The Gratitude That Influences

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Last week I mentioned over-dramatic kids complaining, “I’m starving!” Or people with expensive phones complaining about a slow internet connection. We’re really good at expressing what we want, aren’t we? In fact, we’re really good at loudly letting everyone around us know that we want something. 

But here’s a good question: Are we just as quick to loudly express our gratitude?     

It’s innate human nature to behave this way. No one has to teach a child to express their desires—loudly! But we do have to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” And sometimes it takes even more prompting to get them to say it loud enough for others to hear, and sincere enough for others to believe that they are truly grateful. 

So why would we expect it to be any different just because we happen to be older? That’s why we’ve noted that the attitude of gratitude is a great attitude, and it’s also an attitude that makes the grateful person stand out from the crowd. 

G.K. Chesterton noted, “In life you can take things one of two ways: you can take them for granted or you can take them with gratitude.” Sadly, it seems that “for granted” is what is typically exhibited. In fact, I think the granted-to-grateful ratio is 10-to-1. 

Luke alone tells a story in his Gospel about ten men with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). All ten lepers had no problem calling out their need for healing “in a loud voice.” And they called out to the right Person, as they called Jesus “Master.” This word shows that they believed He could do something no one else could do. Indeed, Jesus shows His authority over leprosy with just the word, “Go” and “as they went, they were cleansed.” 

All ten were quick to loudly express their desire for healing and to call on the authority of Jesus, but only “one of them…came back, praising God in a loud voice.” Both Luke and Jesus affirm that all ten men were cleansed on the outside—their skin no longer showed the ravages of leprosy, but only to the one grateful man did Jesus say, “Your faith has healed and saved you” (v. 19 MSG). 

The Greek word here is sōzō. This is the same word used for the eternal salvation that Jesus alone can bring. Check out John 3:17, John 10:9, Acts 2:21, and Romans 10:9. This is better than just physical cleansing, it’s wholeness that lasts for eternity! 

E.M. Bounds wrote, “Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” Sadly, the ratio of grumblers-to-praisers is only going grow as we move closer and closer to the end of the age, culminating in people who have the outward appearance of godliness (like the nine cleansed lepers) but ignore the true power of God for salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:1-5). 

In this take-everything-for-granted, focus-on-the-outward culture, those 1-in-10 stand out. Those who have gone beyond skin-deep cleaning to soul-deep salvation, and who loudly express their gratitude, are the ones the apostle Paul declares shine brightly and influence those around them (Philippians 2:14-16). 

The origin of the word influence comes from a power people thought those bright stars had to affect the lives of humans. So your consistent gratitude is influencing those around you, and giving them a star to chart their course, more consistently than almost anything else you can do. 

So shine on! Praise God loudly, quickly, and sincerely for what He has done for you! Be the 1-in-10! And then watch your influence impact everyone who encounters you.

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Great Attitude of Gratitude, you can find a list of all of the messages by clicking here. 

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Grateful For What You Have

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We said last week that nobody likes to be around a complainer, although many complainers would say they’re not complaining but just sharing facts. In their mind, they have a legitimate right to let everyone know how they’ve been short-changed, gotten a bad deal, or experienced something that no one else has gone through.    

Have you ever heard your kids say, “I’m starving”? And perhaps you think, “Do you really know what starving is?” Or what about people waving their very expensive phones around as they complain, “Isn’t there any WiFi here?!” 

This isn’t a glass half-full or half-empty thing. This is really closing your eyes to the fact that many people don’t even have a glass, or if they do have a glass, they don’t have access to the water that they need. 

I was delivering some Christmas toys to a family and I discovered they had lost everything they owned. When I came to their house their furniture was mismatched, their food and clothes were donated, and their kids only had a couple of simple toys to play with. And yet this family was happy to be together! 

That sort of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? 

We have to choose grumbling or gratefulness, but as E.M. Bounds noted, “Gratitude and murmuring never abide in the same heart at the same time.” So if you are complaining about what you don’t have, you cannot be grateful for what you do have. 

There is a fascinating story told in all four Gospels of a woman named Mary. She was an uninvited guest at a house where Jesus and His disciples had been invited to dinner. Jesus was not there because someone was grateful to have Him in his home, but because Simon the Pharisee and his cronies were trying to find a reason to accuse Jesus of wrongdoing. 

