Lucia's Blog: GRATITUDE: ALWAYS THANKFUL
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

GRATITUDE: ALWAYS THANKFUL

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 
Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his; 
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!  
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations.  
Psalm 100


This coming Thursday, many tables across the country will be set for the celebration of Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving can be either a careless event or a deeply rewarding one. It all depends on what we make of it.  We will offer words and prayers of thanksgiving.  We are grateful for our abundant food, good health, our freedom, our homes and our children.  It is so easy to give thanks when life is smooth, and everything is going our way.  In fact, in such times we find it easy to thank God for all He has done for us.  I have prepared some thoughts on the Biblical concept of Thanksgiving.  I hope you find them edifying.

It is my hope, that we as Christians may be thankful to our Almighty God every day of our lives, and not just on Thanksgiving Day.  As grateful children of God, our gratitude must be perpetual, choosing to be grateful each day and not wait until the end of November to do so.  We have so much to be thankful for even when it seems there is much to complain about.  We must praise God and be always mindful of the many blessings our loving God showers down upon all of us.  When the church first began in Acts 2:46, the disciples broke bread daily from house to house and ate their food with gladness.  They were so thankful to be partakers of God's family that they ate together with joy (gladness and sincerity of heart).

Sadly, life has become mundane for many of us. It is a constant search for thrills in worldly and sinful habits (drinking, drugs, spending, pornography, affairs, etc.).  Many refuse to be grateful for what they have. A grateful heart makes the ordinary extraordinary.   It is vital that we examine our hearts and focus on gratitude.  The grateful heart is always positive.  Such a heart knows and acknowledges God's manifold ways and blessings.  There is so much that we as His children need to be grateful for since He has blessed us so richly.  The right attitude always leads to a heart of gratitude toward our Jehovah God.

So what does it mean to be thankful and how does one develop the right attitude (spirit) of gratitude?  How can one overcome an ungrateful heart or spirit?  Let us consider:


I.   WHAT IT MEANS TO BE THANKFUL:

Indeed, ingratitude is an awful sin.  An ungrateful and foolish heart is darkened by fleshly pride, human wisdom, and indulgence, (Rom. 1:21; 2 Tim. 3:2).  It refuses to acknowledge God as the Giver of every good and perfect gift, (Psalm 103:1-5).  It is God's will that we be thankful for everything, (1 Thess. 5:8).  It is a command that is as important as the command to repent and be baptized or to worship correctly, (Acts 2:38; John 4:24).

Unfortunately, we live in a secularized culture that is very ungrateful and does not honor God, (Romans 1:21-22; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).  They forget that a heart that is thankful is richer and fuller, (Heb. 3:15).  Their lives are constantly darkened with doubt, worry and sin.

Those of us who are Christians must always be thankful since Christ is our reason for living,  (Col. 3:3, 10).  Being thankful or grateful is the opposite of self-centeredness, arrogance, and rebellion.  A heart that is not thankful will always abound in anxiety and lust, (Eph. 5:20).

The heart that is grateful always acknowledges the benefits received.  Blessings come to us when we are thankful.   When one recognizes the Giver, our God and that all blessings come from Him, there will never be room for boasting.  We are not worthy of God's blessings, and we do not deserve a single one!  (1 Tim. 1:12-13).  

One of the worst things for us to forget is to be thankful.  We seem to be a forgetting people.” Oh yes, we celebrate Thanksgiving to encourage gratitude once a year.  But let's face it, it is not enough to be thankful or grateful one day out of the whole year.  We must be thankful every day!

In James 1:17 we are taught that every good and perfect gift comes from above, God the Father of lights.  All that we have and possess (our families, beautiful homes, health, skills, jobs, etc.) God has made them possible for us.  So why not praise our Lord for such blessings and all His marvelous ways?

In Deuteronomy 8:6-20, Moses warned the nation of Israel about not forgetting the LORD and urged them to remember God's blessings toward them.  Moses stressed the importance of honoring, obeying and not forgetting God over and over.  God had blessed and would even bless them more abundantly once they entered the Promised Land.  That is exactly why Moses felt compelled to remind them so they would not forget.  He knew they would likely remember all their past struggles and how God carried them through.  Moreover, there would be a temptation for them, when remembering God's goodness that they would boast about earning all of those blessings by their own power and might! This passage concludes with Moses predicting the consequences of forgetting the LORD and glorifying themselves.  As a result, they were going to perish as a nation just like the other nations that God was about to destroy in Canaan.

