Stop - Walk - Step

A reminder that Thanksgiving's meaning is to be grateful

Douglas Poole
Nov 18, 2018    27m
In this sermon Pastor Douglas Poole uses Psalm 126 to remind us of Thanksgiving's meaning. He teaches us that we have forgotten to be thankful for what God has already given us, and instead we focus on what we want. This can rob us of gratefulness and joy. Video recorded at Clearwater, Florida.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Douglas Poole: 00:04 I love the incredible diversity of humanity. I love celebrating it, and I love experiencing it. But I've also discovered in spite of our amazing diversity as humans, we share a lot of things in common, right? How about that we're all born, and we all die, for starters. Pretty cheery thought, isn't it? We all share the same common needs, we've got to have some oxygen, and some food, and some water, to survive. We are all on the same planet, we all share in the same anatomy, and we all share in the same common ancestry. And the list could go on and on. I want to mention just a couple more, than focus on one of them. Another thing we all have in common is love. Every single one of us human beings, we long to know love, to give and to receive love, and it's kind of like a lifelong quest for many of us too. And we get disappointed, but we don't give up, and we'd go back into it because we want to know love. And another thing we share in common is happiness. We're all on a quest to find some happiness in the course of this life.

Douglas Poole: 01:11 And so today, what I want to focus on, on this weekend before Thanksgiving is the connection that there is between gratitude and happiness. And I want to talk to you, you know, certainly from the scriptures. But as well from my own experience in my life, and from what I've learned from other people in this regard. So if you have a Bible, turn to Psalm 126 please, and if not, we'll put it up on the screens for you. And this psalm, it really is, I think, this is like the key that unlocks the door to happiness. And some of you have felt like that door has been locked to you for too long. It's like a key that unlocks the door to happiness. It's like a really delicious smoothie on a really hot, sultry, summer day. So this is a smoothie for your soul. So Psalm 126 as psalmist says this, "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues was songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Restore our fortunes O Lord, like streams in Negev. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow. We'll return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with him."

Douglas Poole: 02:43 All right, let's drink of this smoothie verse by verse here together. Let's go back to verse number one and unpack this. The psalmist says this, "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed." Let me give you a little background here. All right? Zion is the name of the hill upon which King David built the city of Jerusalem. And so he says, when we were brought back, the captives to Zion. That is they were in another place, and they are another place because the nation of Israel about 65, 70 years earlier, had been conquered by the Babylonians who moved in. And the Babylonians did what was fairly common in the course of that time of history, where they would take people they conquered. And then relocate them back to to Babylonia, and assimilate them into their culture, taking the best that they could offer to improve their culture. And so people, the Israelites, you know, hundreds of thousands of them had been taken captive and relocate of Babylonia. Then a little more world history for you, as if you haven't had enough world history. The Persians, the king of Persia, came in and conquered the Babylonians. And one of the first things he did was to release the Israelites who were captive in Babylon, and say, go home. Take your people, you can return to your home. And so the scriptures say to us, when the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, those who were in captivity. And this psalm, there's no author's name attached to it, but the best biblical theologians all seem pretty convinced this was written by a Jewish priest by the name of Ezra, about 540 BC.

Douglas Poole: 04:25 So here they are, he says, they were like refugees who have been returning home after decades in captivity, and all they had with them, is whatever they could carry with them on this journey. Both externally, and what they could carry with them internally, the hope. And so what they did have his was this, they had their freedom. What they didn't have, they didn't have a home to return to. They'd all been destroyed. So they're going back to rubble. Sorta like we saw in California, just the devastation of people going back, we've seen the film on TV, haven't you. People going back in there, the home has been destroyed. They had no livelihood awaiting them. There was no bank accounts that was there. And the only wardrobe they have, was what they were wearing. Yet Ezra describes this rag tag group of people like this, verse two, "Our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with songs of joy." I read this and I'm like how do you explain this? Right? What's going on here? I have no home, no job, no wardrobe, but I'm laughing and I am singing songs of joy. Like how do you explain it? For instance, you take, I have no home, no job, no money, and you add I have no dog, you've got a country western hit song, right? Because it's devastation. And usually when people are saying like, I've gotten no home, I've got no job, I've got no money. Guess what else there is no. There is no joy. Right? When these things are taken. So how do you explain this? Did they find some wacky weed on their trip back to Israel or what? Are they delirious, nuts, out of touch with reality, maybe just maybe they are not familiar with a formula for happiness.

