John Newton, a former slave dealer and despicable person, was transformed by the grace of God. He became a pastor and song writer. His songs and writing portray his enormous gratitude to God. We see that gratitude in his remarkable hymn “Amazing Grace.” Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.
John Newton wrote his own obituary, and it reflects his deep gratitude to God: John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.[i]
We see people completely ungrateful for what they have. There are so many who have enjoyed abundance and have lived their whole life without experiencing want. They have lacked nothing and yet have no idea of the fortune they have enjoyed. Unfortunately, they have never seen how most of the world actually lives. They are like spoiled and overindulged children and actually believe they deserve this kind of life and even expect it. As a result, this young American generation is angry and ungrateful. Far too many have a “poor me'” mentality causing them to appreciate nothing. They have no regard for family and friends and do not consider God as the source of their blessings. They are petty because they are focused only on their own needs.
Ungratefulness, though it has always been present, seems to be rampant more than ever throughout our culture, and Christians are not immune to this attitude. The apostle Paul aptly describes it this way: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”(2 Tim 3:1-4).
The three things that we see tearing our families and even our entire nation apart are described in these words: Narcissism, which is simply an obsessive love of self. Materialism, which is simply the neurotic addiction for things. Lastly, Hedonism, which is the compulsive pursuit for pleasure. However, none of those things ever really satisfy the deep longing in the soul. That and that alone comes from God. When we really meet him the way that John Newton did, we are transformed by his grace. God will do that for anyone who will simply acknowledges their need.
It is so hard to fight the urge to be praised by others. Some people develop an addiction for this, and it becomes an obsession. We then try the same thing with God, but how foolish we are when we do that. God is not impressed by our deeds, but he is moved when we acknowledge our need. Our greatest need is our need of him!
[i] R.T. Kendall, Just Say Thanks, Lake Mary, Fl, Charisma House, 2005 pp. 25-26.