Thankfulness is reality
1 thess 5:16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thankfulness is the healthiest emotion. It is the most “real” feeling, because thankfulness aligns with the reality that all we are and have is a gift from our Creator and Redeemer–something he has graciously done and given rather than something we have earned or deserve. Every breath and every gift is from above. Therefore, when we are grateful, we are in agreement with truth, with reality. It is truly the only appropriate response from a creature to the Creator, from the redeemed to the Redeemer.
And because it’s the most real emotion, it’s the healthiest. When a person is full of thankfulness it puts their heart at rest and stimulates joy. When a person is ungrateful, envious, greedy, prideful, boastful, or complaining it robs people of joy and peace. From ungratefulness flows depression, anxiety, anger, discouragement, disunity, and such.
Faith thanks God
Romans 1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
People don’t believe in God because they are not thankful. This, Paul says in romans 1, is fundamentally what is wrong with humanity. At the core of our disease–our sin, our rebellion, our insanity–is that we are ungrateful. Idolatry begins with ungratefulness, legalism/religion begins with ungratefulness (and that rooted in a lie about God we have believed). Paul brings the indictment to all humanity: you know there is a Creator but you don’t want to acknowledge your dependance on his sustaining power and grace; you know he is the source but don’t want to give him the credit. It’s not for a lack of evidence that we struggle to believe; its for a lack of thankfulness. Our resistance to the humbling effect of worship is what blinds us and causes us to be selective in our honest assessment of the facts staring us in the face.
If we think God owes us or is stingy we try to manipulate him or control him like an idol. If we think we have to earn something from him, we become legalists seeking to earn favor. If we work for our salvation or blessing, then we are to praise. We have something to boast about. Eph 2:8
But the reason why life is a gift, and more so salvation, is because it removes all boasting in self. It destroys that pagan, religious effort. Even unhealthy responses like shame, condemnation, guilt, and such are rooted in this lie of needing to earn from God and produces ungratefulness. When something is a gift, you simply receive it with thankfulness… like a child–unbridled gratefulness and enjoyment. The truth is that God is good; that he is all good, all the time; that every good and perfect gifts come from God; that there is no darkness, wickedness, evil, ulterior motives in him. He created us because he is good, he created everything good, he created everything for our good. He loves us and wants the best. And the same motive drove him to the cross. He redeemed for our good.
If everything comes from God, if all good gifts in life are from God (James 1), then the only logical response is thankfulness. When we are ungrateful for any aspect of life, for any person or gift, we are being ungrateful to God and dishonoring him. When we complain or grumble, when we compare or are envious, we are discrediting and dishonoring the one who has given us everything.
How would you feel?
Numbers14:11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “ How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them?
What if you gave me a gift and I grabbed the gift, held it to my chest and said “thank you gift for giving me yourself.” Or what if someone asked me who gave me the gift and, while you stood silently by, I explained how I bought it, how I earned it because I’m awesome. How would you feel?
And so, faith is always thankful. Gratefulness is the manifestation of faith because it’s rooted in truth. We are grateful when we believe that God is and is a rewarder of those who seek him diligently (Hebrews 11), when we believe that he is good and every good and perfect gift comes from him, when we believe that in him we move and breathe and have our being, when we believe that he is for us and not against us…. Faith simply receives the gift with thankfulness and enjoyment. Faith boasts in God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is thankful because it embraces the truth that I did not earn this, I cannot deserve this; my life is contingent on another’s choice, work, generosity, mercy, kindness and patience. As my friend Clint says, “you can’t be thankful for something you have done.”
Philippians 2:14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world….
We have much to be thankful for (a list would stretch across the galaxies) and nothing to be ungrateful for. Mindsets like envy, complaining, blaming God and others, entitlement (you owe me), and such are rooted in ungratefulness and unbelief. These stem from faith in our efforts or in another person. Those responses and emotions are evidence we have idolatry in our hearts (see Psalms 37). They are unbecoming of a Christ follower. Those things should not be among us–in our hearts, churches, families, words. You may think you are a “fairly grateful person” but the presence of emotions and vocabulary rooted in things like envy and complaining are the opposite of gratefulness. Listen to your words, watch your heart; are you truly thankful, fundamentally thankful? Freedom begins when you realize: no one owes me anything! God doesn’t, people don’t, your parents don’t, your employer doesn’t, the government doesn’t. We need to return to the basics of life: everything is a gift from God. This is Faith 101. If our expectations or words don’t align with that truth, we have lost our way.
