Six Bible Studies on Gratitude by Anne O'Brien

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Developing an Attitude of Gratitude (1) Why does an attitude of gratitude make a difference? Who should we be thankful to? How does it affect others, and ourselves? Do we say ‘thank you’ because it is good manners and polite to do so, or is there a Biblical basis for gratitude? To answer these questions, over the next few studies, we will be looking at some people in the Bible who modelled this attitude of praise and thankfulness, to see what we can learn from them. ABEL An offering is an act of gratitude, whereby we show our gratefulness by our actions. It is as much to do with our heart as with the gift itself. Read Genesis 4 verses 1-9: Abel gave: · Fat portions from the best of his flock · Something that was of value to himself, making it a sacrifice · Something worthy of the Lord · Something that was of significance (throughout the Bible the lamb is a symbol of sacrifice for sin) · Himself – the lamb signified a repentant heart Cain gave: · Vegetables and grain · An offering of convenience · A paltry, frugal offering of no worth or sacrifice · An ordinary, non-special offering that you might give to just anyone · Begrudgingly – no sign of repentance or sacrifice

Six Bible Studies on

Gratitude

God doesn’t necessarily look so much on the gift, as on the attitude of the giver. But the offering will often reveal the attitude. Jesus praised the woman at the Temple who gave just two small coins – because she gave all that she had. And so, God looked with favour on Abel because his aim was to worship and thank The Lord. But he looked on Cain’s offering with Abel disfavour because he knew Cain’s begrudging, jealous, and sinful heart.

Hannah

Abel’s offering was much more significant than he would have realised at the time, because Thein Psalms he is mentioned again several times more the Bible.

Simeon and Anna Read Matthew 23 verse 35: What adjective did Matthew use to describe Abel? ………………………………… . Jesus Abel did the right thing – he was a perfect example of a man of faith thankfully worshipping Paul his Lord, even though it cost him his life at the hand of Cain. His legacy was one of righteousness.

ANNE O’BRIEN

Read Hebrews 11 verse 4: How does the writer refer to Abel here? ………………………………………………………… . His desire to show his gratitude through sacrifice demonstrated his trust and faith in God. Let’s not forget Abel’s parents had walked and talked with the Lord in the Garden of Eden, so it should follow that Abel also worshipped The Lord. But, his brother Cain also had the same opportunity to learn and believe and he 1


Developing an Attitude of Gratitude Why does an attitude of gratitude make a difference? Who should we be thankful to? How does it affect others, and ourselves? Do we say ‘thank you’ because it is good manners and polite to do so, or is there a Biblical basis for gratitude? To answer these questions, over the next few studies, we will be looking at some people in the Bible who modelled this attitude of praise and thankfulness, to see what we can learn from them.

ABEL

An offering is an act of gratitude, whereby we show our gratefulness by our actions. It is as much to do with our heart as with the gift itself. Read Genesis 4 verses 1-9: Abel gave: n Fat portions from the best of his flock n Something that was of value to himself, making it a sacrifice n Something worthy of the Lord n Something that was of significance (throughout the Bible the lamb is a symbol of sacrifice for sin) n Himself – the lamb signified a repentant heart Cain gave: n Vegetables and grain n An offering of convenience n A paltry, frugal offering of no worth or sacrifice n An ordinary, non-special offering that you might give to just anyone n Begrudgingly – no sign of repentance or sacrifice God doesn’t necessarily look so much on the gift, as on the attitude of the giver. But the offering will often reveal the attitude. Jesus praised the woman at the Temple who gave just two small coins – because she gave all that she had. And so, God looked with favour on Abel because his aim was to worship and thank The Lord. But he looked on Cain’s offering with disfavour because he knew Cain’s begrudging, jealous, and sinful heart. Abel’s offering was much more significant than he would have realised at the time, because he is mentioned again several times more in the Bible.

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Read Matthew 23 verse 35: What adjective did Matthew use to describe Abel?

Abel did the right thing – he was a perfect example of a man of faith thankfully worshipping his Lord, even though it cost him his life at the hand of Cain. His legacy was one of righteousness. Read Hebrews 11 verse 4: How does the writer refer to Abel here?

