Study Guide: Grateful

Sunday March 3, 2019 | Shawna Boren

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this in-between-series sermon, Shawna discusses how to cultivate and maintain a posture of gratitude in a fallen world. Particularly in a world full of negative distractions fed by social media, sometimes more than our brains can really handle.

Extended Summary:

Shawna opens today explaining a recent experience she was able to share with her son at a concert. The greatness of this evening, however, was almost stunted when she got home and began interacting with the world through her phone. She felt sucked into all the struggles, issues, and negativity in our world and it began to weigh on her. It is in moments like these that, as she explains, it is crucial to redirect our focus on gratitude. Our current climate is one of frustration, hatred, and tearing others down. The negativity of our culture is so prevalent that studies are showing increased levels of stress. So much so that stress is at the brink of being considered an epidemic.

Not all of social media is bad, some of it can be uplifting, but studies show that people who are constantly on social media experience adverse consequences. Through social media we are made instantly aware anytime a tragedy strikes. This constant awareness of tragedy, frustration, and hatred can become a poison that adversely affects us and all of our relationships. 

As Shawna explains, studies have also shown that gratitude correlates with joy and happiness. As Kingdom people we are told that our response to the negativity is to:

…not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

As Jesus followers, we don’t just do what others do. We have a Kingdom call to gratitude.

Psalm 107:1-9 —

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.
 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
 They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
 He led them by a straight way
   to a city where they could settle.
 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
 for he satisfies the thirsty
   and fills the hungry with good things.

Our lives should be lived in direct response to the truth that our Father has brought us out of desert wastelands. We have been redeemed, called his children, and given a new home in God’s Kingdom Family. As we live into this reality, we can learn to live out gratitude as a posture of being. We can learn to pulse with it throughout the day.

For many of us this posture of gratitude is not our natural state. There are several things that can encroach on our gratitude. The first thing that Shawna mentions is the conditioning of “never enough.” Whether it’s our time, money, fitness goals, rest, coffee, or image of self, we can fall into the lie of never having/being enough. With social media, this problem is exacerbated through the distance we see between our lives and the lives others have manufactured. We can feel like we are always missing out and not take to time to acknowledge the gifts already present in our lives. The second thief of gratitude is busyness. The busyness of our lives crowds out the space necessary for us to reflect on the things we are grateful for. Sometimes life is so suffocating that it can drown out our awareness of God. It is in these moments that we must take our struggles and busyness and offer it to God. Gratitude isn’t about denying hard realities, it is about bringing them to God and asking him to have his way. David expresses this honest wrestling in the Psalms where it says:

Psalm 13–

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

As Shawna explains, when we are in those moments of struggle we can be real with God and also know that our struggles are not the final word, and we can be thankful and grateful and have hope in the future that God has for us. We can know that we are not alone. Our God is our anchor and foundation, and nothing can separate us from his love. He is faithful and he will never let us down.

We can learn to cultivate gratitude within our relationships. Instead of undermining our relationships through the over spilling of ingratitude and negativity, we can cultivate an environment of gratitude through partnering to communicate the ways in which we are grateful within our social circles at work, home, etc.

Shawna ends with a story from a book called, “The Hiding Place”. This book tells the real life story of Corrie ten Boom who along with her sister were sent away to a concentration camp during the holocaust when her family was caught hiding Jews. Corrie’s sister Betsy, after reading 1 Thessalonians, began to thank God for the fleas present in their barracks. Corrie didn’t understand why her sister would thank God for fleas, however Betsy continued to thank God for them anyway, defying logic. Later, they found out that the guards rarely entered or paid attention to their barracks because of the fleas. This saved them from extra harassment from the guards and allowed them to form a Bible study with the others in their barracks which normally would be out of the question.

Reflection Questions: