by Kathryn Williams
Thoughts on Gratitude 11-23-19: We heard from Chris Hyatt last week that ingratitude hardens our heart and “chills our relationship with God and others”. (Billy Graham)
Thankfulness is what naturally flows from a heart that is attuned to God. It realigns me to the Giver and increases His activity in my life. If what is coming out of my mouth is bitter, that means my heart is bitter, and that means that I can utilize gratitude to realign myself to HIm. (“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” Luke 6:45)
In the book of Luke, Jesus simultaneously heals 10 lepers (Luke 17). Out of the ten, only one returned to thank Him. Jesus said, “Weren’t there ten? Where are the other nine?…Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” 90% of them missed out on the complete healing Jesus had in mind for them. The one leper who responded in gratitude received physical and spiritual healing. His spiritual life was restored.
There is a spiritual principle which we can work out and practice: Gratitude begets Humility. Humility begets God’ grace, and God’s grace is where we encounter God’s presence and power. (Eric Demeter, Relevant magazine)(Psalm 100 “enter his courts with thanksgiving…”)(James “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”) That is the spiritual pathway that we are practicing.
Let’s talk about what gratitude isn’t: Gratitude is cheapened when we make it simply about “turning our lemons into lemonade” or acknowledging that “things could always be worse”. Imagine Jesus suffering rejection, pain, betrayal, and death on a cross. Would you advise him to put a “positive spin” on his circumstances? Therefore, we know that gratitude is not to be based on circumstances alone but on a person. The answer to our pain isn’t new circumstances but God himself. Practicing the spiritual discipline of gratitude is based on the certainty we have that God redeems.
How do I begin to practice gratitude?
1. Relinquish my sense of control. I am not in control but I operate like I am. I have not earned my blessings; I have received them. I cannot control God or other people. I know He is good, but how good? I know He is loving, but how loving? (Bill Murphy’s message from 2018 “two things I have heard” Ephesians 3- “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ”/ its our place and provoke to walk it out him and keep pressing in to know him. Relational trust.)
2. Acknowledge my god-given neediness. I am not self-sufficient. I am created to depend on God and respond to his generosity. My human flesh resists being grateful because it feels weak and vulnerable and I don’t want to become small. (“Narrow is the road that leads to life and only a few find it” Matthew 7). However, when I honestly look at God’s lordship in my life, I am freed up to respond to Him well. I can look for the good in my life and in others. I can be the recipient of Him. I was created to be the responder. I want to give up the struggle of trying to be the initiator/creator/doer/finisher/accomplisher and instead put my energy to being a daughter who responds to Him with thanksgiving.
For me this week, practicing gratitude looks like looking for where God is moving in those around me. Instead of provoking my children, I can praise areas where their heart is soft. I can encourage them and forgive them. I can lay down my expectations of what this thanskgiving holiday “should” be like and make sure I’m moving at “sheep speed” with Him (Brian Emmet).