Simon was so focused on his “gotcha” moment that he completely overlooked his host duties. He didn’t wash Jesus’ feet, nor greet Him with a kiss, nor anoint Him with perfume, as the custom of the day demanded. But Mary, standing behind Jesus at the dinner table, washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, kissed His feet, and anointed Him with an entire bottle of costly perfume! She did all of this out of gratitude for what she had received from Jesus. 

First, I would like you to consider what Mary didn’t have:

  • a seat at the table—even though the dinner was in her hometown of Bethany, her brother Lazarus was invited to the meal, and her sister Martha was serving the meal 
  • a good reputation—twice Simon the Pharisee said, “Does Jesus even know what kind of woman she is? Does He know she is a sinner?” 
  • the acceptance or approval of others—even the disciples thought her gesture of anointing Jesus with so much perfume was a wasted extravagance 

Next, let’s look at what Simon did have:

  • an elevated position as a Pharisee 
  • considerable wealth—he had servants and a home large enough for a big dinner party 
  • healing from leprosy—the Gospels refer to him as “Simon the leper” which tells us that he had been healed of his leprosy 

Now, let’s consider what the disciples did have:

  • an enviable position as disciples of Jesus
  • a dinner invitation to Simon’s house
  • access to the financial resources that people gave to Christ’s ministry
  • and let us never overlook the fact that they had access to Jesus Himself like no one else had

Finally, let’s look at what Mary did have:

  • forgiveness—Luke says this about her, “A woman who HAD lived a sinful life” 

Gratitude is truly a great attitude. Grateful people stand out because they don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are focused on what they do have.  

Mary knew that she didn’t have the outward marks of success or favor or approval, but she did have the assurance that she had been forgiven. For that, she was more than willing to give everything she had to Jesus in thankful worship! 

And as a result, look what Mary now has:

  • the kind words of Jesus—He assured her that she was forgiven (Luke 7:47)
  • Jesus as her defender—He told His disciples, “Leave her alone” (John 12:7)
  • an eternal testimony—Jesus said that wherever the Gospel was preached, people would tell Mary’s story (Matthew 26:13) 

I think a good way to sum up the distinguishing way grateful people live is like this: They don’t grumble about what they don’t have, but they are extremely grateful for what they do have. 

When you find grumbling slipping out of your mouth, remind yourself of just how much you have been given. Even if you think to yourself, “I don’t have much,” you can be assured that you have Jesus, and He is more than enough! And with that assurance, let your gratitude be lifted up in extravagant, fragrant praise to God. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series The Great Attitude of Gratitude, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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Magnifying God

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No one likes to be around a complainer! 

Complainers, ironically, find things wrong everywhere else but with themselves. Complainers know how everyone else should raise their kids, run their businesses, operate their government, lead their sports teams to victory, but they seldom apply their so-called wisdom to their own lives. Complainers find the one thing that’s wrong in an otherwise perfect situation.   

Complaining is easy because it comes so naturally. What do I mean by that? Take a look at the magazine covers at your grocery store—do they have good news or complaints? Take a look at the lead news stories—are they celebrations or complaints? Those magazines want to sell copies. Those news stations want viewers. Those websites want clicks. They wouldn’t promote the complaints if they didn’t get them the attention (and the advertising revenue) they desire! 

Let me see a show of hands on this: How many of you want to be around complainers? 

I noticed no one raised their hand, so I need to ask a follow-up question: Why do you complain? If you don’t like to be around a complainer, why do you do what others obviously don’t like either? 

I think we complain because we think our situation is unique—no one has experienced anything quite like what we’re going through. We often make a list to “prove” to everyone that we have earned the right to complain. This is what Job did. Check out his list in Job 7:1-11, and then notice his conclusion where he says, “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” 

But we need to be careful because the Bible makes it clear that complainers make God angry (see Numbers 11:1; 1 Corinthians 10:10-11). Why? I think there are two reasons. 

First, I think God gets angry about complaints because of how quickly they spread to everyone around them—like cancer cells they destroy the whole body. 

Second, complainers take everyone’s eyes off God and point their attention to the lousy situation about which they are complaining. 

On the other hand, grateful people stand out because they can find the one thing worthwhile in an otherwise lousy situation. Being a grateful person takes discipline to overcome the downward pull of everyone else’s complaints. 

Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi that is bursting with thankfulness! We only have to get three verses in when he says, “I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:3). 

