Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day—a day set apart to remember what we are grateful for: our family, our friends, and the many things that God has blessed us with. The reality for the Christian though is that every day is, in a very real sense, Thanksgiving Day! Each day we have an opportunity to cultivate and express gratefulness for the many ways God has blessed us.
The Foundation of Gratefulness
A number of recent studies in the field of psychology show that gratitude has many positive effects on physical, emotional, and relational health. Gratefulness is happily in vogue. When we look in the Bible though, we find that gratefulness is not just a positive frame of mind suggested for our benefit, we are commanded to be grateful and to give thanks to God. The good news for us is that whenever God commands us to do something, he also provides grace and reason enough to obey his commands. Take Colossians 3:15-17 for instance. In these verses we are commanded:
v. 15 “be thankful”
v. 16 have “thankfulness in your hearts to God,”
v. 17 “giving thanks.”
We are commanded to be thankful, but these verses also provide us with an unshakable foundation for our gratefulness. Look at the context:
v. 15 be thankful as the peace of Christ rules in your hearts
v. 16 sing with thankfulness in your hearts to God as the word of Christ dwells in you
v. 17 give thanks to God the Father through the Lord Jesus
What is our foundation for gratefulness? What is our reason and motivation for giving thanks? It is the gospel — the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is the peace he secured for us in his death, his declaration of forgiveness over our lives, our access to God the Father through his atoning blood. This is our foundation for gratefulness and it can never be taken away no matter what our circumstances look like.
Believers should be as thankful as refugees who have escaped the grim bondage of a repressive culture and have found refuge in a land of freedom and opportunity. (David Garland, NIVAC: Colossians/Philemon)
The Cultivation of Gratefulness
We have a rock-solid foundation for gratitude but if you’re like me, sometimes it’s challenging to be grateful. If gratefulness is a challenge we do well to remember that we aren’t passive participants. Gratefulness is a heart attitude we must cultivate with intentionality. It’s helpful to consider cultivating gratefulness on two fronts: privately before God and publicly with others. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make it your practice as you wake each day to direct your thoughts toward God and thank him for his grace remembering that in Christ your sins are forgiven, you’ve been adopted by God, your future is heaven, and he delights in you!
- Write down a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for both big and small and then spend time praying over your list and thanking God for the many ways he has blessed you.
- As you prepare to enter into a relational context (e.g. spouse and kids, Sunday meeting, Community Group, etc.) consider who will be there and how you might encourage them by expressing your gratefulness for God’s gracious activity in their lives. If you need help, look over the lists of spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit provided for us in Scripture and identify how God is at work in the people around us…because he is!
Express Your Gratefulness
If you have noticed a dip in your gratefulness lately then good news! You can begin applying yourself again right now. Take some time to remember the bountiful grace of God that is yours in Christ and consider the many gifts that God has brought into your life. As your heart fills with gratitude, don’t fail to move toward those God has placed in your life and encourage them by expressing how grateful you are for them. A Gospel Culture is a culture of gratefulness which reveals just how much we have been blessed by God. Let’s grow our Gospel Culture together by cultivating and expressing gratefulness to God and others to the glory of Jesus Christ.
A grateful man or woman will be a breath of fresh air in a world contaminated by bitterness and discontent. And the person whose gratitude is a byproduct of and response to the redeeming grace of God will showcase the heart of the gospel in a way that is winsome and compelling. (Nancy Leigh DeMoss Wolgemuth, Choosing Gratitude)
For further consideration please check out our “Gospel Culture” sermon series: