Good morning! Welcome to Hope City, my name is Peter, and I’m so glad that you’re here today. Hope City is a Bible believing non-denominational Christian Church that is serious about making a difference in our community. We are #ForSarasota because we believe that God is #ForSarasota. If you’re new here, I’d love the opportunity to meet you after service. Let’s chat outside on the patio…
Well, this morning, we have arrived at week 3 of our series called, “The Pursuit of Joy”. One of the things we’ve recognized is that people are always interested in becoming happy… Happiness is that feeling of elation that occurs when your situation is favorable. Happiness can come very quickly. And it can leave just as quick. It is situationally dependent.
We’ve decided to talk about this here at church, because this isn’t just a Christian thing, like it only matters to people who follow Jesus. No! This is a people thing. We’re all in a pursuit of Joy- and God has some things to say about how we can find true Joy!
This past weekend was Thanksgiving, and my family and I were able to get out of town and over to spend some time in Texas with my family. It was such a great time to be together. We see each other all together about once a year, and it really does feel like a party. I met our youngest niece for the first time, played Ultimate Frisbee with the boys, laughed with my sisters… We had a great time. We had an incredible week, but Thanksgiving was definitely the high point. The whole week was working up towards Thanksgiving. This was the big day! The moment where all the food has been prepared and rolled out. We got dressed a little nicer, we lingered at the table a little longer, and we ate way more than we should!
This is a bit of what my stomach felt like… (Inflate Balloon) Some of you get it! You were there… before you judge me, how many of you men wore sweatpants to the table? Ladies? Yoga pants?
And yet there was one lonely dish on the table… that I just had to say NO Thank you to. No Thank You. As in, Not Thankful for you. There are certain foods that I am just not thankful for. Like Broccoli, and it’s ugly cousin Cauliflower. Nope. That’s a big, NO THANK YOU.
It’s amazing to me though how we pick and choose what we are thankful for. Have you thought about this?
What determines what you are thankful for, or better yet, when you express your thanks? We just celebrated Thanksgiving. The one day where everyone pauses at least for a moment and seems to be thankful for something. And yet, isn’t it funny that the very next day we are out at the store buying the newest upgrade to that thing that we were just grateful for?
Black Friday can make us crazy.
In 2003, RadioShack, which was still a place that people shopped at, honestly believed you would part with your Black Friday dollars if it offered a DVD-VCR combo for $119.99. That’s for all you “we still have our kids’ old dance recitals on VHS and want to bring out the tapes any time they bring home a new boyfriend” people. It’s 2003 people! No Thanks! This was one of our biggest fights when my wife Tiffany and I were doing our wedding registry! Do we register for a combo or embrace the future!
2007 wasn’t any better though. Finish Line featured Heelys, remember these? Wheeled shoes for kids. They had them on sale for $29.99, which was the cheapest way for your kid to get from point A to the Hospital. NO THANKS!
If we’re not careful, the moments that we are supposed to be filled with the most joy can be robbed by No Thanks.
In a study done of 12,000 people… Those who defined themselves as either being joyful, or joyous each practiced gratitude in some fashion. They built into their lives a method of remaining grateful. And yet, there are so many of us who say No Thanks. And then we wonder why we have no joy. It’s not Joy that makes us grateful, its gratitude that makes us joyful.
Which is why it’s so important for us to grow in our gratitude. Let’s look together at Luke 17: 12-19 today and see what Jesus has to say about our ability to say thanks and how it relates to our Joy. Turn in your Bible’s or grab the one on the chairs around you, you can find this on page 715 in those Bibles. Luke is one of the books in the Bible that tell the story of Jesus. In fact, Luke states in the beginning of this book that he is writing this to keep an orderly account of what Jesus did while here on earth.