Paul stood out because of his great attitude of gratitude. Consider what happened the very first time he visited the city of Philippi. He and Silas were wrongly accused, beaten, and locked in prison. Paul didn’t start a petition, he didn’t give the jailer a bad review on Yelp, he didn’t organize a rally, he didn’t call the Roman governor. Instead, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God while the other prisoners listened in (Acts 16:16-25). 

In a lousy, unfair, dark situation, Gratitude says, “God is still God, and He is still worthy of abundant praise!” 

So in the middle of his letter to the Philippians, Paul instructs these Christians to: Do all things without murmurings and disputings (Philippians 2:14 KJV). Murmurings are the vocalizing of the faults we have found. Disputings, though, are internal. In the Greek, this word almost always refers to complaining and grumbling thoughts, and many times it’s translated as “evil thoughts.” 

When the complaining comes out of our mouths, that is just the ugly weed. The root of that complaint is in our hearts. We don’t need a vocabulary change, we need a heart change. 

When we praise God, we magnify Him. That doesn’t make God bigger because He is infinite. But it does put a “telescope” on Him. Telescopes bypass everything that is close by and focus on something majestic. Our praise—like Paul and Silas’ song from prison—invites others to look through our telescope to see the God we are magnifying. 

Gratitude can start with one person, and then it can spread. Gratitude can counteract the cancerous complaints. Will you be that one grateful person at this Thanksgiving season and beyond? Will you be the one that says, “No matter what, God is still God, and He is still worthy of abundant praise”? Will you be that one that sings praise at the exact moment everyone else expects complaints? If you do, your gratitude will entice others to want to worship this all-good God too! 

Follow along with all of the messages in our series called The Great Attitude Of Gratitude by clicking here. 

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No Excuses

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…so my mouth was opened and I was no longer silent (Ezekiel 33:22). 

Ezekiel had been mute for two years, as God was using Ezekiel as a very vivid illustrated sermon.

Ezekiel had been mute, but he hadn’t been silent. 

After God had taken away his voice, Ezekiel picked up his pen and wrote chapters 25–32 as prophetic warnings. It was after all of these warnings were written down that God renewed His call to Ezekiel to be His watchman (33:7 and 3:17). 

How many times do I want to check out because I am not able to do things as I had been doing them before? Any one of us can fall into that all-or-nothing mindset—if I can’t do everything as I have been doing it, I won’t do anything at all. 

Ezekiel teaches us three important lessons: 

  1. No complaints to God 
  2. No excuses for discontinuing his ministry 
  3. Full obedience to God’s call on his life

What an outstanding lesson for all of us! 

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You Get What You Ask For

On a recent episode of our leadership podcast, Greg Heeres and I were discussing how easy it is for people to slip into a complaining attitude. One of the things I point out is that if we ask for compliments instead of complaints, we can begin to change the culture of our organization. 

Check out all of The Craig And Greg Show episodes on our YouTube channel.

Podcast: Why Leaders Must Stop Complaining

Listen to the audio-only version of this podcast by clicking on the player below, or scroll down to watch the video.

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • [0:26] Craig gives Greg a special gift
  • [1:27] what leaders do that will undermine their leadership 
  • [2:48] why it’s more fun to be around grateful people 
  • [4:12] Craig shared about the impact grateful teammates have had on him 
  • [4:52] why is it so easy to complain? 

  • [6:28] leaders need to speak positive things into this around them 
  • [7:42] leaders need to shut down complaining teammates quickly 
  • [8:39] Greg challenges leaders to confront their own negative attitude 
  • [10:00] leaders need to create a place of safety to help others to develop to their full potential 
  • [12:08] Greg reminds leaders that busyness can restrict gratitude 
  • [13:29] criticism is both a mindset and a “heartset”
  • [13:59] how many of our criticism come from our assumptions about others? 
  • [15:06] poor leaders have a misunderstanding of what gratitude does 
  • [15:55] some ways leaders can express gratitude to their teammates 
  • [17:57] another look at the problem of assumptions 
  • [19:08] a grateful person attracts others to them 
  • [21:00] Craig gives leaders a challenge to help bolster their attitude of gratitude

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Complaining To God

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

One of the things I love about the minor prophets is the reminder of the historicity of the Bible. Habakkuk, and the other prophets, lived in an actual moment of history. Check out some of the key dates during the ministry of Habakkuk: 

  • 605 BC—Nebuchadnezzar invades Judah and carries off Daniel and his friends 
  • 597 BC—the Babylonians attack Judah again and take 10,000 exiles back to Babylon, including the prophet Ezekiel 
  • 586 BC—Judah is besieged and defeated, and all remaining residents are exiled to Babylon 

Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, preached to faithless Israelites, imploring them to return to God, while Habakkuk attempted to encourage faithful Israelites to continue to trust Jehovah. 

