor if we don't also have this one thing.
In fact, people are discontent because they don't have enough of it. They are envious and jealous because they don't have it. They wallow in self-pitty because they don't have it. They feel as though they have gotten the short end of the stick because they don't have it.
And the fact of the matter is this: When you have this one thing, you will automatically have joy; you will have peace; you will feel as though you have been made the king or queen of the world; you'll break free from compulsive worry; you'll quickly get over disappointments and failures, and you'll see them as beautiful parts of your wonderful life.
You will also find yourself SO much closer to God, and you will discover yourself fulfilling His perfect will.
And that one thing is the title of today's message, and that one thing is this: "A Thankful Heart."
The human heart is a lot more than just a pump moving blood through the body. Scientists have discovered that around the human heart is a field which extends from five to eight feet around the heart.
Scientists took a sample of human DNA, and isolated it, and asked individuals who were trained to feel, on demand, what are called "coherent human emotions" (very clear emotions) of love, appreciation, and compassion, or anger, rage, and hate. They then measured the responses of the DNA when various emotions were created and held on to.
In the presence of love, appreciation, compassion, and forgiveness, created a response in the DNA which, in the human body, enhances immunity.
In the presence of hate, jealousy, and anger, the opposite was true. The DNA strands became tight, almost as though they were in knots, and the immune response was depleted.
So, our emotions are responsible for the shape of the DNA in our bodies. If we live in feelings of fear, rejection, lack, anger, suspicious, and so-on, our entire bodies take on those properties.
Holding on to certain emotions on purpose will change the very DNA of our entire bodies, from the hair on our heads to the bottoms of our feet, and even those who are close to us.
Some of us might think that our brains are pretty good at changing things in our bodies. But what about our hearts?
Well, consider this. Physicists have discovered that if you change the electrical or magnetic properties of matter, the atomic structure changes.
Keeping that in mind, did you know that the electrical component produced by the heart is 60 times greater in amplitude than that produced by the brain? And the magnetic field produced by the heart is 5,000 times greater than that of the brain, and can be detected several feet away from the body by sensitive magnetometers.
Maybe that's part of what Proverbs 4:23 means when it says, "Keep watch over your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the springs of life."
Our heart is vitally important. And we must be dilligent to watch over it, if we want the life that flows from it to be something good.
And this isn't a matter of spiritual versus physical. You see, God created both. And when we obey God's Word, we can be sure that our obedience will affect FAR more than we can even imagine.
Just maybe, if we would just really take seriously some of the things God told us about prayer, we would start to see some amazing things happen as a result.
In Matthew chapter 21, Jesus cursed a fig tree, and the next day, it had already whithered. And starting in verse 20 of Matthew chapter 21, we read this:
Matthew 21:20-22 (NKJV)
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?"
21 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done.
22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."
What would happen if you truly BELIEVED that you already had the answer to your prayer? How would you feel in your heart if you really believed that you or your loved one was healed? Would you worry? Would you be afraid? Would you feel as though God had forsaken you? Would you feel sorry for yourself?
No, you would automatically be free from all these things. Instead, you would feel a deep peace and joy; and above all else, you would feel incredibly thankful.
And in the process, you would be unknowingly interacting with God's creation, regardless of physical distance, speaking its language, and directing things in the right direction to produce that for which you are giving thanks.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting for even a moment that answers to prayer are nothing more than the result of universal laws, and that they are due to our own power, and not to God's.
That would be as silly as someone thinking they're incredibly powerful and clever because they can flip a switch and light up a room in their house, or because they can recreate the words and actions of actors, along with amazing special effects, by pushing a button on a remote control.
Countless people are involved in building and operating power plants, wiring homes, directing and acting, applying tremendous special effects skills and knowledge, designing and producing the television, the DVD player and the DVD, marketing, distribution, and countless other things that none of us could do by ourselves and with our current knowledge and experience.
All we do is push a button or flip a switch. There's nothing impressive about that. A small child could do it just as well as you or me.
And a small child can pray and then believe and give thanks just as well, if not better, than we.
It's not the asking that's impressive. It's not the believing, or the giving of thanks, or the holding onto that thing as though it's already done, that's impressive. No, those things are like flipping a switch. All we can do is obey. And if we obey, then we can know that, by whatever process God has put in place, something is going to happen.
Let's look at a few places in Scripture which talk about having a thankful heart, and then we'll talk about what a difference this can make in our lives, and we'll end by considering how we can put thanksgiving into practice.
1st Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) says this:
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Most of us know this verse pretty much by heart. Meaning we can recite it in our heads. But do we REALLY know it by HEART?
We might remember it after a long bout with feelings that are opposed to gratitude. And then we might say, "Well, thank you Lord regardless of all these things." And that's a good place to start. But wouldn't it be better if we could have started out with a truly thankful heart?
After all, if your heart is full of thanksgiving, it's awefully hard to be angry with someone, or to hold bitterness, or to withold forgiveness. It's awefully hard to feel as though everyone is rejecting you or doing you wrong when your heart is filled with feelings of gratitude.
Ephesians 5:20 (NKJV) says this:
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For all things? For ALL things? FOR all things? So someone we love just found out they have cancer. Are we really supposed to thank God that they have cancer?
Well, just consider that for a moment. Why do we find it so hard to be truly thankful during something like that? Just maybe it's because fear and gratitude are incompatible. If we are overcome by one, it is nearly impossible to hold on to the other.
Think about that.
"In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you."
