August 8, 2010

To Live is Christ — grateful

Gratitude can have an amazing influence on a person. We took an 85-year-old friend out for ice-cream last night. She told us about the various kinds of people living in the seniors’ facility where she lives. Many of them grumble and complain about various things, particularly being bored. She is not like that. She seldom complains and can laugh at the idiosyncrasies of life. She is a thankful person and delightful to be with — we talked and laughed for two hours.

During our visit, I told her about my mother-in-law. She used to complain about everything, but late in life she began to build her relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The last time she called, she told me that she was praying all the time and helping others who were not doing very well. She was upbeat, positive, and grateful. While Jesus is the instigator of the changes, her gratitude is like icing on His cake.

I notice it in myself too. Gratitude is calming. When I am grateful, I am not striving or struggling with the “I wants” that can easily be joy-robbers. I’m not worried either for I know that God is taking care of me and I am thankful for that too. I’ve also noticed that when I am grateful, I am not easily tempted to a whole host of other things. I understand how gratitude is an antidote to many kinds of sin, particularly those rooted in greed. 

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3–4, NIV)
While I never did like crude jokes or obscenities, I’m sometimes tempted to want more than I have, but not when I am grateful. Gratitude is realizing that God has blessed me far beyond what I deserve. How can I dishonor Him when He has been so incredibly wonderful to me? How can I think or say that what I have is not enough?

Gratitude does something else besides alleviate discontent. It makes talking about the Lord easier. I continually want to tell others something about His goodness. Besides, the contrasts in the way others speak reminds me and become an occasion to share. If someone struggles with greed and expresses frustration about their desire to have more, I empathize, but gratitude means I do not have that same attitude. They may notice this. They may even ask me about it. Gratitude makes it easier to share that even when I feel that I’ve not got all that I need, God has blessed me with contentment. He knows how to override any anxiety about our needs and can help us be satisfied. If I was not grateful, I could not praise Him like that.

Also, I am thankful for the way God speaks to me. I’m sitting here thinking how He is never mixed or muddied in what He says or intends. There is no hint of foolishness or coarseness in Him. I’m amazed how comfortable I am in His presence. He is safe to be around. He never tempts me to greed or to do anything out of place. I belong to Him and He takes care of me. I am blessed beyond measure — and very thankful.

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