Habakkuk recognized that he was delivering a heavy word. When he opens this book by saying this is “the oracle” that he received from God, that word is better translated “burden.” Part of this burden may have been due to the fact that Habakkuk had something on his heart that we often have: a complaint. 

Can we complain to God? 

Habakkuk complained to God—twice!—and God doesn’t reprimand him, so there must be a right way to vent about our frustrations and confusions. Here’s what we can learn from Habakkuk’s two complaints: 

  1. Instead of making accusations, ask questions. Habakkuk asks God eight questions in his two complaints. I think this is an attitude issue. Complaints are saying, “God I disagree with what You’re doing,” while questions seem to be more like, “God, I don’t understand what You’re doing.” 
  2. Desire God’s glory to be seen. At the conclusion of both of Habakkuk’s complaints he uses the word “therefore” (1:4, 16). His conclusion is something along the lines of, “God, if You let this continue, it appears that Your glory is being obscured by the activities of wicked people.” 
  3. After your complaint, close your mouth and open your eyes and ears. After Habakkuk’s first complaint, God tells him to “look” at all He is going to do. And after the second complaint, God tells him to “write down the revelation” God gives him and then “wait for it” to be fulfilled” (2:2, 3). 

Then Habakkuk does something that isn’t seen anywhere else in the Bible outside of the book of Psalms: he calls for us to Selah pause three times! 

Habakkuk shows us that our best response to what God reveals to us should be worship: 

  • Selah (3:3)—pause to consider what God has done 
  • Selah (3:9)—pause to stand in awe of His very present glory 
  • Selah (3:13)—pause in anticipation of His righteous justice and awesome glory that will be revealed 

Key phrases from Habakkuk are quoted in the New Testament, and at least three of them are directly tied to these Selah pauses:

  • The earth WILL be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” (2:14), is echoed in the way all of humanity will see the glory of the risen Jesus.  
  • The righteous WILL live by his faith” (2:4), is quoted as a Christian’s ongoing interaction with the indwelling Holy Spirit. 
  • I WILL rejoice in the Lord my God … I WILL be joyful in God my Savior” (3:17-18) figures prominently in Mary’s song after she realizes that she is pregnant with the soon-to-be-born Savior. 

(Check out all of the above biblical references: Habakkuk 2:14, 2:4, 3:17-18; Revelation 1:5-8; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:37-39; Luke 1:46-47, 54-55) 

Can you air your complaints to God? Yes, but do it the right way. Then silently listen, patiently wait, and then eagerly tell others about the coming judgment that they can avoid by having their sins forgiven through faith in Jesus our Savior. Only then can we also echo the “I will” statements of Habakkuk that are echoed in the New Testament—I will live by faith, I will look forward to the glory of God being fully revealed, I will continue to rejoice in God my Savior every day, and I will tell others how they, too, can live this way themselves! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the major lessons we find in the minor prophets, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Handling Personal Attacks

So the people grumbled against Moses … The people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:24; Numbers 20:2). 

People with limited vision have limited faith too. As a result, they frequently grumble when things don’t go their way. Ironically, their grumbling is almost always directed at the leader who does have far-reaching vision and God-honoring faith! 

For most of his tenure as leader, Moses handled the grumbling of the people well. Sometimes, though, the complaints seemed more personal:

  • …in opposition to Moses and Aaron
  • …they quarreled with Moses
  • …“Why did you…?” 

These complaints may seem like a personal attack, but in the end, we find out that these attacks weren’t really against Moses at all—“the Israelites quarreled with the Lord” (Numbers 20:13). 

God tried to help Moses and Aaron see that this was not a personal attack on them. He instructed them to “speak to that rock” so that water would be provided for the grumbling people. But sadly, Moses and Aaron missed this point. They said to the Israelites, “must we bring you water out of this rock?” And then in total frustration with the quarrelsome Israelites, Moses “struck the rock” instead of speaking to it.

