Oh, Good!

God can't bless us into contentment; we have to thank our way there.

Scripture References & Transcript

Nicholas Roland adultererized Gambled, Cheated, Stole, and perhaps even murdered his Way through
The 15th century. The second half of his life is looking, his mortality in the face realiz. He had broken every one of the 10 commandments at least once, if not a couple times. He didn’t feel too good about meeting his maker, so he Shot, Sought the comfort of a Roman Catholic Priest. What? What can I do to still make it? The priest said it would take An enormous act of Charity For him to have any Hope of Heaven. Now, we would never Teach that here. We don’t believe you can buy your way into heaven. If you wonder the way, Talk to people at Trailhead afterwards. We believe it’s through the work of Jesus Christ. But this was The 15th century. He’s Talking at a different church, and this priest said, your only hope is That great act of charity. So Nicholas took A huge Portion of his wealth and created one of the First public hospitals In Europe in all of History. It’s Located in bone France. My wife and I actually got to visit it some years back. Here’s A picture of what it looks like From the outside. And then when you tour It inside, you see all of the beds. They’re, they’re about the size Of twin beds. Today, If you’re up close, what We would call a twin bed, and you notice, and this is what grossed me out, these twin beds have two pillows on ’em because they would Put two people In every bed. Now, the OCD Gary was horrified. The thought of Sharing a twin bed
With a sick Person who’s sneezing and wheezing and whatnot. But they didn’t have that problem in the 15 century. In fact, they found people who were faking that they were Ill so that They could go into the hospital and they had to find the meanest, most cynical nun who Would act as a Guard and grill everybody who wanted to come in to make sure They were truly sick. Of course, I wanted to know why would somebody pretend to be sick To Sleep next to A sick Person? And the answer shocked me. It might surprise You. The answer was Beds. Beds. It was such a luxury to have a bed. People Like you and me didn’t sleep in beds in the 15th century. It’d be on the ground, maybe a blanket. And the thought of trying out something like a bed made ’em feel like a king, and they just wanted to know What it feel felt like. I never thought that every night sleeping in a bed Is such a luxury. At the time, I was traveling about a hundred nights A year.

I’d slept in more beds than I could imagine, and I had one rule when I’d come into a hotel, I didn’t like to sleep.

Have a room right next to the elevator or across from the ice machine. The elevator is where all the sports teams will congregate and they could be pretty loud right outside the elevator and hotel ice machines. Have you ever been around one man? They’re so like, and then somebody brings a cooler, right? I mean, it’s just so loud. It wakes you up. And so I’d always ask to get moved if I’m right next to an elevator or an ice machine. But my first trip after we had been to bone France, we came back. I was speaking in Saskatoon up in Canada. I got off of the elevator and I’m not making this up. My room was literally right next door to the elevator and across from the ice machine. Normally I would’ve gone down and said, that’s it. You gotta find me another room. But I didn’t even ask to move.

The reason is that something had changed in my heart. I just viewed it differently. A month before I would’ve said this, I have to sleep in a bed by the elevators across from an ice machine. Are you crazy? And God had done a work in my heart where I was saying, I get to sleep in a bed by the elevators across from an ice machine. Reality is we are surrounded by so many luxuries. And when I read people about people who traveled through most of history, getting to sleep in a bed and waking up to a warm shower would’ve been an unbelievable luxury for so many people. Which is why when they play that icebreaker game, what era would you most like to live in? If you could live at any time in the world, what would it be? And I’m always a wet blanket because I say 2023, like, well, you lack so much imagination.

I said, would you want a dentist to work on you in 1823 <laugh>? Would you wanna visit a doctor in 1823? In fact, let’s just go back a hundred years. How many of you have babies at home? All right, in 1923, just a hundred years ago, there was no such thing as disposable diapers. You know what else? There wasn’t washing machines, which means you had to hand wash those dirty cloth diapers. Who’s with me that they’re glad they live in 2023. We live in an incredible age. If we could just imagine, which is why I believe this is true, one of the biggest factors of how happy you are today is whether you think more about what you already have that makes life so comfortable and wonderful, or whether you obsess over the one or two things you lack that make life feel a little less comfortable.

