Tag Archives: Gratitude

A Biblical Model for Gratitude.

As the nation sits down to enjoy a hearty feast this Thanksgiving, millions of households will offer God a prayer of thanks – some brief, others verbose; some exclusively on the meal before them; others on additional blessings. And while giving thanks before a meal is certainly commendable, Scripture encourages us to pursue an even deeper expression of gratitude.

Recall a familiar anecdote from Jesus’ ministry. As he makes his way toward Jerusalem he encounters ten lepers who cry out from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” (Luke 17:13, NLT). Notice their plea includes an acknowledgement of his lordship over their lives. Jesus is moved by compassion. But instead of healing them immediately He instructs them to show themselves to the priest. As they respond in faith to that directive and make their way to the priest they are healed.

Joy overwhelms the men. A sense of gratitude swells inside them. Had Jesus walked by at that moment I have no doubt they would have heaped praise on him and thanked him for his mercy. But he didn’t.

So nine of the men move forward with life, too busy to seek Christ a second time and express their gratitude in person. Their behavior doesn’t reflect an ungrateful spirit; they simply were unwilling to go out of their way to demonstrate their gratitude. Except for one. One healed leper returns and with a loud voice praises Jesus. Only one falls at Christ’s feet to humbly thank the Master. Only one recognizes that the appropriate response to Christ’s blessing is wholehearted worship.

We witness an even more profound act of gratitude early in Jesus’ ministry. On encountering a demon-possessed man in the region opposite Galilee, Jesus casts out a legion of demonic spirits that tormented the man day and night. Following his delivery from that painful bondage, the man begs Jesus for permission to follow him.

But Jesus declines the request, telling the man, “Return to your own house, and tell what great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:39a, NKJV). In response to this, the man “proclaimed throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.” Having experienced God’s restoration the man recognizes that the only proper response was committing his life to Christ, either by joining him full-time in his ministry or by serving as a bold witness in his community.

We, too, have been delivered from our bondage as slaves to sin, and have been restored into a right relationship with God through Jesus. So this Thanksgiving let’s express our gratitude with more than just a brief prayer at dinner. Instead, let’s follow the example modeled by the two men Christ healed. Let’s worship God with humble enthusiasm and boldly proclaim his work in our lives to those around us and around the world.

Discerning God’s Will.

Throughout life we face a constant barrage of decisions. From life-altering choices like where we work, who we marry, and where we live, to ongoing ones like how to discipline our children, how to invest our time, and where to spend our money, decisions are an integral part of life. Significant choices like these – unlike minor day-to-day decisions we make with little thought – often spur us to solicit God’s counsel in hopes of learning His will before moving forward.

And while the desire to learn and follow God’s design on major decisions is always a good idea, waiting until we confront such inflection points before seeking His will is not ideal. That practice suffers a serious flaw in its foundation. It incorrectly assumes God’s will is a series of unrelated binary decisions we navigate throughout life. Absent the presence of a metaphorical fork in the road, we can cruise through life with little focus on God’s plan for us.

That thinking often leads to a dangerous habit: choosing when to seek (and follow) God’s plan and when to go it alone. For choices deemed manageable, we may decide to move forward on our own strength, reserving God’s guidance for those situations we find overwhelming or daunting.

What that perspective fails to recognize, however, is that God’s plan exists in the midst of the mundane, not just in milestone moments. Further, God’s will involves much more than making right decisions; it includes the adoption of behaviors, attributes, and habits that reflect Christ at work in our lives. Let’s examine a couple verses that crystallize this point.

The apostle Paul encourages us to: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NKJV). These verses demonstrate that the will of God is a lifestyle that envelops us, not a collection of isolated decisions made over the course of one’ life.

Notice that all three activities ought to be done incessantly. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in everything. In essence, Paul instructs us to cultivate a lifestyle that radiates joy, prayer, and gratitude. In doing so we fulfill God’s purpose.

If your life does not reflect sustained emphasis on these attributes, is it reasonable to expect God to reveal His will on monumental decisions? Shouldn’t we obey Him in ways He has explicitly labeled His will if we want His revelation in situations unique to our lives?

