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Level Three Gratitude
Everybody talks about gratitude! I mean, everyone from the preacher on Sunday to your favorite self-help agnostic guru. And while everyone says it will make all the difference in the world... it won't. At least, not at level 1. It turns out, there are 3 levels to great gratitude. When we can get our thankfulness, our appreciation, to that third level, we will truly see a renovation in our spirit that leads to incredible optimism and accomplishment! To raise your gratitude up to the top level, check out today's episode!
Hello, welcome to the Excel Still More podcast. I am your host, Kris Emerson, and we are here to talk about tips and strategies that you can employ to deepen your faith, improve your relationships, and just get the most out of your life. Thank you for joining. Let's get started.
All right, so today we're going to be putting all of our focus on the idea of gratitude. That's actually a pretty big deal. People talk about it all the time. We use words like being thankful for what you have, appreciating what you have, counting your blessings. Gratitude is kind of a word that wraps all of that together and you probably already know that the New Testament is filled with passages on that, about being thankful. I mean, Philippians 4 is a verse. We read a lot. How do you overcome anxiety? You do it by looking at the things that you're thankful for and letting that help and strengthen you. There are just tons of principles on gratitude. Colossians 2 talks about overflowing with gratitude. There's a lot of benefit there. Here's the thing though. Our episode is titled Level Three Gratitude and I want to be very clear on that.
The gratitude that the Bible talks about that genuinely makes a daily difference in the life of the Christian is not some level one generic flat type of gratitude, which I'll be talking about in a minute, and it's not level two where you add one important element to it. If you really want to understand the power of gratitude, you have to graduate past those lower level, insufficient efforts in thankfulness and graduate to absolute full conviction gratitude. So by the end of this episode you will have a clear picture on what that looks like. But let me begin by talking to you about level one gratitude. Here's where it comes from. Those of you who are familiar with this program, you know how it came together. I've been preaching a long time, 18-19 years, that's a lot of Bible study, a lot of scripture working from the word of God outward. But also in the last few years I've been listening to podcasts and interviews and reading books by people who are not Bible centric, people who are motivational speakers, selfhelp coaches, and people who just know the way that human beings behave.
And I found all these cool and interesting ideas. A lot of the episodes in this series come from guys like that who are, I don't know, agnostic, maybe spiritual, but not necessarily biblically. So some of them perhaps are atheist, I don't really know. There's not a lot of reference to God, but they have all these great ideas. And what I've tried to do in this series in Excel Still More is bring the word of God and those ideas together and see if they fit and then present them. But I have to tell you, there's one thing that's just always rubbed me the wrong way. I'm listening to these guys... Now remember, no reference to God, Creator or Deity. Not at all, intentionally. And they say things like this. Here's a direct quote: "When you are consciously aware of all that you have to be grateful for, your life is imperfect harmony."
There is a tremendous amount of emphasis in the self help world, regardless of your religious background, on gratitude. In fact, I've heard a lot of these guys, really smart guys that have taught me a great many things, talk on and on about the need for daily thankfulness. Some of them will come out and tell you that is
the number one thing you have to do every day to live your best life and make progress and get better is you have to get up and look around and count the things in your life that are good. Really mound that up. This idea of: I'm alive, I have a family. The sun is out. And just get this concept of gratitude wrapped around you. And if you do that, your life comes into harmony. And as I'm listening to these guys, I keep asking the same question, grateful to Whom?
And by the way, I looked that up. It is whom. With an m, grateful to whom? But here's the question. Who are you thankful to when you're looking around thinking, man, I sure am thankful that I'm alive today and I have this family? To whom are you directing that thankfulness? And truthfully, I'm not picking up on anyone in the language of the way these people talk. It's just this idea of counting the pluses in your life and somehow that's going to make all the difference. I don't know about you, but that just kind of feels like snake oil to me. It feels like this fake thing that you're doing to convince yourself that everything's great because there are more pluses than minuses in your life, but if we're not attributing it to a source, if it's not about being thankful to some power that provides all of these good things, then it all just begins to feel kind of random.
