Boy laughing with Bible on bench

The hidden gifts of growing in gratitude

During the last two weeks, we have been on a journey to becoming more grateful while discovering the secrets of gratitude. We have learned why we should be thankful, even in this crazy season, and when we record our gifts daily our eye are opened to God’s grace. We have also determined that, by definition, God is good and he loves us with a perfect love so that he sent us the ultimate gift in Jesus Christ. We examined the spiritual blessings that should fill our being more than any earthly gifts ever could. When we allow our hearts to soak in the gifts of God and his grace, we not only grow in gratitude, but we grow in faith. As our spiritual vision improves, so too must the way we live. A life of gratitude will change you in a few fundamental ways.

Thanksgiving builds trust

We have established in our study of Psalm 34 that Yahweh’s character is good. All things that are good come from God and all things that come from God are good. God can even use evil for our good, as we saw on the cross, and as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:28. If we know that God is always good, then why are we such a stressed and fearful people? If our core belief is that God is good, then we should be overflowing with joy without stress or fear. Fear is the opposite of faith. It means that we do not believe God will take care of us. When we live in fear we do not truly believe God is always good. Ann Voskamp writes “anything less than gratitude and trust is practical atheism.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:5-6

The belief that God is good results in us giving thanks for all his benefits. As our eyes open to his goodness we see more of God in our immediate surroundings and in our future inheritance. In turn, our gratitude for God’s goodness and mercy results in trust that he will always take care of us. Thanksgiving builds trust. “The foremost quality of a trusting disciple is gratefulness” (Brennan Manning).

Thanksgiving strengthens us in suffering

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6

God’s greatest gift to us is that we have been justified through faith by Jesus Christ, and on our journey to becoming more like him, we share in his suffering. Apostle Paul explains our transformation through suffering in Romans 5:3-5:

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5

Remember – we deserve nothing. We are sinners who are supposed to be damned for all eternity but God still loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die for our sins so we can be saved (John 3:16).  We have no right to make demands. Instead, we should humble ourselves as children and find joy in the little things.

Apostle Paul teaches us how to live a life characterized by thankfulness:

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:15–17

. . . giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:20
1 Thessalonians 5 verse 16 to 18. Give thanks in all circumstances

It is only when we keep our focus on Jesus as the centre of our faith that we can appreciate the gifts we have been given. This perspective of the good news creates a thankful heart in all circumstances.

When we practice gratitude daily, even in our direst suffering, we can grow closer to Jesus through the Holy Spirit and we will be filled with hope for the future.

Thanksgiving produces joy

 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Psalm 28:7

Why is it so hard for us to look at life through a lens of gratitude? Satan is so cunning to force our focus on what is in our immediate vicinity here on earth, that we forget to look up to God and inquire about his will. We experience crushing dissatisfaction in our lives when our expectations and desires are not met. Demanding to get our way smothers our joy. We believe we deserve more than we have – more material possessions, fewer trials and suffering, more miracles etc. Our expectations create a sense of entitlement which is dangerous in the heart of a child of God.

Our challenge is to empty ourselves of our own desires and perceptions of how our lives should look, to make room for the will of God and his purpose for our lives. God must increase in us, and we must decrease (John 3:30). When we refuse his gifts that he so lavishly bestows on us and the life he has generously provided for us, no matter how different it is from our perception, we are refusing his gifts of love. We are like a spoiled child that throws the gift back in the face of our generous Father. As we surrender our will to his will, our joy will increase.

Gratitude makes us givers

It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Acts 20:35

When our hearts start to sincerely contemplate the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ, our lives start to mirror the love of Christ and we become a blessing to others.

Jesus Christ humbled himself to wash the feet of his disciples (John 13:2, 4,12-15) even though he is the Son of God. With this humble act he became a blessing to them shocking them with his meekness. When we practice this Thanksfeeling and allow it to grow into Thanksgiving, we will serve a life of Thanksliving.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp repeatedly describes all the many chores that she must cope with daily while raising and homeschooling six kids on a rural farm. This work was drudgery until she changed her attitude to that of rather serving God instead of serving her family. When our motivation for helping others are the people themselves, or even because we think we are supposed to help others, our good intentions will not last long. People do not appreciate our hard efforts and will eventually disappoint us with their lack of gratitude. But when we see acts of love done to others as serving Jesus Christ, who has already done so much for us, the result is great joy.

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.

Matthew 25:35, 40

In our service of others we become ambassadors of the nature of Jesus and in this way bring them closer to him. Our greatest testimony of our faith in Jesus is our display of love to others.

As we grow in gratitude our character grows to that of a true follower of Jesus Christ with more trust and joy. His presence during our trials and suffering gives us the strength to continue this battle with hope, while the remembrance of his love humbles us and reminds us of our unworthiness of such love. With this attitude, our countenance changes into a life of thanksliving which will pour over into others as we share this love by being a blessing to those around us.

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