Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 20, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude

Cultivating Gratitude

How do we show gratitude to others? One of my kindergartners in Sunday School is learning to express his gratitude by saying thank you. Each week as he leaves our room, his mother asks: “What do you say?” The little fellow will turn to me and obediently, almost bashfully say, “Thank you.” But this same kindergartner also expresses his gratitude by what he does. Throughout the morning, he listens and follows directions. He helps stack the blocks and put away materials, treats others kindly, and helps pour juice and pass out snacks. Such actions of kindness and helpfulness can also reflect an appreciation and gratefulness for what others do for us.

Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated? I’ve learned that when someone expresses true gratitude and appreciation for something I have done, it energizes me and makes me want to do even more. It seems that true gratitude leads to more kindness, then more gratitude, then more kindness, on an on. It’s a pretty good cycle to get into. But I’ve also discovered that phony and sincere gratitude are quite easy to distinguish. While we can learn to say thank you and even be polite, true gratitude is much, much deeper. True gratitude comes from the heart and it is often felt more than it is even heard.

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of 10 lepers who called for Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests. As the lepers went to the priests, they were all healed of their leprosy. One of the lepers, when he saw that he had been cleansed, returned to Jesus, fell down at His feet and gave Him thanks. Jesus asked a haunting question: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).

I wonder if God sometimes wonders where I am. Like the nine, do I receive His daily gifts and benefits; loving answers to prayer; and unexpected, even miraculous, blessings and just continue on my way? Psalm 118:1 reminds us: Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” David prayed: I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

Every new morning is a gift from our Father’s hand. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the joys we know are all expressions of His love, mercy, and grace. How do I thank Him? Like David, I want to praise Him with my whole heart. But how do I do that? Through the years I’ve experienced times when I felt my heart was just overflowing with thanksgiving to God for His good gifts. Unfortunately, however, I’ve also experienced times when I’ve carelessly and selfishly accepted those blessings as if He owed them to me. How do we cultivate true gratitude?

While we can be taught to say thank you and even a certain measure of appreciation, I believe that true gratitude comes from the heart. It is not something that we necessarily learn, but something that overflows from within us. A lack of thankfulness and gratitude – not only to God, but also as it is expressed to others – generally points to something amiss in our hearts. We can take some clues from the leper who said thank you.

  • Return to the Savior.

When the leper saw that he was healed, he returned to Jesus.  Chances are if we don’t feel particularly thankful or grateful, we need to look at our hearts. 1 John 3:20 states: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” Are we harboring sin in our hearts? Is there pride, a critical or judgmental spirit, jealousy or envy? Is sin hindering God’s Spirit within us? If so, 1 John 1:9 reminds us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is hard to not feel thankful and grateful when we confess our sin and receive His pardon and forgiveness.

  • Recognize the Giver.

The leper recognized who had healed him. James 1:17 states:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Sometimes it may be a beautiful sunrise that speaks peace and wonder to His child. At other times, He may guide other individuals to be His instruments to bless, encourage, strengthen, and help in some specific way. But every good gift originates from Him to bless His child.

  • Rejoice in the Lord.

The leper praised and glorified God. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!  Philippians 4:4). When we glorify God, we take a step beyond just saying thank you. We exalt and honor the Giver – not just for what He gives us but for who He is. As a result, we express our gratitude not only with our words, but also with our actions.

Like the leper, when we return to Jesus, recognize Him as the Giver, and rejoice in Him, we cannot help but have a heart overflowing with gratitude. My kindergartner in Sunday School is learning how to say thank you and express his gratitude, but as I watch his kind and helpful actions each week, something tells me that he is also learning something about Jesus.  Because it is through Him that we truly cultivate a heart of gratitude that bubbles up and spills over into our actions and into our thanksgiving and praise!

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