Learning to Speak the Language of HeavenNovember 18, 2009
Would others say you’re a grateful person? Today Nancy DeMoss, author of Choosing Gratitude, along with Barbara Rainey, tell why our gratefulness reflects our faith in God and His goodness.
Would others say you’re a grateful person? Today Nancy DeMoss, author of Choosing Gratitude, along with Barbara Rainey, tell why our gratefulness reflects our faith in God and His goodness.
Nancy: I find that I can easily get sucked into the undertow of life as it is happening around me. My emotions can real quickly get on a negative track. When I will stop and verbalize the things I am grateful for, thinking and expressing gratitude to the Lord and others, then God does bring His peace to rescue my heart.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 18. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you are discouraged or despondent today, it might help to say out loud what you are thankful for.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today thanks for joining us. I bet you had a crush on Hayley Mills. Didn’t you?
Bob: Come on, be honest.
Bob: Oh, come on!
Barbara: You didn’t, really?
Bob: You never had a crush on Hayley Mills?
Barbara: She was cute!
Bob: From Parent Trap?
Bob: Did you watch these movies?
Dennis: Sorry. It was Annette Funicello.
Barbara: That figures.
Dennis: The Mouseketeers.
Bob: The reason I brought up Hayley Mills is because one of her starring roles was Pollyanna. Did you see the movie, Pollyanna?
Dennis: I’m sure I did.
Bob: Pollyanna was the little girl who, no matter what was going on, seemed to find a way to put a sypruppy, sweet, sickingly happy…
Barbara: How do you really feel about this?
Dennis: Oh, the look on your face. Do you know any Christians like that, Bob?
Bob: Well, you know, you watch the movie and it’s kind of like, “Oh come on! Get real!” You know people who in the midst of it go, “Well it’s okay, I’m just going to have a nice day any way.” You just want to go, “Would you just be honest?”
Bob: So my question here…is really less about Hayley Mills.
Barbara: It goes beyond Hayley?
Bob: It really goes to the whole issue of how can we be people…
Dennis: Who are authentic?
Bob: We’re talking about being grateful people.
Bob: Does being grateful mean that we are supposed to just stuff down how we really feel and act like we are happy about whatever is going on? That’s my question. Are you going to answer that or are you going to get it from somebody else?
Barbara: (Laughter) He’s going to punt. (Laughter) Right?
Dennis: No, I’m going to ask our guests because I’ve got Barbara in here, who joins us, my wife. Welcome back, honey, and our friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Welcome back.
Nancy: Well, hello; but I’ve got to come to the defense of Pollyanna. That’s like my favorite movie.
Bob: Is it?
Nancy: Because this gal—she’s unfortunate, she’s orphaned, she’s had this hard life--She goes to live with this aunt who is bitter and cantankerous and sees the whole world through negative eyes. Pollyanna introduces the “Glad Game.” Every time something hard happens, she says, “Let’s find something to be glad about.”
I just want to say, Bob, in spite of the fact that you just gave Pollyanna a really bad rap, the neat thing about that little girl is that her attitude changes the entire atmosphere around her. That ornery aunt becomes this pleasant person. The whole town is impacted by her happy heart. I am just so thankful that I have some friends in my life who will occasionally, when it is needed, say to me, “Can we think of something to be thankful for?”
Bob: Can we play the Glad Game? (Laughter)
Nancy: Can we play the Glad Game?
Bob: Okay. I’ll back of a little bit from Pollyanna but you know what I’m talking about, right?
Bob: The people who just seem like they are out of touch with reality. It’s not gratitude as much as denial.
Nancy: And we are not talking about that but we are talking about something that is gutsy and vibrant and takes faith and courage. I’m sitting here thinking of some really dear friends of mine who are on the staff in our ministry and two or three years ago she was diagnosed at age 56 with Lou Gehrig’s disease. That’s a death sentence but during the 26 months of her illness her husband would send out updates and they weren’t good reports ever. It never got better. It only got worse but he would sign those e-mails “with thanksgiving, Charles.”
In the midst of that really painful hard time in their lives knowing what was coming and that he was going to be a widower and burying his wife. He found occasion to give thanks to the Lord not for the sickness, not for the impending death but for the goodness of God in the midst of all of that.
That’s not denying reality. That’s having a robust faith that works even when your eyes are filled with tears and your life is falling apart around you. Because you know that this is not the end and that we have a redeeming God who is in the process of making all things new it is a courageous way to live with a spirit of gratitude.
