Whom Are You Going to Trust?
About the Guest
Thanksgiving is getting closer, but is your heart prepared? Today popular authors Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Barbara Rainey remind us not to forget the mercies of God, but to continually rejoice in the Lord and give thanks, no matter what we may be going through.
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Thanksgiving is getting closer, but is your heart prepared?
Nancy: I think we tend to think of it as an add-on, maybe a second tier—grace. You know, right up there with going to church on Sunday night or cheerfulness or hospitality; but as I got into this subject, I realized this is foundational. We are always, always, always debtors. We owe him, we owe others. He doesn’t owe us anything. Yet God has given me Christ; he has given me his grace—He has lavished it on me. For me to be anything other than grateful is really, really wicked.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 16. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this would be a good time to take a good, long look at the biblical grace of gratitude.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today; thanks for joining us. You know how you end most of your prayers?
Dennis: I pray in Christ’s name.
Bob: I know; but back before that. Go back a few lines before that. Do you know what you say?
Dennis: Well, I guess not.
Bob: Can I ask your wife if she knows how you end most of your prayers since she is with us? Do you know what I’m talking about?
Barbara: No. (Laughter) Let’s see, what does he—you know, I don’t know what I normally say either.
Bob: Normally, at the end of your prayers, after you are done interceding, praying, acknowledging, whatever it is you are doing. You say, “We love you. We give thanks.” Then you add something else—“We commit this time to you,” or we do whatever.
Barbara: That sounds about right.
Bob: There is this cadence—“We love you; we give thanks,” and whatever.
Dennis: Man, I’m glad I did it right! (Laughter)
Bob: I’m just wondering if this established pattern of saying, “We love you” and “We give thanks,” is that something that worked its way into your prayer life?
Dennis: I hope so! I hope it is working itself into my life. In fact, my wife, Barbara joins us on FamilyLife Today. We have already tapped into her vast knowledge of my prayer life here.
Barbara: (Laughter) Which clearly is not very big since I didn’t have much of an answer. (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, thank you!
Barbara: Yeah. No, my knowledge is not very vast.
Dennis: Okay, my prayer life…
Barbara: That’s not what I’m saying; no, no, no.
Dennis: Okay. I don’t want to give that impression to our listeners. Also, Nancy Leigh DeMoss joins us. Welcome back, Nancy.
Nancy: Thank you, Dennis.
Dennis: Nancy is the host of Revive Our Hearts and a lot of our listeners listen to both FamilyLife Today and Revive Our Hearts. She is an author, speaker, and most importantly, a friend.
Nancy: Thank you.
Dennis: We’re thrilled to have her here. She has written a book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.
Bob: I just want to say, “Before you go to bed tonight, when you pray, just listen and see if he doesn’t say, ‘We love you.”
Barbara: I will. As soon as you said that, I went, “You know that is what he says.” (Laughter)
Dennis: Well, I do want to express love to God. I want to tell you something—I think Thanksgiving is very, very important. So does Nancy. In fact, she has just finished a book on this. Instead of beginning at the start of the book, Nancy, I want to begin by going to nearly the last chapter of the book where you wave a white flag.
Nancy: In fact, that last chapter was an add-on. It was a postscript—it wasn’t intended. As I was working on this book over a period of months, I found its message working its way into my heart. I really thought this was going to be an easier book to write than some of the other tougher subjects I’ve written. I thought I might get a “free pass” on this one; but I found that God’s Spirit was convicting my heart of how many times my default response to pressure and challenges is to whine rather than to worship.
As I came to the end of this book, I thought, I cannot put a book out there that is talking about something I am not living. The Lord began wrestling with my heart. I really preached myself under conviction. (Laughter)
It was a bit of a wrestling match to say, I want to be a woman who is radically thankful and to put away whining, complaining, lack of gratitude, and to become a really grateful woman. Even as this book was going to the publisher, I had to wrestle that through. The Lord wrestled with me to say, you need to wave a white flag and say, You are going all the way with this. You are going to choose gratitude as a way of life.
Bob: When you started writing this book, did you think of yourself as a grateful person?
Nancy: I would have said I was above average on that count. I think the people who know me would as well. I grew up in a home where, and you all have probably done this with your children, but thank you notes were a way of life. As soon as you got gifts for Christmas or birthday, we had to write thank you notes. That is a pattern in my life. I have been blessed, and I do try and express gratitude to the people who bless my life and to the Lord for the circumstances in my life that are happy ones. Until I got immersed in this subject, working on this book, I didn’t realize that there were corners and edges of my life where ingratitude was reigning instead of a grateful spirit.
