Observations on life; particularly spiritual

An attitude of gratitude

Let's thank God for transient blessings and for enduring blessingsCharles Swindoll said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life… Attitude is more important than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company, or a church, or a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past; we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.” But how can we cultivate a lifestyle (or attitude) of thankfulness?

This post is based on a message by Andrew Cowell, Co-Director of GLO Ministries Australia.

When 72 of Christ’s followers returned from a short-term mission trip, the Bible says, “The 72 returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’ He replied, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven’” (Lk. 10:17-20NIV).

Here are two keys to cultivating a thanksgiving lifestyle.

Thankfulness for transient blessings

The messengers joyfully report the exorcism of demons in Christ’s power (v.17-19). Nothing matters more than freeing people from the domain of Satan. They had seen people rescued from Satan’s kingdom.

When Jesus responded, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”, He entered into their joy. It’s a simile. When the disciples drove out demons, Satan was being defeated. It was a foretaste of Satan being cast out of heaven (Rev. 12:7-9). And then He used a metaphor (to trample on snakes and scorpions) to say that during their mission they had authority to overcome Satan’s power. The demons couldn’t harm them – “nothing will harm you”.

They were joyful and thanked God for a transient blessing. So the first key to cultivating a thanksgiving lifestyle is to develop a habit of thanking God for the transient blessings that He gives us in everyday life.

The Bible says, “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Th. 5:18). “All circumstances” covers all our transient moments. We need to develop a habit of giving thanks for the transient blessings by “overflowing with thankfulness” (Eph. 5:20; Col. 2:7; 3:15, 17; 4:2).

What are you thankful for?How can we do this? By looking out for “God sightings” in our day. If we’re looking for “God-sightings”, there’s always something to praise Him for and there’s always something to trust Him for. Look for signs of His goodness and greatness. For example,
– Look out for God in your quiet time, like a “just for me” Bible verse; when God speaks to you personally from a verse in Scripture.
– Look out for answers to prayer, like a parking spot or something more significant.
– Look out for God’s general grace, like a beautiful sunrise or a good night’s sleep.
– Look out for God’s divine providence, like a timely gift or His overruling control.
– Look out for “God sightings” in the words and actions of fellow believers, like an encouraging text message. Thank God for good friends.

But Jesus doesn’t only want us to thank God for the transient moments. Because we live in a fallen world, these moments come and go. They are not always there. Jesus promised that until He returns, believers will suffer. He also wants us to cultivate a thanksgiving lifestyle by thanking God for His enduring blessings.

Thankfulness for enduring blessings

Jesus told the 72 messengers that there was something better than the transient blessings, “However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Lk. 10:20). He wants us to go further than the transient by developing a habit of thanking God for the enduring blessings that only come from eternal life. He wants us to focus on what endures forever. This key to thankfulness is only available to those who have trusted in Christ’s salvation in order to be reconciled with God.

The greatest source of joy has nothing to do with earthy events. It comes from knowing your name is written in God’s heavenly book, and that you are assured a place in His eternal kingdom (Phil. 4:13; Rev. 20:15). The writing is like in a permanent formal document that can never be taken away. It’s permanent, not temporal. It’s everlasting, not momentary. It’s eternal. The fact that we have eternal life with God is the source of real joy.

Here are some enduring blessings that we can be thankful for:
– The salvation we have through Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).
– The plans that are developed for us (Jer. 29:11; Eph. 2:10).
– The transformation taking place within us (2 Cor. 5:17).
– The future guaranteed and waiting for us (Jn. 14:1-4). The best is yet to come.
– The promises that are true about us (Josh. 23:14; 2 Cor. 1:20).

So Jesus gave the 72 messengers two keys to cultivating a thanksgiving lifestyle (attitude) – to be thankful for both transient and enduring blessings. And both of these brought joy into their lives (Lk. 10:17-20).

Whingers and thankers

From my personal observation in life there are two categories of people, the whingers, and the thankers. And as you get older, one of those is going to get greater.

Simply listen to the conversations around you; there’s a lot of complaining going on! And it’s easy to come up with a list of reasons to complain. After all, we live in a broken world, and life doesn’t operate the way it was meant to. Family and friends will wrong you, good health will elude you, and authority will exploit you.

At the same time, there are other people who seem to find many reasons to be thankful. Every day they seem to be able to point out how God’s common grace has provided them with many physical blessings. Despite living in the same broken world, and confronting the same disappointments, these people remain thankful.

This shows that thanksgiving is an inner attitude, not an environmental thing. What do you need to stop complaining about? What can you thank God for today?

What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?Practicing gratitude

God wants us to be thankful in “all circumstances” and not just on special occasions like Christmas and Thanksgiving. Here are some ways to cultivate an attitude of gratitude:
–  Write down what you are thankful for. Keep a gratitude journal. Write a thank-you message.
– Tell someone what you are thankful for.
– Tell God in prayer what you are thankful for.
– Trust in Christ’s salvation so you can be thankful for God’s enduring blessings.

Gratitude is about feeling and expressing appreciation. And it’s being contented. The Bible says, “be content with what you have” (Heb. 13:5). And be “content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12). Gratitude counters impatience, intolerance, anger, resentment, self-pity and self-centeredness. There’s always something to be grateful for, even in the midst of adversity, such as elderly people confronting death, those with cancer, people with chronic illness or chronic pain, and those in recovery from addiction. Expressing thankfulness helps us remember that God is in control. But our gratefulness is tested during sickness, death and trouble.

Conclusion

A thanks-giving lifestyle starts by thanking God for the transient blessings we come across in everyday life. A thanks-living lifestyle is cultivated by thanking God for the enduring blessings that flow from eternal life. And both of these bring joy into our lives.

Don’t be a whinger in 2020, be a thanker instead!

Acknowledgement

This post is based on a message by Andrew Cowell, Co-Director of GLO Ministries Australia.

Written, January 2020

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