This series really came from something that God has been doing in me over the last year or so which is helping me to see what's GOOD and BEAUTIFUL instead of what's MISSING.
How many of you would say "It's only by the grace of God that I'm here this morning."? I am so grateful to God for everything he's given me. Doesn't mean everything is perfect, but God has blessed me in amazing ways, and I'm truly grateful.
I refuse to be the person who misses the amazing blessings God has given me because I'm too focused on minor inconveniences. Stuff that won't matter a week from now. I don't deserve the amazing family God has given me, I don't deserve the amazing church God has given me. It's all a gift. And I'm so grateful.
When I was in bible college, me and a group of other students went on a 3 week Mission trip to Russia. So we did St Petersburg, Moscow, and a few other places. We worked at orphanages, and had tent meetings. And it was interesting that when it came time find lodging, we would split up and spend the night at different people's houses from the tent meetings. So we know like 5 Russian words, they knew 5 English words, so that made for some stimulating talks over dinner. But one thing we were taught, is that these folks are exceptionally poor, so if they feed you a meal, they have sacrificed for that meal, and you BETTER eat it. And you better smile.
So about the worst meal I've ever eaten in my entire life is what I now know is called 'Fish Head Stew'. That's an actual dish. The nice lady opened a big can that contained nothing but the heads of fish. And they were put in this watery broth. What really bothered me, is the eyeballs would dislodge from the heads, so they would just bob in the broth. No better feeling in the world than having a fish eyeball pop as your bite it.
Well one guy, his name was Ethan had come with us on the mission trip. So the day we were heading home, we were on the subway in St Petersburg and Ethan leans over to me and casually says:
So we tell the guy who's leading us on the trip, his name is Linus, and of course Linus is not happy about the development. Have to push back our flights, and we end up going to some US Embassy thing where he can request an emergency passport. And so we all wait for like 3 hours till they finally get him an emergency passport. Then we head to the airport, we have new flights and we're waiting for our flight.
And we're all just bored, playing cards, trying to keep ourselves busy. And at one point Ethan opens his backpack to get out some Corn Nuts or something, and as he pulls them out of his bag, something else falls out of the bag. Oh you think you know what it is? How do you know it wasn't a coupon for Taco Bell? Don't act like you know my story. - His original passport.
It was with him the whole time. He didn't need another passport, he just had to find his original passport.
And I just want to tell you this in this season of your life, even though you're believing God for more of whatever. I truly believe we need to ask God to make us more aware of what we already have.
And whether or not we realize it, I truly believe that complaining is MINIMIZING what God has done for you.
And I was trying to think how I wanted to summarize the 'Complaining' portion of this series before we move on to something else. Sometimes I write things. I write em down. And most of them never see the light of day, but early on in this series I wrote a few paragraphs as I was brainstorming and I read through it again this week and it made me laugh, and I thought it actually sums up this section pretty well, so I wanted to read it to you. To be clear, this is me talking to myself. From my journal:
We live in a complaining society.
And what's really puzzling is the chronic complainers of the world do not seem to be concerned with how frivolous and silly their issues are.
Traffic jams bring incredible hostility, anger, and complaint. Slow drivers in front of you. Freeway cutters who cut in front of you. Talkative people irritate you.
Long lines, short lines, any lines, having one person in front of you makes you complain. You want it your way and now. Crying babies, phone calls at inappropriate times, misplaced keys, dogs that pee on the carpet. (I mean we really get distressed by the biggies, don’t we? )
Stuck zippers, especially if you’re already running late. Cold food, you not only want it - you want it the temperature you want it. Somebody interrupting your conversation, noisy neighbors, having to wait for your wife, late airplanes, tight clothes, peeling onions, squeaking doors, incompetent people around you, pants that seem to be getting tighter every time you put them on. Flat tires when you’re in a hurry. Doing the dishes, weeds, high prices, your in-laws. (Now that one is just for you guys. I would NEVER complain about my in-laws. Kidding.)
Now, if you’re in Hiroshima and it’s 1945, you have a problem worthy of considerable concern. But just because that guy in the Ford F150 cut YOU off then gave you the finger, just because your child announced last week that she hates her room, does not qualify you for chronic complaining.
We all hear about the mid-life crisis. Did you know that there are nations in the world that don’t ever have mid-life crisis because they don’t live that long? Some people aren’t bothered by such things at all. There are parts of the world where the average lifespan is 37 years and men and women are spared the distressing reality of a 40th birthday. (That's in 2 years for me)
Some people complain about grocery bills. More than 20,000 people die of starvation every day and you complain about grocery bills? Some people complain about the high cost of rent. Perhaps we envy the pavement dweller in Calcutta, they don’t pay rent. They’re born, live, and die on the pavement. The only thing they have to worry about is finding a rag they can put their head on when they go to sleep.