This is by no means a modern temptation. It goes back literally to the beginning of time. We could go back to Adam and Eve, the first man and woman who ever lived in what the garden of Eden that we call paradise. It’s where we think of when we think of paradise. It was perfect. God provided everything for their needs. They had all that they wanted. There was no sin. They were naked and unashamed. You know what that means for us husbands? Not once before the fall, did he eve ever stand in front of Adam and say, honey, does this dress make me look fat? Never once did he have to answer that question. There’s a rabbinic tradition that about two weeks after the fall, eve kept coming up to Adam and she would hold up the leopard skin or the fig leaves, all right, which makes me look heavier.

Fig leaves, leopard skin, fig leaves. And Adam just said, oh, I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that apple. I’m such an idiot. It was so much better back there. I think just even more significant in the Garden of Eden, in paradise, there were no passwords. How fun would that be? Not have to come up with another stupid password or then try to remember it six months later. Far more significant. They walked with God in a way that mystics could only dream of. They could see God. They could hear God like you could hear me. They had everything they needed. God said, I provided everything for your needs. Just avoid the fruit of that one tree. I mean, what’s that one tree? It doesn’t matter. You’ve got everything else. Enjoy everything else. Just avoid that one tree. And suddenly, even in paradise, that one tree was all that mattered.

They had everything they could need. But one thing is withheld. And suddenly even paradise felt insufficient. Eve started looking at it. And here’s what happened. Genesis three, six. And the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom. She took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it. You realize what this means in the midst of paradise, the motivation for the very first sin that caused all of the destruction. We know all of the crimes, all of the sins, all of the fallenness that we deal with every day. The first motivation for sin. It wasn’t anger or violence or lust or blasphemy or lying or gossip. It was discontent. That’s what’s led to the fall. And what this tells me, looking back on the Garden of Eden is this God Can’t Bless us Into contentment. If he put any of us in the Garden of Eden and withheld one thing, that’s what we would focus on. He can’t bless us into contentment. That’s the Lie of the prosperity gospel. But we can thank our way There. You can’t bless us into contentment because of our Fallen nation, but we Can thank our way There. That’s the path To contentment. That’s why it’s one of God’s commands. One Thessalonians five 18, give thanks in everything for this Is God’s will for You in Christ Jesus. If I Wanna know to follow God’s will, it’s to Be thankful in everything. And I think more than it’s a command, It’s God’s invitation to happiness. Living a thankful life is the most joyful Life. It’s the most glorious Life. It is the best life possible. I learned a major lesson about 35 Years ago. I was so Frustrated in my life. I was still reading electric meters. They don’t even have that job now, but back then when they couldn’t do it remotely, they’d send somebody out and you run away from the dogs and you’re climbing around the houses. You’re trying to read every electric meter. And I’d done that all Through college

While I was going to college, I graduated from college, started studying at a seminary for a master’s. Still had to work. And so I was reading electric meters while I was getting my master’s. Graduated With my master, had a young family had to provide. So I was still reading electric meters. I thought, what’s wrong with this? I Had the same job with just a high school diploma. And then I had the same job with a college degree. I’m doing the same job with a master’s. You think eventually I might be able to Step it up. I wanted a job that was more intellectually challenging, that I thought better fit my gifts. And
I just, I just had this sour attitude because Life hadn’t turned out like I thought it should And like I had
Worked for, I was reading meters in Whatcom County, Washington. I pulled into a home in a rural area Of The county and this man came out. He, he might’ve been an angel for all I know he’s had this light That came from him. And he said, Hey Gary, how Are you doing? Now we had our names embroidered on our shirt, So It doesn’t mean necessarily he was an angel. Maybe he just read It. But he looked up, he says, Isn’t it a beautiful Day today? And I looked and it was, it was a Clear blue sky, whichIsn’t that common in Whatcom County. I said, Yeah, I guess it’s, And he looks at my left hand, you’re Married, you’re A young man and you’re married. God’s given you a wife. I Go, yeah, I I’m married. Do you have Any kids? We have a little girl. You have a little girl. Boy, you’re such a young man. It’s a beautiful day. You’re married, you have a little girL And God has given you a job To provide For them.