So the doctor said the cancer is inoperable, and it will probably end in death within the next six months. If God was really good, He wouldn't let this happen. And we stop being thankful. And because we give into fear instead of thanksgiving, we depart from the will of God for us. Well, what if the will of God is for that person to be miraculously healed? When we abandon the will of God for us in this moment, we jeapordize His will for us in the next.
But if we hold on to a thankful heart, it will push out the fear, and that gratitude will make it possible for us to hold onto healing as though it has already taken place. And if we speak to this mountain and do not doubt but believe that we already have what we ask, then it will be done. And NOTHING will be impossible.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV) says this:
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Be anxious for nothing. How do we obey that? Do we just stop being anxious? Do we just stop worrying?
Notice the word "but" in that first verse: "Be anxious for nothing, BUT." We could change that word to "how," and it would mean the same thing:
"Be anxious for nothing. How? In everything by prayer and supplication, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God."
Yes, we can let our requests be made known to God by speaking words to Him with our mouth. But is God limited to the words we speak? How about those who cannot speak?
Have you ever considered that the words we speak often create feelings? Of course they do, if they are words that touch something deep inside. And personally, I've found the following two words to create a feeling inside my heart like nothing else; and those two words are, "Thank You!"
I might have asked God for something. But now, I see that thing as already done, just like He told us to. And I say, "thank You!"
And what happens if the future comes and that loved one dies of cancer? Well, you could disobey the will of God, and you could let go of your thankful heart and get sucked down into the swamp of feeling as though God let you down and that His Word just doesn't work.
But those feelings will just destroy you. If, instead, you obey God's Word and you give thanks in and for all things, and you hold on to that heart of thanksgiving, then you won't be destroyed.
Thanksgiving changes any atmosphere, no matter how dark, into something good, and full of peace, joy, strength, and rich with the potential for miracles.
Colossians 3:15-17 (NKJV) says this:
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
First we're told to let the peace of God rule in our hearts, and to be thankful. Then we're told to do all things in the name of Jesus, giving thanks.
So far, whether we're asking for something, going through something, doing something, saying something, or just seeking peace, we are told to be thankful.
A thankful heart is the one common thread to what the Bible says about all these things.
Colossians 4:2 (NKJV):
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;
And in Ephesians 1:16, Paul says this concerning his prayers for the believers:
16 (I) do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
Was Paul talking about two different things? Thanksgiving, and prayers? Or are they connected?
Well, let's consider what it says in 1 Samuel 16:7b (NKJV):
"...the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
The Lord looks at what? The Lord looks at the HEART.
We think that if we say the right words the right number of times, God will hear us. We at least probably think that we must at least say SOME words, or we can't be praying.
But the heart doesn't produce words. That's the function of the mind. The mind directs our emotions and produces the feelings of our heart. And THAT is what God sees. The Lord looks at the heart.
Maybe that's why just saying words isn't praying at all. Jesus said that the heathen think they will be heard for their many words. And if you've ever been a kid sitting at a tables loaded with delicious food on Thanksgiving, you may have had reason to wonder if the person praying for the food might not be a heathen, thinking they will be heard for the many words, and trying to make those words as pretty as possible.
But if anything, our words to God should reflect, enforce, direct, and strengthen the cry of our hearts -- hearts which are full of gratitude, and hearts which hold on to that which the natural eyes cannot see, believing that we have it already.
You know, not cultivating a thankful heart can be a very dangerous thing to do. At the very least, it can wreck our lives and our health. At the very worst, it can be eternally fatal.
Romans 1:21 (NKJV) says this:
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
This says, first of all, that they knew God. It does not say they didn't know God, and so they didn't glorify Him or give him thanks and they were darkened. Rather, it says they knew God; but they didn't glorify HIm and they were not thankful.
And notice this doesn't say they never "gave thanks." It says they were not thankful. In this case, thanksgiving was not an action, but a state of being. They "were not" thankful. They did not dwell in a state of being thankful.
And what happened? Their thoughts became futile, and, notice this, their foolish HEARTS were darkened.
They did not cultivate thankful hearts, and the light in their hearts went out.
And that's the direction you are going if you are not actively cultivating a thankful heart.
So... How DO you cultivate a thankful heart?
It's really not that hard. In fact, it's quite easy. A child could do it. What's required of you is a little bit of discipline. Consistency.
Take just a moment right now to think of something wonderful that happened to you some time in your life. Feel those feelings. Feel the feelings against your skin, the sounds of the words, the expressions on people's faces. Reproduce every wonderful little detail as vividly as you can.
And then give thanks.
What is that feeling?
You can also image something for which you have hoped and prayed. See it actually happening for you. Feel the feelings, hear the sounds, see the expressions, experience every little detail. And give thanks.
Next, bring that wonderful thing into the present moment, as though it is true right now. And feel it, allowing your gratitude to overflow.
What is that feeling?
These exercises will help you become familiar with the feeling of gratitude. And the more familiar you are with that feeling, the more easily you can create that feeling, and radiate it into your entire body.
This is called a thankful heart. And the more you have a thankful heart, the more you will see in your life that you can be thankful for.
And next time you start feeling sorry for yourself, or as though you're rejected and neglected, or as though God has abandoned you, or as though you always get the short end of the stick, stop. And generate and radiate a strong feeling of gratitude from your heart. From the center of your chest. Let it engulf you. Let it wash over you. And your perception will change. And then, things will change.
And this is why God said, "In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Let's close today by pledging ourselves to God -- our hearts -- to be hearts that radiate gratitude, and that believe that God's Word is true, and that we already have those good things for which we ask. And no matter what happens, we pledge that we will continue to cultivate and radiate a thankful heart.
*** listen to audio for closing and prayer ***