Can you imagine giving someone a gift only to have them ask why you didn’t spend more or why you didn’t give them what the other person got? Can you imagine them complaining about the gift? Or what if the day before Christmas, after you labored over a special present to give your friend, they bemoan, “you never give me anything, you never think of me.”–how would you feel?
Faith believes God will do what he says and waits patiently with thankfulness to come through. Faith does not compare or envy or complain. It gratefully receives from God what HE wills to give.
Thankfulness is attractive
Psalm 22:3 But You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.
God is attracted to a grateful heart. People are attracted to a grateful heart. When we are grateful we shine like lights in darkness (Philippians 2:15). Not only is thankfulness one of the healthiest emotions but it is one of the most attractive ones–to God and people. God is drawn to it. It pleases him because it honors him for who he is and what he has done. So let praise fill your lips always–Psalms 34. He is always worthy of our thankfulness, praise, rejoicing, worship.
If you want to always be filled with the Spirit, always saturated in his presence; If you want God to be drawn to you, attracted to you; if you want him to want to be around you; if you long for the presence of the Lord then always praise him. Aren’t you the same? Would you rather be around a grateful person or a complainer? If someone always talks about themselves or always complains, do you feel drained or filled?
Psalms 100:1 Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.
Ephesians 5:18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…
And thankfulness attracts people who are far from God, without hope, in disappear. When they see light shining at the end of their dark tunnel they run to it. When they hear words of thankfulness, see you filled with joy even in hard times, observe your contentment and peace in a storm, they are experiencing your faith which points to God’s faithfulness and truth. Your thankfulness is a great witness of Christ, your gratefulness shouts “hope” to them. So shine!
Thankfulness is the healthiest emotion
And finally, to repeat, thankfulness is the healthiest emotion. When you are grateful you will break anxiety and control, fear, and anger; you will break depression and hopelessness. When you align your heart and words with truth by thanking God (out loud with praise) for who he is, what he has done and what he has promised (i.e. In alignment with his Word), you will find the fruits of joy and peace fill your heart, reshape your emotions, renew your mind, and transform your attitude and the quality of your relationships, ministry, work, and life. Simply begin to say, “Thank you Lord for… (Insert truth from the Word of God)”. Do this about everything in your life. Simply begin to speak and sing praise to God throughout your day. Like a seed planted in the ground, thankfulness begins in the heart and then manifests in our emotions, thoughts, and relationships. Like a seed, it takes time to germinate, grow and bear fruit. But if you stick with it, you will experience a harvest of wholeness. Thankfulness can literally transform your whole life. It is that powerful! You will see the desires of your heart fulfilled, greater fruitfulness, confidence, blessing, and such when you are thankful. And even in the hard times, you will have a joy and peace inside you that the storms of this life can’t touch. Can you imagine: everything falls apart and everyone else is freaking out, but you are totally at rest, filled with joy, intimately connected to God, filled with praise, confidently waiting on the Lord. Why? Because you chose to be thankful. It is that simple! It may not be easy, but it is that simple!
Thankfulness changed my life!
Are these just ideas? Or is this what has transformed my life? If someone were to ask me what is the one habit that has changed your life? I would simply reply, “Thankfulness!”. In a time of deep despair, depression, hopelessness, unbelief, and bondage the Lord led me to thank him. First, for each day. Then, for life itself. Then, for the cross. Then, for every truth about him, every gift from him, and every promise to me. He coached me to voice reality with a grateful heart. He taught me to align my words with his Word in praise. That simple lesson was THE transition point for breakthrough in my life, relationships, ministry; it was that small act that has rippled through the rest of my life releasing joy, confidence, rest, and influence.
Try it: 24-7 thankfulness for years. The let me know the results. I’m a satisfied costumer.