Pastoral Support: Benefits of Being Thankful
Written By: Glenn C. Stewart
“The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond to it,” (Charles Swindoll).
Everyone, even ministry leaders and pastors, can benefit from being reminded about the importance of gratitude. Scripture instructs us to, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
We are to have an attitude of thankfulness. It is to be our habitual practice. It is a personal choice (enabled by grace and the Spirit) we each must make continually.
How can we do that? Honesty compels us to admit there are times that we don’t feel like being grateful to anyone for anything. But for the Christian, being thankful is not optional. Thankfully the instruction is not to give thanks for everything but in everything. That makes a difference. Our circumstances may not be prompting gratitude but in them we can be grateful for God and His love.
Thanksgiving is part of healthy Christian living. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (present tense) through Him (Christ Jesus) to God the Father. There is something about our relationship with Christ that always gives us reason to be thankful.
Thanksgiving is an excellent antidote for anxiety or worry…
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God,” (Philippians 4:6).
Below are two specific spiritual benefits of giving thanks.
2 Spiritual Benefits of Being Thankful:
A thanksgiving focus helps us overcome deep anxieties. The New Testament teaches that gratitude is related to spiritual health in two different ways. We’ll use a medical model to explore this.
1) Gratitude is a “thermometer” that indicates the state of your spiritual health. A thermometer is a tool that tells you if you have one of the symptoms of physical illness (fever). It is not a medicine. You don’t put the thermometer in the freezer and then stick it into your mouth to break your fever. You put it in your mouth and it tells you if you have a fever. In the same way, the presence or absence of gratitude in your dealings with God is one of the most reliable indicators of your spiritual health. This is because it is the normal and natural result of personally understanding and receiving God’s grace. Grace means charity—a gift to the undeserving. So, I am grateful for what God has given me that I don’t deserve.
2) Gratitude is a “medicine” that promotes your spiritual health. Gratitude is not a feeling that dictates your choices; it is a choice that affects your feelings. This is what Paul is emphasizing in this passage. Most of the New Testament passages on gratitude are imperatives, addressed to our will rather than to our emotions. He is not prescribing for us how we must feel; he is calling on us to choose to rejoice and thank God on the basis of what is true–regardless of how happy or thankful we may feel. This is a key insight into biblical spirituality. It involves our feelings and experiences, but it is not rooted in them, because they are fallen and broken and unreliable. It is rooted in God’s truth and our choice to express faith in the truth, often in spite of what we feel. This is why the notion that it is hypocritical to thank God unless you feel grateful is false. Choosing by faith to thank God in spite of intense feelings of depression, disappointment, anxiety, etc. is deeply spiritual. This is why if you wait until you feel grateful to thank God, you will feel less and less grateful. But if you choose to thank God regardless of how you feel, you will feel more grateful more often.
What is the state of your spiritual health? Your circumstances may be difficult and you may feel discouraged in ministry, but I challenge you to choose an attitude of thanksgiving. Gratitude is a key step of faith that unleashes God’s blessing into your experience.
A Free Thanksgiving Sermon – Plus Some Extras…
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