You see, while these kind of horrors go on around the world, we throw tantrums because we got seated at a poorly located table in a fancy restaurant. Or we’re frustrated because we can’t lose ten pounds. Or we gripe about our monthly debts. Or because someone said something mean on the internet. You’ve got problems relative to what? But you see, it’s the mood of the mob to complain. And our modern culture - obsessed with idealistic, fantasy oriented consumption - feeds the sin of discontent.
And no I'm not complaining about the complainers. I'm using my God given position as a pastor in this church to teach you, and to lead you into a better, more God-honoring way to live you life.
As I've said every week: The antidote for complaining is gratitude. And that's what I want to talk about today, gratitude.
In Luke 17, we see a man who practiced gratitude, and 9 who didn't.
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. (Luke 17:11)
So this is during Jesus's traveling ministry.
As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance (Luke 17:12)
Unbelievably horrible disease. One of the most painful diseases you could get. Huge sores that would bubble up. Lose the feeling in your fingers and toes - wake up to find out that a rat had eaten off your pinky.
Plus what's really horrible is when you would walk around, if anyone would get close to you, you'd have to yell 'Unclean!'
Imagine how that would affect the way you see yourself. Never have anyone want to get close to you, never touch you. Many of them had to go live in essentially a 'leper colony' - where they had to live in a community by themselves. It was like being on death row..
Also, you couldn't go to the temple to worship - people thought it was a sign that God was punishing you.
and (they) called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (Luke 17:13)
That's an interesting thing to say, don't you think "Have pity on us." This greek word that's translated 'pity' is usually translated 'Mercy', which can be a little misleading.
This word that is translated mercy, in the Bible can mean a couple things. Of course it can mean just "kindness and goodwill". But it can also mean (in the NT) caring for the physical needs of the poor.
For example - @ end of Good Samaritan parable - Everything the samaritan does for the man on the road - all the money he spends on his medical bills and all that is summed up like this: "The one who did mercy."
So these guys here are not saying "Hey Jesus, be nice to us and feel bad for us!" No, they're saying "Jesus, heal us."
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. (Luke 17:14)
According to the law, people with a skin disease had to be examined by a priest, who would determine whether they were clean or unclean
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. (Luke 17:15)
This here is the point of the story. 10 were healed, but just 1 came back.
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. (Luke 17:16)
WHOA. Twist ending!
Luke withholds this detail until now for dramatic effect. It's difficult to describe just how hostile the jews and the samaritans were towards each other. Deep hostility.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? (Luke 17:17)
Now this is where the story heats up. Because it's points to a painful reality which is this: Most people who are blessed by God will never thank him for it. And that's still true today. ESPECIALLY in the society that we live in.
Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:18)
Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:19)
You know my heart Some people say they have a grateful heart but they just don't say it very much. They'll say something mean or critical, and then they'll say "But you know my heart." To which I inwardly say, "What am I a flippin' cardiologist? I don't know your heart! The only thing I know what you say and what you do."
(Jesus) - A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:45)
Some of you are familiar with the translation that says "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
Imagine if you're God
Imagine if you're God, and you come down to your creation. And you go and ask someone 'How do you like all I created for you? Isn't this incredible?!' - And the person says "God, why is it so hot all the time, and then the seasons change and the temperature keeps changing, so it's way too hot, then it's way too cold, couldn't you just have set it at 70 degrees and left it there?! And there's all these stupid people everywhere that are always getting in my way. And why do I have to work for a living? Plus you've got these tiny little red ants and they come and bite me on the butt and it hurts like crazy. Why would you create these annoying ants?"
Now if you're God, do you want to hang out with this person? And if you're a human would you want to hang out with this person?
Now imagine you're God and you go to someone and say "How do you like all this I created for you?" And they say "Oh God, it's so incredible! I love how the seasons change and the colors of the trees and we can have a Winter Olympics and a Summer Olympics and it's just so cool. And there's all these people who are so diverse and interesting. And you give us the opportunity to love each other and draw strength from each other. And I love my job, I'm so glad you gave us the opportunity to contribute and give. And there's even these little ants going everywhere and there so determined and courageous, I'm a million times their size and they'll come right up and bite me on the butt, isn't that wild?! God I love everything you've made for us. Thank You."