Isn’t God good? It’s like a light flip switched. And I said, with Folsom, yeah, he’s so good. Nothing about my situation had changed. Everything about my attitude had changed. And when I drove off his house, I, I I, I mean I, I was never the same. I said, I never wanna go back because I realize the secret to contentment is thankfulness for what we already have, not obsessing over what we don’t or what hasn’t quite gone the way we hoped that it would. Jeremy Utley is an adjunct professor at Stanford University teaches in their business school. He’s well known for inspiring entrepreneurs and creatives. And one of the things he’s known for is always responding. Oh good. When something bad happens in business and he challenges him, I don’t have the time to do it. It’s funny hearing him lecture. ’cause somebody will throw out something and he’ll find the own good.

Oh good one, one he did in his, um, his family. He was there home one day and they heard a big crash and glass falling all over. And one of the kids cried out and he ran in and they’d broken a window and he said his first response had to be, oh good. And what could be, oh good. Well they homeschool their kids. And so the next day, the child that did that was able to present a paper to her siblings on why family rules aren’t arbitrary <laugh>, oh good, we have an opportunity. And he just said, ’cause it the, the NS response is, oh, when you say something I shouldn’t repeat here in church, but it really does change life whenever anything comes up like that. And you say, oh good. And then you let God sanctify your mind to find out what the good is.

And Steve Largent Hall of Fame wide receiver ended up being a congressman in Oklahoma. And when his wife gave birth to their fourth child, Kramer, the doctor said, it’s a boy. And he was just pumped. Then the doctor said, uh oh, we’ve got a problem. And Steve froze. Little Kramer was born with an exposed spinal cord, a condition they call spina bifida. And he explained that and Steve dropped to his knees and wept. He’s a professional athlete, he’s so excited to have a boy and now they’re facing this. But his wife Terry, is a strong woman of faith. And she said, Steve, God, planned Kramer, having him in our lives will be one of the greatest things that ever happened to us. 10 years later, Steve told me it’s true. In fact, here’s what he said. For myself and for my wife, we wouldn’t change a thing for our son.

We wish it would be different that he didn’t have to live with this. But having a child with a disability has added more to our lives than anything else. It’s given us more compassion and sympathy for other couples facing difficult challenges. Can you say, oh good. If you have a child that’s born with a serious disability, if you’re a Christian, yes you can. I lived in northern Virginia, had a friend about my age who had epilepsy. So he couldn’t drive. They hadn’t controlled the fits yet. And I mean, it was an area where it’s sort of a high powered, high pressured area you had to drive to get anywhere. It’s not a walkable community and the limitations of not being able to drive and the humiliation of trying to find somebody to drive you, I I, I know it could wear on him. But here’s what Phil told me.

If it wasn’t for this epilepsy, I wouldn’t have met my good friend Steve. He drives me to the bus station every day. I guess in any circumstance you can find a reason to be thankful. Can you say, oh good. When you have a medical condition that means you can’t drive even though it seems like everybody you know can. If you’re a Christian, yes you can. One of the most formative thinkers in my life for spiritual formation is Dallas Willard. Brilliant man, loved God. I never got to meet him. I got to meet his widow after he died. But everybody that I’ve talked to that knew him said he just was this godly man, not just a great thinker, he just was a really godly man and had a conversation with a well-known pastor and author who I also have great respect for. And he was mentored by Dallas Willard.

And one time he went to Dallas ’cause his heart was broken over some decisions one of his children was making. And Dallas listened to him and said, this will be a test of your joyful confidence in Christ. And my friend said, Gary, I can’t tell you how many times I said that whenever anything goes wrong, this is a test of my joyful, not just con my joyful confidence in Christ. Can I remain confident in Christ when everything isn’t going as I would want it to. In fact, when something is happening that is breaking my heart. Now Dallas was able to share that because he had grounded out in his own life because he died with a son who was still far from God. And listening to this man, it hit me ’cause this might be the biggest hit. What if you don’t have to have a happy family to be happy?

