Let’s talk about gratitude… an attitude of gratitude.
We have all heard talks through years about God’s will for our lives. We often ponder God’s will for us in the years ahead, expecting that we will be able to prophesy about our future.
But in Thessalonians, Paul tells us what God’s will is: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.”
Can it really be that simple?
If we truly believe that as disciples of Jesus we carry “the life,” we should be bringing something to the table that no one else can bring. If we truly drink of the “tree of life,” then people around us should be receiving life from us all day long. Gratitude is the sign of that life that flows from God and lives within us.
James takes it farther: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Do we believe that we can be grateful for “the hard times?”
Looking back at my life, I realize that my qualification to discuss any subject stems from my own painful experience of that subject. To relate to the heartbroken, I need to have experienced a broken heart. To relate to the abused, I have felt the sting of abuse myself. Perhaps even from someone I loved deeply. To talk about poverty, I need to have lacked. In order to feel the pressure of leadership, I must have led.
A friend of mine, David Austin, told this story once about two young boys in Nepal: During time with the small family, David noticed the intense gratitude of the two young boys when there was something, anything, to eat on the table. Upon returning to the United States, he was in a car when a parent gave two young boys their choice of candy at the local convenience shop. Each picked his selection. But when they got back in the car, they envied their brother’s choice. What could’ve been a blessing turned into a curse, because neither could be grateful, nor content. It rendered them unable to enjoy the gift.
This American culture has made me the same way. I can buy a new car, and before leaving the car dealership, I can covet a new Lexus driving by. I can covet others’ houses, jobs, children, financial standing, their sense of humor,… and list goes on.
I believe the source of such envy stems from our difficulty to believe that our heavenly father is a loving God. So whether he grants things to us that we perceive to be good or bad, God’s intent is always good. This is the fact we have to wrap our arms around.
God loves us, and he gives us good gifts. We often don’t recognize them as good, nor do we appreciate them. We seldom return thanks.
Study after study tells us that one of the great predictors of longevity in life has to do with one’s optimism. People who believe life is good simply live longer. When hard times come, they march on, believing in something good around the corner.
A friend of mine was teaching his son to pray with a thankful heart. The son was asked to list everything for which he was grateful. His son itemized a few things that he liked. The list was not long.
Frustrated, my friend invented a new tactic the next night. He said that the son,” Tonight we’re going to try to thank God for all of the good things we have. But whatever you don’t thank God for, I will take away. Needless to say, the prayer ran much longer than last night’s prayer.
Now that I’m a father myself, I think that I possess a hint of how God feels when his children are not thankful. What a child notices and appreciates something that is been done for him or her, it makes me want to bless them. I don’t necessarily expect thanks. And when they don’t return thanks, it’s okay. I don’t change my opinion of them.
But I want to bless them when they are grateful for the gift.
I believe God feels this way every day. He lavishes on us great blessings, provisions and lessons of life. And we often fail to notice, not to mention saying thanks.
And He still loves us.
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