Dennis: Well, I want our listeners to know that Nancy may not be the only one to wave a white flag when it comes to this topic because there may need to be some surrender by some other wills. I think part of our fabric is to gripe, complain, blame, and whine.
Nancy: That is the default mechanism we are born with.
Dennis: It seems to me it is. It seems what the Scripture is trying to do is break a habit.
Dennis: Honestly, Bob, I didn’t know that at the end of my prayers that I did give thanks. That is really, in a way, encouraging to me because in the past, I would say seven or eight years, Barbara and I have been through a number of challenges and trials--I would say the Refiner’s fire. I think the Refiner may have given me an “F” on the blue book, not for “Faith,” but for “Failure.” I have felt on many occasions I was complaining, whining, and blaming more than having an attitude of gratitude.
Bob: I have heard both of you, Barbara, Dennis, reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5 on a number of occasions where it says we are to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and then the next verse, “in everything.” what?
Dennis: Give thanks.
Barbara: For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Bob: Right. So you do have a knowledge that that ought to be the default of the New Man--that if we are in Christ, we should be giving thanks, even in hard times. But, Barbara, that doesn’t come naturally, does it?
Barbara: No, it doesn’t. Sadly, it’s not our first response. I would like for it to be my first response, but so often my first response is what the situation or circumstances are costing me. Then as I think it through, I can come to gratitude on the other side. I wish it were more spontaneous and automatic to respond more instantly with a heart of gratitude.
Nancy: I had an experience with Joni Erickson Tada, who is a friend of all of us around this table. A number of years ago I was interviewing her. At the time, she didn’t know this, but we were going through some changes in our ministry. For months I had felt weighed down and burdened and was grousing about the impact of those changes on my life. As I was with Joni that day, I just couldn’t help but notice how she, with all of her physical challenges…
Dennis: Explain to our listeners what…
Nancy: Having been 40 years, more than 40 years now, a quadriplegic, in a wheelchair with very limited physical capacity. Things that come easily for us—just getting up, getting dressed, feeding ourselves—she can’t do those things by herself. Anytime that anybody is with her, you can’t help but notice that she has this effervescent, joyful, hymn-singing, praising, thankful spirit. I asked her during that interview, I said, “Joni, I’ve noticed that you are a joyful woman. You are a thankful woman. How do you maintain that spirit with the challenges that you have in your life?”
Her answer really started me on the journey that became this book, choosing gratitude. She paused just a moment and then she said, “You know I think over all these years I’ve so disciplined and trained myself to give thanks in all things that that has become my reflex reaction.”
She said a lot of things that day but that lodged in my heart and I pondered it after I left. I realized that the reflex reaction in my life was not to give thanks in all things but first to whine and then to get to the place of gratitude. I usually get there but she had trained and disciplined herself to start by giving thanks in all things. I looked at this woman who has so many challenges and reasons not to be thankful and realized how many reasons I do have to be thankful by comparison.
You realize that the happiness quotient, the joy quotient in your life is not determined by whether you are in a wheelchair or not by your life circumstances but by that inner discipline and choice to do what the scripture says and give thanks.
Bob: Of all of the graces or fruit of the Spirit that we read about this is one, Barbara, for you that you have really locked in on. Not just for yourself but as you raise your kids, right?
Barbara: Yes. I’ve always been amazed at the list in 1 Corinthians 10 that the Bible gives us explaining the things that the Israelites did that God disciplined them for with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. He listed idolatry. And He listed worshipping the golden calf and those things that they did that were so clearly wrong but on that list there is also the word grumbled, some of them grumbled. That was also why they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. I thought about that as I raised my kids because…
Bob: Some of them grumbled.
Dennis: They thought they were in the wilderness.
Barbara: They did. I think I was in the wilderness, too, actually.
Bob: You may have done a little grumbling yourself?
Barbara: I did a lot of grumbling but it was one of those things about parenting that was really irritating for me because I was working so hard to do such a good job raising those kids and praying for them and providing healthy food and all of those things. To have it be met with grumbling wasn’t very pleasant.
So, Dennis and I worked hard to focus on that and to teach our kids to be grateful. We had them memorize verses. And we did as Nancy said she was trained to do. Trained them to write thank you notes for everything they got and to do it immediately and joyfully.
I learned through all of that that becoming a person of gratitude and raising children of gratitude it is still their choice. I could teach them as many verses as I wanted to and give them all the training in the world but it still is a choice of the heart. My children had to decide if they were going to be grateful people or not. They could conform on the outside but the inside I couldn’t control.
Nancy: When you think of how it impacts you as a parent when your children are not grateful and how repulsive that is to see in others especially your own family. It’s just a picture I think of how God must feel
Nancy: When He listens to me whining and grumbling when there is so much to be thankful.
