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Growing in Gratitude

This spirituthankful coupleal exercise is especially geared for families. Everyone, from the oldest to the youngest, can participate in it. Sometimes we overlook the most basic principles in God’s word as we search for keys to spiritual growth because we assume that we’re beyond the ‘children’s lessons.’ If we all take an honest look at our own hearts, we will have to admit that in this one, the children have passed us by. It’s high time we learn how to have and practice a thankful heart. In doing so, we will discover that this is the key to many areas of growing spiritually. Romans 1:21 shows us that ingratitude is a root of many horrible sins, and likewise, developing an attitude of gratitude will affect many areas of our life and help us to grow in Christ. It is sobering to recognize that all ingratitude stems from pride, feeling we never get as much as we deserve.

The primary motivation for exercising this character quality is simply that God has commanded us in His Word, "In everything give thanks."(I Thessalonians 5:18) This verse leaves no doubt what we’re supposed to do or how often we should do it, nor does it give room for exceptions. Everything means everything. True gratefulness springs from an awareness of our total unworthiness and inadequacy before a holy and just God. Our thanks should go first of all to God since, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above." (James 1:17) That heart of thankfulness will naturally flow out to those around us for all they do to enrich our lives as well. We want to focus especially on the importance of thanking God and give practical suggestions to help cultivate this attitude.

As with many other fruits of the Christian life, we will find that as we make deliberate choices to be thankful, whether we feel like it or not, we will soon discover a heart full of thanksgiving that naturally spills out throughout the day. At first, this takes some discipline and old-fashioned grit to get into the habit.

Perhaps you are in a very difficult situation and feel like there isn’t much to be thankful for. The challenge to you is to begin to exercise in this area today, and just see how blessed you are a week from now.

The very fact that we are being given life this moment is something to be very grateful for. God is on His throne and controlling the details of our lives. We have been promised that if we remain faithful, we will spend eternity in heaven with Him and a multitude of other blessings besides. Learn to thank God for what you do have instead of murmuring about what you don’t have. Helen Keller, whom we all know faced numerous trials in her life, had learned this lesson well and shares with us, "So much has been given to me, I have no time to ponder over that which has been denied." Our perspective makes a world of difference.

We are all very accustomed to pausing before eating a meal and giving thanks to the One who has blessed us with the food set before us, and yet why do we only thank God at those scheduled times? Shouldn’t we be just as grateful for every drink of water or a simple snack? Truly God deserves our thanks all day long for all He is continually giving us, so we should use every free moment and fill that moment with praise.

Often we desire to give God the praise that He deserves, but our downfall is our forgetfulness in the midst of a busy day. There are many ways to deal with this weakness so that we can praise the Lord all day despite the many activities that it holds. The key is to make thanksgiving an important part of the day’s plan, and it will happen. One family I visited posted signs throughout the house to remind everyone to give thanks. They made it very practical by paraphrasing I Thessalonians 5:18 to meet the situations they faced. For example, over the kitchen sink the sign said, "In washing dishes give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." These signs quickened the minds of the children to be thankful in everything, even the tasks that were harder to rejoice in.

Another family used a timer to cultivate this habit of thanking God. The timer was set for one hour and as soon as it would ring, everyone would pause for a moment and thank God for something or sing a song of thanksgiving together. The timer was then reset for the next hour, and so on. Can you imagine the peace and joy that would reign in a home like this where God is being exalted and praised every hour? It only takes a moment! Simply going through the exercise of making a thanksgiving list periodically as a family (including all the little things) will help open your eyes to all that God has given.

Maybe you’re like me and have learned that you simply can’t trust your memory or your resolutions for more than a few minutes. My lofty goal of remembering to thank God for something every few minutes fades from memory within an hour of beginning my work. So when I began this spiritual exercise, I wrote a ‘T’ for thanksgiving on my hand each morning (this spiritual life is also practical, after all). In the course of a day’s work, it reminded me innumerable times to pause and thank God.

If you’re saying, "It all sounds good, but that’s just not my personality," I have wonderful news for you. The power of Jesus is about transformation, radical change and new beginnings. Believe it or not, the most die-hard pessimist can become an optimist who loves living and sees the bright side in everything. It is amazing how quickly the habit is established and you will find thanksgiving flowing out of your heart and mouth without effort. The fact is, there is a very bright side in everything.

Children being brought up in a home like this will not need to be taught to be thankful. They will pick it up naturally because they’ll constantly be hearing their parents making positive comments about the beautiful sunshine (not the awfully hot day), delicious food from the garden (not all the tiring work that goes into it), and the joy of a sweet little baby (not the sleepless nights).

Begin exercising gratitude by willingly receiving all things from the sovereign hand of God and finding the benefits in each circumstance, and you’ll be amazed to discover just how blessed your family really is.

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