God has two dwellings; one in heaven, and the other in a meek and thankful heart – Izaak Walton
Being grateful is at the heart of our lives as Christians.
In gratitude our mindset is one of thanks, joy and humility — thanks for what we have, joy in being reconciled with God, and humility in knowing we receive all from God.
God’s Word tells us in 2 Corinthians 9:15, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift”.
At the heart of gratitude is the knowledge that what we have is not due to our merit, but to God’s grace – we are conscious of our complete dependence on Him.
And if we can extend gratitude even to our challenges and problems then we will have overcome them purely by changing our attitude, because we will have moved from worry, fear and apprehension to thanks, joy and humility in our faith and reliance on God.
The Bible informs us that gratitude is key to entering into His Presence.
Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise: be thankful unto Him, and bless His name,” and Psalm 95:2, “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto Him with psalms”.
Pastor Len Kok, who is also a practising psychologist, says: “Gratitude is the entry point of worship, which is critical for our wellbeing”.
“During worship we find constant re-clothing, a recovering and renewing and restoration of His original intention for mankind.
“We find our identity in Him. He discloses our destinies and things to come. He partners with us to see His plans and purposes fulfilled on earth. He shows us things about Himself, which leads to renewed worship.”
In The Importance of Being Foolish Brennan Manning says; “We are worshippers of the saving love and mercy of the God who has accepted us”.
“We are steeped in gratitude and dependence. Our very being is a Eucharist, a permanent and perpetual thanksgiving to God. The Psalms remind us that whenever God’s people are gathered together, an attitude of joyful thanksgiving is the thanks offering of the assembly.
“If Eucharist means thanksgiving, Christianity means people who are joyfully thankful people,” says Manning.
“God’s Word exhorts us to be thankful,” emphasises Kok.
In everything give thanks
“1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, ‘In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’, therefore we should develop the attitude of thankfulness in obedience to God.”
Our gratitude begins and ends in our relationship with God.
As God’s children we have so much to be thankful for: our unmerited salvation; the sacrifice made by Lord Jesus Christ giving-up His life for our redemption; our Holy Father’s sacrifice of His only-begotten Son – seeing Jesus suffer on the cross – so that our sins could be wiped clean by His Son’s precious, innocent blood.
We should be thankful for our families, food, homes, sunrise and sunset, trees, flowers, rain falling, our pets, a passer-by smiling at us, friends, children, someone thanking us … the list goes on and on.
However, writing in Psychology Today, Neel Burton, a psychiatrist and philosopher says gratitude never came easily to us human beings, and is a diminishing virtue in modern times.
“In our consumerist society, we focus on what we lack, or what other people have that we don’t, whereas gratitude is the feeling of appreciation for what we already have.
“It is the recognition that the good in our life can come from something that is outside us and outside our control — be it other people, nature, or a higher power — and that owes little or nothing to us.”
Burton informs that Martin Luther himself spoke of gratitude as ‘the basic Christian attitude’.
“More than a mere feeling, Christian gratitude is a virtue, or disposition of the soul, that shapes our thoughts, feelings, and actions, and that is developed, refined, and exercised through a remembered relationship with God and His creation.
“In contrast, ingratitude on the part of a beneficiary is hurtful, because it negates the efforts and sacrifices of the benefactor, thereby affronting him or her, and, more than that, affronting life itself,” says Burton.
Kok says ingratitude is both destructive and dangerous, because it stops our spiritual growth, it can contribute to the development of physical sickness and disease, and causes breakdowns in our relationships.
Yet, even as Christians who once were lost, but have now been found by Jesus Christ, with so much to be thankful for, gratitude so often seems to elude us.
We frequently take our blessings, and even God’s grace and mercy for granted, especially when we place too much emphasis on self and what we have as being due to our own efforts.
Joyce Meyer says thankfulness releases God’s power in our life; on the other hand an ungrateful attitude is what bothers God most.
In an article entitled Thankfulness: The Key to Having the Life You Really Want, Meyer says we need to learn to appreciate our trials a lot more than we do because they’re what make us grow and mature in godly character.
“You see, in hard times, we tend to experience more of His nearness and power in our lives. It’s in those times that we really come to know Him.
“Complaining actually opens a door for the devil. We need to learn to thank God in everything.”
However, Meyer admits it is not an easy thing to do: “It’s much easier to make excuses and feel sorry for yourself, because things will happen to you that don’t seem fair”.
“The key is to keep saying, ‘I trust You, God, and I believe You will work it all out for my good’.”
She emphasises what a wonderful thing that God has done for us to be able to look at a negative thing in a positive way and actually say, “You cannot defeat me because God is on my side”.
Meyer says a good attitude is what will glorify God.
“He has promised that if we will do three simple things—continue to pray, to love Him, and to want His will — that all things will work together for our good (see Romans 8:28). That’s a 100 percent, ironclad guarantee that no matter how messy life gets, God will make good out of it.
Key to victory
“If you want victory in your life, all you have to do is adopt a lifestyle of thanksgiving.
“If you can manage to be thankful in every situation, really believing that God is working everything out for your good, you will end up with the victory every single time,” says Meyer.
We can start implementing Meyer’s advice by being aware of the most basic things we should be thankful for in our lives, things that we might take for granted most of the time, and then extend our gratitude back to God who has provided it all for us, because at the end of the day our attitude to and awareness of God will dictate our attitude to the people and world around us.
If it is a challenge or a problem that has captured our awareness, we can still be grateful by laying the problem down at our Holy Father’s feet, which immediately opens us up to a broader and deeper perspective, beyond the material to Spirit that is the source of all, including our hope, faith and trust; then instead of worrying we can take refuge in God, thankful that all is in His hands.
Finally, it is important to express our gratitude to God.
Kok says thanking God breaks the power of the enemy.
“Whenever you give thanks to God, even despite the most difficult circumstances, the enemy loses a big battle in your life.
“When you give thanks in the midst of difficulty, you bring pleasure to God’s heart. He is looking for Christians who live in a realm of praise and thanksgiving where the enemy no longer has an ability to hold or manipulate that person.
“Satan is defeated when we have a thankful heart, because thankfulness during difficulty is a sacrifice pleasing to God.”
Kok advises that we should begin to thank God for all the blessings he has given us instead of dwelling on the negative.
“Discontent dries-up the soul,” he says.
Kok reports that Elisabeth Elliot, who lost her husband on the mission field and faced a multitude of hardships, says of loving God’s will and being content: “To love God is to love His will”.
“It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by one who knows us through and through.
“It is to be content with His timing and His wise apportionment. It is to follow in the steps of the Master as did Paul, who was able to say that he learned contentment no matter what the circumstances. His circumstances when he wrote that? Prison. No easy lesson, but great gain, which is the sum of godliness plus contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).”
Kok says godliness with contentment (a sense of inward sufficiency) is great gain indeed.
“It comes from a place of absolute trust in God regarding your future. In the process we stop running after the things we need from Him, but start to feast on Him. He becomes our first prize.
“We live more and more in peace and rest instead of stress and fear,” says Kok.