So what is the point I am trying to make with Moses' exhortation to the nation of Israel over three thousand years ago?  That today men and women have the same tendencies that the Israelites had back then.  When one reads Deuteronomy 8, it is not difficult to apply it to our present day.  Many Christians today have fallen prey to the same failures and errors that the Israelites did.  Isn't it true that many Christians don't acknowledge God when they're striving to live a life of luxury and riches?  Many care so little about where their blessings originate from!  Many deceive themselves because of their abundance in life, and think that their success is from their own power and might!  

You see, the nation of Israel became more corrupt as they grew and prospered.  God eventually punished them and allowed other foreign nations to conquer them because of their sins (which of course grew out of their ingratitude).  We in our country are no different.  We have forgotten to be thankful toward our God!  How long will God tolerate our kind of idolatry:  self-worship (the altar of self) coupled with a thankless and ungrateful heart toward our God?!

The problem of ingratitude has been around since the beginning of mankind.  It will be good to remind ourselves frequently what is of real value; that life does not consist in the abundance of things a person possesses, (Luke 12:15); that all physical things are temporary, no matter how much we enjoy them; that those blessings we enjoy now originated from our heavenly Father; that we must take time to be thankful day in and day out for all physical and spiritual blessings and finally that our God is the fountain from which every blessing flows.  


II.   DEVELOPING THE RIGHT ATTITUDE, THE SPIRIT OF GRATITUDE:

To maintain and develop the right attitude, the spirit of gratitude, we must personally examine ourselves.  
  • Gratitude Requires Counting All of Our Blessings:
In Psalm 103:3-5 we read of God's blessings or benefits toward us.  “who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

This passage reminds us of what our Jehovah God has done for us.  I cannot help but be reminded of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  In Psalm 103:3-5, David thanks God for six things which he regards as blessings:
  1. God forgives our sins.
  2. God heals us.
  3. God redeems us from death.
  4. God surrounds us with favor.
  5. God satisfies us with good things.
  6. God renews us with strength.
Undoubtedly, without God on our side, none of these blessings could take place.  We are God's sheep in His pasture, (Psalm 79:13).  He cares for us and calls us to put our faith in Him, (John 10:27-28). All these blessings are worthy of a lifetime of gratitude and praise toward our God.  So count all of your blessings one by one!

  • Gratitude Requires God's Goodness:
“The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.  8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  9 He will not always chide,  nor will he keep his anger forever.  10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,  nor repay us according to our iniquities.”  (Psalm 103:6-10)
God's goodness is an excellent way of expressing God's righteousness, mercy, and grace.  David was thankful for God's goodness and so should we.  We need to be thankful for God's righteousness and justice.  Though our lives might be difficult here on earth because of oppression, God will make things right on that Final Day.  He will indeed execute justice for us.  David was thankful for God's longsuffering and for being slow to anger.  He was aware of this since God could have certainly destroyed him after his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband.  But God didn't!! Let's face it, if God was not longsuffering, how many of us would still be alive today?  I assure you, none of us.  He does not deal with His children according to their sins.  He does not punish us the way we deserve!  And though He does not ignore sin, out of His goodness, He gives us plenty of time to repent.  So let us be thankful that He is slow to anger, but realize that He does get angry.  His longsuffering and tolerance have a limit.  May we never take that for granted, but rather show gratitude toward Him all the days of our life.

  • Gratitude Requires God's Forgiving Love:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. 13 As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. 14 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.  15 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; 16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.  17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children's children, 18 to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.  (Psalm 103:11-18).

God in His goodness manifests His love toward us.  His steadfast love toward those who fear Him is as high as the heavens are above the earth!  From everlasting to everlasting!  What a beautiful picture!  Notice that His steadfast love, His mercy, is only granted to those who fear Him and not to everyone; those who faithfully keep His covenant and obey all of His commandments, (Psalm 103;11,17,18).

God in His steadfast love removed our sins when we accepted His terms and began to follow Him. As far as the east is from the west!  Notice that He did not say as far as the north is from the south. Now stop for a moment and think about the meaning of Psalm 103:12 and notice the beautiful words of this psalm and be thankful!  Why?  Because our God has removed our sins farther away than we can think or understand!  As far as the east is from the west!!  That is, when God forgives our sins, He washes them away completely and remembers them no more.  What a loving and merciful God we serve!!

