Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
Gratitude in Scripture
In the gospel of Luke in chapter 17, Jesus encounters ten lepers, desperate for healing and change. Jesus sends them to the priests to complete the proper Jewish rituals for men who are healed from leprosy. As the men make their way to the priests they are healed from their leprosy, a truly miraculous and life changing moment for them. This story illustrates two main points:
- Ten men with leprosy were miraculously healed by Jesus.
- Only one of the ten men thanked Jesus for being healed.
In what is perhaps the crux of the story, Luke tells us that only one of the ten men came back to thank Jesus. Jesus’s response to this was “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17, NIV)
What quality or characteristic did the one grateful man have that the other nine did not?
For most of us who live in a first world country, it is easy to take for granted some of the provisions God blesses us with in our lives. For many of us the aspects that make up our daily routine – having multiple meals a day, fresh water to drink, clean clothes to wear, a comfortable house to live in and a bed to sleep in – are not often considered as generous blessings from God. It can feel like a chore in and of itself to consistently take time to thank God for the abundant blessings in life.
As we see in the story of Jesus and the lepers, ingratitude is nothing new. Ingratitude is a part of the human condition. Even more so, our 21st century world does not create an environment that helps us to practice gratitude. We are constantly bombarded with ads that tell us we need more to be truly happy. Social media convinces us that we don't have enough to keep up with those around us. Our lives are so rushed and our minds so filled that it isn’t natural to carve out time to pray and give thanks to God beyond the pre-meal blessing.
Practicals for Practicing Gratitude
So, how do we change this?
Just like other spiritual disciplines, practicing gratitude requires being intentional. Being grateful in a society that preaches consumerism will require training and patience. Incorporating gratitude with spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation is a helpful way to make sure it is a consistent practice in your life. Set aside prayer time to only thank God for everything in your life. Take time to meditate and journal solely about what you are thankful for. Here are three practical tips to guide you as you build the practice of giving thanks into your daily life.
3 Tips For Practicing Biblical Gratitude
- Create a gratitude list with a certain number of items. A powerful book about gratitude is “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp. This book chronicles her life changing journey as she writes down one thousand unique gifts from God in her life. Consider creating a similar goal for yourself. Maybe it’s not a list of one thousand things, but one hundred. Decide what number challenges you to become more grateful.
- Set aside a segment of time each day to practice gratitude. Take time to pray and give thanks to God or to journal a list of what you are grateful for that day. Set aside time right when you wake up, before you go to bed, during your lunch break, or whatever works best for you. Do this every day for a set amount of days and at the end of your time frame, evaluate how practicing gratitude has influenced your daily life.
- Practice gratitude in the hard times. We have hard days mentally, emotionally, and physically. We have busy days. We have disappointing days. We have frustrating days. Push yourself to practice gratitude especially in these times. You will find that the renewed perspective gratitude gives you helps you get through these days and see God’s goodness even amidst the hard times.
Taking Gratitude Deeper
Reframing our thinking to be grateful for the things that may seem very small and ordinary will renew our perspective. Have you ever thought about how amazing it is that the human eye can see millions of different colors? Have you seen God’s goodness in the beauty of the colors you see? Have you stopped to give thanks to God for something like the smell of apple pie or your favorite fresh flowers? Have you thanked God for the sweet sound of a baby’s coos? Have you noticed how amazing it is to feel the sun warming your skin while you’re touched by a gentle breeze?
Take a moment right now to stop and think about three blessings from God in your day today. Try to start by paying attention to what is right in front of you.
For me, I see vibrant red, orange, and yellow flowers. I hear the giggle of my baby nephew playing with his grandma. I feel warm in my cozy sweater in a cool house. All things that may seem small and ordinary, but are evidence of God’s blessing and grace in my life. The details show how much he cares for us.
Though our world is broken, hurting, and full of darkness, when God created the world he saw that it was good. God is a masterful creator that designed so many beautiful things in this world for us to enjoy. As Psalm 33:5 says, “...The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” (NIV). We just have to take time to acknowledge his goodness. God finds joy in what he has created in this world and the good things humans have created, and he is pleased when we take time to find this same joy.
Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
- It strengthens our love for God and awareness of his goodness.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” (James 1:17, NIV)
When we take time to thank God for the blessings in our life, whether big or small, we see how much God cares for us and how good he is. He is a good Father and he knows how to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). We feel loved by what a good Father he is to us and he feels loved by us taking time to express our praise and thanks for who he is and what he has done for us.
- It helps us to be content.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (1 Timothy 6:6-7 NIV)
When we shift our focus on what we have instead of what we don’t have, we become more of who Christ desires us to be. Focusing on the blessings of our life sets us apart from a world that wants us to constantly desire more from life and allows us to feel at peace. It allows our minds to be consumed with Christ instead of discontentment, selfishness, and greed.
- It creates a path for generosity.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. (Proverbs 11:24 ESV)
Living in a place of gratitude allows us to be the cheerful givers God desires. By focusing on the blessings in our life, we become more and more convinced that God will take care of us no matter what. Gratitude gives us the confidence to let go of some of our material wealth, knowing that God’s blessings are present no matter the conditions of our wealth. As we find God’s goodness in our lives, the response is to share that goodness with others and not only keep it to ourselves.
Gratitude Breeds Generosity
A 2015 neurobiological psychology study showed that “generosity and gratitude are separate sides of the same coin. They are symbiotic.” When it comes to church growth – for each unique person in the church and for the church as a whole – the act of giving back generously correlates to the level of gratitude the members feel first. Simply put: a bunch of people who aren’t grateful are less likely to give back to their community generously than a group of folks that intimately understand and recognize all they have in their lives to be grateful for.
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When people unlock the power of gratitude in their lives, generosity increases exponentially. Tithe.ly has all the tools you need to make that transition smoothly and effectively.