Some people see Thanksgiving as an obligation that they don’t adequately meet. And much of the preaching on this subject makes us feel guilty because we are not sufficiently Thankful. The same kind of preaching makes us feel guilty because we don’t pray enough, give enough, serve enough, have enough faith or even love God enough. But I have found that if you understand the benefits of prayer you will be more likely to pray. If you understand the benefits of faith, how faith can help you achieve so much more in life, you will be more likely to trust God. If you learn benefits of giving, how God rewards your giving, you will become more generous. And if you experience God’s love, it is almost impossible to not love God in return. So today, we will talk about the benefits of Gratitude. Because when you understand its benefits, you will actively look for opportunities to give thanks!
So today we will talk about the benefits of Gratitude.
Gratitude is good for you
The first benefit of Gratitude is that it is good for you. Gratitude is one of the healthiest emotions you can have. Scientists have discovered that when you are thankful and express gratitude, your brain releases chemicals and hormones that make you feel happier, more peaceful and even makes you smarter. You will make better decisions when you are thankful. You will make wiser choices when you are grateful. And this is so consistent with God’s character. The Bible says,
“…Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”Psalm 106:1 (NIV84)
Circle “he is good” God is good. Isn’t the church supposed to respond to that statement? (God is good, All the Time. All the Time, God is Good) When someone is good, and nothing but good and they tell you to do something, you can be confident that what they want you to do is good and beneficial for the ones who do it. So giving thanks is good for you.
Gratitude starts a life giving cycle
God is good to us. And so it makes sense to respond to Him with thanks. And giving thanks is good for us. And this is supposed to become a continuing cycle. We experience God’s goodness, thank Him for it and experience more goodness. “Lather, rinse, repeat…” Receive his goodness, respond with gratitude and receive more goodness. Gratitude is a life-giving cycle. Gratitude is good for you!
When you don’t feel grateful?
So what do you do when you don’t feel like it? What are you supposed to do when you don’t feel grateful? When you aren’t feeling thankful, you probably aren’t feeling very good either, are you? Don’t let your feelings control your life. The way you think determines the way you feel. And the way you feel determines the way you live. So if you want to feel better change your mind about things. Instead of complaining about things, give thanks.
I am thankful that we live in a time and place where Scientists have so quickly identified the source of the Pandemic, its means of transmission and a reasonable way to prevent its spread- Wear a mask, wash your hands, watch you distance. It’s not that hard. Not only that but we have developed advanced treatments and effective vaccines at warp speed. Don’t take any of this for granted. Because if you experienced the same incident 40 years ago, or lived in a 3rd world country, things would be very different for you. The Bible says,
“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.”Acts 17:26 (NIV84)
And you can thank God that you live in this time and this place.
I am thankful that even though the election didn’t go my way, our Constitution has remedy. We get to vote the bums out every 4 years. I am thankful that we have the greatest economic system the world has ever seen. And even though we took a big hit this year, we are recovering nicely.
I am thankful for my church family. I need you. And you need me, and that gives us all tremendous purpose. I am thankful to Ronda and Mark Powell for graciously giving us a place to meet for the last few months.
Gratitude corrects your attitude
So gratitude is good for you and second, gratitude corrects your attitude. Every day hummingbirds and the vultures fly over our nation’s deserts looking for something to eat. The vultures look for rotting dead animals. Humming birds look for colorful and fragrant desert flowers. And they both find exactly what they are looking for, nourish themselves with it and then look for some more.
It is the same way with your attitude. Cranky people, complainers, ungrateful people look for things to complain about. Grateful people look for things to be thankful for. And they both find exactly what they are looking for, nourish themselves with it and look for some more.
In our series “Managing your Mind” we said that we have the responsibility to determine what things we think about and how we think about things. God wants you to develop an attitude of Gratitude. The Bible says,
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)
Circle the phrase, “Give thanks.” Giving thanks is gratitude. It means appreciation. It means recognition. It means praise. It means rejoicing in the goodness of God. It means giving credit where credit is due. We serve a good God who graciously gives us many good things to be thankful for. You can be thankful for pumpkin pie and moist turkey with cranberry sauce. I like the chunky kind. But we are doing well this year, so there will be both kinds of cranberry sauce on the Cowell table this year. And I am thankful for that too! You can give thanks for your freedom, prosperity and health. Most of us can be thankful for our good parents and our families. All of these are gifts from our good God. And because He has graciously given them to us, it is only good and right to thank Him for them.
Now circle “in all circumstances.” That might be a little more difficult because not all circumstances in our lives are good. Sometimes circumstances are bad. We live in a fallen world. Bad things happen. Evil things happen. But please notice that we are not commanded to give thanks for all circumstances. We are taught to “give thanks in all circumstances.” And there is a big difference between giving thinks for circumstances and looking for reasons to be thankful in circumstances. We don’t have to give thanks for the bad things that happen in our lives. You don’t have to give thanks for abuse, accidents, illness or loss. God doesn’t cause those things to happen and so we don’t thank Him for them. And this passage doesn’t tell us to give thanks for them. It says, “give thanks in all circumstances.”