I hope this isn’t relevant for many of you. I hope you all have happy families. It’s what we want. But what Dallas pointed to and what this pastor pointed to is that you can still have joyful confidence in Christ. Even when something in your family is breaking your heart, the presence of Christ is so rich, the promise of God is so sure we could be happy even if we don’t have a happy family. When we learn to be thankful. If you’re not in Christ, you might think that sounds crazy or maybe you’re watching online. But I’m telling you, God’s presence is that rich. The comfort of the Holy Spirit means that much. The hope we have is so tangible that with Jesus alone, even if nothing else is going our way, we can be more than just content. We can be happy. William Law, the great 18th century anchor can put it this way.

Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? What does it mean to be a really holy person? It’s not he who prays most or fast most. It’s not he who gives the most money, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills and receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it. If you want a thermometer for your spiritual maturity, how strong are you in the Lord? Here it is. How thankful are you? William Ma would say That’s the best test of your walk with God. So I wanna spend the rest of time just how do we cultivate a thankful heart? Like I’m such a fan of it. ’cause it’s made such a huge difference in my life. I I, it’s just one of the delightful disciplines God calls us to.

When we moved from northern Virginia to Washington state years ago, we moved to a place and we’d grown up there. So we knew it was like this. It’s just dreary most of the time. Seattle is the Cloudiest city, cloudiest major city in the lower forty eight, two hundred and twenty six days a year on average, three-fourths of the sky or more is covered with clouds. So it’s a pretty dreary place. But our family was there. And so we were driving in, we’d been in in Northern Virginia for about 10 years and we’re driving along and Lisa looked at me, she goes, don’t you just kind of miss the sun? And I just smiled. She goes, oh, I know what you’re thinking. She says, you’re probably thinking at least it’s not raining. So you get to drive on a drive road. That’s exactly what I was thinking. It’s just for me, it’s not a duty.

It’s a delight to say, oh good, not where is the sun? It’s, thank God it’s not raining. So I’m eager to say this is, these are the steps I found that will help you walk into a thankful life. The first one is this, recognize the danger of not giving thanks. We’re told in Romans one, although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. But their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. When I don’t give thanks to God, who created me, who created this world, who has blessed me in spite of what I feel sometimes far beyond what I deserve, my perception becomes skewed. I might even question whether he’s loving. I might think he hasn’t given me a fair shake. Look, if he gave me a fair shake, I’d be in hell not here in Colorado.

So I think we have two choices. One, regularly thank God and grow in spiritual understanding. The more you thank God, the more you understand spiritual truth or two, fail to thank God and grow in confusion about God, hostility toward God and slowly lose your faith in God. It happened to the Romans, it will happen to us when I’m working with somebody as a pastor, if they’re not thankful, I know they’re in a perilous place spiritually. ’cause thankfulness keeps lifting us up toward God. Bitterness and a lack of thankfulness keeps ripping us away. And so we have to confront a thankless heart first by going to scripture. This is the second thing, just arm yourself with verses. They call us to give thanks. I love it when I go into homes and I see these plaques on the walls. Or maybe somebody put post this notes on the master bathroom mirror or, or or just in the car or in their office to remind themselves one Chronicles 16, eight, give thanks to the Lord Ephesians five 20.

Always give thanks to God the Father or give thanks in all circumstances. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, there are hundreds of verses you can use. You can find even better ones. But it’s to sort of jumpstart my heart that God tells me to do that He only tells me to do what is best for me and what is best for you. So let’s just obey and arm ourself with verses that call us to give thanks, which helps us to then actually start thanking God. And the best way to do that is to thank God for the easy things. Thank God for the easy things living in Colorado. It should be easy for us every time we leave our house. I was in Indianapolis yesterday, they don’t have mountains. <laugh>, you could watch a dog run away for three days in Indianapolis. I mean it’s crazy.

And here we just surrounded by this, it’s just beautiful. Once a month we celebrate Jesus giving himself so that we could sing those beautiful songs of worship that we have hope, we have assurance, we’ve been forgiven, we are saved. We have eternal hope. I think for 39 years I get to wake up next to a woman who has been faithful and true and we’ve had a family together and she’s with me and we’re there and we’re living life together. I don’t deserve this woman’s faithfulness. And yet I have that. I just start to turn my mind to easy things ’cause it primes the pump. And so verses like, I love this Psalm seven 17. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness. Look, we live in an evil world. We’ve seen it. The headlines are despicable. The evil. Doesn’t it feel demonic in some quarters?

