Welcome today to week number two of our series entitled “Gratitude” as we are talking about Living a Life of Thankfulness. Last week we talked about some of the enemies of gratitude and identified how comparing ourselves with others is really just setting ourselves up for disappointment, discouragement, and discontentment.
One of the things we learned from COVID is that much of life, much of what we worry about, much of what we dream about, none of it really becomes real until it happens to us. And then suddenly, it becomes real when it affects you and your family, wondering how you’re going to get food for the kids, or how you’re going to pay the mortgage. In other words, it’s not just another state, but now it’s my state, now it’s my county, and now it’s my family.
And the truth of the matter is that we spend much of our time looking at other people, or their situation, their circumstances, and their blessings outside of our own personal experience. And how we interpret that or what we discover is that we would love to trade positions, trade possessions, or even trade bodies, and the problem is that if we spend too much time dwelling on what other people have, we easily find ourselves overcome with sin. In fact, the Bible says it this way in Proverbs,
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).
In other words, if we continue in it, dreaming about it, we will be tempted and easily fall into the dangerous sin of envy.
Now, I want you to imagine for a moment, just close your eyes for a few seconds, and get a picture in your mind of something that is rotten. Maybe that tomato out of the garden that was sitting on the counter too long. Maybe that lunch that was sitting in the car for a week. Just imagine something that is rotten, and I want you to realize that is what envy does in our lives. It grows and it festers on the inside like a cancer and envy rots the bones.
Very simply we can define envy as resenting God’s goodness in other people’s lives, while ignoring God’s goodness in our own lives. It is moaning, groaning, and complaining about what I wish I had. It is coveting what others have while ignoring God’s blessings in our own lives like Haman in the book of Esther. The Bible says in chapter five, verse eleven,
“Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials” (Esther 5:11).
"And that's not all," Haman added. "I'm the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow” (Esther 5:12).
In other words, Haman was incredibly blessed, but look at this next verse, he says,
“But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king's gate” (Esther 5:13).
In other words, he resented Mordecai and every time he passed him at the gate, that resentment became so powerful that even though he was incredibly blessed he declared, “All this gives me no satisfaction.”
I wonder if any of you have found yourself in that place, longing for something in the future, living for something that you don’t have yet. You know, you think to yourself, “One day, when, whatever it is, then I will be happy. And so, like Haman said, “All this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see…” something someone else has, or something that is just around the corner. And we resent God’s goodness in other people’s lives, while ignoring God’s blessings in our own lives.
And the truth is, the sin of envy destroys relationships, and we see this in the story of Cain and Abel. In Genesis chapter 4, it was the sin of envy that destroyed these two brothers’ relationship. The Bible tells us,
“Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor” (Genesis 4:2-5).
In other words, Abel gave an offering to the Lord, a sacrifice, that was appropriate and acceptable to the Lord. But Cain didn’t give his best, he just gave God some leftovers, and God rejected his offering.
And so, Cain found himself envying Abel’s favor with God, sin crept in and the Bible says,
“Cain was very angry and his face was downcast” (Genesis 4:5).
In fact, it controlled him so much, that he took his own brother’s life. And that’s what we saw last week in James chapter three, verse sixteen,
“Where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice” (James 3:16).
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “I would never kill anybody over envy.” And maybe you wouldn’t, at least not physically, but Jesus said sometimes we do with our tongues and our attitudes.
In Matthew chapter five, verse twenty-one, he said,
“You have heard it said, “Do not murder…” “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21-22).
And so, where we have envy, it rots relationships, because there you find disorder and every evil practice.
Not only does envy rots relationships, but secondly it will suck the joy right out of your life. Everything can be great, but the minute you start resenting God’s goodness in somebody else’s life it spoils the blessings of God in your own life. We see this in Genesis chapter 30 where we find Jacob’s wife Rachel unable to get pregnant. And verse one says,
“When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I'll die!” (Genesis 30:1).
Now, of course she wasn’t really going to die, but because she was resenting God’s goodness in her sister’s life, she ignored God’s blessing in her own life. Envy crept in and spoiled her life, stealing her joy, her contentment, and her thankfulness.
That is why envy is so dangerous, most of us can’t see it in our own lives, and so we don’t want to acknowledge that we wrestle with it. But we must recognize that envy could creep into our lives at any moment which is why God warned Abel in Genesis chapter four,
“Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7).
That’s why the apostle Paul warns us that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, because the mind is a battleground. I’ve got a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other fighting to control my mind. And so, we’ve got to be careful of the temptation to compare because it urges, provokes, and feeds the sinful desires within us.