Douglas Poole: 06:25 And we, we all know the formula for happiness, don't we? It's have, happy, grateful. When I have, fill in the blank, when I have that, I'm going to be happy. When I'm happy, I can be thankful and grateful for what I have. When I have true love, oh, I'm just going to be so happy, life will be meaningful. And when I have true love, and I'm happy, I'm going to be grateful and thankful. But how can I be happy, and how can I be grateful, when I don't have to love? When you get that right? My heart's been broken, and so because my heart's been broken, who in the world would expect me to be happy or to be grateful for what my circumstance is in my life, right? When I have my health, when I have a 40 foot sailboat, I'm going to be ecstatic. Life is going to be awesome, and I'm going to be so grateful to God. We all get the formula, how it works, right? Madison Avenue understands how it works. They know that we believe this to be true, so all you got to do is watch the commercials that come out of there, right? Have you seen the commercial, like I don't know if it's a breath mint or a piece of gum or something. But you know this guy puts in this breath mint, this gum you know, and chews on it. And all of a sudden nowhere here comes this girl, and they kiss, you know, and their like wow. And so they're working in the formula. When you have our g, when you pop this breath mint, you're going to be happy. You're going to like the results of this one, and then you're going to be so remarkably grateful and thankful for what you have. Or for the cars, you know, there's always a nice, fast, sleek, car going down the road. A sexy couple in it who are laughing and enjoying each other, holding hands as they drive, and they're telling us when you have our car, you're going to be happy. You're going to like the results, and then you're going to be remarkably grateful. And so Madison Avenue understands that we buy into this formula, and so they sell us all kinds of things that we don't really need, because we buy into this because we want to be happy.

Douglas Poole: 08:39 But we ask ourselves, how can I be grateful when I'm so unhappy? You don't understand how deeply my heart's been broken, so how do you expect me to be grateful? How do you expect me to be grateful when my job is just, it's not going well, or like I've lost my job. So who in their right mind is going to express gratitude in this moment? My health is a mess. But Ezra and his fellow Jews are behaving like outliers here. It says they are singing songs of joy as they returned to a place where their homes are in ruin, no job awaits them, there's no endowment to cover their expenses. Have you ever met people like that? Like you hit a rough patch, and things kind of get upside down for you. Maybe you suffer a loss, and you start thinking about how hard life is just become for you, how bleak the future is looking, and you feel totally justified to be discouraged. Well, you would be discouraged too, you know if this has happened to you. You feel justified to pout, to be angry, to have a pity party of one kind or another. And you're right in the middle of just launching a black type pity party, and you bump into somebody whose situation is worse than yours, and they're all at peace and grateful. And you meet these folks, and you're like oh, stop it. Stop it, you're ruining my pity party because your circumstances are much more challenging than mine, and you're grateful, you're at peace.

Douglas Poole: 10:21 I had this happened to me last year with a good friend of mine, Dr Mike Stevenson. We've been friends for decades, and I was over at his house on his back patio, and we were in a long conversation. I was right in the middle of last year, some of you were aware, I had battled an infection for like a year. And there were times it just got the best of me, and we kept trying different meds, and not able to find the right combination of things. And there were some weekends where by this service, the 11:00 service, third service. I was like, I don't think I have it in me. And I'd be sitting in my office, like praying God, give me strength to get through one more service would you? And so I was kind of feel sorry for myself, you know, and we were talking, he was asking how I was doing. Well Dr. Mike was also dealing with infection, different than mine. And he also spends his days, as some of you know, in a wheelchair. That's how he spends his days. And yet he was sitting there talking, and telling me how grateful he was for so many things that God had given him in his life, and how he just had found such peace. And I'm sitting there, and I'm like wanting to feel sorry for myself, and like why isn't God coming through? And I wanted to like, stop it Doc. I mean I don't want to like trade circumstances with you, when you've got joy, and I don't have this joy right now, and I don't have any kind of contentment or peace in this moment. So stop it.

Douglas Poole: 11:46 And I get the same reaction when I take people, the first time to Haiti, to work with our partners in St. Louis du Nord. And so for many folks that I take it as their very first time when we work with our partners, they are to experience abject poverty that is just pervasive everywhere you are. And where we sit in folks' homes, and there is no electricity, so there's no air conditioning in these places. And the water don't want to drink it. And so there's no air conditioning, and the meal is the same like day after day after day. It's the same, you know, rice and some vegetables, rice and some vegetables, if you're lucky, a little bit of meat. And what irritates the folks that I take, is they go to the church service, and they're overwhelmed by how joyful and grateful the people are. And so they always will say, just always the question, what is it? How can these folks be so joyful, and so grateful, when they have nothing? And what they're really saying is this, I got a home, it has air conditioning, water heater, potable water, and I'm not happy, and I'm not grateful. So how dare these people who don't have electricity, and don't have variety of food, and don't have potable water, how dare they be happy, and how dare they be grateful in this moment.

