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Thursday Thoughts: “The Power of Gratitude”

on April 24, 2014

ImageOur Ladies Bible Fellowship at church has started studying Scripture that has to do with gratitude, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book, Choosing Gratitude. For the next several Thursdays, I will share what we are learning. It’s been a great study so far. I encourage you to read the book!

Nancy defines gratitude as “learning to recognize and express appreciation for the benefits we have received from God and others” (p. 169). Yet we discussed the fact that often we Christians place gratitude as a less important virtue and, conversely, complaining/whining as a lesser sin. Thus, we perhaps do not see the importance of gratitude. But it helps us to view gratitude as important when we realize that “gratitude is a byproduct of and a response to the redeeming grace of God [that] will showcase the heart of the gospel in a way that is winsome and compelling” (p. 24).

To remind us of the redeeming grace of God and to give us fodder, so-to-speak to respond in gratitude we spent some time studying the book of Colossians. The theme of Colossians is the centrality of Christ. Paul mentions several times how dwelling on Christ and what he has done should move us to thankfulness in our prayers as well as to lives characterized by thankfulness to God. Some form of the word thanks is mentioned in every chapter.

  • “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, GIVING THANKS TO THE FATHER, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:11-14, emphases added).

 On this passage, one commentator states,

If God’s action and attitude toward his people have been characterized by grace, their response to him, in life and conduct as well as in thought and word, should be characterized by gratitude. Nothing less is fitting, considering how he has qualified them to share the inheritance of his holy people (Bruce, NICNT).

  • “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, ABOUNDING IN THANKSGIVING” (Col 2:6-7, emphases added).
  • “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. AND BE THANKFUL” (Col 3:15, emphases added).

Again, Bruce says,

“And be thankful,” he adds, for Christian behavior (to repeat what has been said before) can be viewed as the response of gratitude to the grace of God.

  • “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” (Col 3:16-17, emphasis added).
  • “Continue steadfastly in prayer, BEING WATCHFUL IN IT WITH THANKSGIVING” (Col 4:2, emphasis added).

In case you had any doubts, Paul (the author of Colossians) makes it very clear that gratitude/thankfulness is not optional. It is easy to be grateful when times are easy, but sometimes we fail to recognize the Giver of good gifts. True gratitude (i.e., NOT simply thanking karma/my lucky stars, etc.) recognizes that the recipient of our thanks is ultimately God.

What about those times that aren’t easy? Those times we find difficult to thank God for? Nancy says that we have two options: “I can whineor–I can worship! And I can’t worship without giving thanks. It just isn’t possible” (p. 23).  It is difficult to worship during trying times–if we have our eyes on ourselves. Nancy reminds us of the “escape patterns” we often choose or we try to comfort ourselves with the question, “Why me?” (p. 27). We often feel entitled to the best of everything, because we feel like we deserve it. The reality is that we don’t deserve anything good, but rather judgment as rebels against God.

Regardless of the situation, “true, Christ-centered, grace-motivated gratitude fits everywhere, even in life’s most desperate moments and difficult situations. Even when there are no ‘answers,’ it gives hope. . . . Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle” (pp. 28-29).

Those final two sentences by Nancy have had great impact on me. Gratitude is a lifestyle. I pray that God changes my heart, thoughts, and speech in such a way that I am ever full of thanks to God and others and live my life in grateful response. In Nancy’s book, she includes a 30-day devotional (which I highly recommend to help cement truth in your head and apply it in your life). One of the devotionals encourages us to write our own “declaration of thanksgiving” and to share it with others, so here is mine:

Because God’s goodness, love, grace, and mercy abound toward me in every way each day of my life and forever, I will therefore abound in the giving of thanks in everything each day of my life and forever. May God grant me the humility, the grace, and the sight to see His blessings everywhere and praise Him for them at all times.

Next week, we will examine 2 Corinthians 8-9 as well as Chapter 2 in Choosing Gratitude, “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.”

{On Thursdays, I share some thoughts about what God is teaching me in my various roles as a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, and a pastor’s wife.}

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3 responses to “Thursday Thoughts: “The Power of Gratitude”

  1. Linda Huffstutler says:

    I have a friend who has lived a lifestyle of gratitude which has been both a rebuke and challenge to me. She is the mother of many children including a special needs child. Her husband’s position keeps her in the eye of the public. I have never ever heard a complaint or grumbling comment. A typical comment is how the Lord has blessed or “I am so thankful for this blessing.” I am thankful for her faithful testimony through many years.

  2. […] Our Ladies Bible Fellowship at church has started studying Scripture that has to do with gratitude, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ excellent book, Choosing Gratitude. For the next several Thursdays, I will share what we are learning. It’s been a great study so far. I encourage you to read the book! Today’s focus is chapter 2. You can read about our study of chapter 1 here. […]

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