As we continue in our “Give Us This Day” series, it seems only right that on this All Saints Sunday and during the month of November that our focus would be on Gratitude. Psalm 100 recognizes that the very basis for our gratitude is rooted in who God is and in our relationship to Him.
Know that the Lord is God, the psalmist wrote. It is He who made us, and we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. (v 3)
Therefore, we are invited to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. (v 4)
The Psalmist ends with the reminder about “why” we are grateful. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations. (v 5)
Thanks and Appreciation
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, shared his opinion on the two key components of gratitude in an essay entitled “Why Gratitude is Good.”
The primary component of gratitude, according to Emmons, is “an affirmation of goodness. [By our gratitude] we affirm that there ARE good things in the world—gifts and benefits that we have received.”
The second part of gratitude he says is the recognition “that the sources of this goodness we have received are outside of ourselves—other people…even higher powers…give us many gifts both large and small to help us achieve goodness in our lives.”
Gratitude in a nutshell means “thanks and appreciation.” Gratitude—which rhymes with attitude—comes from the Latin word gratis which means “thankful for pleasing.” When we feel grateful, it is because we are pleased by what someone did for us or by the results of their actions.
A Gospel of Gratitude
In the New Testament, the concept of thankfulness or gratitude appears more than 70 times! Considering the persecution of the New Testament Church constantly faced and the difficult living situations of most non-Romans living in the Roman Empire at that time, it also seems like and oxymoron (a self-contradictory concept).
The apostle Paul suffered multiple imprisonments, trials and hardships because of his transformation from holier-than-thou Pharisee to leading proponent of the resurrected Christ. Yet he wrote and preached a gospel of gratitude.
In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the fifth chapter, he reminds the members of this early Christian congregation be cheerful NO MATTER WHAT. Pray all the time; THANK GOD NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – The Message)
To the Philippians, he declared rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4). If you continue to read in the fourth chapter, you will see Paul’s constant reminder to show gratitude. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (v 6)
If we follow his admonition in the eights verse of this same chapter, finally…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things, truth be told, we will HAVE to be a “people of gratitude.”
If we focus on the true, pure, admirable and praiseworthy parts of life, we will surely find a source for our gratitude—a reason to be thankful. We will realize the good things that we enjoy in this life did not just “happen”. They became a part of our experience because of the intervention of others and because of the generosity of God!
Looking at Gratitude Differently
Emmons and other social researchers point to gratitude as a “relationship-strengthening emotion because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.” On this All Saints Sunday, it seems most appropriate that we would pray “Give us this day… Gratitude” as we recognize the support and encouragement we have received in our Christian growth from those who have gone before us and those who have chosen to unite with us.
True gratitude not only encourages us to appreciate the gifts that we have received but to repay them—or pay them forward to help others. “Kindness begets kindness”. Understanding begets understanding. Love and affirmation give birth to love and affirmation in our dealings with one another. By responding “in kind” to others, we are helping to create the kind of society we want to live in.
More Than “Thanks”
Gratitude is more than just “giving thanks.” It is certainly more than just a single day set aside in the calendar for celebrating and counting our blessings. True gratitude is an “attitude,” a way of life. It is a way of looking at the world and recognizing that each day is a gift to celebrate, that each problem is an opportunity for learning and each setback is a reminder that we have a Holy Helper on our side.
When we live a life of gratitude, our eyes are open to the opportunities each moment brings. We become more aware of the world and the people around us. We become more sensitive to the lessons that God is trying to teach us and the possibilities for ministry that lie before us.
When we give thanks in all things, we are encouraged to find the “hidden blessings” in each day. Not only that, but giving thanks is, according to Paul’s note in 1st Thessalonians, God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (5:18)
God WANTS us to give thanks. He EXPECTS us to give thanks. He CREATED us to be a grateful people. When we give thanks and express our gratitude to one another and to the One who made us, we are living up to our potential as the children of God.
So today we pray “GIVE US THIS DAY…GRATITUDE.” Today, O Lord, help us to become what You have created us to be—a thankful people.