I mean if you're one of those guys who says, look, just be thankful for what you have and that's the answer. What happens if you get up one day and you've gone through a lot of really tough things and you don't have a lot of pluses around you? There are not a lot of things that you can say: I'm really thankful for all of this, because there are more negatives than pluses." Do you just give up then? And that's a really big problem with this first level of gratitude. What we mean by that is you're thankful for what you have, but you have not attributed that to a grand Power who provides it. We need to attach God to our gratitude or it's not even really gratitude and look, there are other problems associated with this. What if you don't have much to be thankful for?
Do you just look around and say, that's the way it is? There's nothing that can be done, and what if you feel powerless to change it? As many of us do. I need to understand that there is a God over me, his hand upon me from whom all of these good things flow so that I can then become prayerful when I'm struggling with finding things to be thankful for. And one more thing about this first level and why we need to move past it, because it doesn't mention God, because it doesn't have a divine source surrounding everything. Most of the things that people are grateful for are physical things. Have you noticed that people who talk about how thankful and appreciative and blessed they are, but they don't mention God when they get into detailing what those things are, it's going to be almost exclusively physical.
My health, my job, my family, my home, and while those things are provided by God, God provides so much more than those things. God provides things that cannot be taken away, that cannot be damaged, that Satan cannot manipulate. And so when our thankfulness is limited to things that are physical, we lose sight of the things that are eternal, the truest and greatest blessings for which we are
most appreciative. So that brings us to our second level. You say, okay, that's not going to be me. And by the way, you certainly should be appreciative and thankful for the physical things, but there are so many more things. Here's how you begin to tap into that. Level two is when we bring God right into the middle of the picture. We never say we're thankful for anything without somehow connecting it to the power of God in our lives.
We don't talk about anything we appreciate without also connecting it to the One whom we appreciate above all else. We don't list our blessings without listing the value of the One who blesses us and talking about how he blesses us, which will help us think more in a spiritual way, and we'll have all of these extra things. Gratitude explodes when you bring the Creator into the picture and of course the message of his Son, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of heaven and all of these terrific things that level one gratitude just misses. And listen, from a biblical perspective, I did a lot of the work for you here. I went through the New Testament and I looked up all of the verses that talked about gratitude. Now, as you can imagine, they're connected to God. Every single one of them has a target. It is a gratitude towards God for something that he has provided.
Colossians 2:7 talks about overflowing with gratitude, but it connects to that which we have received from God: Christ Jesus, Our Lord. We've been firmly rooted in him. We've been established in him. Verse seven, these are things that God has done to us and for us through Christ and so our gratitude isn't just thankfulness for what we have. It's thankfulness to the one who has provided it. In first Timothy chapter four where it talks about those who tried to forbid marriage and certain foods and all of that, It goes on to say in verse 4: "for everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude, for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer". Now, listen carefully to this. Gratitude is not just appreciation for what has happened. Gratitude is thankfulness for what is received.
We have received marriage from God. I am thankful for my wife and my family and my home. I am thankful to God for providing marriage, for providing guidance for the home. You see how that works? That's gratitude level two where you're always connecting God to the picture. This ought to become a daily practice for you. List the things you're grateful for and then talk about what it is about God, what he has done, that has made it so. So if I'm appreciative of my home or the food that we eat, then I'll want to talk about God and his provisions, the job that he's provided us, the opportunities that we have here. If I'm thankful for our health, if I'm thankful for our family, then I want to talk about God and the credit that is due him for all of that and how he is the one who has held all of this together. And the more we see his presence in our daily lives and his hand upon us, the stronger we're going to be.
You guys might remember an episode or two ago when we talked about overcoming worry and the way that we do that in Philippians four is we are so incredibly thankful in our prayers for how God has cared for us, for the way that he has brought us through. God takes care of the grass of the field. Jesus says,
God takes care of the flowers and the birds. God has taken care of me. You see the gratitude. Really the gratitude is more about the Source than even the thing that is received and when we get this, a couple of other cool things happen. Firstly, when we feel like we're short on something, something that we want or we wish that we had or we feel like we need, instead of just saying, well, I guess I'll count something else to be thankful for today and its place. Oh No, I'm going to God in prayer. I will pour out my bucket before the Lord.
I will lay in front of him and beg for his help because I know it's not about the having or the not having of the thing. It's about a connection to a God who has the power to give me all I need. I am grateful for him and everything that comes out of his hand. And the second thing, a nice little bonus that comes from this. As you learn gratitude, thankfulness and appreciation, sometimes for what you don't have. A level one people can't do this! Level one gratitude that really just measures the value of the day by the good things that you have, can't even comprehend that some of the best things going on in your life is what you don't have. It's where God told you know, it's where God asks you to wait.