His desire to show his gratitude through sacrifice demonstrated his trust and faith in God. Let’s not forget Abel’s parents had walked and talked with the Lord in the Garden of Eden, so it should follow that Abel also worshipped The Lord. But, his brother Cain also had the same opportunity to learn and believe and he chose to go his own way. It just reiterates the fact that worship and gratitude come from the heart. We can show our children the right way and be very thankful when they take it. But some of them will choose their own way – there’s nothing new since the beginning of mankind. Hebrews 12v24: Who did Abel’s sacrifice point us toward?

Abel’s sacrifice was before the Old Testament Law of Moses. In other words, he did not need to do it and he wasn’t required to do it – it was simply done out of worship and thankfulness. And, obviously his sacrifice was before the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for the remission of our sins. But it pointed towards this and shows us the importance of coming to Jesus with worshipful grateful hearts. God always sees our hearts and motives, our desires and our sincerity. He knows if we do things just because others do them, or out of a sense of tradition. And he knows if we do them out of love and thankfulness. A Challenge: This week, think of ways that you could show your gratitude to God for the blessings he has given you. E.g: send a donation to a Christian group, bake a cake for someone or send a card or a letter. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – but it should come from the heart.

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HANNAH

We know Hannah’s story well, how she had spent many years yearning for children, and how God eventually answered her prayer - and Samuel was born. Hannah’s prayer of thanks shows us that all we have and receive comes from God, and it challenges us on our own attitude towards what we have. Read 1 Samuel 2 verses 1-11 – Hannah’s thankful heart Why was Hannah thankful, and rejoicing? 1 Samuel 1v27

1 Samuel 2v1

1 Samuel 2v2

1 Samuel 2v7&8a

1 Samuel 2v8b-9

1 Samuel 2v21

In those verses we see that Hannah was not only thanking the Lord for her long-awaited son. She was also thanking him for deliverance and justice; she was thanking him for his provision and his faithfulness; and she was praising him for his greatness as creator God, above all. Hannah was not just joyful and thankful that God had given her a son, she was also filled with joy that she was able to give him back to the Lord. And what a difference that decision made to God’s kingdom! Samuel was the greatest and last of the Old Testament Judges. He became the first of Israel’s prophets and he anointed both Saul and then David as Israel’s first Kings. During his long life he was a force for good in Israel. If Hannah had merely taken God’s blessing for granted Samuel may have grown up to be no more significant than any other Israelite. An Attitude of Gratitude. Being truly thankful to God should change our attitude and should prompt us to action. An attitude of gratitude means making it a conscious habit to express thankfulness and 4


appreciation for every part of our lives. Having an attitude of gratitude means we realise our abundant blessings in the Lord, rather than suffering from a feeling of dissatisfaction. Read 1 Samuel 2 verses 12-26 What a huge contrast in attitude we see in these verses. Eli’s sons were wicked, they were ‘on the make’, stealing from the people and from God. They were promiscuous – even in the Tabernacle! They were contemptuous of the offerings and therefore their meaning of sacrifice and gratitude. What a nightmare for Eli. Sadly it would not be long before they were judged by the Lord. (Read 2 Samuel 4v10&11) What a contrast with Samuel!! How did the Lord bless him as a result of his mother’s dedication and thankfulness? (1 Samuel 2v26

And verse 21 tells us that Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. Because of her attitude of devotion and gratitude the Lord was gracious to her (v21) and also gracious (or showed favour to) to Samuel (v26). What about us? What things you can be thankful to God for, today?

Translate these things into a prayer of thanks. What things you are dissatisfied with today.

Pray about these things. If God answers, how will you respond? Is there any action you could take to show your appreciation to God for those things he has blessed you with? An attitude of gratitude means making it a daily habit to be grateful for and thankful for everything you appreciate in life. Gratitude is important because what we appreciate grows and increases in value. We can choose whether to focus on the things we are grateful for or the things we are dissatisfied with. In other words, gratitude shifts your mindset. And the result should be that, like Hannah, it will increase our generosity to others and to the Lord. If you have time Read 2 Corinthians 6 verses 6-15 to see one way that this works in practice.

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THE PSALMS

If you have time, begin by reading Psalm 67 When we read the Psalms, our impression is that we are often encouraged to bring praise to the Lord. But sometimes, our English language can be lacking in the full meaning. So, the Hebrew word for ‘praise’ most commonly used in Psalms is: Yadah – a word translated as: extending the hands in thanksgiving and praise. So that, when we are exhorted to praise God, we are also being advised to bring to God our thanks and gratitude. And this word is used dozens of times in the Psalms, showing us the importance of gratitude. All the references in this study will include the word (Yadah), combining both of those meanings.