Douglas Poole: 13:10 Perhaps these people have learned something Ezra knew of the key to happiness? Would you look again at verse three, "O the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." I read this and like you I think, okay, what great things, no home, no job, no money. Oh, great. Friends, Ezra was able to be fully present in the moment, and there was a moment where his focus was on what they had, and not upon the fear of what they don't have moving into the future. Look again at verse one, please, "When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed." Do you hear what he's saying? We are overcome with gratitude from what we have. We have our freedom, and we have God, and we have this dream for the future. And because we have our freedom, and we have God, and we have a dream, we're filled with joy in this moment.

Douglas Poole: 14:13 And friends, this is the key that unlocks the door to happiness, and some of you have been trying all different kinds of combinations, and keys to unlock the door of happiness, and you can't seem to unlock this door to know some kind of joy and happiness in your life. See, we are convinced this is the formula for happiness, right? When I have this, when I have this person, I have this relationship. I have this job, I have this home, I have my health. I have, I have, I have, I'm going to be happy when I have that. By the way ever known somebody who got those things, and they're are not happy? And then when I'm happy, I'm going to be grateful. Ezra turns this formula upside down, and he says, no, no, no, no, no, you got it all wrong. He says, this is how it works. When you're grateful for what you have, you're going to know happiness. When you're grateful, and you give thanks for what you do have, you're going to find yourself experiencing happiness and contentment and some joy. He just flip flops this is the equation, and Ezra says, it is not joy that makes you grateful. it's gratitude that makes you joyful. He's saying here, I can just see what I actually have in this moment, and what I have in this moment right now I have freedom, and for decades my people have not known freedom. And I have a future, because I have God, and I am so grateful. And he says, "The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." The key to joy is gratefulness, and when you step into gratitude, you will walk into joy. When you realize who God is, and what God has given to you, and you are grateful, you will know joy.

Douglas Poole: 16:11 For instance, some of us are struggling and frustrated because we're not experiencing the joy, the level of of happiness and contentment in our life that we are longing for, and this is the key. This is the key. Ezra says, we realize God has given us our freedom, and so we were like men who dreamed. Look again at the dream they have, verses four through six, "Restore our fortune, O Lord, like streams in Negev. Those who sow in tears, will reap songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return was songs of joy carrying sheaves with him." He's saying this, we believe we have a future, and so we have a hope. And right now by don't have any homes, they've all been destroyed, we don't have jobs, the only wardrobe we have is this. But what we do have is God, and we have this dream, and we're going to walk fourth in our tears and we're going to plant this dream because we believe God's going to bring a harvest. And there's going to come a day in the future where there will be joy and there will be dancing. And the promise is those who sow in tears, are going to reap in joy, but you've got to sow.

Douglas Poole: 17:30 I think a part of the problem is friends, when we look to the future, most of us don't practice gratitude. Most of us, instead, when we look to the future, we practice a foreboding of joy, rather than receiving of joy. If you're a parent, you understand this, you've probably done it. I have. You know, it's at night in your home, and you get a little homework done, and tvs done. You send the kids to bed, and after three drinks, and two trips to the bathroom, they're finally like down for the night, right? And it gets quiet, and you get ready to go to bed. So you walk into your kid's room, and you walk up to the crib, here's this angelic little baby. Or you walk over, and there's your kid lying there in bed all cuddled, up so peaceful. And you look at your child and this love starts to well up inside of you, and becomes overwhelming, and you think I had no idea I could ever love someone so much. This is unbelievable. And as you're looking at your child, there's this thought that floats into your mind like seemingly out of nowhere that says, I don't know what I would ever do if anything happened to this child. And then, like dominoes, it starts tumbling right? And you start thinking of all these things that could happen, all these things could go wrong to this child, and how horrible it would be. And instead of standing in a moment that should be utterly full of joy and thanksgiving for this child, you're standing in a moment of dread and fear, and your thankfulness and your joy is gone. And maybe you've experienced it when you're on a roll in life. Those moments where like the job is going well up into the right, performance reviews are outstanding, everybody's getting along really well, right? You've got an awesome vacation plan. You're thinking, oh my life is awesome right now. Then...wait, the other shoe's going to drop, I know it, it always does. Something's going to happen. You start thinking of all the things that could go wrong, right? And instead of standing in a moment full of gratitude and joy for what's going on in your life at this moment, when you should be celebrating. You're dreading the future, and you're overcome with fear and anxiety for what could happen, and your joy it just evaporates in this moment. You forebode. And instead of stepping into gratitude which walks you to joy, you step into foreboding, which leads to fear and dread. And we dress rehearse tragedy, and as we dress rehearse tragedy, it chokes the life out of joy.

