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Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude

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Nov. 26, 2014

On the fourth Thursday of every November, Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving. Hopefully it is a joyful day with opportunities to gather with family and friends, enjoy a great meal, watch football, and take the obligatory Thanksgiving afternoon nap.  Somewhere in the course of the day, we need to stop and thank God for the many blessings He has given us over the course of the past year. 

Because we are blessed in so many ways in the United States of America, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of fostering an attitude of gratitude and recognizing the gifts we have received in our lives.  Why? So that we can come to realize how much God loves us and we come to see where God is slowly revealing His goodness to us in our lives.  By fostering an attitude of gratitude, we recognize our dependence on God.  None of us created ourselves.  Everything we have received is a great gift from Him.  It might be that we have worked hard in our lives and have accomplished great things.  But has it dawned on us that we did not even bring ourselves into existence?  Life is a gift from God that our parents cooperated with Him in giving to each one of us.  In our sinful pride, we do not like to think of ourselves as dependent on someone outside of ourselves.  We want to be self-reliant and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. While self-reliance is a good thing, it becomes sinful when we forget or deliberately neglect to acknowledge the gifts God has given to us. 

It is vitally important that we set aside time on a daily basis to pray to the Good God who is intensely interested in our personal lives.  Part of that prayer needs to be prayers of thanksgiving.  

If you cannot think of anything to be thankful for, tell God, “Lord, I need some help to see those blessings in my life.”  Then put together at least five things for which you are thankful.  It does not have to be a profound list of huge things.  

If we begin the habit of being thankful, over time we will come to see the large and the small blessings of life.  I cannot emphasize the importance that you do this on a daily basis. 

Especially in the highly materialistic and self-centered world in which we live, people miss the little blessings of life.  In my travels as a mission preacher, I met a woman whose son had leukemia.  She shared with me how difficult it was to watch her son suffer.  Despite the evil her son experienced in his sickness, she could also recognize where God was clearly at work in the situation.  Her son’s suffering brought her in contact with incredible doctors, nurses, and other patients and their families.  While she hated the fact that he was sick and unable to enjoy the normal life of a teenage boy, she told me how thankful she was that God had put these people in her life.  The patients suffering from the leukemia, and those watching their loved ones suffer, help one another by encouraging and praying for one another in their time of need.  This faithful mother and her family were not simply infused with an attitude of gratitude.  

It took time for them to recognize and be thankful for the simple victories that came with the son’s slow recovery from leukemia.  After three years of treatments, the young man is healthy again, and they are thankful every day for that simple fact. 

As we gather for this Thanksgiving Day, begin your new practice of thanking God for five things every day.  Fostering the attitude of gratitude might seem like a small step in your spiritual life, but it is an essential step.  Oh, and as you wake up from your nap on Thanksgiving, it is entirely appropriate to include “the leftovers” in your prayer of thanks. 

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