Updated: Nov 8
Take a moment to answer this question honestly: “Is your gratitude evident to others as you follow Christ?” We may feel like we are grateful people, but the key words for me in the question are “to others”. If I am truly grateful, is that inner gratitude overflowing in my life onto people I interact with daily, including my family?
Here’s what Greg Stier shares about how Christians in general are seen in our culture: Far too many times we, as Christians, are known for our whining and complaining instead of our gratefulness and thanksgiving. Sadly, we are often seen as a group of uptight, far-right and full-of-spite ungratefuls who long for “the good old days” of yesteryear instead of a humble, grateful people who count it an honor to be followers of Jesus in a fallen culture. (1)
As I ponder the question and Greg Stier’s comment, I began to mentally rehearse all the good things that come from having a relationship with Christ - forgiveness of my sins, my eternity secure in Christ, the power to walk in daily freedom in this life, etc. As I ponder all the wonderful things that come from having a relationship with Christ, gratitude should be evident in my words, my actions, and my attitudes.
In addition to all the “benefits” that we have from trusting Christ, many, many places in both the Old and New Testaments, God shares with us about the importance of gratitude. And it should start with thankfulness to Him:
Psalm 9:1-2 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High.
Psalm 105:1-2: Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. Sing to Him; yes, sing His praises. Tell everyone about His wonderful deeds.
James 1:17: Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
As you read the above passages, it is clear that we are to give thanks and be grateful. And this must be done from a heart full of true gratitude, or it will just be idle words with no real heart behind them. If everything we have is from Him, then who else would we thank?
Some Other Passages to Share:
But what about other places in Scripture where the call to follow Christ does not sound so wonderful? I was reading recently in Philippians 1, verse 29: “For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for Him.” Now the “trusting in Christ” and all that comes with that sound good to me. But what’s this about “suffering for Him”? Am I supposed to be grateful for that? And is that another area where my gratitude should be evident to others?
We are directed by God in the Scripture to give thanks for whatever our circumstances are. Here is what Paul shares in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
And Peter similarly shares this in 1 Peter 1:6-7: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
It is not difficult to give thanks when things are going my way. That is easy for most of us to do. But how do we give thanks in times of suffering, or times when we do not understand why we are going through this difficulty? Can we truly give thanks in those seasons? And can we be a witness to God’s work of gratitude in us even in these situations?
Two Things to Consider:
As we ask God to help us grow in truly being grateful as we follow Him and make that gratitude evident to others, I want to encourage you to seriously consider doing two things to help:
Rehearse the Gospel Truth: If you read Paul’s epistles in the New Testament, you see him taking long sections of those letters to remind those folks what God has already done for them. He knew it was essential for every Christ-follower to understand their identity in Christ so they could live out His mission for them.
So we need to rehearse the basic truths of the Gospel to ourselves on a regular basis. If you have not done so recently, read Ephesians 1:3-14, as you give thanks that you are “redeemed”, “adopted”, “forgiven”, “chosen”, etc. Rehearsing these truths often to ourselves helps give us a real heart of gratitude, knowing that we were dead in our trespasses and sins and enemies of God. But God chose, forgave, redeemed and adopted us as part of His covenant family. Lord, help us never to get over those amazing truths!! And help those truths to penetrate my heart to an extent that gratitude flows out on all around me!
Remain Focused on the Desired Result: Take a moment to re-read the 1 Peter passage above. As you ponder the Lord’s words through Peter, ask the Lord to help you remain focused on the desired result of the various trials we experience in this life: “the tested genuineness of your faith.” James shares a similar thought in verses 3-4 or Chapter 1: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
God desires to use the challenging times in our lives to grow our faith, our endurance, and ultimately our character. And if we cooperate with God in those trials, He can and will use those situations to grow us and make our gratitude evident to others. But we must remain focused on what the Lord is doing, rather than on the circumstances themselves. We must set our minds on things above, not things of this earth, as Paul exhorts the Colossians.
Final Scripture to Ponder:
Colossians 3:17: And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
As you read and ponder this verse, think about it in the context of all that has been shared so far, related to gratitude. For me, phrases like “whatever you do or say” and “giving thanks” certainly stand out. But the phrase that really brings both conviction and humility is “do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus”! The reality that you and I are going to be a representative, or example, to others of how we handle the good and bad situations in life. What kind of representative will we be?
Let’s believe together that God has both designed us and empowered us to be a faithful representative of Him, in both the comfortable and challenging situations of our lives. And then, believing this truth, and filled with Your Spirit, let’s walk daily into giving thanks in all circumstances so that we can show others what it means to have a heart overflowing with gratitude to God!
Suggested Prayer: Lord, wherever You have me today, in the easy and not-so-easy situations I face, fill me with Your Spirit so that I can, from my heart, truly give thanks to You. Remind me that You are working to refine and mature me into the image of Your Son. And help me to never get over the amazing Gospel truths of who I am as your Adopted Child!! May those truths penetrate my heart to an extent that gratitude flows out on all those around me, especially in my closest human relationships - my spouse, family, and friends. I cannot do this without Your help, Lord. Thank You! In the Name of Jesus!
1) Ask your spouse, a close friend, or family member if they see you as a grateful person. Find someone who you know will answer honestly and not just say what you want to hear. If they say they see you as grateful, give thanks to God and ask Him to help you continue growing in gratitude. And if not, ask the Lord to humble you as you confess to either not being grateful to Him for all He has done for you as a Christ-follower, or not representing that gratefulness outwardly to others.
2) Consider taking time to check out (read or listen) to one of the resources shown below. Ask the Lord to use those resources to help you grow in gratitude so you can be a faithful and grateful representative of the King!
Other Resources of Gratitude:
Abiding Marriage Podcast: Gratitude in Marriage #11 - released December 2022. Find it where you listen to your podcasts.
Les and Leslie Parrot: https://www.symbis.com/blog/practicing-gratitude-in-marriage/
Gary Thomas on Billy Graham Site: https://billygraham.org/story/how-to-appreciate-an-imperfect-spouse/
(1) Greg Stier Online Post: https://gregstier.org/10-reasons-christians-should-be-the-most-thankful-people-on-the-planet/
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Please email us at info@AbidingMarriage.org with any comments or questions.