In the Part I, I suggested that our purpose—God’s will for our lives is to live out gratitude. In the second part, I discussed the challenges of living our purpose with the proliferation of mass media and social media images. In this final part, I desire for you to understand gratitude as gifts-yes, more than one gift- in that the more that we live it, the more gratitude benefits us and the world around us. Here are three of the countless ways gratitude acts as sacred gifts to our lives.
1. Invitations and Opportunities
Expressing thankfulness can be easy when the sun is shining on you and everything seems to be going our way. It requires little to be thankful when we feel terrific about our situation. Other than being a person who is continually plagued with a negative outlook, it does nothing for our faith and our spirituality to be thankful only in good times. To express gratitude and find peace when life becomes turbulent have more substance. Over the years, I have come to perceive invitations and opportunities:
Invitations and opportunities to knowing God with greater depth.
Invitations and opportunities to grow and expand in ways I never could have without these experiences.
Invitations and opportunities to deepen my faith.
To live in gratitude.
Following Christ means there will be unexpected rough air on the flight and that there will be sufferings. With these sufferings we get to know Him in new ways. I can respect this aspect of a Christ centered path. In these moments, scriptures like Philippians 3:10 KJV waters my soul in different ways. The words of the writer sums up a deep knowing, yearning, and affirmation that comes from taking up these invitation, in stating, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.”
I do not want to know God for only what He can do for me. I do not want to trust God only when things are going the way I want them to.
To know Him is know all of Him. Likewise, I do not want fair-weather friends who only come around when they want something from me or when things are going well. I want depth of intimacy that comes from walking together through life’s ups and downs. I seek the kind of relationships where gratitude is mutually expressed for each other, not for what we can do for each other, but because of a love for who we are as God’s children. As for me, friends are markedly different from acquaintances.
Gosh, I can wax on about gratitude. I suppose this series will not be my last time on this subject because I keep receiving invitations for more thanksgiving. Even on this week, with the help of a friend, I discovered how a lack of gratitude in a particular area of my life was the root of my frustration. Accepting the invitation to choose gratitude ended an internal war that, initially, I did not perceive as a gratitude problem. Thank God for another opportunity to draw closer to Him and for greater peace.
2. The Gratitude and Abundance Connection
Gratitude is a precursor to miracles. Gratitude is a precursor to abundance. Thanksgiving takes us out of the woe is me and creates an environment and atmosphere of abundance. It transforms us from being defined by our immediate circumstances. It is as if we live on a different spiritual plane, not bound by, and yet feeling the physical realm. As for existing, when we live wanting in gratitude, we live in lack. We slowly begin to create a spiritual drought within. I can appreciate why through Christ, we are not bound to some rudimentary scale to give. Through gratitude, we live abundantly because we give cheerfully and liberally.
God loves a cheerful giver. When our hearts are open with love and kindness, we trust Him more. It downright feels good to be trusted.
God is not a formula. I see people reduce spiritual living into a formulaic system. That is if we do abc, we get xyz in return. Although I believe we reap what we sow, when we are focused on greedy gain we are not walking in the fullness of gratitude are living in some form of disconnect.
Jesus is the ultimate example of living our purpose of gratitude. He felt pain, anger, grief, and sorrows from this world. He did not live with a persistent bad attitude and plagued by worry, even when faced with physically, naturally, rationally impossible situations. When Jesus blessed the two fish and five loaves of bread to miraculously feed five thousand people,
Some of us would have been hangry and then some in the same situation.
I can imagine a complaint along this line:
“God, we are out here starvin like Marvin. It is hotter than Hades. I smell like the outdoors, and all we got is a leftover two piece and a biscuit. I am ready to go.”
As another example, when the marriage supper ran out of wine, Jesus, defied science and miraculously turned water into the best wine of the entire event. He could not do it without thanksgiving. Often, in our focus on the faith and power of Christ, we can overlook how He lived gratitude. He continually gloried the Father in heaven and thanked Him. Jesus was ever thankful and grateful. With His abundant gratitude, I believe Jesus provides a model for us.
3. Gratitude as a Weapon
Gratitude works as a weapon. Unlike weapons to wielded against others, by weapon, I am speaking of a spiritual spiritual weapon. When we consider the model of Jesus, we recognize that gratitude invites supernatural heavy lifting for loads we cannot bear with all of our physical strength.
After all, our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God through the pulling down of strongholds. Thankfulness takes our focus off the problem and the circumstances. When things do not make sense and when people think you should curse God, this is the very time to thank Him.
After walking with the Lord for some time, I have learned (some easy and hard lessons), that it is better to allow God to fight my battles. Admittedly, still, I have moments when I am ready to set Jesus on the shelf like that Christmas elf, while I handle biznih, Folks. Typically, I use the opportunity to die to myself and grow spiritually-and do that bigger person thing many of us learned in elementary school. I use “typically” because so far so good. “Always” and “never” take me out of relying on God’s grace. I prefer to own my humanity.
And in owning our humanity, we are not alone in this world in all of our strivings. When we choose to remain in God’s presence, praising him for the victory, we live in a much more peaceful and powerful place. Do you know how it feels when people really believe in you? If it lights you up, imagine how God feels when you trust Him in your actions and words of thanksgiving?
God loves to see our faith activated through our belief in Him. God loves to see us living in the fullness of gratitude. He loves to see our world expand and grow because we choose to surrender to living in this unrealistic realm of faith.
If anyone is cheering you on, wanting you to overcome any obstacle that comes your way, desiring for you to live victoriously, overflowing with a wealth of joy and abundance of goodness, it is God. This truth is something to be thankful for.