Bible Study in Gratitude PIII
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
…give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Why should we be grateful?
Perhaps, you may think why should I be grateful when my life sucks or when things do not go my way? Because, we already have more in Christ than most people realize. Consider that the Jews in concentration camps under Hitler who survived, who were not killed outright, found reasons to be grateful to help them focus on God in their heinous situation, to make it bearable, and not become bitter when it was all over. The celebration of Thanksgiving comes from the American Puritans, who survived formidable persecutions in England and then in Holland, sold all they had, were swindled in the process, to risk coming to the barren wasteland they called America. They experienced a severe, relentless voyage where they were crammed in a smelly, overly-crowded ship with bad food and constant illness, almost perishing in the storms. Once they landed (in the wrong location), they had no food or living quarters; then there was trouble with the local Indians because of misunderstandings and the difficult process of building a community in the harsh winter. Then that harsh winter killed nearly half of them. But with little food and extreme hardship, they came to God and expressed their gratitude with a celebration of the last of their food reserves. They realized they had a problem with apathy, bitterness, and ingratitude, so they prayed and recommitted their faith. Once their attitudes changed, they became more industrious and God blessed them with plenty. These groups thrived when they realized their need to be grateful, not because of the plenty they had, or to stay stuck in their situation, but rather, to focus on who God is!
As mentioned in the first part of this study, we are grateful when we realize who our Lord is and what He did, when we realize our depravity and our past hopelessness and now, the great wonder we have. Our gratitude will come when we fully understand that we have been rescued from sin and darkness and from hopelessness and despair. This has to hit home deeply in our hearts and minds. To venture beyond our saving faith, we have to take heed and be encouraged that God is our rescuer! Therefore, we are to respond in gratitude for His provision and gifts. We should be literally overwhelmed-consumed with extreme joy and gratitude-because of what God has done for us. This should also allow us to feel that thanksgiving that sets the life theme and tone for our personality, actions, and reactions. Then, we can turn and spill gratitude onto others around us. If this is not true in your life, then read Romans 1:21!
Another aspect we need to realize is that we are rescued from the pound; we were the stray headed for the "putdown" and then the oven. Now, our place is secured in eternity; if we have a Savior in Whom we can have faith and trust-and we do-then our gratitude will help us lead a life of fortitude and distinction no matter what is thrown at us. These are things we cannot accomplish by our own means, and thus why we need Jesus. He needs to be placed first! For gratitude to function as Paul demonstrated, we are to put Christ first, and then move on to spiritual maturity. From this perspective, we know His Truth so we can still be triumphant in Him during the time we have here on earth (Col. 2:7; 3:17; 4:2).
Take a look at who you are in Christ. For the Christian, because Christ redeemed you, you are welcomed into His presence and Kingdom! God is even pleased with you. This gives us hope and a reason to live and thrive. Jesus Christ now becomes our chief purpose and makes our mission in life to glorify God. Thus, we are now a friend of God and when we do this, we please Him and our gratitude is the indication this is at work. Also in so doing, we give Him our honor, love, and service, which we do to glorify Him. Our gratitude, from the realization of our place in life and eternity, can help us truly worship and praise Him through loving, behaving, and putting Him first just as Jesus demonstrated by His obedience. In converse, our ingratitude will only show our self-focused mindsets; our ungratefulness will just nullify our impact and do the opposite of pleasing God. The key is to receive what Christ has given, to trust and obey Him, and to make Him our primary and foremost outlook in our lives as He is in the universe; this will please Him. Then, our hearts will be filled with gratitude and we will have a life that overflows with His fruit as we become the quintessence of a pleasing sacrifice (Deut. 10:17-19; 2 Chron. 20:7; Psalm 69:30-31; Matt. 5:16; Luke 12:4; John 8:29; 15:14; Rom. 15:1-3; 1 Cor. 10:31; Eph. 3:10; Phil. 2:12-13; 4:18; Col. 1:10; 19-23; 3:17-20; 1 Thess. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:4; Heb. 11:5-6; 13:16, 21).
Gratitude shows us that God is the One we should honor. This helps us to have an "attitude of gratitude" which is so essential for our faith and practice no matter what we have been through or have lost. Being thankful also helps us to have hope, and to forgive and live and have joy by which we display God's goodness. Without gratitude, we are ungrateful people-ingrates; this is an insult to God and as a result, we will live a self-inflicted, miserable, hopeless life no matter what we have or could have had. Thus, God's goodness that is to be shown through us is veiled by our contempt (Rom. 1:8; 1 Cor. 1:14; Eph. 1:6; Phil. 1:3-4; Col. 1:12; 2:7; 3:15-17; 4:2).
What does Gratitude do for me?
Being grateful gives us joy! For us, to receive the great joy of our salvation required a great cost of suffering of which Jesus was fully aware and willing to endure for us. The prize and promised reward enabled us to partake in and receive too. He could have avoided the cross, but He did not, so we are saved and our biggest problem is solved (John 10:17-18; 12:27; Phil. 2:6).
The way to improve our lives and relationships is to have an attitude of gratitude. We start with how we honor and respond to our Lord and Savior! We are to respond to His precepts with our personal holiness! Because we received His grace that sanctified our heart and covered our sin, a chord should strike within us to respond. Out of our gratitude for what He has done for us, we should be willing to strive to seek righteousness in all that we do. This is the sweetness that spills unto others; this is the honor and trustworthiness we earn in the hearts and minds of the people God brings into our lives. What builds a good life and church-even a good personality? Our growing relationship with Christ! He is the One who changes us and forms our character. All we do is adoringly respond by faith and commit to His precepts.