Last week we talked about social media and our culture of comparison, but it’s really as old as humanity. We can see this in the life of King Saul, he was a guy who was chosen and blessed by God, but he was overcome with envy. You may remember that he started to envy a young warrior named David. The Bible tells us in first Samuel, chapter 18,
“After David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes” (1 Samuel 18:6).
“As they danced, they sang: "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7).
“Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?" (1 Samuel 18:8).
And so, the sin of envy crept in, his mind was filled with hateful thoughts, and from that time on the Bible says,
“Saul kept a jealous eye on David” (1 Samuel 18:9).
In other words, he took his eyes off of the goodness of God in his life and he put his eyes on David.
I wonder what you may find yourself comparing in your own life. For myself, honestly, the temptation is always to compare myself with other churches. I’m thankful for God’s grace helping me to recognize that, because there is no good thing that can come from comparing. You know, if I consider God’s work here at Christ’s Community Church as better than the church down the street that would lead to pride. And if I consider God’s work somewhere else to be better than here, that could lead to the sin of envy. And so, we need to be careful because it’s all around us, it’s our culture.
Maybe it’s someone at school or at work that seems to be having fun enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin and it just doesn’t seem fair. But comparing your walk of faith with others will never satisfy, it will only feed envy, rotting your bones, and causing you to resent other people’s lives and ignoring what God is doing in your own life.
Another enemy trying to keep us from living a life of thankfulness that we must be aware of is the sin of complaining. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think I have the spiritual gift of complaining, because there are few things that I seem to do without complaining. But the Bible says,
“Do everything without complaining” (Philippians 2:14).
And so, maybe you thought by this time you would be doing better. You had hoped to be more financially secure than you are today. You been faithful to God with the tithe, and yet it seems like you work harder than anybody else, and you can’t seem to get ahead? What do you most often complain about?
I have to admit, one time I was complaining to God about the busyness and chaos of the season that my family and I were in. Sometimes I think I need more quiet time, more alone time, maybe just shutting off the phone, because so much is happening in my mind. But I realized that I was complaining about things that were blessings, because there is nothing tough about the blessings of having a large family. I was grumbling and complaining about the very blessings of God.
And so, my prayer as we come into this season of Christmas is a prayer of David who himself was going through a season of repentance. He said,
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice” (Psalms 51:7-8).
And so, Lord, wash us, clean out our hearts, satisfy us with your presence, let us not take your blessings for granted, and fill our hearts with contentment.
The heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Last week we saw God’s answer to the sin of envy. The apostle Paul said,
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
He said, if you want to live a life of thankfulness, having an attitude of gratitude, you need to learn to be content. And then he said, the secret of being content is this,
“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
In other words, Jesus is the answer, and we had the answer all along. The perceptiveness or wisdom of that statement is quite profound, because suddenly I realized I don’t have to change your mind, I don’t have to convince you, and you don’t even have to agree with me to be blessed and to be successful. Because the Scripture says, I can do everything through him who gives me strength. In other words, this changes everything, because I have everything that I need to do the will of God and glorify him with my life.
The apostle Peter said it this way, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11).
If you can receive that today, understanding that through him you lack nothing to do the perfect will of God, that removes the desire for anything else. And so, at this moment, at this time, I have everything I need, and the moment my mind begins to wander down a negative trail wishing I had this or wishing I had that, I’m going to grab those thoughts, taking them captive knowing that the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
And so, I’m going to take each of those negative, those comparative, those complaining thoughts and take them captive, replacing them with the thoughts of God. I’m going to train my mind to think on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, and I’m going to think about such things (Philippians 4:8).
That is a game changer, and so the next time I walk into my house and it is chaotic, I’m just going to stop and say, “Thank you God that you have given me a family that is active in ministry and children that are loud, busy, and healthy. Lord, I thank you for what you are doing in my life.” And every single moment, of every single day, I am just going to take those thoughts captive and replace them with a positive thought, because true content is acknowledging that God is good all the time. That’s why the Bible says,
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
Just think about that for a moment, at this moment, at this time, you have everything you need to do the will of God. In other words, if you have Christ, there is nothing you need that would make your life better, and nothing you need to make your life matter. That’s why the Bible says, “Do not let your heart envy sinners” because envy is a dangerous and destructive sin causing you to resent God’s goodness in other people’s lives while ignoring his goodness in your own life (Proverbs 23:17).
And so, right now, if you have been born again, and you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you have everything you need to do everything God calls you to do. In fact, the Bible tells us that, “Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (Psalms 34:10). And so, let’s give thanks to the Lord, let’s bless him, and praise his name. And when God blesses you, I will celebrate with you, because I am confident that God is good all the time.
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.