If you're God, who do you want to hang out with? A lot of people say "Pastor David, I don't feel God in my life." Well it might be that you whine and complain too much to feel God's presence.
When people are filled with gratitude, it flows out into what they say, and what they do. To illustrate this, I have a clip from Oprah. I've never seen Oprah, I know nothing about Oprah, but someone showed me this clip and I couldn't believe it. So this is where the audience members realize that they're on Oprah's 'Favorite Things' episode and they're about to get some free stuff. (clip)
So for the men in the room, they're celebrating because they're gonna get free stuff.
In this case, sparkle Ugs, and a VW Beetle.
And listen, I'm not judging. I'd probably jump up and down for a free car too. But I'm simply making an observation, that we as followers of Jesus Christ, we've been given intimate relationship with the creator of the universe. The God who made the sun and the stars and the galaxies and everything in them, calls you his personal friend. And he's given you eternal life. You're not gonna just live to be 90 or 100 or whatever. You get to live forever, where there is no pain, no sorrow, no death. But perfect peace and perfect joy for all eternity. And you come into this room, and it looks like you just ate 10 lemons. puckered face
There's something wrong with that.
Gratitude is never invisible or silent
Let me show you what I mean. So down here, this is called a "sustain pedal". Do you guys know what this thing does? This thing is cool. So if I come over here and I play my super fancy G chord play chord and I remove my hands from the keys, the music stops. But now, if I put the sustain pedal down and I hit my 'C' chord, and I pull my hands away, you can still hear the music.
Have you ever been offended by someone, and relived it over and over and over in your head? You're sustaining the bitterness.
You can do the same thing with God's blessings through gratitude.
Louise - Grateful all Week For those of you who don't know this, my daughter Grace LOVES miss Louise. And I remember talking to Louise and asking her how her weekend was and she said this "Your little girl came up to me and said 'I wub you Louise' and I've just been so happy and grateful all weekend for that."
I thought "Wow. My daughter told me the that she loves me all the time and it keeps me happy for exactly one and a half seconds.
See I experienced the joy of a situation, but the when it was over, the joy stopped. Miss Louise on the other hand, her gratitude sustained the joy and blessing.
See, you can experience a blessing from God, something totally ordinary, the words of a child, or the hug of a friend, something totally ordinary, and if you're grateful, you can sustain the joy that you get from it.
So many of us buy into the lie that if we just get this one more thing, then I'll finally be happy. It's not about that.
We lost a national treasure in 2014 here in the United States - his name is Robin Williams.
Raise your hand if you loved Robin Williams.
To the two people in the room that didn't raise their hand, I'm just gonna trust that you feel asleep because EVERYBODY loves Robin Williams.
You ask that question in any city around the world, 98% of people will raise their hands.
Now was he a master of success? You bet. Everyone who comes to Hollywood wants to make it big and he did it. He wanted his own TV show, he did it. He wanted his show to be Number 1, and he did it. (Some of us are ancient enough to remember Mork and Mindy).
Then he said he wanted the most beautiful family in the world, and he did it.
Then he said he wanted to make more money that anyone could spend and he did it.
Then he said this isn't enough, I want to make movies, and he did it.
Then he said he wanted to win an academy award for not being funny! And he did it.
He wanted to make the whole world laugh, and he did it.
He wanted to make the whole world love him. And he did it.
And he hung himself. In his own home. Leaving hundreds of millions of people devastated. And who cares about us. He left his children, and his wife scarred for life. And he was a good man.
How do you explain that?
I'm not saying he wasn't grateful. I have no idea. But it does tell me one thing, that I can 'achieve' everything I ever dreamed and it still doesn't mean I'll be happy.
So I just want to tell you, that my strategy for being happy is not about getting more. It's about getting more joy from the things I already have.
We live in a country to where even if you live in poverty in the United States, you're actually in the top 1% of the world.
People say they're in the 99%, no they aren't. Half the world lives on $2.50 a day. And I reckon, that if you can't be happy here, you won't be happy anywhere.
The vast majority of all the people in the world would consider their every prayer answered to switch places with you.
But see, we spend so much of our time looking for what's wrong. What's wrong is always available, so is what's right.
Internet on an Airplane
Tony Robbins, who I'm a huge fan of, some of you may know him. He tells the story of an experience he had of being on a flight.
Some of you have had the experience of doing an oversees flight, say 14 hours. And I'm sure some of you know what it's like "I have to be away from Facebook and instagram and email for 14 hours. God forbid."
Well this one flight was a very special flight because it was the first time they announced they had internet on the flight. He says it was like God entered the plane. And people stood up and cheered and clapped.