This isn’t just evil. I mean this just seems like demonically bad. And we can focus on that. We can say, Lord, even if everybody around me is evil, you are righteous. And I thank you for your right. I thank you. There’s someone like you that I can lift up and worship in an evil world. And thanking God for the easy things helps graduate me into the next slightly more difficult step. To thank God for the way he used difficult things in the past to build you up in the faith and make you a stronger person. I ran a lot in high school and college. I got to a place where if I entered a local race, I could often try to win. I was one in Bonney Lake. It’s uh, south of Seattle. It’s a very hilly area. And I was duking it out with this.

I thought he was really old ’cause he was bald. He was probably in his thirties. But with my long feathered hair, I thought, man, you’re that bald. You’re old. I thought there’s no way I’m gonna let an old bald guy beat me. But he was faster than me. We’d be on the flats. I couldn’t keep up with him, but we’d hit a hill and I would catch up and I would pass him. And we were just going back and forth the whole race. But the race ended at the top of a hill. So I won the race and I remembered those workouts. My cross country coach would put me through, I need another repeat, Gary, another hill. I’m like, oh man, we’re doing hills again. And your legs feel like jelly and your lungs feel like they’re constricted. And then he would yell and don’t stop at the top of the hill. Go the next a hundred yards. You can’t just take it off. And I just remember that time after time and I just resented it when I was doing it. But because I had done it, I won the race. God may be letting you go through some really tough workouts. They’re pushing you beyond what you think you could do. He loves you. He wants you to win the race among many things. He’s your coach. He’s preparing you. He knows what’s

Up ahead. You don’t trust him. It’s a little easier with the buffer of time. I’d never enjoy this. I never would wanna go through this. But Looking back, Okay, I see that God used it. I’m thankful that God built me up because then you have to go to the fifth step, which is more difficult. Thank God for what he is doing through the hard things in your life Today. Now let me stress, Please Hear me on this. We need to be clear on this. There’s a difference between thanking God for The difficult

Things and thanking God in the difficult things. Now I, I don’t doubt that God can bring difficult things into my life, but that’s different than evil things. How do I thank God in the difficult things? Romans 8 28 to 29. We know that in all things, not some things, not most of the things except the very worst things, Paul says in all things,

God works for the good of those whoL ove him, who have been called according to his purpose For the go, for those God for knew. He also Predestined to be conformed to the likeness Of His Son. Whatever happens to me, whatever happens to you, If you love God And he is Your shepherd, He can bring good out of it. Now again, I want to be very Clear ’cause I know theologies disagree on this and denominations disagree on this. Here’s where I’m coming from. Personally, I do not and would not attribute Evil to God. I don’t thank God For evil Things. I don’t believe he causes evil things to happen. But I thank God for how he can heal me from evil, strengthen me, walk with me through Evil And then use it to build me up. And I believe He’ll do The same for You. So Help me. I wanna kind of wrap this up. Going back to something I said before. God can’t bless you into contentment. You have to thank your way There a lot of you’re thinking if God, if you only answered this prayer and that prayer and that Prayer, finally I’ll be thankful. Well no, because if you gave you the Garden of Eden, you’d find something you didn’t like. We Have to thank our way into commitment. And what does that mean? Every Person in this room Has What you need AlreadyTo be content. Already. You can start to be content today. Henry Nowan, a

Beloved spiritual writer who died a few years back,

Made headlines when he left a tenured position at Yale University and gave it up to work at a home that worked with developmentally disabled and mentally disabled adults. It shocked the people, but he said, I learned more from them than I learned from the Yale students. That might not be quite so surprising. But here’s one of the spiritual lessons he learned. Where there’s reason for gratitude. There can always be found a reason for bitterness. It is here that we’re faced with the freedom to make a decision. We can decide to be grateful or to be bitter. I see this every day in our community. The men and women with mental disabilities have many reasons to be bitter. Many of them experience deep loneliness, rejection from family members or friends. The unfulfilled desire to have a partner in life. And the constant frustration of always needing assistance.

