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everyday life inside the fishbowl

Thursday Thoughts: “No Thanks”

on June 13, 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! Today’s focus is chapter 3. You can read about chapter 2 here.

On pages 50-51 in her book, Nancy talks about feeling thankful, yet never expressing it. She asked whether we believe it is not a big deal or whether we believe it is actually a dangerous thing not to express thanks. As I thought about this I realized that a failure to express gratitude may lead to a failure to consciously think thankfully, which may lead to ingratitude as our first mental response. We have to train ourselves to be thankful, and if we start to slip in our verbal thanks, it is far too easy to slip into thankless thought patterns as well.

We studied Romans 1, a chapter that discusses in part the root of ingratitude as well as the outworking of ingratitude in the lives of unbelievers. Verses 18 and following discuss the wrath of God upon those who choose to suppress what they know about God in order to live how they want. Everyone has at least a limited knowledge of God. We can all see his eternal power and divine nature in what He has created (v 20). But, “this limited knowledge of God falls short of what is necessary to establish a relationship with him. KNOWLEDGE MUST LEAD TO REVERENCE AND GRATITUDE. This it has failed to do. Instead of acknowledging God ‘as God,’ by glorifying him and thanking him, human beings perverted their knowledge and sank into idolatry” (Moo, NICNT, emphasis mine).

Especially of note for our study was Romans 1:21:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

I remember my former pastor preaching on this passage. He made a comment which radically changed my thoughts on ingratitude. I wrote Pastor Harding’s words in the margin of my Bible:

The nature of ingratitude is willfully failing to attribute to God the characteristics that make up His person.

Wow! Doesn’t that change the way we look at our complaining, our ingratitude? It should! I gave a very minor, everyday experience as an example. Say that I had planned out a Saturday at the park with my family, complete with a picnic–no chance of rain on the forecast. And then say that we wake up to a cloudy, rainy day. I have a choice to either be thankful for the rain and for other opportunities to have fun with my children. . . or I can complain about the weather (which would likely be my first reaction, unfortunately). But what do I communicate to my family, even my God when I complain? I communicate that I don’t like the way that God has ordained the weather. I put his goodness and his sovereignty into question.

Clearly, this is a minor example, but I think it helps us think through what we are really doing when we complain. And if we studied the rest of the chapter, you can see the outworking of one’s refusal to habitually give thanks to God and to honor him as God. These are people who reject God. They exchange the glory of God for the worship of false idols (vv 23-24). They exchange the truth of God for a lie (v 25). Men and women exchange their natural function for that which is unnatural (i.e., homosexuality; vv 26-27). And what does God do? God gives them up the cycle of sin to which they have already given themselves over to (cf. Eph 4:19). Thus they end up doing: all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hate God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, invent evil, disobey parents, no understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful (vv 28-32).

A refusal to thank God shows a heart of willful unbelief. “The root sin is the failure to value God above all things, so that he is not honored and praised as he should be” (ESV note, Rom 1:21). The root sin of thanklessness, along with idolatry, homosexuality, and the other vices listed is failure to value God supremely.

Unbelief and rejection of God are at the heart of unthankfulness. May Christians be a thankful people, evidencing their belief in and honor of our God.  May unbelievers come to a true knowledge of God, so they may exchange the lies they believe for the truth about God and so they may worship and serve the Creator rather than the creature. There is ONE God who deserves our worship and our thankfulness.

Getting practical, Nancy talked about five instigators of ingratitude of which we need to be wary (pp 53-57):

  1. Unrealistic expectations: “Needing God but not always wanting God, we expect others to take the place of God in our lives.”
  2. Forgetfulness: I was encouraged to do a study of forgetting and remembering in Deuteronomy and Psalms!
  3. Entitlement: “Building our. . . self-esteem. . . [leads to] this super-high level of deservedness.”
  4. Comparison: “Any time our focus is on ourselves–even if it’s on the good things we’re doing–it keeps us from being grateful for what others are contributing.”
  5. Blindness to God’s grace. “We are the debtors. . . . Paul listed ingratitude (ungratefulness) right in the middle of such evil companions as abusiveness, heartlessness, brutishness, and treachery (2 Timothy 3:1-5).”

One of Nancy’s discussion questions (found here if you’re interested) said, “There is a battle to be waged if we are going to resist the natural descent into ingratitude. This descent usually begins as the wonder of all Christ did in redeeming our lost souls and making us His precious daughters fades from our memories. What practical steps can we take in this battle against ingratitude?” Here are just a few practical things I thought of  as I seek to battle ingratitude in my life:

  • Remember the Gospel. Bring it up in conversations. When you give the Gospel, share your personal testimony as well.
  • Pray/praise specifically.
  • Every time you complain, recognize it as sin and confess it to God (and those who heard if possible) immediately. Then proceed to be thankful for some aspect of the situation about which you complained.
  • Try to recognize patterns of ingratitude; i.e., take note of those things that you’ve noticed most easily spur you to ingratitude (health issues, whining kids, bad weather, traffic jams, housecleaning, etc). When you enter the situation that is one that usually spurs you to ingratitude, plan ahead to be thankful.
  • Know your God. As you truly know him, it is easier to acknowledge him for who he is and to be thankful.

I hope this synopsis of this chapter has been helpful for you. I found it extremely convicting as I pondered what I am really doing when I am ungrateful–not acknowledging God for who he is! May God help us to acknowledge him for who he is, and evidence that acknowledgement through grateful thoughts, lives, and speech!

{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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