What do you think happens 15 minutes later? The internet goes down. For how long? 14 hours. It never worked again. And people are all "This is bull-(BLEEP)! I'm not putting up with this!"
His point: 15 minutes earlier, it was a miracle, now it's already an expectation.
But listen, replace your expectation with appreciation, and your whole life changes in a moment.
I remember the first time I got a real job where I made like actual money. And I remember then saying "You'll make this much, PLUS BENEFITS." And I'm like "what in the world does that mean?"
And so they say "Well it's this salary but we also pay for your health insurance and dental, and eye insurance. And I'm like "WHAT?!" That's incredible!
So I'm calling my friends telling them "Hey you'll never believe it, but this job has BENEFITS." And my friends are like "…Uhh. Yeah, that's pretty much how it works. That's basically every job." "Oh."
And by the time I made a couple phone calls, what had seemed to me just moments ago like an incredible blessing, had already become an expectation. Then I found myself going "Yeah of course they pay my insurance, they BETTER pay my insurance."
Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. (Psalm 103:1)
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— (Psalm 103:2)
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, (Psalm 103:3)
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, (Psalm 103:4)
who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:5)
“One of the best ways to combat entitlement is to be grateful for what you already have. Gratitude is the opposite of entitlement: you think about what you already have, instead of what you deserve to have but don‟t.” (The Narcissism Epidemic)
Here's what you need to understand: This is all a gift. Literally all of it. The neurons that are firing in your brain at this very second that are enabling you to see me and hear me.
God forgive us for being entitled.
Have you noticed that?
Now the opposite is also true:
Ungrateful people can find a problem, enlarge a problem, or create a problem in almost any situation.
I was talking to a guy who got a raise at work and I said "Congratulations" and he said "Oh great, higher taxes." You know what I think about people like that?
I don't mean to be crass, but it's the perfect phrase. Because no matter what blessing comes into their life, it all comes out crap on the other side by the time they're done with it.
You ever met anyone like that? You ever BEEN that person?
Man, the other day my daughter was screaming her head off, and driving me crazy and I was getting all irritated, and God told me "You're complaining about something that you prayed for."
2000 Baptisms - Water Bill Story of Steven Furtick when he did 2000 baptisms and his pastor friend said ‘your water bill musta been outrageous.’ Some people can find the bad in any situation.
That's my mission statement for 2020. "David Eiffert. Not gonna be a crap factory." I want to find a blessing in almost any situation.
Running a church of 800 people - Think about this: There's probably around 800 people in this city that consider Believers Center their home church. People in all different age ranges, and life stages, - Now let me ask you a question, with 800 people, what are the chances that someone is doing something completely idiotic right now, making a complete disaster of their life? 100%.
And so I'm gonna get off this stage and I'm gonna read a slack message or text message or something and hear all about what some knuckle head has done, and I'm gonna have to go deal with it.
Whereas 5 seconds ago, I was in this beautiful state, grateful to God for the life he's allowed me to live, now I'm annoyed, and frustrated and complaining.
And I realized that my happiness was so cheap.
Rejoice always, (1 Thessalonians 5:16)
pray continually, (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
(As we prepare for communion)
Philippians 4:8 Challenge
I want to encourage all of you with a simple 7 day challenge. I'm calling it the Philippians 4:8 Challenge
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
So here's the challenge. I'm going to read it out loud, and if you agree to taking the challenge I want you to read it along with me the second time.
For 7 days, I'm going to deliberately walk around and SEE the blessings that are all around me. I'm not gonna sweat the small stuff. I'm gonna let it go. I'm not going to complain about the same predictable things that won't matter in 5 hours. I'm gonna stop obsessing about myself. I'm gonna focus on what's beautiful, and pure, and praiseworthy, and good.
Thank you Jesus for the beautiful life you have given me.
Here's what I'm believe is going to happen. For 7 days, you're gonna stop complaining about every little thing and I believe you're going to be shocked at how much better your relationships are going to be, how much happier you're going to be, and how much more aware of God's presence you'll be.
Which leads us perfectly into communion. There is no greater gift to be grateful for than Jesus. That Jesus would come and take the punishment you deserve, so that you could be reunited with him and have eternal life.
So as they pass, I spend a minute as the band sings deliberately being thankful. Yes there's still things that are wrong and messed up and missing, but there's still so much to be grateful for.
As we close, I just have one last video for you, this is Jessica's Daily Affirmations. I know many of you have seen this before, but I think she really encapsulates the gratitude that we've been taking about. Let's us let a 4 year old young girl teach us something on gratitude.
Let's play the video