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By Rev. Todd Korasick, Metro Community Church
In my office, I keep a file folder that I don’t use often. But when I want to use it, I’m glad it is there.
This concept may seem weird, but what I keep in that folder are simply notes. Notes of encouragement, thank-you notes, notes that lift my spirits. It’s amazing how two little words like “thank you” can be so powerful and even life-changing at times. In this age of e-mail, Twitter and Facebook, there is even something more special when someone actually takes the time to sit down and pull out a pen and paper and simply write two or three sentences expressing gratitude…simply saying “Thank you.”
It’s easy to lose our gratitude in life, isn’t it? I know I can easily let the negative things that happen in life overshadow everything good that is going on in life. Maybe we lose our gratitude when it comes to our car. Our car can run every day out of the year except for that one day, and on that one day we get frustrated and want to get rid of the “hunk of junk” – even though 364 days out of the year it runs fine. Even though there are millions of people who don’t have a car, but because of that one day, we can lose our gratitude.
Or maybe it is at work when we’ve had a good week, but on Friday our boss says something negative or we get that negative e-mail or phone call from a client. All of a sudden, those four good days are thrown out the window, and we say things like, “I don’t deserve this” or “they don’t pay me enough to deal with this aggravation.” We lose our gratitude for the fact that we even have a job that pays our bills and allows us to be productive.
In this life, we should be great at gratitude. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:20, “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What the Apostle Paul is telling us here is we need to live being great at gratitude. Gratitude for what? Very simply, gratitude for everything. In the midst of the good and the challenging times of life, we need to be great at gratitude. The question is: How do we do this? How do we become great at gratitude?
The first thing we need to do is work on our perspective.
The reality is in this world, gratitude will always have a “yet.”
For instance: “This is going on in my life (we can all fill in the blank here), YET, I am choosing to be thankful for….” There will always be something that is happening that we can choose to focus on that is negative or not ideal. And yet, we can choose to live with the perspective of gratitude.
It is interesting to me that the words think and thank come from the same root word. So often in life, if we would just think more we would thank more, and our perspective would change. We just need to think about our thanks.
How many times are we like the little boy who was given an orange by a man and the boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?” The boy thought about it for a second and then handed the orange back to the man and said “peel it.” How many times are we handed an orange and instead of thinking about our thanks – living being great at gratitude – we hand the orange back and say “peel it.”
The second thing we need to do to become great at gratitude is we need to practice gratitude.
One of the best ways to practice gratitude is to work on living in the moment. If we’re not careful, we can get so busy doing life that we can blow right past all the opportunities that God wants to use to inject gratitude into our hearts. We can get so busy doing our job that we can forget to stop and be grateful that we have a job. If we’re not careful, we can get so busy providing for our family that we forget to stop and enjoy our family.
Until we can learn to linger and stay in the moment and appreciate and say thanks, we will never be people marked by gratitude. Look what it says in Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This is the day. He doesn’t say yesterday, because we can’t change yesterday. He doesn’t talk about tomorrow, because we don’t know what tomorrow holds. He doesn’t say when we get done with school or when we get that new job or when we finally make a certain amount of money. He says, rejoice in today, because the one thing we own is what we do with this day – today, right now.
One of the things my family starting doing a few months ago is taking up the challenge to write down 1,000 things we are thankful for. We call it our thankful list. We are not finished yet, and we don’t write things on it everyday, but what we often do is, after we have dinner we pull out the list and just take turns writing down things we are thankful for. We try to practice gratitude.
Last, but not least, if we want to be great at gratitude we need to have a very clear understanding of God’s grace.
You see, just like think and thank are closely related, gratitude and grace are as well. God’s grace is a gift. Grace is getting what we haven’t earned. Grace is living a life we don’t deserve. If you are a Christ follower and start to realize how much you’ve been forgiven by God, how much God loves you, how God has graced you with a life you don’t deserve, it fills up your soul with gratitude.
I heard it said this way: “When grace flows in, gratitude fills up and generosity flows out.” In other words, when grace flows into your heart, gratitude fills up your heart and generosity flows out of your heart. But it all starts with grace.
So what is it you need to do today to begin becoming great at gratitude? Maybe it’s as simple as taking five minutes to practice gratitude and to write someone in your life a thank-you note.
We need to live lives marked by gratitude. What would it look like for you to be a person whose life overflows with gratitude?