Barbara: Yes, which is why I think it was included on the list of the sins of the Israelites.
Nancy: Right there with idolatry and immorality is grumbling.
Dennis: That must speak of its value at that point. Gratitude must be one of the more back to the graces of the Christian faith. It must be one of the more noble expressions of faith, Nancy, as you researched this?
Nancy: You know, I think we tend to think of it as an add-on, maybe a second tier—grace. You know, right up there with going to church on Sunday night or cheerfulness or hospitality; which are also important but not up there with faith and love and those kinds of qualities.
But as I got into this subject, I realized this is foundational because it has to do with how I view the grace of God and how I view the fact that I don’t deserve God’s grace. I am a guilty sinner who deserves nothing apart from Christ and yet God has given me Christ. He has given me his grace and lavished it on me. For me to be anything other than grateful is really, really wicked.
Dennis: What you are saying there is ultimately ingratitude is unmet expectations?
Nancy: Comparison, unmet expectations, forgetting the mercies of God and thinking that he or others owe us something rather than realizing that we are always, always, always debtors. We owe him, we owe others; he doesn’t owe us anything.
Barbara: I think ultimately ingratitude is a reflection of a lack of faith. It’s unbelief because if we really see that all things are from God then we should be giving thanks for all that he allows in our lives knowing that he is ordaining it and leading and providing and giving us the grace and the strength to go through whatever he is calling us to do and to endure or to practice. I think our heart attitude when we are not grateful is saying to God I don’t believe you.
Bob: Let me ask you this. A year and half ago when you and your whole family were gathered together in a hospital room for a week with a little girl who you expected was not going to live very long. Were you giving thanks in all things and having a heart of gratitude for where you were?
Barbara: Interestingly, Bob, I think we were. I think the reason we were is because it was so clearly from God. Even though we didn’t like it and it wasn’t what we wanted or expected. If we could have we would have changed it in an instant. We were praying for a miracle and yet I think we all knew in our hearts that God was calling us to walk this road. To do anything other than to give thanks for the road He was calling us to walk was going to make it a miserable experience.
It was difficult and sad and it was full of anguish and grief and tears and mourning. But there was a sense because we began to give thanks from the very first moment that we sensed God’s presence in a way that I think few of us had before or have since. I think it’s because by giving thanks we invited Him into the midst of what He had called us to do.
We didn’t shut him out and say God we are mad at you for doing this to us and we don’t want you to have any part of it because we don’t like what you are doing. Rather we said God, you are bringing this into our lives and we want to receive it. We’ve receive Molly as a gift from you and the way she was made is also a gift. I think that in some way it was easier for us to give thanks to that because it was if there was no other choice.
It’s the daily stuff that gets me. In fact, just a couple of days ago I got up and there were all these interruptions that I wasn’t counting on for my day. I had my day planned and these things lined up that I was going to do
Barbara: You’re laughing because you remember, don’t you?
Dennis: Yes. I’m not telling the story.
Barbara: I know, but I am. But there were these interruptions that I hadn’t counted on. Those are the things that cause me to be ungrateful. Dennis looked at me that morning because I was bemoaning the fact that these things had interrupted my plans for the day and he said, “I think God is trying to teach you gratitude.” And I said, “You think?”
I said, “He is, no doubt.”
Dennis: I guess it was in your book, Nancy, but I read the statement it’s easy to accept the roses God brings us but we don’t necessarily want to embrace the thorns.
Nancy: The person who wrote that little parable about roses and thorns was an old time writer George Matheson. He was blind and had a fiancé break off her engagement because he went blind. As a young man heading into the ministry he wrestled with whether God really was good and could be trusted. During this season of his life he wrote that prayer about God challenging him to give thanks not just for the roses but also for the thorns. Often it is the thorns that press us closer to the heart of God and show us and give us an experience of his face, and his character, and his heart that we might otherwise not have.
Barbara: That’s right.
Dennis: Yes. In fact, I don’t think it is just sometimes I think it usually comes to the thorns.
Dennis: In fact, it takes thorns many times to reduce us and to take us back to the very character of God and say, who are you going to trust? Are you going to trust yourself to run the show? Your circumstances that you don’t like? What is there about this picture that you don’t like and are you willing to trust God for? Ultimately you fall upon him and say, “You know God I’m not in control. You are. I trust you as being the giver of good gifts. I think that ultimately is the issue when it comes to the subject of gratitude. Who are you going to give thanks to? If you’re not going to give thanks to God you will ultimately implode in bitterness and anger and resentment. You will complain about life and be like what Barbara read here a few moments ago the children of Israel. They grumbled and griped and complained in their tents and wasted away in the wilderness.
