Christmas! A Good Time For Gratitude

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It can be hard to be grateful when you feel overwhelmed. How are you supposed to be grateful in this holiday season?

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

The keyword there is “in.” It doesn’t say give thanks for all circumstances. There are many things in life you shouldn’t be grateful for. If someone gets cancer, we’re not grateful. If a woman gets raped or somone is treated unjustly, we’re not grateful for that.

We’re not to be grateful for sin or evil or for the suffering that comes from those things. To be thankful FOR everything is sick. To be thankful IN everything is maturity.

Even in the darkest days of your life, there are always some things you can be grateful for. There are always some good things you can be thankful for. No matter how dark the days or how tragic the news, you can be thankful in all things.

Thank God for the grace He has shown you.

Grace is getting what I need not what I deserve. If I got what I deserved, I wouldn’t be alive. Grace is God’s free gift.

“You have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God.”  Ephesians 2:8

We can’t earn our salvation. We can’t bargain our salvation. It is simply a gift from God. That’s grace. We can always be thankful for God’s grace.

God loves us. Not because we deserve it, but because of His grace. God blesses us, uses us, protects us and takes us to Heaven, not because of what we do – but because of His grace. It is a gift of God.

“I will…not forget the glorious things God does for me. He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with love… He fills my life with good things… He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; He is slow to get angry… He never bears a grudge… He has not punished us as we deserve for our sins.” Psalms 103:2-10


One way we express our gratefulness is through singing. In the Bible it says, “make a joyful noise”

“Let us come to God with thanksgiving, singing songs of thanks to Him!” Psalm 95:2

No matter what you’re going through, no matter how difficult the days, you can be thankful to Him for the grace He has shown you.

Be grateful for the plans He has for you.

You can be grateful for the good plans that God has for you. Life is not always good, life is tough. The sun doesn’t always come out tomorrow. There are a lot of bad things happening in the world all the time. Life is not always good, but God is always good. His plan for your life is always good.

Not everything that happens in your life is something He planned. But everything that happens in your life, He fits into your plan.

“I have good plans for you, says the Lord. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.” Jeremiah 29:11 ICB

A lot of people go around thinking that God is mad at them. God isn’t mad at you, God is mad about you. He loves you more than anything else. The only reason you are alive is because God created you to love you. If God didn’t want you around, you wouldn’t be able to take your next breath. You are alive because God made you to love you.

God tells us He has good plans for your life. Some walk around thinking God causes all their suffering. We worship a God who took on all our suffering. Look at the cross

The Bible says He was bruised and crushed for what we did wrong. He was wounded for our sins by the strips of flesh that were ripped from his body, we are healed. Our sin, guilt and shame was on Him. We have a God who doesn’t just suffer with us, He suffers for us. That’s good news.

God says, I have good plans for you. God doesn’t plan your sins. Many things that happen in your life are because of dumb decisions, God didn’t plan those things. Many things happen because other people make dumb decisions, God doesn’t plan the sins done by you or the sins done against you that hurt you. You make choices and God can fit that into His plan for your life. God has no Plan B for your life. He already knows the dumb decisions you and other people will make and His plan for you is still good.

God’s plan for your life is greater than the problems you are going through. God’s purpose for your life is bigger than the problems you bring on yourself.

When we go through a difficult time, when something hits us and we have no idea why it is happening, we always want an explanation.

Explanations do not comfort.

What comforts is the presence of God. You don’t need an explanation. Instead, thank God that His grace is sufficient and His plan for you is good.

“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

What has you worried this holiday season? Is it your finances, your health your relationships, your job?

You feel the tensions, anxiety and insecurity and wonder, “How can I be thankful in this situation right now?”

If you put your life in God’s hands, all things are working for the good. You’ve got somebody on your side. The antidote starts with singing spiritual songs and the next part is prayer. The Bible tells us to cast our cares and our worries on God. We are told to not worry but to pray.

“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything. Instead pray about everything always making your requests to God with thanksgiving.” Philippians 4:6

If you are not praying, you are worrying. If you are worrying, you are not praying.


Stop and think about what you are worried about most right now and read Philippians 4:6 again.

“Don’t be anxious or worried about anything. Instead pray about everything always making your requests to God with thanksgiving.” Philippians 4:6

Pray this prayer right now:

“God, You know this problem I am worried about. It’s got me upset and I’m stressed out about it. God, take the problem away. Solve the problem and show me the answer. Show me the way out. Thank you for the grace that You have shown me. How You forgive me, You rescue me from Hell, You surround me with love and You fill my life with good things. Thank You for all the gifts of grace and the plan for my life. God I want to thank you that with all the things happening in my life, You are working them for the good. I love You and I want to fulfill Your purpose. In Jesus name I pray, Amen”


“I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5

Some of you have been abandoned by a father, a boyfriend, girlfriend, a brother or a spouse. God will never leave you. You may be hurt or broken – But God will never leave you.

