Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
“Your bill has been paid.” We were having lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant at Harbourfront. We were near the end of our meal when the cashier walked over and told us that our bill had been paid. She also passed us a short note. Our benefactor had left but had passed us a note that said that she had been encouraged when I had ministered at her fellowship. There wasn’t enough information to figure out her identity or the fellowship she had been referring to. (I have spoken to a lot of fellowship groups in the 40 years of my ministry.) We were very touched by her gesture. We had just returned from a trip to Vancouver and had gone straight to a church camp in Batam. We were tired. The unexpected blessing lifted our spirits.
Gratitude should be a Christian default. Indeed, Paul reminds followers of Jesus that their lives should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7). But often it doesn’t happen. Living in a consumer society, we are bombarded daily by messages that tell us that our lives are deficient until we buy an advertised product or service. Hence, we are continuously aware of the things we don’t have rather than grateful for the things we do have. More often than not, we are like the nine healed lepers who took their healing for granted, rather than the one who came back to thank Jesus (Luke 17:11–19). It is an intentional spiritual discipline to be aware of the blessings we have received from God and from others and to act out of that gratitude.
I have come to believe that the lack of gratitude opens the door to sin. In Genesis 1 and 2 it is clear that God had blessed Adam and Eve abundantly. They should have been very thankful, and that thankfulness should have been more than adequate to inspire them to resist Satan’s pitch in Genesis 3. What would be the quality of our lives in Christ if we were more aware of our blessings? Yet I find little by way of teaching and exhortation for us to remember God’s blessings and to live a life of gratitude. Often, the only time we hear a sermon on this is at a watch-night service that marks the end of a year. Too often our prayer life consists only of things we want God to do or to give. We rush through the thanksgiving part. Yet Paul reminds us that a robust sense of thanksgiving is an integral part of prayer.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)
Perhaps some of the anxiety we experience can be traced to a prayer life that is not rooted in thanksgiving.
Part of my ongoing life project is to thank people who have blessed me, starting with my darling Bernice who blesses me daily. On our recent trip to Vancouver I had opportunities to thank many for their kindness to me. We were last in Vancouver in 2014. Not sure when we will be there again. And, yes, I could convey my thanks via electronic media but the best thanks are conveyed face to face (unless it’s a surprise lunch treat). What I need to work on is my gratitude towards the Lord. Life is getting busier and it is getting to be more of a challenge to do the journaling I need in order to keep track of God’s blessings. Clearly it is something I must do.
I am grateful then for the surprise lunch treat we received. It reminded me afresh of the whole subject of gratitude. So, unknown benefactor, if you are reading this, thank you.