Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Gratitude: An Upward Basketball Halftime Devotion

It is my joy to provide halftime devotions as our church hosts nearly a thousand people each weekend for our Upward Basketball league (K-9th). The brevity of time (5 minutes) and diversity of those gathered create a challenging opportunity. Over the course of our eight week season, how will I make Christ known to those who do not yet know Him?  How will I edify the faith of those who do? Here's our devotion from this past weekend on Gratitude:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”

In life we can either be “humbly grateful,” or else we’ll likely become “grumbly hateful.” And the difference between these two attitudes is often more related to our perspective than it is reality. Think about it! There are some people who have so much—so much to be thankful for—but rather than being grateful, they are, instead, dissatisfied and discontent. And they don’t mind letting others know about it, either. 

The problem here may be an inflated sense of entitlement—that attitude which says “I’m owed so much more than I’m getting!” A sense of self-entitlement is at odds with an attitude of gratitude.

You see, gratitude is not a measurement of how much we have, but rather how thankful we are for all we have received. Gratitude flows from recognizing that “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). When we understand that ‘everything we are’ and ‘everything we have’ is a gracious gift and blessing from God, our perspective can change. After all, what exactly do we deserve?

The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 3:23, 6:23). That’s what we deserve; that’s what we are owed! So, if we receive anything better than that, we are, as Dave Ramsey might say, “doing better than we deserve.”

Perspective changes things, doesn't it? Think about small children at Christmas time. So many of us have laughed over the years as we’ve watched children enjoying the empty boxes as much as the toys that came in them. But where we see “empty boxes,” they see “open possibilities.” That’s perspective!

If we view our lives from the perspective of entitlement, we’ll complain about how empty the box is. But if we view our lives from the perspective of gratitude for all of God’s blessings, we’ll see how truly full that box is and how open it is to possibilities.

Through Upward Sports, we hope to help our children develop this kind of perspective. But, our examples as adults and our choices as parents will either encourage this attitude of gratitude, or else enable a spoiled sense of entitlement.

Paul asked the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7).

Today, perhaps your box looks awfully empty. But, there is a gift you can receive that will not only change your perspective, but will change everything. To understand how blessed we really are, we first need to receive the greatest blessing of all—Christ. The Bible does indeed say “the wages of sin is death,” however, it doesn't stop there. It goes on to say, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23). Christ is able to reconcile us forever with God, forgiving our sin and promising everlasting life.

If you try to fill your box with mere religion or good works, or if you try to fill it with mere pleasure or possessions, you’ll still just have an empty box. But if you truly repent of your sin and turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who died for sin and rose again, then He Himself can fill it.

John the Baptist once said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven“ (John 3:27). If you have already received this greatest of all blessings, then realize how rich you are in Christ Jesus! You can be humbly grateful rather than grumbly hateful.

But if you have not received this good and perfect gift, I pray Heaven comes calling, maybe even today,  and God may grant [you] repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim 2:25). What have you received? Are you truly grateful?

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