Do You Have a Great Attitude or a Grrrr-Attitude? 11/28/99

Colossians 2:6, 7

Jesus Christ changes lives. He sweetens spirits, elevates attitudes, gives cause for hope, and inspires gratitude.

In setting the captive soul free He gives wings to optimism, enabling persons to see reasons for rejoicing in the simplest things in life and giving meaning to the most mundane.

Christ gives life meaning and purpose once we give our life to Him. Giving our life to Him means to concede He is who he is and to put our self under His authority and protection.

Colossians 2:6 gives insight into His true nature.

He is the “Christ.” That means He is the “Anointed of God.” He was the member of the Godhead designated to be our prophet, priest, and king.

He is “Jesus,” the historic Savior. The name “Jesus” means Jehovah saves.

He is “Lord.” This title identifies Him as our sovereign authority. It is to Him we owe allegiance and none other.

Colossians 2:9 pulls these three titles together and identifies who He is: “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

The “fullness,” that is, the completeness of God dwells in Christ. The Greek term translated “Godhead” is Theotetos. It doesn’t simply mean the attributes of God were in Christ, but that the very essence, the nature of God. Simply put, He was God. The whole fullness of what God is, His supreme nature in its infinite entirety, is who Christ is. The fullness of God dwelt in Christ bodily form. Simply put, Jesus Christ was God.

The phrase “in Christ” is in the emphatic position in the text meaning in Him only does the fullness of God exists. This refutes and disputes claims that we are all little gods.

The text challenges us to “walk in Him” meaning to have a lifestyle becoming of Him. Four participles describe this walk.

ROOTED AND BUILT UP, the first two go together.

– “Rooted” is perfect tense meaning a once-for-all experience.

Sidney Lanier the Poet Laureate of Georgia is known as the “Galahad among our American poets.” He wrote such works as “Songs of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glynn.” In the latter he wrote:
“I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twix the marsh and the skies.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God.”

– “Built up” is a present tense, indicating a continual process. Once rooted we are to keep on growing in Christ.

– “Established” or “strengthened” in the faith is the third participle. It is present tense meaning we are to continue to be strengthened in our faith “as you have been taught.” Our faith is fed by the Word of God being applied to daily experiences.

– “Abounding (or overflowing) with thanksgiving” is the fourth participle.

Thanksgiving is a good preparation time for Christmas. It is a distinctly American holiday. It celebrates no birth, no battle, and no anniversary of soldiers or heroes. It is essentially the celebration of the condition of the heart, a pilgrimage, if you will, into one’s inner self to seek out and find an attitude of gratitude so that we can revere it and rededicate ourselves to living in its grace.1

Thanksgiving is more than a holiday enjoyable as that is. It is to be a lifestyle. If we don’t have an abiding attitude of gratitude we inevitably will display a grrrr-attitude. We become sniveling, complaining, pessimist.

Matthew Henry was one of the greatest writers of Bible commentaries. His life was once threatened and he was robbed. That night he prayed:
“I thank Thee, First, that I was never robbed before;
Second, because altho’ they took my belongings, they did not take my life;
Third, altho’ they took everything I had, it was not much;
And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

That prayer is in keeping with the text that instructs us to give thanks in all things.

We have been instructed to walk by faith not by sight. There are times it seems God is saying to us: “Are you willing to give me thanks for that which I may never give you the privilege of understanding?” That’s faith!

Martin Rinkart, in the early seventeenth century, wrote one of the great hymns of Thanksgiving during the Thirty Years War. He was pastor in a city of refuge during the war. It was a time of famine and pestilence. He buried over 4,000 people in one year, including several family members. It was in that context of tragedy that he wrote one of our well-loved hymns, “Now Thank We All Our God, With Heart and Hands and Voice.”

In our time of prosperity let’s give thanks regularly.

A thankful person aligns self with what is good and ultimately all good things come from God. This means a thankful person is fine tuning self with the most powerful force in the universe and drawing strength by doing so. If you feel a blast of appreciation or a sudden surge of gratitude, translate it into action. Express it!

