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Nov 23, 2020 08:00am
How to be Intentional About Gratitude
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For many of us, the Thanksgiving holiday this year will certainly look different from what we are accustomed to. It seems that Covid-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives this year and the holidays promise to be affected as well.

If we are honest, for many of us, thankfulness has come a little tougher this year. There has been so much disruption and chaos that discontentment and discouragement have sometimes won out over hearts of gratitude. We know it shouldn’t be that way but sometimes it’s hard to will ourselves into thankfulness.

Maybe that’s not a problem for you but it is for me.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THANKSGIVING

I probably don’t have to convince you that thankfulness is important. If you have ever opened a Bible you have probably seen it stressed. If you have ever heard a prayer, it was likely mentioned. You were probably taught to say “Thank you” at an early age. So instinctively, we understand that the concept of thankfulness and thanksgiving are important.

But sometimes, I think we fail to understand just how important.

I could pick a hundred verses from the Bible to share about thankfulness, but there are two that stand out to me. They show the priority that should be placed on thanksgiving:

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise! Be thankful unto Him and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4)

OK, probably not an earthshaking revelation to you. It’s likely a verse you’ve heard before. You may even be able to quote it from memory.

But have you noticed the priority position described by the very first word?  We are to “enter” into His gates with thanksgiving. That is the beginning point as we approach God. Everything else follows our “entering with thanksgiving”. Sure, confession is important, but we “ENTER with thanksgiving”. Certainly, we are instructed to bring our problems and requests before Him, but first we are to ENTER with thanksgiving”.

All the other stuff is important but there is a positional priority given to thanksgiving. It is the posture that we are to take as we interact with and experience the presence of God in our lives. There is no substitute for “entering with thanksgiving”.

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Again, maybe not the most earthshaking verse. But focus for a moment on the words from the middle: “for this is God’s will for you”.

After a person comes to faith in Christ, one of the most often asked questions that they have is about God’s will for their life. In my experience, it is a question and a quest that never goes away.

And I, nor anyone else that I know, can determine God’s will for your life. His will for you is specific to you. There are people who can guide you as you seek that will, but ultimately it is between you and God.

But I can tell you that one component of being in God’s will is being thankful. The above verse makes that clear. You can be thankful and still not be in God’s will. But you cannot be fully in God’s will without being thankful.

So even in the chaos of 2020, are we really supposed to be thankful?

If we want to be in God’s will, we are.

THE OBJECTS OF THANKSGIVING

I suppose that it is possible to be thankful without expressing thanksgiving. In fact, I know it is because I do it a lot. And that’s a shame.

Just as faith in Christ without expressing that faith publicly is anemic at best, so is thankfulness without expression. I have heard it said that unexpressed gratitude is worthless. I won’t go quite that far but I won’t argue the point either.

Genuine thankfulness expresses itself in thanksgiving.

And to express thanksgiving, we must have objects of our thanksgiving.

You know, Jesus was pretty direct in boiling down the requirements of our faith to loving God and loving others. God and others are the objects of our love. In fact, it seems incredible that He pretty much equated love of people with love of God.

So it seems to me that the objects of our thanksgiving would be the same. We are to give thanks to God, but we are also to express thanksgiving to others.

Certainly, nothing should compare to our thankfulness to God. After all, without him there would be nothing at all to be thankful for.

But just as Jesus put loving others right up there on the priority list, being thankful to others deserves a prominent place on our priority list as well. Perhaps showing thankfulness to others is actually a part of our showing thankfulness to God.

THE EXPRESSION OF THANKSGIVING

OK, we all know that we need to be thankful and that we need to get better at expressing our thankfulness. 

We’ll try to focus on it for Thanksgiving and the Christmas season. We might even make it a New Years Resolution since those are always so effective.

There are tons of teachings available on the topic of gratitude, but I’ll share with you a couple of simple steps that might be of help. One of them I do daily and one I am starting tomorrow.

1. Every day, I jot down something for that day that I am thankful for. Some people call this a gratitude journal. Mine is just a piece of paper. Some of the things are big. Some are pretty mundane. Regardless, I then “enter His gates with thanksgiving” for the specific point that I wrote down. This is pretty simplistic, but it really has helped me to focus my expressions of thanksgiving to God in a meaningful way.

2. Starting right away, I intend to employ the same simple approach to generate expressions of gratitude to someone else every day. Each day, I will write down one person for whom I am thankful. And I will strive to make some type of effort to express thankfulness to that person. 

As we close, I confess that this writing has been a little tough for me. Gratitude is not one of my strong points, but God has shown me its importance in his will for my life. I am most thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that made me right with God when I believed. I am thankful that each of us has that same opportunity at righteousness. And I am thankful for you allowing me to share these thoughts with you. 

I pray that as we wind down 2020, you will “enter into His gates with thanksgiving” and embrace thanksgiving as an essential part of God’s will for your life.

Despite the disruptions of the year, I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

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