There’s a verse in the New Testament letter of Thessalonians – Paul writes, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in…” Now stop! Look up the verse – 1 Thessalonians 5:18. Once you read it, fill in this blank. How many circumstances are we supposed rejoice in? ______________________. Remember, as Paul writes, “this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “Did you get that? A small exercise, a short, little verse in the New Testament can challenge and change your entire perspective on life.
There was this Pastor of a large church in California. He was speaking one Sunday morning and he was actually hearing grumbling going on in the sanctuary. He asked someone at the beginning of his message what was going on and someone spoke up, “everyone got blank bulletins this week, what’s up?” This is how the pastor responded,
“Well, I’m glad you noticed because RIGHT NOW we’re going to train everyone in this place to embrace a spirit of gratitude. So right now, it is time to start. I’m glad you noticed when you came in and got a bulletin that it’s blank! Did anybody complain about that and wonder what that crazy Pastor was up to now? Here’s your instructions – this was all done for a purpose – open that bulletin up now if you would, and get out a pen or pencil. This is deliberate. We’re going to try an exercise in this sermon, because sometimes during a sermon your mind will drift. Today the idea is to let your mind drift toward gratitude, and write down on this sheet what you’re grateful for. Then you can take this with you through the week. You can start right now. I’ll give you a few categories. Maybe there are individuals God will bring to your mind: a family member, or a coworker, or a teacher. You just want to write their names down. Or an experience: getting to go to school, or work, or travel. Or a time when you were suffering and God comforted you. Maybe you think of just a small gift: an encouraging word from somebody, a phone call, a text, a good night’s sleep, food you love to eat. Maybe it’s life-changing gifts: our faith, the Bible, the death of Jesus on the cross so I can be forgiven, the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide me, spiritual gifts, a community like the church. Through the message, God will nudge you with something you’re grateful for. When he does, just keep that pen out and write it down. By the end of this message you’ll have wonderful words to look at, and we’ll talk to God about it.”
As you can imagine, that message had quite an impact. The pastor, John, began his message with a hypothesis…in fact, it was a great experiment. HE BELIEVED THAT THE MORE GRATITUDE WILL NOT COME FROM MORE ACQUISITIONS AND MORE STUFF, BUT FROM MORE AWARENESS OF GOD’S PRESENCE AND GOD’S GOODNESS. Friends, there are therapeutic benefits to gratitude. There are a lot of them. They’re good things. Trust me on this, people’s lives have been changed by one small emotional and spiritual choice – “I’m moving away from complaining and I’m moving toward being thankful.” Being grateful, being thankful is not only an encouragement from Jesus himself through the scripture it is a gift Jesus can give to you! HOW? Right now, stop for a few moments and ask yourself what you are thankful for that is a specific gift from Jesus? If you said, “his love, grace, mercy, sacrifice for me, gift of new life, promise of resurrection, hope, joy, or any other positive gift that you think of when thinking of Jesus, that is a good place to start. Thanking Jesus every day at the beginning of the day sets your heart on gratitude rather than complaint. Have you ever wondered why some days simply go badly? For many people, myself included, it starts NOT with something catastrophic but rather simple – a simple grumbling spirit…a small complaint, a negative perspective and soon our “vision” for the day is set in stone and we are on the lookout for life’s disappointments. Why not reverse that trend?
I believe with all my heart that we all have something to contribute to the Kingdom of God… no matter what our income, our age, our situation in life, our past failures, our limitations. Having a grateful heart, practicing an attitude of gratitude can not only change you but every person around you! Gratitude is contagious. If you wondered if Paul was being unrealistic in the verse above…when he said to be thankful in all circumstances he was not only being profound but speaking a life-changing truth. A grateful heart is a happy heart. A thankful disposition is a contagious disposition. If you practice gratitude, it might be the greatest gift that you can give not only to yourself, Jesus but to every other person you encounter today and every day. Give THANKS in all circumstances!