Bob: I’m reflecting back on your observation that there is an exorable link between the grace of gratitude and the gospel. If we find ourselves being ungrateful we really have to ask ourselves the question have we really understood what God has done.
I think of the parable of the one who had been forgiven the great debt and he’s released and he goes out and finds someone who owes him just a little and he wants him thrown in jail. That’s really a picture. When we are ungrateful about whatever is going on in our lives to go back to the cross and go back and remember what God has done for us in forgiving our debt. If that doesn’t stir up gratitude in us I think we need to pull back and ask do I really know Christ? Do I really understand what God has done? If we do understand it then how can we lack gratitude for whatever is going on in our lives?
Nancy: I think you could in a way sum up the gospel and sum up the message of the scripture with three words: guilt, grace, and gratitude.
We were guilty to the hilt. God poured upon us in Jesus Christ His undeserved grace. What short of unbridled gratitude is worthy of the way God has dealt with us. Not according to our sins but according to His mercy. So when I choose gratitude I’m saying Lord, I’m grateful for your grace. I’m a recipient of your grace and when I choose ingratitude or when I choose the way of whining or grumbling or murmuring I’m oblivious to the grace of God. It’s as if it doesn’t’ matter or as if it hasn’t made a real difference in my life.
Dennis: You mentioned, Bob, what we went through a year and a half ago with our daughter, Rebecca and her husband, Jake. It was back last summer as we celebrated Molly’s seven day life we interacted with Rebecca and read her blogs. She was blogging about how she was processing the past 12 months not only having lost an infant after seven days but then some 10 months later losing a baby after 14 or 15 weeks. She lost two children in one year. In one of her blogs she wrote about the temptation to think wrongly about God.
Back to Nancy’s book Choosing Gratitude. It is a choice. I think it was Chuck Swindoll who said 10 percent is what happens to us, 90 percent is our choice in how we respond to what happens to us. So the question is as you get a bunch of roses they have a bunch of thorns. You embrace them and feel the pain of the thorns and you don’t like the thorns. What are you going to do? Will you embrace it by faith and trust the One who is the giver of good gifts. He knows what he’s doing. Or will you reject the gift and the giver? That really is the issue.
I like what you said Nancy summarizing all of life. Guilt, grace and gratitude. That really ought to be how we finish life moving toward gratitude in all that befalls us. Undoubtedly there are listeners right now facing some pretty challenging circumstances. What are you going to choose? What are you going to do? Who are you going to trust? I would encourage you to put your faith in Christ and his word.
Bob: And we do want to encourage listeners to join us in praying for Jake and Rebecca as they are now expecting twins and we hope folks will join us in praying throughout their pregnancy. I think the twins are due in the springtime and we’ll keep you up to date and hope you will pray for Jake and Rebecca.
Let me to encourage you to go to our web site FamilyLife Today.com where you’ll find information about Nancy’s book, Choosing Gratitude. Obviously we have it in our FamilyLife Resource Center and we would encourage you to get a copy of this book and use it to counsel your own heart and to counsel your thinking on the subject of gratitude. Again the book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss is called Choosing Gratitude.
Also, don’t forget we have Barbara Rainey’s seven day devotional guide for families called Growing Together in Gratitude. We’ve already sent out hundreds of these books to families this month. Families are using it as a part of their family devotions leading up to the celebration of Thanksgiving. You don’t have to just use it before Thanksgiving you can use this devotional guide at any time in your family when you want to remind one another of the importance of having a heart of thankfulness and gratitude.
You can get more information about both Nancy’s book, Choosing Gratitude and Barbara Rainey’s devotional book for families Growing Together in Gratitude at our web site FamilyLife Today.com. 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.
Our team has also put together a prayer card where we’ve taken Psalm 103 and adapted it to be a family prayer of gratitude. A prayer of thankfulness and on the back of the prayer card there are suggestions for ways to lead your family in cultivating a heart of thankfulness.
The prayer card—A Family Prayer of Thankfulness—is available for anyone who would like a copy. Just call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. That’s 1-800-358-6329 and say I’d like that prayer card that Bob was talking about on FamilyLife Today. We are happy to send it out to you and we hope it is something you can use with your family at Thanksgiving. We are sending it to you because we are thankful for you and are thankful that you listen to FamilyLife Today and hope this will help you and your family cultivate gratitude as we’ve talked about today.
We are going to continue to talk about gratitude with our guest Nancy Leigh DeMoss on tomorrow’s program. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today Keith Lynch and our entire broadcast production team on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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