DAVID

David thanked God for who He is: Read the following verses and list the reasons why David thanked and praised God: Psalm 7 verse 17

Psalm 9 verses 1&2

Psalm 28verses 6&7

Psalm 57 verses 9-11

Which of our Lord’s characteristics would you like to thank Him for? By acknowledging the qualities and characteristics of God we remind ourselves of his ability to help us in every way and at al times. Doing this is a good way of beginning prayer, and it increases our faith in almighty God. David praised and thanked the Lord with music and singing: How and when? Psalm 33 verses 1-3

Psalm 43 verse 4

Psalm 44 verse 8

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Psalm 45 verse 17

Which is your preferred way of thanking God? David was very open in his praise of God. In 2 Samuel 6 verse 14 we read how he danced in the street as an expression of praise and thanks! When we raise our hands in church it is a Biblical thing to do (Yadah – mentioned above) and shows our attitude of gratitude, even when we do not have the words to express it. David thanked God for deliverance. What things had God delivered him from? Psalm 52 verse 9

Psalm 54 verses 6&7

Psalm 86 verses 12&13

Psalm 108 verses 3, 12&13 Why not thank the Lord for something he has helped you with this week? Perhaps we take some things for granted – like safety on the roads; not having enemies; good health etc. The Lord is watching over us all the time. Our prisons and battles will not be the same as David’s, but our God is just the same! David thanked God for forgiveness, salvation and his covenant promises: Psalm 111 verses 9&10

Psalm 145 verses 10-13

Psalm 13 verses 5&6

Psalm 27 verse 1&6 7


We thank you Lord for your enduring patience and love. We thank you for your salvation and forgiveness. And we give You our praise. Amen If you’ve had a bad week, month, year … it may have affected your health and your mood – possibly physically, mentally and spiritually. But nothing can affect your eternal rest in Jesus Christ and your final destiny. When you trust God for salvation you enter into a covenant with Him that He will never break. As the hymn writer says: It is well, it is well with my soul. (Number 527 Redemption Hymnal). If you have time, finish this study by reading Psalm 107 and note just how many things the Psalmist gives thanks for. It is very encouraging.

SIMEON AND ANNA

We have recently looked at being thankful from the heart (Abel), and that sacrifice plays a part in giving thanks. We have seen that all we have comes from the Lord (Hanna), and we are to show our gratefulness by being good stewards. And we saw that praising God and thankfulness (David) are the same thing. Today we think about two people who were showing gratitude for the fulfilment of the Scriptures, particularly in relation to the Coming of Christ. When Jesus came to the earth, Israel and the Jews were living under the government of the mighty Roman Empire. It could not have been a worse time. The Romans allowed the priests to carry out the Temple duties and sacrifices, but many of the ‘religious’ people were not obeying God’s ways. The world desperately needed a Saviour – and a Saviour had been promised in several prophecies many hundreds of years before. He had also been promised more recently when an angel spoke to Mary and Joseph individually. There were some who patiently awaited the promise of the coming of the Messiah. Read Luke chapter 2 verses 22-35: SIMEON Mary and Joseph brought their baby son to the Temple to be dedicated. Because Mary and Joseph were poor, they were allowed by the Law to bring a pair of doves for the sacrifice of dedication and thanksgiving. In normal circumstances, no-one would have even noticed them. But God was moving by His Spirit. Who noticed them and what had he been waiting for (v25)?

Simeon had been waiting for the fulfilment of the Scriptures, and he had been moved by the Holy Spirit to go to the Temple at that specific time. He was waiting for the promise and he was ready when it came, because he had taken it to heart and acted on it. With huge thanks and gratitude Simeon proclaims that Jesus, the Consolation of Israel, had come (that is, one who would bring cheer and comfort and help in those difficult times). And in verse 30 he also recognises that Jesus is also Saviour. So, we see in Simeon the importance of knowing the promise, recognising the fulfilment, and then giving thanks. 8


What/who helped Simeon to recognise the promise? (v25,26)

Someone once said, “Stop studying the problems and start studying the promises”. Could this be helpful to you today? It is also true that: Where we look affects the direction in which we go. So that, if we stay in step with the Holy Spirit, he will lead us into the promises of God. Just like Simeon. Read Luke chapter 2 verses 36-38: ANNA Whereas Simeon was led by the Holy Spirit, Anna was there already and waiting – worshipping, fasting and praying (v.37). It was a long wait, probably over 60 years – she was 84 by this time! Note - we are never too lowly, or too old, or too frail to receive the promises of God. And they will come, when God is ready. What two things did Anna do (v.38)?

