So how do we cultivate a life of gratitude? There are many ways to cultivate gratitude, here are a few:
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Do you consider yourself a grateful person? You may be thinking, “Um…I’m more grateful than the average person. After all, I am a Christian, and Christians are grateful people, right?” Sometimes we acquire a better understanding of a word by looking at its opposite. Let’s take a moment to shift our focus from gratitude to ingratitude.
Elizabeth Elliot said, “Thankless children we ALL are, more or less, comprehending but dimly the truth of God’s fathomless love for us.” According to that statement, we are thankless when we do not comprehend God’s fathomless love for us. Therefore, the more we DO comprehend His love—the more we understand it and recognize it—the more grateful we are.
God loves and cares for animals and plants, but He loves people infinitely more. In fact, people have more value than any other creation.
As I was eating lunch one day in late January, enjoying the bluebirds and yellow warblers at my feeder, I noticed an eastern phoebe hopping along on the ground. The phoebe is one of my favorite birds, so I grabbed my binoculars and watched as he snatched a fat caterpillar from a blade of grass.
Now, you must understand that this was in the deep south during a winter that was experiencing unusually warm temperatures. Our daffodils had already bloomed. It struck me that he was so matter-of-fact about it. It didn’t seem to surprise him at all that here was a caterpillar for his lunch in the “dead of winter.”
Seeing this caused me to stop and express gratitude to my Creator for not only feeding the Phoebe, but providing for me and caring for me even more than He does this bird. If we only could comprehend the love and care that God has for us, we would regularly be overflowing with gratitude and praise.
The most well-known picture of both gratitude and ingratitude in the Bible is found in Luke 17, where we read Jesus heals ten lepers.
This man’s thanks came from the heart. It was not the kind of thanks that a child gives out of duty. He held nothing back. He gave it loudly. He didn’t care what people thought, or that his friends might get to the priest first. His only thought was to thank Jesus, and nothing could stop him.
We tend to look down on the other nine lepers, but maybe it wasn’t that they didn’t care. Maybe thanking Jesus did not even enter their minds. It wasn’t a priority for them. But why not?
In Luke 17:7-10, just a few verses before the “ten lepers” passage, we read, “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table'? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So, you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
What do we see about gratefulness in this passage?
Servants should not expect to be thanked. If we are not thankful, then we must have the attitude that whoever did something for us or gave something to us is our servant. I am owed or entitled to this.
Philippians 2:3b says, "...but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." When we do this, we are grateful from the heart.
Isaiah 29:19 says, “The humble also shall increase their joy in the LORD…”
Humility brings joy and rejoicing. It brings gratitude. Gratitude in turn develops humility and grace. This one leper knew he did not deserve this healing. He understood that it was grace. The undeserved favor of God.
Recognizing and acknowledging God’s grace results in gratefulness. Jesus’ next words to the leper in Luke 17:19 were, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
I often wondered if the other lepers suddenly became leprous again, but Jesus was talking about a wellness that was spiritual. The leper was “not just cured of his chronic physical condition, but secured with spiritual salvation.” --Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Nine lepers, on the other hand, walked away ungrateful. But at least they were healed of their leprosy, right? Is ingratitude really that awful? Were those other nine lepers really heading down a dangerous road? They apparently were totally oblivious to their ingratitude.
“Gradually, subtly, we become desensitized, as layers of entitlement and resentment wrap themselves around our hearts, until thankfulness is all but gone from our lives and lips….ingratitude is the taproot out of which grows a host of other sins.” —Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
“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.” Romans 1:21
“An ungrateful person is only one step away from getting his or her needs met in illegitimate ways.” —Dr. D. James Kennedy
Ingratitude is our first step away from God. That is a sobering thought.
What are the warning signs—the feelings and attitudes that can lead to ingratitude?
God help us! Open our eyes to ingratitude.
“Forgive me for the many times and ways I reflect negatively on Your character and Your goodness, by verbalizing discontent and murmuring to others. Grant me a spirit of true repentance and heart that is always abounding, overflowing in gratitude toward you and others.” —Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
Help me to choose gratitude.
How are you going to choose gratitude this week, friend?
Christian Gratitude Journal for Women
This Christian Gratitude Journal for Women is produced by Pretty Simple Press. It's a 52-week inspirational guide to a life with more prayer and less stress.
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