Bob: You have one chapter in your book, Choosing Gratitude that is almost an apologetic for being grateful, an apologetic for gratitude. So convince me. Talk me into the idea that it really does make sense both as a follower of Christ and just as a person living in the real world to be grateful. Where would you start?
Nancy: Well, I wish it was enough for all of us to start because God commands it. He says we are to be grateful. In everything we are to give thanks and if there weren’t any other reasons that should be enough.
Dennis: So it is a matter of obedience?
Nancy: It is a matter of obedience. It is a matter of surrender and saying God is God and even when my eyes are filled with tears I will lift them up and say Lord you are good. You are enough and I choose to give you thanks.
Dennis: You know we lost a granddaughter about a year and a half ago and there is no sufficient answer.
Nancy: Yes, not this side of eternity.
Dennis: You can ask why but there is no sufficient answer that really satisfies the soul. Those questions can’t be answered. But what the scriptures point us to is really the command to be thankful and then it really ties us to another benefit of giving thanks. When we give thanks and we praise God the scripture says he inhabits the praises of his people.
Nancy: Yes, praise is God’s address.
Dennis: He’s near people who praise him. That is the promise of scripture.
Nancy: He comes to the scene and not that he is not omnipresent he is but there is a special sense and Barbara I’ve heard you talk about this as you think about the loss of Molly. That in the midst of the tears and the trauma as the family gathered together there was that extraordinary sense that through praise and a grateful heart for God’s provision and gift of this child but also trusting the Lord in taking her life that God’s presence drew near in those moments.
Barbara: Yes, that’s really true Nancy. We experienced his presence in ways I would never have expected. I really believe it’s because we started giving thanks from the moment she was born and we knew something wasn’t right we started giving thanks.
It wasn’t just us but it was also her parents, Jake and Rebecca and her other grandparents, Bill and Pam and the extended family. We all began to corporately give thanks to God for what he was giving us in Molly. I think that opened the doorway for him to reveal himself and it gave us spiritual eyes to see what he was doing that we would have missed otherwise.
Dennis: It doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard.
Barbara: It was very difficult.
Dennis: It was one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I mean to watch your daughter say good bye to an infant is a heart ache that is unimaginable. But in the midst of that here is where the scripture pulls us out of our valley and it lifts us up and it says praise God. He is the giver and the taker of life and he is in charge. He is in control.
Bob: I know it ought to be enough that God commands it and we should be grateful because it’s a command of God and so we will but you don’t stop there in the book. You offer some other reasons why gratitude makes sense, right?
Nancy: Yes, on a practical level I think gratitude is a means of experiencing God’s peace. You think of that passage in Philippians 4 about not being anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And what follows? The peace of God that passes all human understanding will garrison your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I’ve found that I can real easily get sucked into the undertow of life as it is happening around me. My emotions can real quickly get on a negative spin or negative track. Gratitude and a thankful spirit and thinking and expressing gratitude to the Lord and others is so often in my life a life preserver. It’s God throwing out a means of rescue to my heart and it lifts me up out of that emotional quicksand that I often find myself in. When I will stop and say thank you to the Lord and verbalize the things I’m grateful for then God does bring his peace to rescue my heart.
Bob: And I know we are building a case for the rightness of being grateful and expressing gratitude but at some level if we are not interested in expressing gratitude we have to pull back and say does God’s spirit live in us? When the Spirit does live in us and through us gratitude is going to come out, isn’t it?
Nancy: You know there is a fascinating passage in Ephesians 5 which addresses the connection between gratefulness and being filled with the Holy Spirit. We all know that verse “don’t get drunk with wine be filled with the Spirit of God” Ephesians 5:18.
Nancy: And then in the rest of that chapter and into chapter six there is this whole list of the evidences that we are filled with the Spirit. You have that we will edify one another with scripture based words and with singing to the Lord. There will be Christ centered worship. There will be humility and mutual submission. There will be godly family relationships that are an evidence of being filled with the Spirit. There will be right attitudes in the workplace.
There will be victory in our spiritual life. But in the midst of that list of the fruits and evidences of being filled with the Spirit is this picture that we will be thankful.
We would not say that someone who comes to church drunk is a spirit filled Christian. We would not say that a husband and wife who were living at odds with each other or are being violent toward each other are Spirit filled and yet in the context of this passage you have to ask if we are not grateful people and if we are whining and murmuring and complaining can we claim to be Spirit filled?