Douglas Poole: 20:28 Joyful people pause in the moment, they look at the thing or the person that God has given to them, and they express gratitude. Father David [inaudible] who narrated the video we just watched. He said, the way to step into gratitude for the moment, he said, is this equation. Stop, look, step. Stop, look, step. He says, if you're going to express gratitude first thing you need to do is you just have to stop, because we race through life, right? Some of you were thinking, we've got to get to the grocery store and buy the stuff for Thanksgiving as soon as service services over, when is he going to be done? Right? Like, we've got to go, right? And the next things we got to do, our list we check off. So you've just got to stop, stop, cease, pause for a moment. Breathe. Then he says, look, look around you at what you have. Most of us don't tend to do that. We look ahead of us at what we don't have, we look ahead of us at what needs to be done. And he says, you just stop and you just look around you. What is it, who is it, that God has put in your life? What is it God has given you? Then he says, step into gratitude. When you step into gratitude, you will know joy friends, with this.

Douglas Poole: 21:59 Years ago when we were first initiating our partnership with the church in St Louis du Nord, Haiti about 15 years ago. When I went, it was much tougher conditions that it is today. Today, like you have a hotel, and they have air conditioning at night, and there's a shower. Not hot water, but there's a shower, and the circumstances have changed dramatically. But I remember years ago, going to Haiti, and sleeping on a rooftop. Because that's the only place I could find that'd be semi-cool in the night, on a cement roof top, and on a wafer thin mattress. Where your arm falls asleep, and you've got to rollover and sleep until that arm falls asleep, and all of that pieced with mosquito netting over me. And when it came time to bathe, there was a rain barrel with a cup. That's how you get cleaned up, that's how you showered for the day. You know, day after day after day, this was the reality. And food, same meal, rice and some in some veggies every day. And then somehow I ate something that had been washed in some local water, which was not pure, and I just got pretty violently sick with it. So I'm on the plane coming home from Haiti, and I can't wait to get home. And I get home, and I remember going to like the kitchen to the water faucet, and just turning it on, and just like a Viking, you know, just sticking my head under, that I could really just drink water from the faucet. And I thought, Oh, I've never thanked God for water before, but I am right now. And it was the most joyous drink I ever had. Then it went out in the garage for my water heater. It's like to show a little love you know, I hugged the water heater, like, kissed that water heater. I never knew I had so much affection for you, but I do. And then I went into that shower, and we have a tankless water heater. So however much propane is in the tanks, how long I can shower. I thought I may be here a couple of days in this warm shower. And I'm just God, I'm so grateful, I'm so thankful for the electricity, and for warm showers, and it was the most joyful shower I've ever taken. I stepped into gratitude, for things I always took for granted. And it's amazing, when I stepped into gratitude, I walked into joy. Grateful people are joyful people.

Douglas Poole: 24:31 So let me close. Gratitude is a choice, you've got to wrap your mind on, it is a choice. And it is your choice. If you choose gratitude, it will change you, and it'll lead you to joy. So here's what we're going to do right now. We're going to stop, look, and step. First we're going to stop right now in this moment, we're here, let's just stop. And when you came in, you received a card that says, give thanks. You see it? Pull it out, please, pull it out. We're going to stop, and pull out a pen. And then I want you to look, open your eyes to what is around you, to what you have. To the people you have in your life, to what God has given you. Maybe it's a relationship, maybe drinkable water, probably because you've never been without drinkable water. Thank God for your job, your health, friends, you have a church tribe, a beautiful church tribe, a child. I don't know, but would you just write on the card what you want to thank God for? Think back this last year, since last thanksgiving. Where God has manifest his grace for you, and maybe need to say thanks to God for that, what that is. And then after you look, we're going to step. And here's what we'll do is, it may take a little longer with this service, with all the folks. So I'm going to ask you to walk to the outside walls, and make your way over to this Thanksgiving board. There's some push pins, just take your card, just pin it on the Thanksgiving board. Then walk over to receive the communion elements. Receive the bread, and he bore the full brunt of the punishment for our sin. Receive the cup to remind us the blood that was shed for life everlasting. Express some gratitude to God for loving you and sending Jesus, return to your seats, partake of the elements. But stop, look, and then step. So Taylor's going to sing, and as he sings, when you're ready, make your way around. Put up your cards, and receive the communion elements.

Recorded in Clearwater, Florida.
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