Moses made himself the focal point, not God. God responded: “you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites” (v. 12).

A mark of a godly leader is one who doesn’t take personal attacks personally.

Previously, Moses responded to the grumblers better—

  • He “cried out to the Lord” and received directions
  • He obeyed God’s directions to the letter
  • He reminded the people that their grumbling was really “against the Lord” (Exodus 16:6-8)
  • He humbled himself before the people and pleaded with them not to rebel against God
  • He humbled himself before God and interceded for the people

If God has called you to lead, people will bring their quarrels and complaints to you. It will feel like a personal attack, but it’s not. When attacked or when people grumble, you need to humble yourself before the Holy Spirit and ask, “Did I do something wrong?” and then listen attentively for His answer.

If the answer is yes: repent, ask forgiveness, make things right.

If the answer is no: don’t take it personally, stay humble before God and the people, and obey the specific directions God will give you. Don’t get frustrated and cut short your tenure as a leader.

This is part 44 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Uphill Or Downhill?

…And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Paul is in prison, yet he tells his friends that he is choosing to rejoice. Wow! 

Not only that, but this same imprisoned man also reminds his friends to…

  • … let their joy in Jesus overflow 
  • … conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
  • … continue to have a servant’s attitude like Jesus
  • … don’t give in to complaining or arguing 
  • … look out for the interests of other people 
  • … rejoice in the Lord
  • … don’t rest on their laurels
  • … forget the past and press on toward the future 

John Maxwell has noted that most people have uphill dreams but downhill habits. That is definitely not a winning combination! 

Paul is making his friends aware of the possible downhill habits that may hold them back from their uphill dreams, and using himself as an example. This first step—awareness—is vital if we are going to break free of the things that are pulling us away from our God-given dreams. 

Solomon wrote, “The path of life leads UPWARD for the prudent to keep them from GOING DOWN to the realm of the dead” (Proverbs 15:24). 

Being prudent is saying, “I’m always on the lookout for what’s best.” 

None of us can go UP by ignoring our downhill habits, or even trying to coast through life. The only way to achieve our uphill dreams is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our downhill habits so that we can make a plan to turn those around. 

Check out these characteristics that Paul shares—

Downhill Habit              Uphill Habit
Complaining                    Rejoicing (4:4)
Selfishness                      Gentleness (4:5)
Worrying                         Praying (4:6a)
Grumbling                       Giving thanks (4:6b)
Fixing it myself                Giving it to God (4:6c)
Idle thoughts                   Thinking about my thinking (4:8)
Making my own way         Getting a mentor / partner (4:9)
Being discontent              Being content (4:11-12)
Trying to be self-made     Striving to be Christ-reliant (4:13)

A good prayer for all of us who have uphill dreams that we want to achieve—Holy Spirit, reveal to me my downhill habits. I acknowledge that I need Your help to see and break these habits. Then help me to replace them with Christ-honoring uphill habits that will allow me to achieve the purpose God has for my life.

Is Christ Real To Me?

John WesleyJohn Wesley was deeply introspective about his faith in Jesus Christ. He once wrote—

“I did go thus far for many years…using diligence to eschew all evil, and to have a conscience void of offense; redeeming the time; buying up every opportunity of doing all good to all men; constantly and carefully using all the public and all the private means of grace; endeavoring after a steady seriousness of behavior, at all times, and in all places; and, God is my record, before Whom I stand, doing all this in sincerity; having a real design to serve God; a hearty desire to do His will in all things; to please Him who had called me to ‘fight the good fight,’ and to ‘lay hold of eternal life.’ Yet my own conscience beareth me witness in the Holy Ghost, that all this time I was but almost a Christian.”

To help keep himself on the right path, Wesley came up with this list of questions he regularly asked himself. This is a list any Christian would do well to read through regularly—

  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass onto another what was told me in confidence?
  4. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work, or habits?
  5. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  6. Did the Bible live in me today?
  7. Do I give it time to speak to me everyday?
  8. Am I enjoying prayer?
  9. When did I last speak to someone about my faith?
  10. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  11. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  12. Do I disobey God in anything?
  13. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  14. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  15. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  16. How do I spend my spare time?
  17. Am I proud?
  18. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  19. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I going to do about it?
  20. Do I grumble and complain constantly?
  21. Is Christ real to me?
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