Dennis: For some people it takes a person coming alongside them and saying you know sweetheart I think maybe you are complaining. Like maybe Barbara has said to me on occasion. Or perhaps I have…
Barbara: …said to me on occasion.
Dennis: Encouraged her with on occasion.
Nancy: Let’s play the Glad game.
Barbara: There you go.
Bob: Speaking the truth to one another, right?
Dennis: Well, when you are in a close relationship whether it be single people who have roommate relationships or whether it be a spousal relationship or with children you are living life every day with each other and there are going to be times when you get in a rut. It’s in those moments you need a friend. You don’t need a judge. You do need kind of a Pollyanna Glad game although that’s really hard for me to say in a way.
Nancy: We need each other though.
Dennis: We do. We really do.
Barbara: It reminds me of when we were raising our kids, Dennis and you would play the Mr. Rogers neighborhood, “aren’t we glad to live in this neighborhood? Aren’t we glad to have this family, children?
Bob: Oh, I wish I could have been there for that.
Barbara: And our kids would go…they didn’t like it.
Dennis: Boys and girls isn’t it wonderful to be in our family? They would go “Oh, dad this is such a gag.”
Nancy: A few rolled eyes there?
Dennis: Oh, my goodness.
Barbara: Many rolled eyes.
Dennis: But seriously I was trying to lighten up the family because families can just wind down like an alarm clock that has been wound up and slowly deteriorate. They need instruction.
Nancy: We can get into negative patterns that we need to be rescued from.
Dennis: We actually had the kids and I think some of our regular listeners have heard me say this on occasion. Over in Philippians 2 it says to do all things without grumbling or disbuting.
Bob: Yes, it’s one of our favorite verses at our house.
Barbara: Yes, I think it’s most parent’s favorite verse.
Dennis: Honestly I wish it had exterminated the griping, grumbling and complaining but it didn’t.
Barbara: It’s not a magic wand.
Dennis: Scripture is really healthy for the kids to memorize and they need it in their soul. They need the Scriptures but they also need to be guided by parents. Parents need to model a spirit that is not complaining. So, maybe parents could use a little of Pollyanna’s Glad game themselves.
Bob: You need to talk to them and say, “Parents aren’t you glad you have those children?”
Bob: Or isn’t it a privilege to be their mommy and their daddy?
Dennis: Don’t you love those little rug rats, today?
Nancy: We laugh but it’s no small thing. I’m sitting here thinking about a couple of places in Scripture where it talks about the downward spiral of a whole culture. Romans 1 and 2 Timothy 3 those passages list this hoard of horrendous sins—sexual sins, perversion, violence and things that can become characteristic of a culture and right in the middle of both those lists you find failing to give thanks or ungratefulness. I really believe that ingratitude if you look at it in Romans 1 it is our first step individually or as a family or as a culture away from God.
When we make room for ingratitude in our hearts it’s a tap root of all kinds of other sins that come and fill up our hearts and become characteristic of our culture. So, eradicating it and dealing with it and parents modeling gratitude and then saying this is a serious issue we have to encourage and challenge our children and deal with it. It’s for all of our good that we do.
Bob: I’m trying to think of where we see gratitude lived out in the life of Jesus.
Nancy: Wow, what an amazing picture of gratitude we have in Christ himself and all through his life. You think about the time when he sent the 70 disciples to go out and minister and they came back. He prayed this prayer. He said, “I thank you, Lord God.” Jesus gave thanks to his father there at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11 Jesus prayed and he said, “thank you father that you have heard me.” Before the prayer is even answered Jesus is saying thank you. When he was at meal times you know the story of the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand. In those passages we read that Jesus stopped and gave thanks. Why would the Spirit inspire that little detail? And in one of those passages he did it twice before each course of the meal. Before the bread was distributed and before the fish were distributed he stopped and he gave thanks.
Then in what I think is one of the most powerful, poignant pictures in all of scripture in each of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke you have it recorded that at the last supper with his disciples as Jesus knows that he is going to the cross he knows he’s going to become sin for us and he’s gathered there with his disciples. If you put those passages together you find out that three times in the course of that meal Jesus stopped and gave thanks to his heavenly father.
