Last week, about twenty-five of us gathered together for an event aptly named “friendsgiving.” This was an opportunity for some close friends and team-mates in the ministry to gather for an evening of good food, fellowship and a giving of thanks. Before the holiday madness would commence, before the different families would come into town, we wanted to spend this time reflecting on the past year. It was a great setting.
Each person present was able to share with the entire group two things that they were thankful for. It is always a pleasure to hear how uniquely Jesus has been working in and through the hearts of the young people. The answers were diverse but the spirit was similar – it was a spirit of gratitude.
Last year, I wrote this post outlining one hundred things that I am thankful for. It was a fun exercise that challenged me in thinking past the regular platitudes. I read over the list. Chuckled at some things and had some good moments of nostalgia.
The bible teaches us to give thanks always and to give thanks for everything (Eph. 5:20). As I think about this, I cannot help but tether two important themes of the Christian life together: Gratitude and Worship. I am convinced that if you pursue perpetual worship, a spirit of gratitude will never leave your lips. Here is why this is the case:
- Gratitude Flows From The Gospel. As we give thanks this year for what God has done for us, in spite of us – it absolutely has to be grounded in the gospel of Jesus. A giving of thanks merely for formality is not a testimony of a radically transformed heart. Expressing our gratitude is an act of honoring God while declaring His goodness and grace towards us.
- The Object Of Our Gratitude. A spirit of gratitude that is not grounded in the gospel of Jesus or does not lead us to a worship of Jesus can function as a distorted understanding of who God is and why we give thanks in the first place. The bible calls us to give thanks, in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). A gospel-curated, gospel-cultivated person realizes – supernaturally – that all that is good comes from God. This kind of attitude stands in stark contrast to someone who does not believe in God. When writing to the Romans, Paul says that there are people who know God but unfortunately did not honor Him as God – included in their dis-honor of God is this: they did not thank Him (Rom. 1:21). Why was the gratitude gone? Because the object of affection in their mind was not God but rather themselves. You can thank God confesionally, but do you really have gratitude for Him functionally?
- The Connection Between Communion And Gratitude: The word Paul uses for being thankful is eucharisteō – which is where we get our word Eucharist from – and what is the Eucharist if not a giving of thanks for Jesus’ blood and His broken body – for us – on our behalf – in our place- because of our sin, for our salvation (1 Cor. 11:24-26). This Eucharist should be the object of our worship and the source of our gratitude – practically, theologically and confesionally. Paul indicates that our participation in the Eucharist is a proclamation of the gospel. The act of taking the bread and the cup is a graphic display of what Christ’s death has accomplished. This points back to His death as the basis of our salvation. But this passage also calls us to examine ourselves. What is the condition of our heart? Is our heart positioned for or against people? A disregard for people is a contradiction of the Lord’s Supper, the giving of thanks, the Eucharist. The way to counteract this is to give thanks. A spirit of gratitude is incompatible with some sinful attitudes. A heart full of gratitude is a humble heart. A humble heart is ready to receive others as Christ receives them. When our gratitude is a state of being, not an event during the year – there lies little room in our heart for a sinful attitude toward the people in our lives.
This thanksgiving, when you are reciting and reminiscing about the things that you are thankful for – just realize this important fact:
Your heart’s ability to generate gratitude is primarily a supernatural ability – given to you as a gift from God – because of His Son Jesus Christ.
The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is the framework from which we need to function every single day. A heart full of thanks is pursuing worship at all times.
The way we can faithfully image Christ to the watching world is to love the people around us. And when our heart is overflowing with thanksgiving, the natural attitudes of gospel-centeredness will be put on full display – for Jesus’ fame and for the joy of the people that surround you.
How do you personally connect gratitude and the gospel of Jesus? What else would you add to the discussion?