Study Guide: Whole Hearted: Part 2

Sunday May 3, 2015 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In part of two of this two-part series on living wholeheartedly, Seth focused on the kind of heart that honors God. The focus of this teaching is the importance of gratitude, as noted through common myths about gratitude and possible danger of ingratitude or unspoken gratitude. We all have such a debt of love and the God-honoring way to pay back this debt is through gratitude and practical acts of love.

Extended Summary:

Seth started out this final teaching on living wholeheartedly by focusing on what kind of heart God truly honors. The negative object lesson was provided in story form regarding a man named Hank who lived without joy and had a pervasive negative attitude and perspective on life. Hank was a weekly church attender and yet his constant judgment, critique and complaint ostracized him from most communities. If the church is supposed to be the place in the world with the best opportunity to transform the human heart, how is it possible to be so invested in a church and be little changed in ways of the heart?

The transformation of the human heart is central to the New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus and prophesied in Jeremiah 31:33-34. The law was to be written not on stone or paper, but would be written on every human heart. One of the central characteristics of a heart being transformed by God is living a life of gratitude and this was exemplified through the story of healing of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. This story begins by emphasizing that Jesus is on the border between Samaria and Galilee and comes in contact with an ostracized community of lepers. Jesus instructs these ten lepers to go find the priest BEFORE they are actually healed; a step of great faith and courage in an environment where leprosy carried immense social stigma. The crux of this story is that only one of these ten people come back to show any sort of gratitude to Jesus for the healing of their leprosy, and Jesus mentions that this person was a Samaritan (the last person a Jewish audience would have suspected).

Gratitude is critical to our ability to grow in living wholeheartedly, but there are two common myths that must be tackled first. The first myth is that you need more stuff to be more grateful which is simple to debunk once you meet someone who has received more stuff. The second myth is that you can become more grateful simply by trying harder. The reality is that you can’t be more grateful by simply trying harder, but you can slowly move in that direction through training and practice.

The training of gratitude was illustrated by Seth’s story about Christmas in his home as a child and the militant procedure of thank you notes within an agreed upon timetable. The trouble with this training was that in the difficult circumstance of attempting to run a business, Seth had forgotten this lessen in life of showing gratitude. It can be so easy to forget that there is no such thing as a self-made success and we all need people and we all owe somebody (Romans 13:8 notes this debt of love we have to God and how love and gratitude towards others is our way of paying back this debt). It is not simply a matter of being grateful, we must learn how to express it in thoughtful and timely ways. Others often experience unexpressed gratitude as the same thing as ingratitude. How does somebody else experience gratitude that you just think about?

The sermon concluded with a re-telling of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15:11-32. Seth related this story to living in the world of wages where there is satisfaction in hard work. The problem with the world of wages is that you must confront what you do when you follow the path of the younger son. Seth relayed his own experience as an abandoned son by his birth mother, as a chosen son by his adopted family and as the prodigal son during his time walking away from God. The reason Christians should be the most grateful people in the world is that we already have what we want. We have a home and the Father gives it to us. We have been loved, forgiven and are able to opt out of the world of wages. The goal of the story of the Prodigal Son is not for us to be younger son or the older son, but to live out the love, gratitude and forgiveness of the Father.

The final note in this sermon was done through the simple, yet thought-provoking, words of Kid President who encouraged us to find simple ways to love and show gratitude to those around us. The hope is that tomorrow your day-to-day life will have more moments of gratitude than grumbling.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Who do you owe something to? Is there someone you need to express gratitude to and write it down?
  2. Which version of the “son or daughter” do you resonate with? The Abandoned Son/Daughter, the Chosen Son/Daughter or the Prodigal Son/Daughter? Why?
  3. Do you own a debt of love or gratitude to someone?
  4. What could you do to help train you into a more grateful person today?
  5. Which piece of advice from Kid President do you think should be implemented in your own life?