Here we find Jesus walking with his disciples on his way to Jerusalem… And as they were traveling, Jesus and His disciples encounter a group of people who say No Thanks. But these are not an ordinary group of people, take a look:
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” Lk 17:11–13
These guys were outcasts, living on the edges of society. Leprosy was an infectious skin disease which caused people to act and suffer in horrific ways, with the skin rotting off of their faces, arms, and extremities. But leprosy was also something that kept people from the party. Lepers were forced to live outside of the village, often in caves, kept from seeing their family, their wife, or their kids to prevent the spread of this awful disease. No longer could they hang out with their friends, and they were kept from ever going into the temple. Which means that these guys could never go see their priest and make a sacrifice for their sins. They were stuck in sin, stuck in sickness, and stuck in their societal position. Their leprosy defined who they were and what they were able to do.
Leprosy was also talked about in the Bible in a symbolic way. It symbolized what sin was like. Sin is living on your own, for your own. It’s turning your back on what God’s design and His plan is for your life. Leprosy pictured the inward, often invisible scarring caused by sin on the human heart and spirit. And Jesus confronts this issue head on. Look back with me.
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”
Christ sent them to the priest for cleansing, just like it says in Leviticus 14. So that these rituals might be followed.
And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Lk 17:14–19
Do you know what happened? Jesus breathed life into these guys. (Inflate Balloon) All the Lepers were healed. All the Lepers were reunited with friends and family. All these men will never forget the day that their long, nightmare was miraculously transformed into a dream come true. Jesus made it possible for them to get back into the party. (Inflate Balloon) But only one allowed what was happening to overflow into Gratitude. The rest said, No Thank You. There was No Thank You.
This ratio is not good. 9/10 of this group neglected to express their gratitude. Yet, before we cast too much judgement on these other 9 guys, we need to check our self. How often are you grateful for all that God has done for you?
Gratitude is like these deflated balloons (hold up deflated balloons). There is a lot of potential in them… but they require something in order to grow to their fullest and maximum potential and make the greatest impact. Like these balloons, you and I have the ability to grow in gratitude, but it will require that you be intentional about it. The question, is who are you in this story? Are you one of the 9 or the 1 who grew in his Gratitude?
Gratitude for the one leper was an immediate reaction to God’s Grace in his life. Before going and doing all the things he couldn’t wait to go do… He came back to say thank you to the one who rescued him.
In order for you and I to have a growing gratitude, we must do three things.
The first thing that we must do, is A Growing Gratitude Sees It. We have to see it…
But, what is IT? It is the subject of our gratitude. It is that thing that we are overwhelmed by. It catches us off guard. It’s the raise we had no idea about. The day your fiancé proposed to you and pulled off the greatest surprise! It can be those moments that you’ll tell your children about one day. But that’s not just it.
Too often I think that we aren’t surprised in life anymore. No one goes to bed and wakes up saying, “WHOAH! I WOKE UP THIS MORNING!” And yet the reality is that not one of you in this room is guaranteed your next breath! There is no place that tells us we are promised anything. And yet, we treat it as if it was supposed to just happen! Expectation dulls our sense of Gratitude… why? Because we just expect it to be that way.
The other day, I had this dream, it really was a terrible dream. It was one of those dreams where you wake up and you’re grateful to have woken up from it, you know the kind? Well, in my dream tragedy struck my world, and I’m not sure why, or how, but Tiffany was gone. I knew she was there, and then all of a sudden, she wasn’t there. SUPER WEIRD, I know… but I’ll tell you what, when I woke up, I walked out to the living room and found her, I had this totally different sense of appreciation for her. For something that I take for granted every day of my life. I’m no longer surprised when I wake up and realize that there she is!
Talk to someone who has walked through a life threatening illness, or whose spouse has battled cancer, and ask them if they take a day for granted. NO!
Gratitude is not a response to getting what you want. Gratitude is recognizing that you have more than you deserve. Think about these men. They all got what they wanted, but only one recognized that this was far more than they deserved. This one guy saw what Jesus did for Him and He was surprised by it!
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace. …Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” ~Thomas Merton
To Grow in Gratitude you need to see it. You need to see God’s Grace in your life with EYES OF EXPECTANCY. Expectant eyes are looking for what God might do next. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s looking for what He might do around you, in you, or through you.
It’s like when you take a child somewhere for the first time, everything is new, everything causes wide eyed wonderment. Walk through the world with Eyes of Expectancy, and you’ll grow in your gratitude. But you’ll have to see it. Because a Growing Gratitude Sees it. What could you be overlooking?
It’s not enough to just see it, look at what this former leper did, verse 15…
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.
This guy saw he was healed, and he came running back to praise God! He was shouting again… typically he would be shouting UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN! And now he’s shouting, I’VE BEEN MADE CLEAN! Check it out! Look at what God has done for me! Can you believe it? This guy couldn’t help but say it… He couldn’t help but talk about what God had just done in his life. A Growing Gratitude Says It. That’s the second thing in your notes this morning if you’re following along. You need to say it!
Saying it, or giving words to your gratitude is putting breath into the balloon. It’s inflating your gratitude quotient. Notice that this Leper came back in a LOUD Voice. He wanted everyone to know. It’s like at the party when you bring balloons, why? Because you’re trying to draw attention to this day as a part from every other day, this was the day that person was born! (Inflate Balloon) It’s a special celebration. It’s the day someone graduated college. Whatever the milestone, you want to bring attention to it.
The same thing is true when you share your gratitude. You are drawing attention to and acknowledging what you see. In this case, the leper was healed, and he took notice of that! His gratitude increased and He let people know.
Tiffany and I have been married for 13 years now. I’m still learning, but in the early days of my marriage I didn’t always acknowledge what I had seen. I didn’t always say, thank you for what Tiffany had done. I can remember coming home after a long days work and sitting down on the couch and putting my feet up. And we had toddlers running around the house, tearing it up like tiny little wrecking balls. Well, Tiffany had spent much of the day cleaning the house, and following these two human wrecking balls around picking up after them, and I never said anything. Let me tell you, that doesn’t go over well. It’s not that I didn’t notice it. Because I did. I just neglected to say anything! It’s not enough to just see it. It’s not enough to acknowledge that something happened. You have to say something, Ladies, am I right?
We know this, and yet sometimes we struggle to practice this. In fact, Tiffany may never have been more like Jesus than when she said, did you not notice I cleaned the house? Why didn’t you say anything? Jesus just said it differently… He said,
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Lk 17:17
It’s almost like Jesus is saying, What gives? How could they not see what I did for them? When in one moment your skin is falling off your body, and then in the next it’s not… that’s hard to miss. You can’t miss that, but you can miss being grateful for it.
This actually runs deeper than just noticing your husband or wife’s efforts around the house. Let me tell you how this has shaped my world in the last 30 days. As many of you know, we have just moved into an official office space up the road from here. For the last year we have been operating out of my house and my garage. We have opened Hope City Headquarters officially. I wish that I could tell you that it was an easy 30 days for me, or that it was instantly productive, and just amazing. But it hasn’t been. These past 30 days, I’ve got to confess that I’ve been anxious and fearful. There has been an internal struggle in my mind and my heart. I was fearful that it was financially a stretch, what if we can’t afford it… all of the what ifs began running through my mind. Let me tell you that Church Planting is a crazy weird thing… Because you have people on the outside who say, “You are doing such a great job.” And I would tell you that it’s really easy to believe that I’ve done something great. . And I’ve got to confess to you that for a while I would have thought that. I would have believed that. And then the office hit. There were increased bills, there were increased incidental costs, and I couldn’t strategize my way around it, couldn’t do anything else… I just had to recognize that it isn’t about my abilities or my skills. It is about God and what He was doing in our church. It took me feeling out of control to recognize that I never was in control anyway. God is doing something incredible here at Hope City, and I have the privilege of being a part of it just like the rest of you. We are stepping out in faith financially… trusting God to provide.
This past week on Instagram I posted a picture of the door to Hope City Headquarters. I wrote that Hope City Headquarters … a reminder of God’s faithfulness… I never open this door without thinking of how good God is!
This is God’s church. He has provided in the past, and He will be faithful in the future. So, we must praise him in the now.