Our Father in Heaven is a merciful God toward His children.  He is patient with us not willing that any should perish but that we all should come to repentance, (2 Peter 3:9).  He pities His children the way a human father pities his children.  That alone is a good enough reason to be thankful toward Him!

  • Gratitude Requires Faith:
Without faith, it will be impossible to be thankful toward our God for the most precious gift ever given, the sacrifice of His Son who died for our sins, (2 Cor. 9:15).  God cares for the sheep of His pasture and commands us to put our faith in Him, (John 10:27-28; Psalm 79:13).

  • Gratitude Requires Joy and Contentment:
As children of our heavenly Father, we are commanded to rejoice with a grateful heart always despite our circumstances.  You see, rejoicing and gratitude go hand in hand, (1 Thess. 5:16-18).  Likewise joy and giving thanks go together, (Psalm 97:10-12).  We must learn to exercise our muscle of joy and contentment that we might be able to praise and honor our God always.  Contentment is not easier to learn, but we must learn it and apply it in every circumstance, whatever it may be, (Phil. 4:10-13; 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The one who is always anxious has a hard time expressing thankfulness in the midst of his anxiety.  It is gratitude (rejoicing always) that nurtures the optimism that replaces anxiety, (Matt. 6:33-34; Phi. 4:13).

  • Gratitude Requires Giving:
When one is thankful, grateful to be working, he can easily provide for his needs and those of others, (Acts. 20:34-35).  Generosity leads to unexpected blessings, (Prov. 22:9; 21:13).


III.    THE UNGRATEFUL HEART:

Ingratitude is an ugly sin.  It portrays a heart that is blinded by pride, foolishness, and indulgence.  It often repays good with evil, (Neh. 9:17; Lk. 6:35).  Ingratitude is always thoughtless toward God and implies that one deserves it all.  Ingratitude thinks about all that one doesn't have.  It never rejoices and always shows a frown.  Never smiles!  It is always unhappy and never finds contentment.  Ingratitude is proud and arrogant rather than humble and gracious, (Lk. 14:11).  It focuses primarily on self, (Jas. 3:14-16).  Ingratitude is rude, demeaning, demanding, grudging, ungenerous and thoughtless toward others.  And while thankfulness looks outward, ingratitude looks inward, failing to acknowledge the contributions or good others do for us.  Ingratitude is expressed in the heart of murmuring, complaining, and bitterness.  Have you ever noticed how difficult it is for the complainer and whiner to be thankful?  He is always seeing the wrongs and shortcomings of others and finds pleasure in it, (Num. 11:1; 4:6; 21:4-5).   The one who complains forgets that when he's complaining, He is actually grumbling against God.  

When we grumble or complain, our faith is weak. You see, faith is developed and strengthened when one embraces the Word of God heartily, trusting in it as only truth (Romans 10:17).  This was precisely the failure of the Israelites.  Their faith was so weak that they found it difficult to trust God's Word.  They forgot God's promises to them.  They forgot all that God had graciously provided for them, the marvelous works that provided the food, shelter, and clothing that they needed.  We are no different today.  Why?  Because our faith is fickle.  We quickly forget to remember God's blessings and all the ways He pours out blessings on us day in and day out.  We just seem to lack faith, forgetting that He is in control.  We neglect to be strengthened through His Word as we should and when all is said and done we end up grumbling instead of trusting.  Some think that God is not all-powerful or all-knowing; they believe He doesn't care, so they feel hopeless and helpless and therefore complain. They forget that our God is great and awesome!  He will take care of His faithful children, (Matt. 6:33; Heb. 13:5-6).  May we not fall into the temptation of murmuring or complaining but rather be content and grateful while we walk this path of life.  May we always have thankful and grateful hearts.

So do you complain about your circumstances, your job, your health, your children, the church, God's commands, your responsibilities, etc.?  Why not choose to be thankful and grateful while there is life?  Be thankful that you are still alive, have medical care available to you, have children (our children are God's heritage to us, Psalm 127:3), and finally that you are part of God's kingdom, His church (the church belongs to our Lord Jesus and not to you!).  Remember that blessings bring responsibilities.  Ingratitude deems or regards others with envy and jealousy, (Gal. 5:20-21).  Have you ever seen a jealous and envious person full of joy and thankfulness or gratefulness?  So why not start tasting of God's favor in your life that you might be able to dispose of sinful attitudes and actions, 1 Peter 2:1-3?