Anna’s heart was set fast on the things of God. Because she knew the Lord, she recognised the Son of God when He was brought into the Temple. Her first reaction was gratitude and praise. Her second was to go and tell everyone the good news and to share her amazing testimony. Simeon had identified Jesus as the Consolation of Israel. How did Anna refer to Jesus (in verse 38)? He was the one who came to ……………….. Jerusalem. Anna knew her Scriptures and understood that Jesus was the long-awaited Redeemer and Saviour. What an amazing privilege! No wonder she was full of gratitude and thanksgiving! Simeon means ‘listener or listening’. We can only hear from God if we are listening. He heard the voice of the Holy Spirit and believed the promise, resulting in his adoration and thanksgiving. His promises are in the Bible – all we have to do is read it! Anna means ‘favour’ – she was blessed and shown grace by God. As a widow she would have been deemed lowly and of little status. God chose not to reveal the Messiah to the rulers of the Temple or the Rabbis – but to humble Anna on whom rested his favour. She received the promise because she believed. We can take encouragement from Simeon’s and Anna’s stories because: n Even if it takes a long time, His promises always come true. Psalm 27v14 n They saw Jesus for a short time, and we can know him with us all the time n Their gratitude was for Jesus and his Salvation – this should be paramount in our praise and thanksgiving every single day. n The Lord gives and, in due course fulfils, all his other promises too. 9


JESUS

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5 verses 16-18 Rejoice always. This works both ways, because when we shift our focus from ourselves to the person who will receive, it actually helps us to rejoice (note: only if we are not begrudging in our giving). Give thanks in all circumstances. No matter what the situation, having a thankful trusting heart can break the power of the enemy. WE delight God’s heart and he begins to move. A thankful heart. This is what Jesus wants, because a thankful heart is like our gift or sacrifice to God. The verse says it is God’s will for us to be so. In Christ Jesus. We are in Christ Jesus, he is our example, and we are seeking to live out his life through us – to be thankful as He was thankful.

The Example of Jesus Thanking God because he hears us: Read John 11 v 38-44 Jesus trusted God, and the most amazing miracle happened – Lazarus was raised from the dead. But first of all Jesus thanked God. What did Jesus thank the Father for? (v41)

This is what it says in 1 John 5 verse 14 (one of my favourite verses): This is the confidence we have in approaching God; that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. This is what Jesus was thankful for – the fact that the Father always heard him. If Jesus was certain of his Father, we can be too. So, even if it doesn’t always feel like it, remember … God always hears your payer, and will bring the answer when the time is right. Verse 42 also shows us that Jesus had a purpose in giving thanks, which was to glorify his Father. A thankful heart is always a good witness to others – and the reverse is probably also true! And a thankful heart can encourage others to believe. Thanking God for our daily provision: Read John 6 verses 10 & 11 The lad’s loaves and fishes were nothing as compared to the vast crowd of hungry people. Why did Jesus give thanks for something that was so insignificant? I believe it is because giving thanks opens up the way to miracles. Our thanks are like a ‘sweet-smelling offering’ to God - which pleases him. What was the outcome (v20)?