You say, how do I give thanks in the midst of pressure or suffering or loss or grieving or challenges in my life? You look at Christ. He knew that God’s redemptive plan was about to be fulfilled. He knew that God was still good and God was still worthy of his trust and his praise even as he faced the cross.
Dennis: And Nancy, I want you to know that I am thankful for you and I am thankful and grateful for this book. I think as we consider Christ’s example it challenges us as men and women, husbands and wives, moms and dads to practice that in our own lives. To be grateful and thankful.
Bob: Even when we know that what is in front of us is going to be hard.
Dennis: That’s right. To be able to give thanks and praise him for circumstances that you don’t necessarily like and you don’t necessarily enjoy. Nancy, I want you to know I really appreciate you and I’m grateful to God for you. Before we are done here what I want you to do is come back and make the last point of why we need to be grateful. It has to do with how praise is the language of heaven.
Bob: And Nancy before you unpack that for our listeners and for us let me encourage folks to go on line at FamilyLife Today.com to get more information about your book which is called Choosing Gratitude which we have in our FamilyLife Today resource center. The subtitle is Your Journey to Joy and you really believe that cultivating a heart of gratitude is a part of what brings joy to our lives. Again we have the book Choosing Gratitude in our FamilyLife Today resource center. We also have Barbara Rainey’s seven day devotional guide for families called Growing Together in Gratitude. There is information about that book on our website as well.
Of course we have Barbara’s book, Thanksgiving: A Time to Remember that tells the story of the pilgrims coming to America on the Mayflower and settling here. It tells of the hardships they endured and it tells of the first Thanksgiving.
You can call us toll free at 1-800-FL-TODAY and say I’d like that thankfulness card. We’d be happy to send it out to you. Again the number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word TODAY.
And if you’ve never contacted us here at FamilyLife Today we’d love to hear from you. In fact we have a card that we are sending out to folks this week. All you have to do is call and request it. It’s called A Family Prayer of Thankfulness. We’ve taken Psalm 103 and found all of the blessings of God that are addressed in that Psalm and we’ve put them in a format where we can cultivate a heart of gratefulness and thanksgiving. If you’d like to receive this laminated card to put on the refrigerator of to use at the dinner table or to keep in your Bible we’d love to send it to you. You just need to call and request it.
Or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, that’s 1-800- F as in “family,” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. Give us a call and someone on the team can make arrangements to have the resources that you need sent to you. We hope to hear from you. Dennis?
Dennis: As I said earlier Nancy Leigh DeMoss I thank God for you. And Barbara, thank you for joining us on FamilyLife Today as well. Nancy in your book you talk about one last reason why gratitude is good for us it’s the language of heaven. What do you mean by that?
Nancy: When you go to the last book of the Bible, Revelation, chapters 4-5 in particular John is given this vision of what’s going on in heaven. There are in heaven now myriads thousands of thousands of angels who have a full time responsibility and they are giving praise and glory and honor and thanks to the one who is seated on the throne and to the lamb of God—the Lord Jesus Christ who was slain for sinners so he could ransom people from every tribe and language and people and nation, that’s us. They give him thanks day and night.
So when you think that we are going to spend eternity those who have placed their faith in Christ repentant of their sins we’ll spend eternity in heaven that is what we are going to be doing for all of eternity. So in a sense what we are doing here on this earth is a dress rehearsal. It’s a practice getting ready for what we will spend all of eternity doing in heaven. I sometimes wonder if we spend a lot of time on this earth griping, whining, and complaining…
Dennis: Now you are getting convicting here.
Nancy: How are we going to enjoy or speak the language of heaven if we don’t get practice doing that now?
Bob: I know you’ve been living in those last chapters of that last book. Paint the picture of Revelation 5 for us. Would you just recite it for us here?
Nancy: Five is what you want?
Nancy: Then I saw on the right hand of him who is sitting on the throne a scroll written within and on the back sealed with seven seals. I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and to breaks its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said “to me weep no more behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David has conquered so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the living creatures and among the elders I saw a lamb standing as though it had been slain with seven horns and with seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who is seated on the throne and when he had taken the scroll the 24 elders and the four living creatures fell down before the lamb each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints and they sang a new song saying “worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals for you were slain and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God and they shall reign on the earth.
Then I looked and I heard among the elders and the living creatures the voice of many angels numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. And I heard every creature on heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them saying, “to him who sits on the throne and to the lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever” and the four living creatures said “Amen.” And the 24 elders fell down and worshipped.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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