Sermon: “Gratitude” Text: 1 Samuel 31:7-13
Aim: to emphasize the importance of gratitude.
1. Last Sunday we considered the sin of “grumbling” and what a negative habit it can be. Since that time I’ve continued to think about that passage, and how hard it is to turn that around. Maybe one of the reasons it comes so easily is that we all know instinctively how to be negative, but we don’t have as many opportunities to practice being positive. For example, I’ve known of stores and institutions that had a “Complaint Department”: but have you ever known of any place that had a “Compliment Department”? And last Sunday we saw that the opposite of grumbling is gratitude. This morning I want to offer a practical means of exercising gratitude.
2. TURN TO 1 SAMUEL 31 On Wednesday nights we have been studying the period of the Judges: during our Winter Quarter we will continue the story by reviewing the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. The theme of Judges has been “In those days there was no king; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Well in 1 Samuel they finally get their long-sought king, when the prophet Samuel anoints Saul, a young man from the tribe of Benjamin.
a. Saul’s story began with such promise! But in our text this morning it ended with tragedy. Somewhere along the way Saul lost his dependence on God, engaged in disobedience to His will, eventually lost his mental stability because of an insane jealousy of the young warrior David, and in a final battle with the Philistines lost his life in a horrible defeat.
b. We have already learned in our Wednesday night class that the Philistines were both wicked AND cruel. It was not enough for them to defeat their enemies, they invariably wanted to humiliate them, even in death. READ Verses 8-10 Thus ends the reign of the first king of Israel: Deranged, deserted, defeated, dead, decapitated, displayed, disgraced.
3. But there is one note of grace is this sad spectacle that we often overlook: the response of the men of Jabesh-Gilead! READ verses 11-13.
a. The body of the man who had once been God’s anointed, had once ruled all the tribes of Israel, was now subjected to the ultimate indignity of a public humiliation.
b. To truly understand the significance of what they had done, you need to know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” You have to go back to the very beginning of Saul’s reign as king. READ 1 Sam 11:1f. “Nahash the Ammonite” [To lose the right eye would render them defenseless in combat, since the shield was carried in the left hand.]
4. Once you know the background, you can better appreciate the motivation of the men of Jabesh-Gilead: they were acting out of GRATITUDE! As we enter this season of THANKSGIVING, might be appropriate to consider its close cousin: GRATITUDE! Gratitude ought to be a mark of God’s people: we have been the recipient of so many blessings!
Deuteronomy 8:10-11 “when you are satisfied….be careful that you don’t forget the Lord”
Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”
Colossians 2:7 “overflowing with thankfulness”
BUT: have you noticed how we often take for granted those who are closest to us? Story of little girl who came home after a stay in the hospital – she received so much attention from everyone that she asked in bewilderment, “Am I company?”
5. The action of the men of Jabesh-Gilead is so remarkable because genuine GRATITUDE is, unfortunately, so rare.
a. One of the few times when even Jesus was astonished by human nature: INGRATITUDE!
“Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:11-19)
b. The experience of Jesus is sadly true to life: One stormy night on Lake Michigan, back in 1860, a side-wheeler steamboat collided with a lumber schooner. It was a terrible tragedy: 279 people lost their lives as the steamboat sank about a mile offshore of Winnetka, Illinois. Even more would have died, however, were it not for the heroic efforts of Edward Spencer, a student at Northwestern University. When he realized what had happened Spencer jumped into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan and swam out to the drowning passengers. He towed one to shore and then immediately went back for another. Single-handedly Edward Spencer rescued seventeen people that night. But he paid a high price for his efforts, because the strain of that experience broke his health, and he was eventually confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. On his eightieth birthday an interviewer asked him what was his most vivid memory of that fateful day. He replied, “Not one of the seventeen ever returned to thank me”.
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou are not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy stings is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
(Shakespeare, As You Like It, vii, 173)
WHY THE GRATITUDE OF THE MEN OF JABESH-GILEAD WAS SO REMARKABLE:
1. THEY DIDN’T FORGET. It had been 40 years since their deliverance by Saul, but they didn’t forget what he’d done for them. For some reason it is so easy to forget to express our thanks! Tom Peters is one of the top business consultants in the world – he has written several best-selling books, is paid many thousands of dollars by corporations to make speeches, has a newspaper column. His newest book is entitled The Pursuit of Wow! In it he has a section he calls “the most important piece of advice in this book.” What profound management insight does this highly-respected consultant give? “Don’t forget your thank-you notes!”
2. THEY HAD NOTHING TO GAIN.
Their action was totally unselfish…..a mark of genuine gratitude. Not flattery, not “buttering up,” not manipulation.
ONLY ONE CAVEAT: THEY WAITED UNTIL AFTER HE WAS DEAD!
Nancy Dickerson was a news reporter back in the early ’60’s, when Eleanor Roosevelt died. The day after the former first lady’s death, Dickerson read a letter she had written the day before. It was a letter of thanks she had intended to send Mrs. Roosevelt to express her gratitude- but Eleanor Roosevelt died before the letter reached her.
If with pleasure you are viewing,
Any work a man is doing;
If you like him or you love him, tell him now.
Don’t withhold your approbation,
Till the parson makes oration,
And he lies with snowy lilies o’er his brow.
If he earns your praise, bestow it.
If you like him, let him know it.
Let the word of true encouragement be said;
Do not wait till life is over,
And he’s underneath the clover,
For he can’t read the tombstone when he’s dead.
I don’t know if the men of Jabesh-Gilead had ever expressed their thanks to Saul while he was living: but at least they didn’t forget to be grateful!
1. Most of you know that Ed Walston was a teacher for many years. Last summer he got a phone call from a man named Laverne Hill. Mr. Hill lives in Houston, and is a retired engineer for the Brown & Root Construction company. He was reading a Howard County history book, and one of the articles features Brother Ed, because he taught there for so many years. In that article it mentions that Ed is now living in El Dorado, Arkansas, and that’s how Mr. Hill had tracked him down.
At first brother Walston didn’t remember Laverne Hill, but that’s understandable, because the caller went on to explain: “When you knew me I was in the 8th grade at York’s Chapel Elementary School, back in 1934. My family left soon after that and I went on to Texas, finished my education, and became an engineer. I just wanted you to know that everywhere I went, my teachers wanted to know how I got such a good grounding in mathematics. I owe it to your teaching, and it’s something I’ve used all my life, and I just wanted to tell you thanks.”