The Creator of the universe took on human flesh and got beaten, spat upon, and nailed to a cross to pay for your sins and mine. Every day we wake up to a world full of unspeakable beauty and interact with God’s image-bearers. Most of the people reading this woke up in a warm house or apartment with food in the refrigerator.
How could any Christian know these truths and still be ungrateful? How can one have this much good and still have a negative outlook on life? It doesn’t add up.
Negativity, worry, and a critical spirit are the surest signs of ingratitude, and ingratitude is the surest sign of a Christian who just doesn’t get it.
Consider how thankfulness and a lack thereof play out in Scriptures.
In Romans 1 ingratitude is one of the first steps away from God in the spiral that ends up in total degeneracy. “…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21 NKJV). Without acknowledgement that our every breath comes from God’s goodness, we grow prideful and start thinking ourselves fully capable of living without Him.
The entire Old Testament is packed with glaring examples of how ingratitude pulls humans away from God and ruins our lives.
– All of the fruit in the garden wasn’t enough—Adam and Eve needed more.
– Being delivered from slavery, crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, and watching God slay the Egyptians wasn’t enough—Israel focused on their next complaint rather than on the incredible good God had done for them.
– Nearly every single king of Israel or Judah who could be considered a good king eventually reached a point where their pride made them forget that all their success was from God. Over and over they teach us the lesson that forgetting to give thanks inevitably leads us away from God, and the further we stray from God the worse things get.
On the flip side, though, where ingratitude leads to sin and misery, gratitude draws us nearer to God and fills us with joy. In Colossians 3:15-17, the command to be filled with the word and sing to one another is sandwiched between two commands to “be thankful” and “give thanks.”
As Paul leads up to the well-known Philippians 4:13, he shows us how we can do all in Christ and how we can rejoice always (4:4): get rid of worry and stress by giving your anxieties to God from a thankful heart (4:6-7). What results is the peace that passes all understanding. Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 connects constant rejoicing and constant prayer with giving thanks in all things.
The 2nd and 3rd items in the Fruit of the Spirit are joy and peace, and these verses show us one of the best ways to cultivate those attributes is through gratitude. Why?
Because gratitude makes us focus on the good.
Because gratitude makes us realize our dependence on God and not ourselves.
Because gratitude makes us remember all the love God has already shown us.
Because gratitude makes us confident in today’s uncertainty because God’s goodness to us in the past.
Even in the Psalms that lament God’s seeming absence, the psalmists nearly always grounded themselves by remembering how God had always been there for them in the past and would no doubt be there for them again. This is the exact opposite of Israel in the wilderness, who approached every new challenge by distrusting God and demanding He prove Himself to them again.
Which example will you emulate?
Will you be a negative, worried, angry-about-everything, ungrateful Christian? Or will you be a joy-filled, peace-driven, thankful Christian? The difference is immeasurable in your own heart, in the light you shine to those around you, and in your walk with the Father who gives us every good and perfect gift.
I am going to reread this article often. It spoke to me! Thank you and even though you have the most trying occupation in the world, please stay the course.