The great violinist, Itzhak Perlman, was performing a concert at Lincoln Center and he walked out on stage. Itzhak is crippled and wears leg braces and uses crutches. It takes him a long time to walk out on stage and take the braces off to then sit down and begin playing. As he got ready to play, he broke a string. Everyone in the concert hall heard it break. So now he either has to put his braces back on, get up and walk back off stage to get a new string or go on the way he is.

Itzhak chose to play the entire concert with one less string. He played the entire concert on a broken instrument.

At the end of the concert, the entire audience rose to its feet in thunderous applause for this magnificent feat. They had just watched a man play an entire concert on a broken instrument.

Itzhak Perlman said something very profound and it applies to your life.

“Sometimes it is the artists task to find out how much music you can still play with what you have left.”

Between now and when you die, how much music can you play, for the glory of God, with what you have left?

You don’t have the body or the energy you use to have. You may not have the support system you use to have or the trust you use to have.

Sometimes it is the duty of the artist to find out how much music you can play, with what you have left.


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Look Up

blog.001Today we’re going to look at one of the great chapters of our faith found in 2 Chronicles. The authors are chronicling in First and Second Chronicles the acts of God on behalf of His people, primarily through the kings. These books show us God is always working. Even when things looked bad or there was a bad king, God was up to something. This chapter is going to show us what can happen when we lift our gaze to God in the midst of a storm in our life. In this story Jehoshaphat is the king of Judah. 

“After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, ‘A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar’ (that is, En Gedi).”  2 Chronicles 20:1-2

Jehoshaphat got news that a vast army was coming quickly, moving at a pace that he didn’t feel like he could control. Sometimes things larger than our ability to manage come at us with a rate and pace faster than our ability to stall or stop.

When Jehoshaphat first heard this news he was alarmed. We’re not promoting a faith where there are armies coming, and they are vast,  but we just shut that out and don’t take it seriously. It’s okay to be alarmed. Jehoshaphat is going to prove to be an amazing leader and he began by being alarmed.

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord…”  2 Chronicles 20:3

His alarm was then accompanied by resolve to seek the Lord. Now that may seem so obvious but that is often the last resort for the people of God. Typically, we inquire of everything and everyone else. We inquire of the internet, we google it. We text a friend and ask them to meet up with us. We ask people for opinions. We do everything else but look up.

Jehoshaphat was alarmed, but he resolved to inquire of God. He asked God what was happening. When he did that, it was the key to his breakthrough. Breakthrough begins with us saying to God, “What is happening and what would you like to do?

“…and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” 2 Chronicles 20:3

This fast was not a fly-by-night fad. It wasn’t a juicing, cleansing, liver detoxing, or losing weight. Rather he proclaimed that they had a big problem so we were going to cut out all other distractions for awhile so that they could put God first and hear from God. They had armies coming and desperately needed to hear from God.

“The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said:”  2 Chronicles 20:4-6

The people came together at a high place.  For these people the mountains were real. The ark of Noah found its resting place on the top of a mountain, Mount Ararat. When Abraham was in the struggle of knowing there is a promise that a nation would come through his son but God asked him to take a radical step of willingness to let go of that son, and a ram appeared caught in the thicket, it was up on Mount Mariah. When Moses met with God and the earth quaked and a cloud descended and the glory of God couldn’t even be seen face-to-face, that all happened on Mount Horeb, Mount Sinai. When the prophets of Baal came against the people of God and Elijah declared that his God is greater and fire came down from heaven it happened on Mount Carmel.

Jesus eventually would give his life on what some would say is Mount Moriah. The lower regions of that same temple mount is where these events are happening in our text. God is inviting us to turn our eyes up and meet Him at a higher elevation. Our help comes not from these people, it might come through these people, but our help comes from the Lord. So they stopped and looked up. The things that happened for them as they stopped, fasted and looked up can happen for us. There are five things to look at. 


What Happens When We Look Up

1. We see God seated on an unassailable throne.

Unassailable means unable to be attacked or defeated. God is seated in that place today. He is not pacing. He is not even standing. He is confidently sitting on a throne that cannot be threatened from any angle.  There is not one ounce of anxiety in God today. That’s what we can see when we look up.

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.”  2 Chronicles 20:6

He is seated on an unassailable throne of power and might. We know this, but when the storm comes and the pressure come we have to lift our eyes up and see there is a throne up there and so is our God.

2. We see that God has an unbroken track record of faithfulness

Immediately what Jehoshaphat remembers is that God has come through for them and defeated their enemies before.

“Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”  2 Chronicles 20:7

We’ve all been knocked down but none of us have been utterly destroyed because we’re all here today, God came through. You might think He has not come through for you, because of the circumstances you are in right now, but the good news is it’s not the end of the day yet! God is not done with you yet. It’s three days in a tomb but there was a resurrection. Right now may look like your tomb but it’s not over. A chapter may have closed, but the next chapters of your life have not. 