Paul also reminds us, “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV). Sanctification is not a one-time decision that occurs in a brief moment. It is the ongoing lifelong process of becoming more like Christ. Sanctification produces the growing presence of Christ in our lives until He eventually permeates every aspect of who we are.

God’s will, then, involves placing our identity in Jesus, pursuing His presence regularly, and modeling ourselves after Him. If we’re unwilling to live like Christ on a daily basis then any attempt to understand His will on consequential matters seems a bit paradoxical. If our actions, thoughts, and lifestyle do not reveal a growing familiarity with Jesus we ought to ask God for that desire.

That is of critical importance. When we limit God’s will to a handful of big decisions we never develop an intimacy with God that sharpens our ability to hear His small, still voice – which is a product of sanctification. Consequently, we’re easily distracted by worldly influences and voices, making it difficult to discern God’s plan when confronting critical choices.

Paul describes it like this, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you” (Romans 12:2, NLT). We must resist the temptation to conform to this world, choosing instead to allow God to transform us by changing how we think. As that transformation occurs, our ability to discern God’s will improves dramatically.

So what can we say about God’s will? First, it extends beyond making the right decisions at crucial crossroads in life – which is a limited and insufficient definition. A proper understanding of God’s will embraces the idea that it impacts every area of life. It yields a spirit of joy, produces a posture of prayer, and fuels a passion for our sanctification. Most of all, it transforms us into passionate followers of His Son so we reflect His love and truth.

Taking Time to Thank God.

In his gospel account of Jesus’ life, Luke recounts an incident that highlights the mercy and generosity of Christ. As Jesus and His followers entered a village during their journey to Jerusalem, ten lepers saw Him from afar and cried out for healing. Moved with compassion, Jesus cleansed each of them from the horrible disease, which allowed them to re-enter society and enjoy life once again (since in those days lepers were expelled from society).

One of the lepers returned to Jesus, praised Him, and expressed his gratitude for Jesus’ blessing. In fact, Luke tells us he glorified God with a loud voice – he didn’t just whisper a quiet, ‘thanks,’ and move on. Surprisingly, this leper was a Samaritan, an ethnicity generally viewed unfavorably by the Jews and considered unclean. In contrast, the other nine lepers never offered thanks or made any effort to recognize Jesus’ blessing. Evidently they were too busy getting on with their lives. His healing created a situation where they now had so many activities on their calendar that they couldn’t afford the time to praise and thank God for His kindness.

We’re like that sometimes, too. When confronting a difficult circumstance or painful situation we often turn to God and ask for His mercy, blessing, intervention, or help. We request He heal us, find us employment, give us a perceived need, or extend His protection. Then when He answers our prayer we often return to our demanding schedules and frenetic lives without crediting Him for what happened or lifting a prayer of praise to Him.

What does that say about our faith when we have no difficulty finding time to cry out to God when we need Him but cannot spare a few minutes each day thanking Him for the many blessings He has rained down on us? Does it reveal a degree of selfishness in our hearts? Does such behavior indicate a less mature, perhaps even less authentic faith?

Fortunately, God is gracious and not vindictive. He never withdrew His healing from the nine lepers who declined to thank Him. He doesn’t demand we express our gratitude when He answers our prayer. He doesn’t inform us that His blessings are conditional on our appreciation. Yet, shouldn’t we extend our voice to Him in praise and worship whether He requires it or not. Is such a small act of gratefulness too much for us to offer?

I encourage you to set aside a few minutes every morning to thank God for the many blessings He has given you – perhaps during your commute into the office, while eating breakfast, or as you complete your morning exercise regimen. Develop a habit of offering gratitude to start each day.

Are you healthy? Thank God. Are you employed? Glorify Christ. Do you have any friends? Family? Offer gratitude to God. Do you have a roof over your head and a mattress to sleep on? Praise the Lord. Can you walk, see, hear, and think? What a blessing! Do you have the confidence of spending eternal life with God in heaven? Rejoice.

No doubt you can identify many more blessings for which to extend appreciation to God. Take some time now to do so and make today the first day of your new habit to praise Jesus for answered prayer and blessing.