My Brother in Christ, Henry Williams II with More Than Conquerors Worldwide Inc, asked me to give a few words on gratitude and negative attitudes. So honoring his request, I share the following message.
Let’s be honest with ourselves; we have all struggled with negativity. “I’ll never get this project done.” “She’ll never understand how I feel.” “I’m not good enough.” These are several examples of personal negativity, and several of them I have faced personally in the past.
Negativity, in the broader sense, runs amok in our society today. You can’t turn on the television without finding something negative going on in the world. You have negativity in the current politics here where I am in the United States to the point neighbors turn against neighbors over who they support for President, and negativity over racial issues has run rampant this year within our very communities. (, 2020).
Negativity takes on many forms, and no matter who we are, there is no way to avoid facing it at some point during our days. Though we can’t avoid negativity, we can adjust how we deal with it. How do you ask? Gratitude. Some of us might be thinking,
“I’m supposed to have gratitude for the negativity?”
No, nobody likes negativity, but we can be grateful for those things we do have and the things we can control.
The Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr is attributed with writing a prayer found primarily in the realms of addiction recovery. I use it frequently in my own life to help stay centered and share it with you in this message to help tie things together. It is known as the serenity prayer, and it goes,
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Theologian Reinhold Neibuhr
The Apostle Paul was probably one of the Bible’s foremost experts on finding gratitude among negativity. Before becoming a Christian, Paul was a devoutly Jewish man tasked to seek out Christians, persecute them, torture them, and persuade them to deny their Savior. Paul was a formidable adversary to Christianity. He was a well-respected and deeply educated man and knowledgeable in the religious practices of his time.
Paul could defend his position with great verbal skill and poise. He carried this task until he was confronted by the risen Christ while traveling along the road to Damascus. Jesus Christ confronted him in spiritual form, calling him out directly on his negativity and sternness of disbelief, asking him why he persecuted him [Jesus] and his believers.
I grew up around the phrase, “I’m going to sit that boy down, and we are going to have a come to Jesus talk.” Which meant you were going to get confronted and straightened out. Could you imagine Jesus showing up right in front of you out of nowhere on your way to work? Let alone saying, Boy! We need to talk! I think Paul explained this impact very well In his own words, in 1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NLT)
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 1:12-14 (NLT)
The Apostle Paul shared these words many years later while dealing with disagreements among the Christian people over what they should and should not do, specifically what was considered clean and unclean to eat.
Paul had the unique opportunity in that time to be face to face with Christ and put on the spot. That experience taught him that the negativity he had come to support had blurred his perception and that the gratitude he gained through Christ Jesus’s mercy changed his very way of thinking.
Everybody has an opinion about one thing or the other. We are human; it is part of that human condition.
Most of us are familiar with the school of thought about whether the glass is half empty, or the glass is half full, optimism versus pessimism concept.
Where does gratitude come into this? Even in the most unfavorable moments, the darkest days as Christians, we should always see our glass as half full. Full of gratitude that we have love and faith just as Paul did through Jesus Christ. Always remembering that when the final day comes, the arguing will end, the differences will vanish, and all strife will be put to rest.
A lot of harsh words are thrown about today. If someone says to you, “I wish you were dead!” Have gratitude that the Lord woke you into life this morning and that you know death is only the wait for a new life. Even when the words of another make your blood boil or your feelings wounded, have gratitude that Jesus Christ is the unchanging, unwavering constant in our lives.
In those moments of weakness and negativity when you are fearful of how you will pay that bill, or put food on the table, remember and have gratitude that the Lord will provide. If you can learn to keep your glass half full with gratitude for Christ Jesus, nothing that gets poured on top of that can ever sink to the bottom and drag you down.