God’s work in your life is not finished. 

God’s opportunity to continue to do what only God can do is still alive today. That’s the power of the resurrection. That’s why when all of the sudden we’re fixated on the wind and the waves and the when, the where and the why, God is saying you can’t, but I can. Just lift your eyes to a God who has an unbroken track record of faithfulness.

3. We replace self-dependency with God-ability.

God-ability is so much better than self-dependency. Because self-dependency runs out and runs dry quickly. There are so many situations in life in which we have no control.

“Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  2 Chronicles 20:12

That’s a great confession. Instead of lying here all night until we figure it out, we can talk to God instead. We can confess we are facing something we can’t handle. Sometimes we just need to say the simple thing: I don’t know what to do.

Remember, Jehoshaphat was alarmed, but he did resolve something. He resolved to shut out all the other noise so he could hear from God. We might not be able to take on three armies, but God can. We may not be able to control our situation, but we can control our response and our resolve.

“All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.”  2 Chronicles 20:13

They have all gathered together, standing with lifted eyes. There are three armies coming quickly, but in faith they set their gaze on God. Then the Spirit of the Lord fell on a messenger.

He said: ‘Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.'”  2 Chronicles 20:15

Whatever it is you’re facing you need to keep reminding yourself that you’re not fighting this battle, but God is fighting this battle. We will do whatever it is God leads us to do, but God is fighting this battle.

4. God gives a promise for deliverance.

He wants to give you a promise for deliverance as well. Again, the battle is not yours, it’s God’s. He gives them a plan.

“‘Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, [He knows this because He is the maker of heaven and earth.] and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:16-17

The battle is the Lord’s but He directs our steps and guides us to victory. These are the marching orders. If you have a protocol facing you, go and follow the ways that seem wise. But as you go remember the treatments aren’t the ultimate warrior. God is our warrior and our defender. God is fighting for us. He may be using the regiment or this treatment, but it is God who is doing it on our behalf. He never said turn your back and pretend the problems aren’t there. Go face them, because you know the Lord, your God is with you.

5. We respond with pre-thanks to God.

Pre-thanks is when you start thanking God for things He has told you He will do that He hasn’t actually done yet. God has promised that He has delivered me. I’m going to praise him and thank him as though He’s done it, because God’s promise is as good as the fact that He’s done it. If you thank God after you’ve got it, that’s gratitude. When you thank him in advance, that’s called faith.

“Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.”  2 Chronicles 20:18-19

God has spoken, the people have stood and now they have bowed down and started praising God. Fear is loud and all consuming. Worry is loud. Loud praise displaces loud fear. Fear and worship cannot coexist in the same space. One displaces the other. 

Worry and worship cannot exist in the same space.

“Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, ‘Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.’ After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.’”  2 Chronicles 20:20-21

These people began to displace their fearful thoughts with faithful thoughts. They began to displace their worried thoughts with worshipful thoughts. The army begins singing give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.

“As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.

When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and looked toward the vast army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped. So Jehoshaphat and his men went to carry off their plunder, and they found among them a great amount of equipment and clothing and also articles of value—more than they could take away. There was so much plunder that it took three days to collect it. On the fourth day they assembled in the Valley of Berakah, where they praised the Lord. This is why it is called the Valley of Berakah to this day.

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lyres and trumpets.

The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.” 2 Chronicles 20:22-30

That’s what worship does and that is God’s promise for us today. Our worship can displace our worry. His faithfulness displaces our fear. We need the peace that comes from Christ. We can fix our gaze upward to where our help comes from and receive that peace today.


Check Back

Check back on your discussion from last week. Any more thoughts or conclusions on the “One Person at a Time” message?

Listen to the sermon: online, iTunes podcastGoogle Play Music or Download the Rock Brook Church App

Hear the Word

Read: 2 Chronicles 20

In 2 Chronicles 20, we see Jehoshaphat leading the people to look up to God. After getting word that three armies were coming against them, Jehoshaphat resolved to look up to God for help. Their response to the coming crisis made all the difference. When we look up…

  1. We see God seated on an unassailable throne.
  2. We see God has an unbroken track record of faithfulness.
  3. We replace self-dependency with God-ability.
  4. God gives a promise for deliverance.
  5. We respond with pre-thanks to God.

Application

  1. Have you ever been in a circumstance that alarmed you? Maybe it was multiple things coming against you. How did you respond? What did Jehoshaphat resolve to do when he was alarmed?
  2. Where do your eyes naturally go when a crisis is coming your way? What would it mean to look up to God as a first resort?
  3. Have you ever pre-thanked God for anything before?
  4. What promises of God are you clinging to right now?
  5. Is there a specific crisis or fear in your life to which this message applied?

Tell Someone Else

Who can you encourage as a result of this message?

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