What are you not saying? What are you not seeing? When we have eyes of expectancy, we need to follow up with words of recognition. Your gratitude will soar when your words flow. It’s not sufficient to just feel gratitude, we must speak gratitude.
We can see it, we can say it, but there is still something else. To have A Growing Gratitude, we must repeat it. A Growing Gratitude Repeats It. One time gratitude is just a change of attitude, but gratitude practiced over time changes your life. This man, came back to Jesus and fell on his face. I love the way Luke records it… Look again.
16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him
This may be the first opportunity that he’s had to have human interaction again. The first thing that this man does after obeying Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priest, he returns to Jesus in worship. He could have been hugging his wife for the first time in years. He could have been kissing his kids, instead he buries his face in the dirt and worships Jesus. He’s back at Jesus feet thanking Him for all that He did in his life. A Growing Gratitude Repeats It.
This is one of the reasons why we sing a few songs every week here at church. In fact, we got some feedback recently from someone who wouldn’t identify themselves as a Christ follower and they said, I liked the message, but I could do without the Christian Rock Show. I wanted to say, well you can, but we can’t. I’ve seen what Jesus has done in my life, and I will spend the rest of my life thanking God for that.
Practicing gratitude is like lifting weights. The more often you lift, the more you can lift. Well the same thing is true with gratitude. The more frequent you practice gratitude, the deeper your gratitude will be. The deeper your gratitude is, the deeper your joy will be. And when your joy is found in what Christ has done for you, there is nothing that can shake that. Nothing can rock that. Here at Hope City we aim to be an Anchor of Hope in our community, because we know that our Hope is found in Jesus Christ and what He has done for us.
Is the gratitude flowing out of your life as abundant as the grace that has flowed into your life? Don’t be afraid to mention the mundane. The things that seem small or insignificant can drastically shape your ability to be grateful, and our gratitude shapes our joy.
Recognize, Acknowledge and Express all that God has done for you! Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to what you already have. It draws your attention to the great things that God and others have done for you. It adds more balloons to the party… And this gratitude attracts the attention of others and point it to Jesus!
Do you want to grow in your joy? Cultivate a thankful heart! This is the best way to safeguard against becoming bitter, and sour. A thankful heart can’t help but radiate joy, and peace to the world around it.
So how will you grow your gratitude?
What if for the next thirty days you decided not to say anything negative about your spouse, not to them, or anyone. And what if for the next thirty days you decided to say at least one thing you admire about them, or appreciate them for, and say it to them, and one other person. Think about what could happen in your life! Think about the joy you could experience. Move from griping to gratitude.
Do we take time to thank Jesus for our salvation, and our new life? Do we praise God that we have been healed within? Our salvation does not depend on gratitude. Jesus said to the leper as He sent him on his way again, “Your faith has made you well” (v. 19). Our salvation does not depend on what we do after Christ has spoken forgiveness to us. But how appropriate it is to come back joyfully to Him, with thanks and praise, to offer our whole selves as His willing disciples.
What will you be grateful for today? I don’t know what these balloons represent for you, but each one of these balloons could easily represent something you should be grateful for.
Today I want to give you an opportunity to close out this series on Joy by spending a few minutes in worship. We are going to spend the next 4-5 minutes just thanking God. Wherever you are… You don’t have to have your life together to do this… You can do this no matter if you would call yourself a Christ follower or not. We are going to write a few things that you are grateful for. In fact, we’ve got balloons around the room right now, and I want to invite you to take a marker from the table and write a word or two of something you are grateful for. We want to draw our attention to what God has done for us.
Maybe for some of you, the word you would write on this balloon is actually a Name. There is someone in your life that you need to thank God for. This could be a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend.
Maybe for others of you, it’s going to be the word Health. You have paused and given thanks to God for your health today, and what He has brought you through.
While still others of you, you’re going to write about a provision. Something that God has done for you when you didn’t think it was even possible.
In just a few seconds, I’m going to pray and ask you to get up and write your gratitude as an act of worship. It’s not just enough to see it, you have to say it and repeat it. Let’s inflate our gratitude, and deepen our joy!