So what can I be thankful for in bad or difficult circumstances? One, I know God is in control. He puts a limit on what can happen to me. And I know God can bring good out of evil. I know God can turn around even the stupid mistakes I make. I know that I’m not going to have to live with the consequences forever. I know that even in the worst case scenario, I’m going to go to heaven one day. That is not so bad! I know God will never leave me or give up on me. I know that no matter what , God isn’t going to stop loving me. If you choose to, you can always find something to be thankful for even when your circumstance stinks. The Bible says,
“But I thank God, who always leads us in victory because of Christ…”2 Corinthians 2:14(GW)
Circle “always.” Your present frustration and difficulties are not evidence of certain defeat. They can’t be! Your are on the winning team and Jesus is always leading you to victory. Giving thanks enables you to see all of life’s circumstances, both good and bad as just another step on the way to victory! What an attitude! What a way to look at life and its circumstances. God is always leading you in victory!
Take charge of your attitude!
For normal people, it is impossible to harbor two opposite emotions in your heart at the same time. One has to give way to the other. You can’t be thankful and discouraged at the same time. You can’t be overflowing with praise and fearful at the same time. One of these emotions has to leave. So take charge of your attitude. Give thanks! It’s good for you!
Gratitude keeps you heading the right direction
Gratitude and ingratitude are two opposite spiritual directions. Gratitude—being thankful—will always lead you the right way and ingratitude—the absence of thanksgiving—will always lead you the wrong way.
The Bible has a lot to say about heading the right way and the wrong way in life. In the Book of Romans, chapter 1 we find a spiritual roadmap to be avoided. I call it the the downward spiral of all mankind. It describes the progression from darkened hearts, to corrupted desires to depraved minds and ultimately to deserving God’s Judgment. I don’t know about you, but heading towards God’s judgment is not the direction I want to go in life. And verse 21 of that Chapter tells us where that journey begins. The Bible says,
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…Romans 1:21 (NIV84)
Circle “nor gave thanks to Him”. Ungratefulness—the absence of Thanksgiving—is the beginning of a spiritual journey that leads to a terrible destination. And we avoid going there by heading in the opposite direction. The bible says,
…Come before His presence with singing … Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.Psalm 100:2, 4 (NKJV)
This Psalm describe a very different spiritual journey. Not to God’s Judgment but to God’s Joy! Jewish Pilgrims would sing and shout praises on their annual journeys to the Temple – the place where they could experience God’s presence on the earth. It was a joyful experience! Heading that way they passed through the gates of the city and then into the courtyard of the temple. And their movement towards God’s joyful presence was accompanied with shouts of praise and thanksgiving. And while Christ-followers don’t need a Temple to experience God’s presence, our journey takes us the same way—through praise and thanksgiving. Gratitude is always the right direction Thanksgiving always leads you to the right destination. Ingratitude is the wrong direction. The absence of Thanksgiving leads to the wrong destination.
Places you don’t want to go
Think of the places you don’t want to go. Nobody in his or her right mind wants to be buried in debt or go to jail. So begin to thank God for things that you have rather than letting your heart desire things you can’t afford.
Nobody in their right mind wants to to be estranged from their family. So rather than focusing on faults, look for reasons to thank God for your brothers and sisters, parents and children.
Nobody in his or her right mind wants to have a miserable marriage or end up in a divorce, so make up your mind to look for the things in your spouse can be thankful for and overlook or address the things you can’t. Be a humming bird, not a vulture.
Nobody in his or her right mind wants to be unhappy on the job. Focus your attention on the fact that God has a purpose for you wherever you are and whatever kind of work you are doing. Perhaps your purpose is to be Light in a spiritually dark place. Perhaps your purpose is to develop skills and build a resume that will open future doors of opportunity. Perhaps your purpose is to lead a co-worker to Christ. These are all things to be thankful for. Don’t end up in places you don’t want to go. Learn to be thankful.
Conclusion: Fill the Jar
So we all know we are supposed to be thankful, so how can we do that? This is a Gratitude Jar. I think every family should make one and cut up some pieces of paper. And then over the next few days take time to think about things you are thankful for and write them down on paper and put them in the jar. If you want, you can include your name. Then on Thanksgiving open the jar and read them all before you have dessert. Make it competitive. Recognize the person with most things to be grateful for. Recognize the person who makes everyone cry. Recognize the most creative ones. Work this and it will get you started in the right direction. Keep it up and thanksgiving will become your lifelong habit rather than just a holiday.
- Thanksgiving is good for you
- Thanksgiving will correct your attitude
- Thanksgiving keeps you heading in the right direction.
Let me close with this last passage of scripture. The Bible says,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16 (NIV84)
This passage also describes to destinations and two directions for your life. Circle “Perish” and “eternal life” “Perishing” is about a life that is going bad, in decay. Eternal Life is not only a quantity of life, but also a quality of life. Eternal life is unlimited. It is a life that is rich and satisfying. So which way is your life heading? And which destination do you want? If you are heading the wrong way, it’s time to turn around.
Circle “He Gave” Earlier in the message I described a life-giving cycle. Receive his goodness, respond with gratitude and receive more goodness. God’s solution to a life that is headed the wrong way is to send His Son. The best thing that God ever gave you was Jesus His Son. Jesus forgives us from our past and leads us into new life: rich and satisfying. And if you aren’t experiencing that, you are heading the wrong way.
Maybe you are here today and you still haven’t received God’s gift of eternal salvation. Or maybe you have wandered away from Him. Well the prayer is always the same.