Still, they choose mostly not to be bitter but grateful for the many small gifts of their lives. For an invitation to dinner for a few days of retreat or a birthday celebration. And most of all for their daily life and community with people who offer friendship and support, they choose gratitude over bitterness. And they become a great source of hope and inspiration for all their assistances. Who, although not mentally disabled, also have to make that same choice. What fascinates me so much is that every time we decide to be grateful, it will be easier to see new things to be grateful for. This has been true in my life. Gratefulness is like rolling a ball downhill. It just picks up speed because gratitude begets gratitude. Just as love begets love. This could be a new opportunity for you literally to change your life making thanksgiving.

Not just one day, but a daily practice. When have two things to make this as practical as I can. How many of you have kids who will have Christmas lists this year? Raise your hand if you can have, okay, I’m not against Christmas lists, but here’s what I’m asking you to do for your kids’ hearts. Before they make a Christmas list, have a make a Thanksgiving list this week before they ask for new toys, say we want you to write down your 10 favorite toys that you already have. And then we want you to write down your five favorite things about living in this house and in this neighborhood. And who are your favorite people that you get to be around cultivating them not to focus on what they don’t have before they get something new. Help them see what they already do. Have my son and his wife have a paper Turkey with different feathers and every day they have one of their kids say, write in something that they’re thankful for.

My grandson made my year and one of the first things he said is Papa, who? That’s me. So I loved it. The second thing to make it practical, and this is for every one of us, this, this really has changed my life since I heard Jeremy Utley Try this. Whenever anything happens, make your default response. Oh good. And then try to figure out what makes it good. Maybe you talk to your friends or your roommate or family members. Maybe you sit on it before Lord, but find the Oh good in every situation. Uh, when we first moved back to Vir from Virginia to Washington State, we were eager to have our first Thanksgiving with my parents. My mom was crazy with happiness ’cause she’s gonna have all her kids and grandkids there. And so we set off and we were beyond broke. When we moved back to Washington State, then we could have declared bankruptcy.

So we just had this really old used van that we had just bought and had worn tires. And so on the way down to Puyallup, where they live, we got a flat, well, it’s not big a deal. So I go in the back, I didn’t check this out when I bought the car. I should have, it’s me. I didn’t, the spare was flat as well. So we’re stuck on the road in a rural part of Washington state. We had to find one, a tow truck that was open on Thanksgiving, which we could find one. But they like to triple their fees on Thanksgiving. So now we’re further in debt. And then we had to find a garage that would repair a tire on Thanksgiving Day. And we found it. But it was taking a long time. So we had to stop off in this rural truck stop in the middle of nowhere.

And it was really kind of sad ’cause it was people that weren’t with their families. And the woman who was serving at, I think she thought it was, she had this, I don’t know, this long red velure dress. And she’s serving all of these truckers. And, and Lisa, you know, my healthy wife was appalled because if, if you didn’t know this, your food is supposed to be very colorful. If it’s healthy, you want a lot of different colors. And she goes, this is just a heap of white. What do you mean? Well, it’s white Turkey and white gravy and white mashed potatoes and white bread. You know, there was no green salad, there was no red cranberries, there was no orange sweet potatoes or whatnot. We finally got the car fixed and, and we were able to get down, although we were very late. But here’s the thing, if you were to ask my kids to remember any of their thanksgivings growing up, the only one they would remember is the truck stop Thanksgiving with heaps of white food.

That’s about it. There’s an no good in every circumstance. And so this Thanksgiving, I’m gonna be with my two daughters up in Washington state. They’re preparing Thanksgiving. I’ll be with my wife. And so I’ve already been told I’m going to have a happy vegetarian Thanksgiving. Oh, good <laugh>. My cholesterol’s gonna be great this holiday season here. Here’s the hope. Thank you Jesus, that I can say this because of God, there is always a no good. It’s because of God that there’s always a no, a no good. If you don’t know this, God, please, before you can really celebrate Thanksgiving, go to Trailhead. If you’re online, there’s a place where you can click to comment and talk with someone. We are so blessed to be the people of God. So let’s thank him this weekend. But let that be the start of a daily practice of, oh good, let’s pray. Lord, we do thank you that we can celebrate like no other people. Open our eyes, open our hearts. Open our minds, Lord, to the blessings we’ve already received and the hope we have in you for eternity. In Jesus’ name, amen.