“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar
Earlier this week I sat through a presentation to raise funds for a great cause. But one of the things that really stood out to me in the presentation – misspelled words. The project is putting in new bathrooms for a school of 400 students in a 3rd World country. It’s a great and worthy project and compared to American costs, very reasonable. Yet, I found that I was more focused on a few misspellings than the huge impact of this project.
Please understand, I’m not suggesting that we become sloppy and overlook misspelled words or other errors, and not aim for excellence. What I am confessing is that I’ve been so contaminated by a sinful world, that my tendency is to notice what is wrong before I notice what is right.
With 10 stalls for 400 students, 5 for girls and 5 for boys, I’d surmise those students don’t care what it’s called – whether a bathroom, restroom, toilet, privy, washroom, powder room, loo, lavatory or some slang term. They’re just thankful that they have a bathroom with indoor plumbing.
Are you like me? I find that the Spirit is continually convicting me for my petty, ungrateful heart. I have to be spiritually aggressive with my sinful spirit that’s more prone to groan than to give gratitude.
John MacArthur insightfully writes, “A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord.”
For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what trait or traits most identify and distinguish a Christian. I was wrongly taught and believed for too many years that it was behavior, appearance or following a list of rules. I was a very good Pharisee.
I’m so thankful that sanctification is a lifelong process and that my Heavenly Father is so patient with me. As I look through the pages of Scripture, there is a consistent identifying trait for a godly person, someone who is maturing in their walk with the Lord – constant gratitude. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, is permeated with hymns of praise. We end in eternity with praise in our hearts that flows from our lips.
Yet, gratitude is a habit that must be empowered by God’s grace and continually cultivated. Every believer has a life filled with blessings now that overflows into eternity. It’s not a matter of what we have or what’s going on, it’s what we see and focus on and fill our minds with.
Recently, I read of a study that took three groups of people and had them go for daily walks. The first group was told to focus on the good things they noticed, the second one on the bad and the third group was told just to walk for exercise. What was the result?
At the end of the week, when the walkers’ well-being was tested again, those who had deliberately targeted positive cues were happier than before the experiment. The negatively focused subjects were less happy, and the just plain exercisers scored somewhere in between.
The point, according to the researchers, is that “you see what you look for. And you can train yourself to attend to the joy out there waiting to be had, instead of passively waiting for it to come to you.” What I found very noteworthy was that though this wasn’t a Christian study, these individuals had significant positive change because they learned to focus on what we call “common grace.” Unknowingly, they were living out the Lord’s command: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Nothing so sets apart a believer as gratitude. We can be the kind of people who truly feel and appreciate the good in life because we know who it comes from (James 1:17). At first, like any habit, it takes work. It requires continued focus. Yet, if we develop the habit of gratitude, it will radically change us and our testimony for the gospel. Here are a few simple steps to help you begin.
Confess ingratitude and pray for grace to grow in gratitude. We must by confession clear out the filth in our hearts so that the Lord can fill it with grace and gratitude. It means being honest and coming clean. Afterall, Jesus died for our sin of ingratitude. But most of us don’t take the sin of ungratefulness seriously. The nation of Israel learned a hard lesson and spent 40 years wandering the wilderness because of grumbling.
Limit contaminations of bad news in your life. Personally, I rarely watch the news. I may listen to the headlines or scan them on a periodical, yet I don’t linger there. That’s because rarely is there anything encouraging. Most is broadcast void of a biblical worldview, that even in the “bad” God is in total control. Then, I avoid negaholics and seek to surround myself with grateful people and those who see God’s hand in this world.
Increase the amount of good news in your life. It’s rare to find a miserable believer who is faithfully in their Bible. Spending time in God’s Word changes our outlook and help us be aware that God is working even when we can’t see it and helps us see life from His eternal perspective.
Start early, yet start small. Begin your day thanking the Lord for another one. Throughout your day look for God moments, little blessings like the beauty of His creation or some unexpected kindness. Perhaps keep a log and write down a blessing or blessings from each day.
Ask the Lord to help you see those things from His perspective which most easily cause you to complain. I’m not a masochist. I don’t like trials. Yet, I know from Scripture that my Father is behind trials. Of late, I’ve been asking Him to use them to burn away dross and make me more like Jesus. It’s changed my perspective of trials from something to get through to that which I’m confident He is using to make me into His masterpiece.
Would those around you describe you as a grateful person? Do they hear the song in your heart because you know Jesus and are confident that He has everything under control, even the trials?
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.