I remember my first time at Disney World. What an amazing experience! The pyrotechnics (I love fire), musicals, 3d rides, and pineapple ice cream were fantastic. I enjoyed every moment, except having “It’s a Small World” stuck in my head. I noticed something interesting and alarming while at the happiest place on earth though; one of the least common sites was a smile. Thousands of people with nothing to do but eat, drink, and be merry with hardly a smirk to be seen.
As I walked throughout the park those two days I looked and looked for people who seemed joyful and happy. There were few. Even when getting off crazy rides, the average person lacked enthusiasm.
What could be the cause of such a tragedy? Was it the heat, or the lines, or the cost? Perhaps it was everyone had “It’s a Small World After All” running through their minds driving them closer to insanity? I don’t think these were the causes of such widespread unhappiness.
We have a problem in America. Ok, we have a lot of problems in America, but this one is frequently overlooked. This problem has infected us individually, in the home, societally, and in the church. It has spread to all of us.
The evil is bothersome in large quantities, but in little doses it can be enjoyable. Sometimes we share it with others and infect them. At times, groups of friends and family members comfort one another with its poison. I am guilty too.
This grave issue is unthankfulness: murmuring, complaining, ungratefulness, ingratitude.
This “little” problem seeps through our minds and speech going unnoticed and rarely confronted.
As Americans there is little reason to perpetuate this evil, but so much focus is on ourselves that we can’t see how selfish it is-how disastrous to our happiness. We cannot see how it affects those around us, including the lost world.
We often ruin what could be the best moments of life through this wrong focus of ingratitude:
Romans 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
What is presented in this passage is a group of people who have a knowledge of God and reject it because they don’t esteem God as great and are unthankful. The results are: the darkening of man’s heart and affections, vile lusts toward one another, and sinful self-destructive behavior. All of these downfalls are in America today, but I would like to note that the key causes (dethroning God/unthankfulness) are found too frequently in the lives of Christians.
People like you and me, who claim to follow truth, are also perpetrators of America’s downfall.
- They Glorified Him Not as God
The greatest command in Scripture is to love God, but Americans worship idols. It’s not by bowing down to statues, but lives in general give a nod to religion and focus on entertainment. New devices are more desired than a meaningful life. Trendy clothes become more important than reaching the needy. Social Media “likes” overtake spreading the gospel. Pure religion is to care for the fatherless and widow-the highlight of America’s religion is a new outfit on Easter.
Carnal people respect talents, looks, riches, athleticism, and personality more than Christlikeness. In the church being “cool” or funny is often a prerequisite for acceptance, not a person’s genuineness or love for Christ. It is forgotten that talents were given by God. There is a tendency to take pride in others and ourselves.
Millions of Christians can tell you the names of their favorite athlete, musician, or actor and would even call them a hero, but don’t esteem (or even know of) a young woman like Katie Davis or faithful men like Richard Wurmbrand who risk their lives to feed the poor and rescue the persecuted. These people, missionaries and ministers sacrificing for the benefit of others, should be more admired. They are not relying on talent or giftedness to gain fame and fortune, but have made the hard choice to lay down their lives for others. Ultimately, they have chosen to esteem God by living the gospel. My point is this:
When we make more of entertainers, and less of God and His servants, we aren’t glorifying God as God. We are erecting idols.
Every talented individual on this planet was gifted by their Creator. They may have developed those gifts, but they didn’t choose to be born musical, attractive, intelligent, or athletic. When men are glorified, and hearts fail to praise their Creator, He is not glorified as God. He deserves thanks and glory for all the pleasurable things we enjoy.
I am not against entertainers or athletes (go Broncos), but selfish lifestyles are promoted and men over God by an unbalanced attention to the trivial. When temporal success is lauded by the church more than eternal values it’s as though God exists to fulfill our dreams of success, instead of believing that joy comes from fulfilling His will. Can an athlete fulfill God’s will for their life through sports? Yes! Most important though is the reflection of Christ in this person’s life, not the gold medal.
Blessings come from seeking God, but we are not to seek God simply for the blessings.
A focus on ourselves and worldly achievements leads us into ungratefulness. Seeking pleasure and notoriety more than His kingdom causes ingratitude to intensify. Chasing happiness is the hardest way to catch it.
It isn’t true that if one isn’t in deep sin and attends a church then he can enjoy the American Dream and God expects little more. The Biblical truth is that God calls all His children to center their lives around Him (Deut. 6:4-15) regardless of their profession.
God desires a loving relationship with us. This is why Jesus’ call to Christians is about more than living a clean comfortable American life and following a few moral obligations. Jesus calls us to join Him in the work of the gospel by giving up everything, being inconvenienced, and even persecuted to spread God’s love.
Mark 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
Mark 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Jesus teaches that true blessing comes when we surrender all we hold dear for God’s glory, not the pursuit of happiness.
We do not esteem God as God when we live for our pleasure and not His, for we were created for Him (Rev. 4:11).
Are you living to pursue greater pleasure and leisure, or to further the eternal kingdom of God? Are You willing to be inconvenienced, even mocked, to make much of the gospel?
Living for one’s self breeds ungratefulness.
2. Neither were They Thankful
Back to the illustration of Disney World; The reason so many seem unhappy is because of unthankful attitudes (I overheard this while standing in lines). Sure, Disney World is expensive, but such a small part of the world’s population gets to enjoy such an experience. It was hot, but cold drinks and ice cream are available when desired: most slept in a resort with air conditioning. The lines are boring, but it could be a bread line instead.
Ingratitude grows by focusing on temporal pleasure and minor inconveniences instead of daily blessings. For some, days of leisure, laughter, fun, and family are wasted by ingratitude. Our own lives are ruined when the focus is on negatives. I wonder how many incredible experiences are wasted by being unthankful?
This video gives in an adequate illustration of how one can waste their life.
You ruin what you have by seeking what you don’t.
I’ve been blessed to travel the world for four years. As I’ve ministered to orphans in cemeteries and people eating mice, it struck me as absurd how unthankful I can be: how focused I am on myself. America has a culture of envy, dissatisfaction, and covetousness. Americans are constantly aware of all the things they don’t have, concentrating on those objects which they desire to gain, instead of humbly focusing on that for which they can be grateful. This attitude does not please God or aid the church (Col. 3:15).
The sin of ingratitude portrays God as distant and uninvolved, instead of the gracious provisional Father He is.
Being unthankful disables from serving others because it places focus on oneself. Generous people typically focus on what they have to give, not on what they desire to gain. I want to be like that. I want to be like Jesus who, although He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
Jesus is the physical image of God. He came to heal, restore, and give rest. Throughout the world God uses dedicated people to feed the poor, be a father to the fatherless, and free the addict. He uses those who make much of Him. He uses those who are thankful.
There is always someone with more than you, but there are millions more with less. We will never grow as Christians, or individually, until we focus on gratitude. A person’s life does not consist in the amount of things he gains, but in the abundance of compassion he gives.
Are you looking for ways to be thankful? Are you looking for ways to give to those with less? Are you positively affecting those around you through a grateful outlook?
Make much of God, His love, His grace, and His goodness: through your words, through your attitude, through your giving.
Give thanks to God for His love, His grace, and for His goodness: through your words, through your attitude, through generosity.
1 John 4:7-9 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that liveth is born of God, and knoweth God.He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.