CONCLUSION:

We must choose to see the goodness of God, to think beyond this life, eternity.  It is then that we will be able to learn contentment. Contentment is a matter of the heart. We must learn to hope only in God, to ask Him to teach our hearts to be content, to want to trust Him and to be grateful, and mostly to learn to be satisfied with what He provides for us. The danger in discontent and ungratefulness is covetousness, coveting what we do not have. With this attitude in our hearts, we will never be at peace. We must learn this in matters of marriage, family, relationships, possessions, the church and so on.

The apostle Paul tells us that he learned to be content!  It was a process. "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:11-13). Contentment is like a muscle–the more you put it into practice, the stronger it gets. It is an attitude inside our hearts that whispers in our ears saying "God, I want to learn to be content, so today, I am going to seek to be grateful to You, for what You have provided and for the eternal life I will share with You, where joys beyond my imagination will be real, will be fulfilled and will be provided by You, because You love me."  We need to choose to understand this contentment with humility and joy, whatever our circumstances. It is a significant gain in our walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this contentment, this character of heart in us, that will help us battle whatever our circumstances are and ultimately give us victory! 
“57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  (1 Cor. 15:57). 

We have an abundance of blessings bestowed on us as His children for which we must be thankful. Consider some of the many blessings:  Our families, our good health, freedom to worship God, the Gospel of Christ, the Word of God, our redemption, our hope of eternal life, our many freedoms like being able to home educate our children, air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and most of all our Lord and Savior who redeemed us, who cares for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, and who has sworn never to forsake us.  Therefore, we are more than rich since we have all these abundances of blessings.  
“The blessing of Jehovah, it maketh rich; And he addeth no sorrow therewith.” (Proverbs 10:22)
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ?  Can affliction or anguish or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us.  ”Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Even as it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long; we were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”  (Romans 8:35-37)

Being grateful is the key to spiritual victory.  Joy is the result of a grateful heart. A thankful heart is the product of a person who always chooses to give thanks no matter what the circumstances.  It is the person who never compares himself to other people but always to Christ.  It is the heart that realizes he is rich beyond measure because he is a child of God and that in Him he finds His portion. It is the heart that is always looking for reasons to be content and give thanks.

Therefore, we must learn to appreciate and be thankful for God's steadfast love and loving kindness. Notice what David once said:
"Blessed be the Lord, For He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city."  (Psalm 31:2)

There is nothing more critical than finding oneself in a besieged city.  It is as bad as one's circumstances can get.  Yet David acknowledges God's steadfast love and loving kindness toward him.  God heard his cry for deliverance.  He made David aware of His love and compassion for him.
Are we aware and do we acknowledge God's steadfast love and loving kindness toward us?  Can we fathom the depth of His steadfast love toward us?  Have we forgotten the message of Romans 8:38-39?  

Sadly, many become anxious when things are tough, and life is difficult.  They lose heart and become discouraged.  In those dark moments, they find it hard to understand the purpose of our trials. They become anxious about the unknown.  They are overwhelmed!  Despair is the opposite of a faithful and thankful heart.  When our affections are on earthly things and not on God, we are in danger.  We tend to cling to our immediate circumstances rather than to God.  It makes us not only anxious but also insecure.  Only God can fill our hearts with His peace.  

We have so much to give thanks for:  not so much for material riches, but mainly for God's love for us in sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins so that through Him we could be redeemed and have access to eternal life.  Let's never take for granted God's immeasurable grace.   So, when you find yourself discouraged, remember always that we have all we need in Christ.  He is the fullness that fills all in all.  Why not take a moment to give thanks?

Ingratitude is the opposite of gratitude. It reveals pride, self-sufficiency, self-centeredness, self-satisfaction and self-love, (2 Tim. 3:1-4).  Sin increases when one is not thankful and grateful, (2 Tim. 3:2-5).  Therefore, let us be thankful since God has called us through the Gospel to peace with Him and all men, (Col. 3:15).

May our Lord help us to give thanks always no matter what our circumstances are.  May we live in His peace trusting in Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls. May we always have a thankful and grateful heart that we may see the power of God and our faith in Him working in our life.  May we never forget that God is the Giver of all good gifts.   May we keep calm and know that He cares for us.  May we never forget that He is near.  To Him be the glory.

Luci