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Thanking God in difficult times is not easy, but it can open up the way to miracles. One person who proved this was George Muller. George Muller founded several orphanages, and he gave all that he had to do this. The orphanages ran purely on donations of money and food. At various times, the food would run out and there would be no money left to buy any. More than once, the children would be seated at table waiting for food. And knowing that the cupboard was bare, George muller would still stand at head of table and give thanks for God’s provision. Each time, there would be a knock at the door – a delivery of bread or other foodstuff would arrive – enough to feed 300 on one occasion – God never let them down. God will always provide if you trust him with a thankful heart. Thanking God for fellowship with other believers: Read Matthew 26&26 What was Jesus giving thanks for here? I believe it was not just for the bread and wine, but more about the significance of fellowship. The Passover meal was to be eaten in fellowship with other believers. But at this Passover, Jesus was teaching his disciples about a new covenant or promise. This was to be a covenant where the sacrifice of Jesus would replace and negate the sacrifice of animals to atone for sin. And this new covenant would bring millions more believers into fellowship both with God and each other. The word Communion means sharing and mutual participation. We do not participate in the service of Communion on our own. We often pray for each other, but how often do we thank God for each other? Read Colossians 3v15-17: We are one body in Christ Jesus. We are meant to work together and worship together and to be thankful for one another. And when Covid is over we need to find the right way to live out our Christian lives as directed in these verses.

PAUL

In our last study in the series about Gratitude, we are looking at the Apostle Paul. This is Paul who accomplished so much, during his lifetime, for the Lord. He wrote half of the New Testament. He travelled thousands of miles to teach and preach the Gospel of Christ; and he established many churches. He was amazing! However, he would be the first to acknowledge that he couldn’t have done it alone. And in fact, there are numerous references in his letters where he shows his thanks and gratitude to dedicated helpers and followers. Paul gives thanks for helpers and partners Read Philippians 1v3-5: What was Paul thankful for? (v5)

Paul said that when he prayed for these people it brought him great joy. Leaders can have supportive followers and it helps them immensely, but any opposition can make for a hard life. Paul was so thankful, that he named over 30 faithful workers in Romans chapter 16 – it’s quite a list. I wonder if our names would be on the list if our leaders were to thank all who have supported them and helped in the work of the church? 11


Read 2 Corinthians 2v14&15: What was Paul thankful for? (v14)

He wasn’t just thanking the people for what they did, but for their living testimony to those who needed salvation. Verse 15: ‘For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ to others’. The Lord doesn’t ‘need’ us, because He is all powerful, but he chooses to use us as partners in spreading the gospel – by bringing the presence of Christ with us wherever we go. Food for thought! How often do we thank our leaders and each other?

Paul gives thanks for all who withstand persecution

Read Romans 1v8; Paul was thanking the Christians in Rome for standing firm despite persecution. This brought them to the attention of the world and was a great witness to the gospel as being something worth dying for. Persecution proper, began during Paul’s day under the Emperor Nero – when all Christians suffered persecution, and some of them, most gruesome deaths. But persecution has continued to beleaguer Christians through the ages; and is just as rife around the world today. It has been recorded by Open Doors that more than 430 million Christians worldwide experienced high levels of persecution in 2020. We often pray for Christians in North Korea and many other places. But, how often do we thank God for them and their witness?

Paul gives thanks for those who give generously

Read 2 Corinthians 9 verses 6-15 Paul gives some very clear teaching on giving: when we give generously we will always receive in plenty (v6); when we give cheerfully (and not just out of a sense of duty) we will be blessed abundantly (v7&8); when we give, we are enriched in every way – not just financially; Giving is an expression of our thanks to God (v12). God has given us everything – even his own Son (an indescribable gift – v15), we can never outgive God! Paul’s thanks to God overflows. In Philippians 4 Paul thanks the fellow-believers for ‘sharing in his troubles’ (v14) – the only church to help him financially at that time. He describes sacrificial giving as a ‘fragrant offering, pleasing to God’ (v19). The following are questions rarely asked in church, but I’ll ask them anyway! Do we tithe; do we give generously and cheerfully; do we give sacrificially? And are we thankful to God for all he has provided for us?

Paul gives thanks for worship and fellowship

Read Ephesians 5v19&20: This verse makes it clear that The Word of God (Psalms) and songs (hymns), spoken and sang with the leading of the Holy Spirit, should be at the core of every service or meeting of believers who are gathered together. And crucially – it is about Giving Thanks (v20), focussing on the greatness and goodness of God, not on ourselves. 12


Read Colossians 1v12: “Giving joyful thanks” because we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, share in the inheritance of those who are in the Kingdom of God – in Jesus Christ. Praise God, he blesses us now with fellowship and worship together – but there is so much more to come when we step into our eternal inheritance with Christ in Heaven. Our hearts are full of praise and thanks, O Lord! Amen

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Estuary Elim Church is based in Essex in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil God’s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to info@estuaryelim.co.uk Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549)

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