It's where God is expecting you to work for it. When my gratitude is sourced in God, I'm thankful for what is and what isn't. I know how to get along in both ways, because God is my strength. Okay, so you might be thinking, well, that's it. I mean thankfulness to God. That's what it means to be grateful. But there's actually one more level. This is level three gratitude. It includes everything we've said so far, but that's just not enough. We can do better. We can excel still more in gratitude and that means level three. Let me explain. Here is a short definition of gratitude, "the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness". Did you see that? True, fully formed gratitude is not just appreciative to someone who has provided something, but it includes a readiness to respond, a desire within us to show our appreciation for what has been received and to return in whatever capacity possible, any level of kindness that we can give back to them.
Let me add one more Bible passage to make this clear. It includes gratitude and it really is all three levels combined. "Therefore", Hebrews 12:28, "since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe." Now, here's what I want you to see. The focus is on something spiritual: that kingdom, the government of God and it says we receive it. So that's all of the things we've been talking about. We have something great because it has been given to us by God. But it goes on to say, not let us feel gratitude, but let us show gratitude. True, comprehensive, soul invigorating gratitude immediately compels us to offer something to God "by which we may offer to God." What do we offer? Well, we offer him what pleases him "an acceptable service," so we offer service to God in gratitude and we do so in reverence to his power and in awe of his majesty.
So what does this look like? Well let's think about how it would look in the morning. We've been talking about the journal that you may do in the morning
and by the way, the Excel Still More journal that we're hoping to publish and have ready for you is getting really close at this point. You'll hear more about that soon. You can follow us on the Facebook page, excel still more, and we've already posted some draft pictures and so forth. But there is a section that you fill in every day called Level Three Gratitude and it asks you to do this: list something that you are thankful for, attribute it reverently to God and then connect to that something that you purpose to do as a return of thanks to the Lord.
"Father, I am thankful to you for my home and for this food and for my job. It is all because you have led me here and your hand is laying out a path for me today as I go to work and I do the work that needs to be done, I will do it with an attitude that shows my love for you. I will use this opportunity to draw people to you." That kind of language is level three, gratitude. It connects it all together. "Father, I am thankful for my children. You have blessed us with health and safety. You built the family, you made all this, so you've gotten us through. Father, I return these children to you. My goal is to lead them and raise them to love you and honor you. We as a family want to return worship to you and time and faithfulness."
And again, when all of these pieces fit together, we can even show gratitude when we don't have something. Maybe I prayed to the Lord and say, "Lord, there are some things that I've been asking you about and it seems that right now your answer is no. I just want you to know that I am thankful for your guidance. I'm thankful that you provide what I need and when it's something that I don't need, you hold it back from me at the moment because you know what is best. I just want you to know I appreciate that and I will return gratitude to you by having the right attitude about that, by accepting what is and doing it with greater emphasis on the spiritual blessings of my life and not being so tied to the physical things that I do or do not have."
So let me just ask you guys as we close. Does that sound helpful? I'm just here to tell you that's the kind of gratitude the Bible talks about. That's the kind of thing that made God's people so incredibly strong. They knew that Jesus was the source of power in their lives and they knew how to get along in whatever circumstances. So listen, as we close, be thankful. Be appreciative. Count your blessings every day. But when it comes down to what that means to you, don't just put a heart beside some Instagram picture that talks about how being grateful brings life harmony. Go beyond that. Be more involved. Bring God into the picture today in every way possible. Achieve level three gratitude.
Thank you so much for listening today. If you enjoyed this program, we encourage you to share with your friends. You can tell them about the podcast, you can share the content from the excel still more Facebook page. All of that is really helpful. Also, remember, if you're an apple user, subscribe rate and review. It makes an enormous difference, and please keep in mind whatever you do today in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, excel still more.
Kris Emerson, a loving husband, father of four, and gospel preacher, takes a few minutes to go over some important life changing and spirituals insights.
- How to be grateful in a productive way
- What is gratitude and how does it fuel your spirit for growth
- How do we get to level three gratitude in our daily walk
- How to connect thankfulness and the returning of thanks to God
- How to let gratitude invigorate every other thing you have to do today