I was reminded recently how meaningful it is to express thanks by being thanked. I had just delivered the doctrinal address at the Georgia Baptist Convention. As I left the arena a person introduced himself to me and identified himself as the football coach of a large high school in that city. He then told me how I had led him to faith in Christ when he was a teenager. He had left school and come to the arena and had been waiting under the bleachers for me to come off the platform in order to say thanks.

That act of kindness incited in me a desire to be more expressing to others of thanks. Who do you need to thank for any reason? Don’t delay, do it. Don’t excuse yourself by saying “I’m just not an expressive person.” Though that may well be a confession don’t let it be an excuse. Say it. Learn to say the magic words taught by Captain Kangaroo for so many years, “Please and Thank you.” Add to them the crown jewel of gratitude, “I love you.” Some folks find it hard to say, but wouldn’t you regret not having said it if you knew you had just passed up your last opportunity to say, “I love you.”

My wife clipped from “Family Circle” (11\16\99) magazine these reasons for being thankful.

… the mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

...the taxes I pay because it means that I’m employed.
…the complaining I hear about our government because it means I have freedom of speech.
…the clothes that fit a bit tight because that means I have had enough to eat.
…my shadow that watches me work because it means the sun is shining.
…the parking space at the far end of the parking lot because it means I have the ability to walk.
…my heating bill because it means I have been warm.
…the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.
…the piles of laundry because it means my loved ones are nearby.
…the weariness and aching muscles at the end of a day because it means I have been active.
…the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
…the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive.

Having shared it before I want to share again my favorite Thanksgiving Poem hoping you will share my appreciation for it.

Today upon a bus I saw a lovely girl with golden hair,
I envied her, she seemed so happy and I wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one leg, wore a crutch, and as she passed a smile.
“Oh, God forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs and the world is mine.”

Then I stopped to buy some sweets; the lad who sold them had such charm,
I talked with him, he seemed so glad, if I were late ‘twould do no harm.
As I left he said to me: ‘I thank you. You have been so kind.
It’s nice to talk to folks like you. You see,’ he said,
‘I’m blind.’
“Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes. The world is mine.”

Later, walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue,
He stood and watched the others play; it seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I said: ‘Why don’t you join the others, dear?’
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.

“Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two ears. The world is mine.”
With legs to take me where I should go,
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I should know,
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I’m blessed indeed. The world is mine.

Having received Him we are to “walk in Him.” The expression means to have a lifestyle becoming of Christ. Do you? The Bible exhorts to “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The encouragement is to let Christ’s attitude be your attitude. Think about things like Christ thinks about them.

We hear much of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in their concentration camps. Much is said about the Jews killed there and few know almost as many Christians died there also. One was Emil Kapaun. On January 16, 1954, the “Saturday Evening Post” wrote of his experience in a death camp.

“In his soiled and ragged fatigues, with his scraggly beard and his weird woolen cap, made of the sleeve of an old GI’s sweater, pulled down over his ears, he looked like any other half-starved prisoner. But there was something in his voice that was different —- a dignity, a composure, a serenity that radiated from him like light. Wherever he stood was holy ground, and the spirit within him — a spirit of reverence and abiding faith — went out to the silent, listening men and gave them hope and courage and a sense of peace. By his very presence, somehow, he could turn a stinking, louse- ridden mud hut, for a little while, into a cathedral.

He did a thousand little things to keep us going. He gathered and washed the foul undergarments of the dead and distributed them to men so weak from dysentery they could not move, and he washed and tended these men as if they were little babies. He traded his watch for a blanket, and cut it up to make warm socks for helpless men whose feet were freezing. All one day, in a freezing wind, with a sharp stick and his bare hands, he cut steps in the steep, ice-covered path that led down to the stream, so that the men carrying water would not fall. The most dreaded housekeeping chore of all was cleaning the latrines, and men argued bitterly over whose time it was to carry out this loathsome task. And while they argued, he’d slip out quietly and do the job…

On the day they took him away to his death, the Chaplain himself made no protest. He looked around the room at all standing there, and smiled … ‘Tell them back home I died a happy death,’ he said, and smiled again.”

As they loaded him on the litter he turned to one man named Mike and said, “Don’t take it hard, Mike. I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go.”

That is a great attitude, not a grrrr-attitude.

1 C. Thomas Hilton