When we are Grateful:
· We will realize that His grace is sufficient!
· We will have a thirst for God's Word and our spiritual growth!
· We will have a thirst for righteousness!
· We will have an eagerness to dispense the Fruit of the Spirit!
· We will be speaking words that edify others, and bringing Christ glory because those words are attuned to Christian commitment!
· We will be using the resources that our Lord has given us to live a triumphant and content life!
· We will be taking the love and compassion He has given us to help others in need!
When we are grateful, we can have the desire to purge ourselves of sin. When we do as we see fit, all we do is bring strife and confusion on ourselves that lead to endless hurt. When we have purged the sin, and continue to do so as an ongoing venture, we will have no desire to copy the evil ways of the world. Rather, we will desire to be further transformed and renewed by God. We will be new persons, infused by the Spirit, so that all we think and all we do points in His direction and call. Because of this renewal, we will know what He desires for us, what is best, and what is pleasing and perfect.
Gratitude and Faithfulness fuel each other
Our faithfulness results from our gratitude for being in a special spiritual union with Christ, who is our Savior and Lord. And, our gratitude will inspire our faithfulness. We are all called to be grateful and faithful and if we are not, something is very wrong in us. Either we are not regenerated, or we are in disobedience. You can't be a growing Christian without having reverence for our Lord and being appreciative for what He gives and has done! When we have joy in our Lord, we will have joy in our lives no matter what. It is our gratitude for Christ that will produce fruit, and enable us to be joyful for others too. If we do not have joy for others, then something is messed up with our relationship and connection to God-and He is not the One messed up! When we get this wrong, we will have an unforgiving heart, and the virtues of fruit and character will not be flowing (Eph 1:3).
The secret of life is to realize that God is in charge; He is Sovereign. We can be content and live a life characterized by our Lord in the application of our gratitude. This will set our "dwell" well! The secret part, as it seems, is that most of us do not know this, even though it is plainly and often stated in Scripture. Somehow in the ternary of busy-ness of life, our stress, and our various happenings, we forget to be thankful. Yet, it is so essential that we be so, because thankfulness comes from our enjoyment in Christ. When we realize who and what He is and our indebtedness to Him, we then respond. This is the opposite of people who are centered upon themselves and who whine, nitpick, and moan when things do not go as they would like, which only leads to the buildup of anger and anxiety-neither of which can change their situation. Being grateful leads to having joy and becoming a better Christian for our Lord's glory (Phil. 2:14; 4:6; Col. 1:12; 3).
What Gratitude does to our Personality
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18
· When we commit ourselves to Jesus, He gives us wholeness and the ability to have character!
· When we realize our indebtedness, our personality and traditions are reworked so that they match up with Scripture and Christ's temperament!
· When we realize our position in Christ, we have new and better goals in life that glorify our Lord!
· When we exercise thankfulness, we can get rid of our bad personality flaws and misplaced traditions that conflict with Scripture!
· We will then be better able to commit to and honor our Lord in all that we do-and that means in our actions as well as with our words!
· When we lead, because of our gratitude, we will point others to Christ, and thus become better, more effective leaders for the Kingdom!
Yes, this is hard. The practice of anything that is worthy has its obstacles and hardships that take our time and effort-including faith. We are called to open our eyes to His wonder and worship Him solely with our appreciation¾not our ways and thinking, and not our pride, hurts, or feelings. Life, church-even worship are not about how or what we feel we need or desire; rather, it is about Christ and what He intends. He is Sovereign, so let your life show it!
Questions to Ponder:
1. What causes you to be ungrateful or feel entitled to something? How does this affect your faith and growth?
2. What does it mean to you that God is a rescuer? Have you ever thought that you were rescued from the pound (animal shelter) where you were headed for the death sentence?
3. Consider the early Pilgrims and some Holocaust survivors; how can their stories give you more of an attitude for gratitude?
4. Take some time in prayer and carefully examine what you already have in Christ. It is more than you realize.
5. Take some time in prayer and carefully examine some reasons why you should be grateful.
6. Why should your gratitude not be just because of what you have in the bank or closet?
7. How does one's plenty/lack of it or situation affect hope and joy? How can Christ be your joy?
8. Now, how can you be grateful when life has it setbacks and frustrations or when things do not go your way?
9. How can an attitude of thanksgiving set the tone for your life and relationships? What do you need to do to set this life theme and tone for your personality, actions, and reactions?
10. What can you do to be more grateful-not just for things and stuff, but for whom our Lord is and what He did?
11. How does being grateful give you joy? What can you do to have more joy? How will gratitude now be your motivation to worship, and not styles or feelings? How will this allow you to mature in the faith?
12. What did it take for you to realize your depravity and past hopelessness with sin? Now that you have the great wonder of salvation and purpose for living, how will this affect your ability to be appreciative to God and others?
More passages on which to reflect about how gratitude affects all you are and do in life: Psalm 55:22; Matthew 4:18-20; 5:22, 37; 12: 33-37; 15:1-20; Romans 5:3-5; 8:38-39; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Ephesians 4; Colossians 1:21-23; 3:15-17; 4:2-6; 1Timothy 1:10; James 1:3; 3:6; Revelation 21:8
© 2009, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org/