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Gratitude is a very important biblical principle. In fact, we have been charged by Scripture when we wake up, every day, to be able to have a heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude really is like medicine to our soul. It helps us to provide care for our mental health.
It is a way we establish wellness.
In Psalm 103:1-5, David said, “With all my heart, I praise the Lord, and with all that I am, I praise his holy name! With all my heart I praise the Lord! I will never forget how kind he has been. The Lord forgives our sins, heals us when we are sick, and protects us from death. His kindness and love are a crown on our heads. Each day that we live, he provides for our needs and gives us the strength of a young eagle.”
David was acknowledging how kind and caring God had been to him. He has gratitude, just oozing out of his pores as he just lavished thankfulness and appreciation to God, not only for forgiving his sins but for forgiving our sins.
In 2 Timothy 3:1-2, Paul says to Timothy, “You can be certain that in the last days there will be some very hard times. People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful.”
If we’re not living in the last times, I don’t know when we’re living and the season that we’re living. If it was the last times in Paul’s days, 2000 years ago, how much more so today.
Paul says I want you to be mindful of what you observed to be an indicator you’re in the last days. And he tells us that people are going to be rude, proud, stuck-up and disobedient. But then he throws down this interesting perspective as an indicator of the last days, people will be ungrateful.
I have a friend who is a pastor in the Bronx. They have a soup kitchen and they were giving out hotdogs to homeless people. One homeless guy asked, “Do you guys have any sauerkraut?” And unfortunately, they didn’t. He got so angry that he got into a fistfight with the individuals giving out free food. He had no money. He had no food. He had no place to live and they’re giving him hot dogs. And what is he doing? Because he didn’t get sauerkraut, he starts a fight. Talk about ungratefulness. It’s everywhere.
But ungratefulness is not just in those big issues like that man getting into a fistfight. Ungratefulness takes place when we find ourselves complaining, when we find ourselves envious or jealous, or hitting a place of discontentment. Those are signs that we may be ungrateful.
Gratitude makes a huge impact on our hearts.
Gratitude creates optimism.
Ingratitude creates pessimism.
Gratitude attracts people because people want to be around people that are grateful.
Ingratitude repels people.
Gratitude cultivates humility.
Ingratitude cultivates pride.
Gratitude promotes happiness.
Ingratitude promotes unhappiness.
Happiness medicates the soul and lets you know it’s not all bad.
Ingratitude poisons the soul.
We must fight against ingratitude because it’s poisonous, it’s infectious and it’s deadly.
So, how do you unleash the power of gratitude in your life?
It starts with three questions.
Why show gratitude?
How do I express gratitude?
How do I cultivate gratitude?
ONE: Why show gratitude?
The word gratitude means the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Something goes on inside of you that says I am thankful, I am grateful. It is an emotion that speaks of pleasantness and then we have to act it out or follow through on it to convey what’s on the inside.
Gratitude is internal, but we have to be thankful so the gratitude that’s experienced internally is expressed externally.
In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul says, “You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following him. Plant your roots in Christ and let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.”
Paul is telling us there’s a command to be grateful. And he’s telling us that in essence, there are lots of benefits associated with you not only having gratitude but showing gratitude.
Researchers weighed in on the benefits of showing gratitude. UCLA and the Gallup Poll have documented powerful benefits in showing gratitude.
There are physical health benefits associated with showing gratitude:
- Faster recovery from heart problems
- Reduced risk of mortality from sickness and disease
- Improved cancer survival rate
There are relational health benefits associated with showing gratitude, like saying thanks:
- It improves relationships
- Cultivates goodwill in relationships
- It allows for more positive actions, relationally
Research also indicates that showing gratitude increases satisfaction when it comes to the idea of happiness as a mental health benefit:
- Greater happiness is a result
- Greater sense of increased satisfaction
- Lowered level of stress
When was the last time you said to someone that did something good for you, thank you?
When was the last time you said to God for what He’s done for you, thank you?
When was the last time you said to your supervisor, employer or teacher, thank you?
TWO: How do I express gratitude?
Gratitude is a positive emotion that you express because of the kindness that has been shown to you. You’ve been a recipient of someone’s favor. Gratitude is saying, I see what you’ve done for me. I see how you’ve treated me. I see that it’s undeserved. And so let me express gratitude to you.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul gives us ways to express gratitude. He says, “Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.”
\Paul says to be joyous because that’s a way you express gratitude.
Gratitude means thankfulness, appreciation and kindness. So when Paul says, display a joyous attitude, he’s saying it’s not all as bad as you’re thinking.
Don’t let discontentment fill your heart and block out God’s goodness to you. Paul says to retain a prayerful attitude and not to always have this gloomy, hopeless, lackluster attitude. He says show prayerfulness which is a sign of appreciation and gratitude.
Gratitude changes everything on the inside. It changes your perspective. So it’s no longer negative and difficult, it becomes positive and opportunistic. In other words, the problem that you’re facing right now, did you ever think about thanking God for the problem?
It doesn’t mean that you’re becoming a pessimist. When you do that, you’re thinking in a warped way. It’s simply acknowledging that maybe there’s a kernel of benefit that I will gain out of this problem. If I change my perspective to one of gratitude, then my eyes will be opened. The sight of my soul will be illuminated and I will not look at life this way.
Reframe the problem with an element of gratitude, reframe the difficult circumstances from a perspective of gratitude, rather than complaining and bellyaching and moaning about what’s going on. When you start doing that, it is amazing how light comes into your soul. Illumination comes to your mind and you’re able to see and understand things you never would’ve seen before. Why? Because you recognize the value of being able to express gratitude.
Identifying the benefits you get from the good things in your life provides a positive impact on the way you think and feel about yourself, others, and even your challenges.
The only place the seeds of discouragement are impotent is in a heart filled with gratitude. If you fill up your heart with gratitude, give thanks to God, and show appreciation to others, Satan can’t discourage you. This is why it’s so important to release the power of gratitude in your life.
THREE: How do I cultivate gratitude?
How do you get a heart filled with gratitude? How do you cultivate it?
Colossians 3:15-17 gives us some answers to the question. It says, “Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the word of Christ—The Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
Paul is saying you have to value what God’s done in your life, showing appreciation and thankfulness.
Think about the kind acts that have been done for you throughout your life. You didn’t arrive at where you are right now by yourself. The success you have achieved and presently enjoy, you didn’t get here by yourself. There was a whole host of people along the way that did good things for you. There were kind words when you wanted to quit. When you wanted to walk away, do you remember those words? Do you remember the encouragement?
You cultivate the sense of gratitude by not only remembering each person along the way, but by expressing thankfulness to them.
And what about those hard conversations? Someone that confronted you when everybody else just let you meander around when you might have been going down the wrong path. Someone confronted you strongly and firmly and told you you’re wrong. You’re dead wrong. Your perspective’s wrong. Your heart’s wrong. Your motives are wrong. Your motivations are wrong. They read you the riot act and it stung at first.
But when you look back, you must be thankful because their counsel, although maybe not presented in the best way, saved you a lot of money, a lot of heartache, a lot of time. Have you told them thanks?
The idea of cultivating gratitude in our hearts is something we all need to do. I want to give you a little homework assignment. Over the next 24 hours, can you connect with three people, just three, that have done something positive, favorable, trustworthy, valuable for you over the last 30 days and convey to them in your own way, THANK YOU.
And then begin to help your children and others around you to cultivate this sense of gratitude in their own lives. I guarantee you that you’ll have a more mentally healthy family.
And if you yourself would work at having prayers of thanksgiving and not just prayers of requests, but prayers that offer thanks, you will see the power of gratitude released into your life.