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A Grateful Heart

In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he writes in verses six and seven: “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed…” And then Paul ends verse seven by writing, “…and your lives should overflow with gratitude.”

I think that we naturally understand how this would be both important and gratifying to God. What I think that we do not yet realize, however, is how it impacts our lives when we choose to give thanks to God on a daily basis.

Dr. Hans Selye was an Austrian-Canadian scientist who died in 1982, and he was among the first pioneers in discovering the impact that emotions play in a person’s health. Over his life he wrote thirty books on the subject of stress and human emotion. At the end of his life he summarized all of his research and declared that anger, bitterness, and revenge are the emotions most harmful to our health and well-being. He also concluded that a heart of gratitude is the single most nourishing response that leads to good health. Gratitude and thanksgiving are like therapy to the soul.

Several years ago I opened my Bible with the deliberate purpose of looking up all of the verses that contain one of the following words: ungrateful, ingratitude, or a similar word. I was stunned at what I found. I think that we all would regard ingratitude as an unfortunate trait to possess, but surely there are flaws that are much worse in the eyes of God. But what I read is that an ungrateful heart is linked to godlessness and evil.

One example of this is found in Romans 1: 20-21:

Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.

Paul is speaking of people who knew God but did not honor Him as God; as such, they did not give Him thanks. When this happened, their minds and thoughts became darkened. If you keep reading in Romans 1, you will see that God lets them go their own way, and they eventually forget Him.

There seems to be a certain historical pattern in Western Civilization. God blesses certain people who are hardworking, but who are also humble, thankful, and who depend on God in their day-to-day living. Over time they experience a certain degree of abundance and wealth.

And then slowly they begin to take credit for all of their prosperity, their hearts then become proud, and they forget about God. Finally they begin the slippery slope into the abyss.

This is what Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1970, concluded had happened in Russia. He wrote:

Over a half-century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’

Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some sixty million of our people, I could not have put it more accurately than to repeat: ‘Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.’

What I have come to realize is that thanksgiving does not come natural to human beings. We like to take the credit for everything that comes into our lives.

Therefore, a grateful heart is something that has to be cultivated. One has to be intentional about it. This is why I begin each day giving thanks to God. I thank Him for the gift of life, for my wife, my children, and for all of the other relationships that He has blessed me with. I thank Him for all the resources He has entrusted me with and the work that He has called me to do. Finally I thank him for all the spiritual blessings of life, particularly for His son, Jesus.

As a result of this, I now find myself giving thanks to him throughout the day. It has become a natural part of my life. It has truly changed the way I see life, as I now recognize that all I am and all that I have is a gift of God. And I am so grateful!

Since this is Thanksgiving week, there will not be a blog on December 1. The next blog will be posted on December 8.

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