Cultivate the Value of Gratitude – Part One

Have you ever gone to a lot of trouble to do something special for someone, but they barely acknowledge your effort? You planned. You saved. You prepared. You thought of every detail. You made everything just right. You worked like crazy to surprise someone, bless someone, honour someone. And they didn’t say thank you. Of course you didn’t do it to be rewarded, but an acknowledgement would have been nice.

Imagine how God feels when He gives us life, His love, His presence, His blessings, His Son. And we ignore Him, continuing to do our own thing. Or perhaps we’re a bit more gracious and give a polite, token “thanks, God.” We show up for church once or twice a month, if we’re not too tired or don’t have the chance to take a weekend trip out of town. We halfheartedly sing a few songs, listen to the sermon, nodding to acknowledge God before rushing to our favourite restaurant or coffee shop to enjoy our normal life.

I believe that as believers we need to learn and live, embrace and cultivate the life-changing value of gratitude. Difficult at the best of times and especially so in our “entitlement” culture of today. But, as disciples we must focus on and make an effort to cultivate a lifestyle that is consistently grateful for all we have been given by the Lord. Living life with an attitude of gratitude is life-changing.

Gratitude kills pride. Gratitude slays self-sufficiency. Gratitude crushes the spirit of entitlement. When we replace our daily discontentment with whatever in life is bothering us – and simply focus on how much we have to be grateful for, our hearts will slowly change and we will live a life of thanksgiving.

Learning to be grateful to God puts us in a constant awareness of the source of all good things in our lives, always reminding us of our need, which God met through Christ. Rather than demanding that God serve our wishes, gratitude puts us in our rightful place – eternally indebted to the One who gave us life in the first place.

When you dig up the roots of entitlement, gratitude will grow in the good soil of a fertile heart. Gratitude will change how you see your past, acknowledging God’s sovereignty in all things. Gratitude positions you to experience God moment by moment in the present, depending on Him daily. Gratitude places you in a posture of worship, ready to give praise to God for every good thing He will do in your future.

What has God done in your life? What has He given you? What blessings do you take for granted? Your life? Your health? Your friendships? Your job? Your home or apartment? When you pause to really think, I promise you can see God in all things, even in the things you wish had never happened.

I’ve always found it interesting that people ask why bad things happen to them, but they rarely ask why good things happen to them. These attitudes reflect the false belief that we don’t deserve bad but we do deserve good. Remember, all we really deserve is hell. If you’re a Christian, Christ has saved you from the pit of your sin. You’ve been filled with the Spirit of God. You’re adopted into God’s eternal family. Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price – the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross.

Just like the lepers who came to Jesus, you’ve been cleansed. Healed. Transformed. (see: Luke 17: 11-19)  Will you be like most in our society — like the nine who were too busy to say “thank you”? Or will you be different, live gratefully, and return to say thank you to the God who gave you everything that matters?  

Forbidden Fruit

Our culture and society has trained us that if something is worth having, it is worth having now. If you are going to do it, you should never be forced to wait. In order to feel important, our entitled egos tell us we should get what we want when we want it. After all, we are the “entitled generation.” We want it our way; and we want it now. 

You have heard the mantras: “If it feels good, do it.” “It’s my life; I can do whatever I want.” “Why should I wait when I can have it now?” Thus we often think that we actually deserve whatever we want and should never be forced to wait, plan, prepare, or put something off. Thus the reason for the massive personal debt many have accumulated by using their credit cards to indulge themselves. We tend to forget that short-term decisions can lead to long-term consequences.

While I believe this problem has become progressively worse, it’s certainly not new. The Bible is loaded with stories of people who failed to realize the consequences of their short-term, ego-driven decisions. In the very first story in God’s Word, Eve craves the forbidden fruit. When you think about it, she has it all — everything any woman could ever desire. An intimate relationship with the God of the universe. A husband who adored her. Paradise as her home.

She also doesn’t have some of the things that make us crazy. Eve doesn’t have another woman in the world to compare herself with. She never has to wonder, “Do you think she’s prettier than me?” She never fears that someone else is a better mom, a better cook, or a better employee, or that someone else has a better body. Eve can’t compare kitchens, closets, or husbands; she never has to sink into the trap of comparison envy. The first woman who has ever lived has everything — really everything — except the fruit of the one tree that God said is off limits. 

Even though this woman has it all, the serpent still managed to tempt her by asking, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). In our world the question might be, “Did God really say you need to wait until marriage until you get to have sex?” “Did God really say that you should love your enemies when you’d rather kill them?” “Did God really say that you should stay married when you’d prefer to be married to someone else?”

Even though Eve has everything but a piece of fruit, the one thing she is denied becomes the all-consuming, gotta-have-it thing. All of us have reached out to grab some forbidden fruit (or at least a slice of apple pie) and taken a bite that costs more than we ever imagined. Moses did it when he was angry and killed a man. David did it when he was lonely and committed adultery. Judas did it when he became greedy and betrayed Jesus. And we do it when we lose our temper, have sex before marriage, buy something we can’t afford, or stuff our faces until we’re fat.

We see this common problem described clearly in Scripture: “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever” (1 John 2:16-17).

It seems that people commonly trade the long-term greater blessings that come later for the quick-fix lower things they can have right now.

How about you? Most of us, I am afraid, are following the example of society and our culture. We are being ego-driven to want what we want when we want. And, as a result we are making quick decisions giving us short-term pleasure and gain but costing us long-term consequences that are often very damaging. 

And it is only after the fact, when we realize what we could have had if we had waited, that we understand the cost of our decision. We understand that we settled for far less than what God wanted us to have.

It is so easy to live reacting to our impulses, making decisions as if this moment is the only thing that matters., Sadly, so many people remain dangerously shortsighted when it comes to judging what’s important and when it is important. While it’s good to “be in the moment,” many people find it hard to see even two minutes into the future, recognizing the problems their decisions might create. 

Again, this isn’t totally the fault of those who live with this mindset. Strategic marketing, improved technology, and selfish living have trained us well. You grew up on commercials and advertisements that said, “You deserve the best. Have it your way. Live in luxury.” Some people believe the microwave triggered a universal lust for now. Zap my problem, and it will be fixed in sixty seconds or less. If their iPhone takes more than five seconds to download a site, they get impatient and complain about how pathetic their phone is, or they just go to another site instead, or they upgrade to a newer version of the phone. 

If you look around, you see it everywhere. A grown man throwing a tirade because his fast food burger took three minutes to make. A mom coming unglued because the high school guy at the cash register slows her down. A young couple becoming furious because they were denied the loan to buy their dream home (which was way over their budget) and they have to do something that’ve never done before — wait. Our society has trained us that if it is worth having, it is worth having now. If you are going to do it, you should never be forced to wait. In order to feel important – and feed that ego – our entitled egos tell us we should get what we want when we want it. And, we seldom think of the long-term consequences of the decisions we make on impulse today.

So, take a look at your life as it is right now and see if you are making some decisions today that will have long-term consequences that will hinder your walk with the Lord one day. Don’t skip over this little assignment. It’s important. Are you following the “must have it now” culture or the biblical principle of ‘delayed gratification. 

Following along on this theme – see tomorrow’s blog “Deal Or No Meal”