Monday, November 30, 2009

Why should we be grateful?

Perhaps, you may think why should I be grateful when my life sucks or when things do not go my way? Because, we already have more in Christ than most people realize. Consider that the Jews in concentration camps under Hitler who survived, who were not killed outright, found reasons to be grateful to help them focus on God in their heinous situation, to make it bearable, and not become bitter when it was all over. The celebration of Thanksgiving comes from the American Puritans, who survived formidable persecutions in England and then in Holland, sold all they had, were swindled in the process, to risk coming to the barren wasteland they called America. They experienced a severe, relentless voyage where they were crammed in a smelly, overly-crowded ship with bad food and constant illness, almost perishing in the storms. Once they landed (in the wrong location), they had no food or living quarters; then there was trouble with the local Indians because of misunderstandings and the difficult process of building a community in the harsh winter. Then that harsh winter killed nearly half of them. But with little food and extreme hardship, they came to God and expressed their gratitude with a celebration of the last of their food reserves. They realized they had a problem with apathy, bitterness, and ingratitude, so they prayed and recommitted their faith. Once their attitudes changed, they became more industrious and God blessed them with plenty. These groups thrived when they realized their need to be grateful, not because of the plenty they had, or to stay stuck in their situation, but rather, to focus on who God is!

As mentioned before, we are grateful when we realize who our Lord is and what He did, when we realize our depravity and our past hopelessness and now, the great wonder we have. Our gratitude will come when we fully understand that we have been rescued from sin and darkness and from hopelessness and despair. This has to hit home deeply in our hearts and minds. To venture beyond our saving faith, we have to take heed and be encouraged that God is our rescuer! Therefore, we are to respond in gratitude for His provision and gifts. We should be literally overwhelmed—consumed with extreme joy and gratitude—because of what God has done for us. This should also allow us to feel that thanksgiving that sets the life theme and tone for our personality, actions, and reactions. Then, we can turn and spill gratitude onto others around us. If this is not true in your life, then read Romans 1:21!

Another aspect we need to realize is that we are rescued from the pound; we were the stray headed for the “putdown” and then the oven. Now, our place is secured in eternity; if we have a Savior in Whom we can have faith and trust—and we do—then our gratitude will help us lead a life of fortitude and distinction no matter what is thrown at us. These are things we cannot accomplish by our own means, and thus why we need Jesus. He needs to be placed first! For gratitude to function as Paul demonstrated, we are to put Christ first, and then move on to spiritual maturity. From this perspective, we know His Truth so we can still be triumphant in Him during the time we have here on earth (Col. 2:7; 3:17; 4:2).

Gratitude shows us that God is the One we should honor. This helps us to have an “attitude of gratitude” which is so essential for our faith and practice no matter what we have been through or have lost. Being thankful also helps us to have hope, and to forgive and live and have joy by which we display God's goodness. Without gratitude, we are ungrateful people—ingrates; this is an insult to God and as a result, we will live a self-inflicted, miserable, hopeless life no matter what we have or could have had. Thus, God's goodness that is to be shown through us is veiled by our contempt (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:14; Eph. 1:6; Phil. 1:3-4; Col. 1:12; 2:7; 3:15-17; 4:2).

Questions to Ponder:

1. How can an attitude of thanksgiving set the tone for your life and relationships? What do you need to do to set this life theme and tone for your personality, actions, and reactions?

2. What can you do to be more grateful—not just for things and stuff, but for whom our Lord is and what He did?

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