Start with Gratitude

How would your life be different if each day started with GRATITUDE?

Do you know that Paul begins most of his letters in the Bible by thanking God for the church or person he’s writing to?

  • Romans 1:8First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
  • 1 Corinthians 1:4 “I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.”
  • Ephesians 1:15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you
  • Philippians 1:3I thank my God every time I remember you.In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…”
  • Colossians 1:3-4We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people…
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:2 We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.
  • 2 Thessalonians 1:3We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
  • 2 Timothy 1:3-4I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.
  • Philemon 1:4-5I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus.”

The exceptions are 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Timothy and Titus.

In 2 Corinthians I’m guessing Paul was just exasperated that he needed to write to this church a second time. (Possibly this was the fourth letter he’d written to the Corinthian church in total.) In Galatians he’s obviously upset as he opens with “I can’t believe your fickleness—how easily you have turned traitor to him who called you by the grace of Christ by embracing a variant message!” (MSG) This is obviously no time for formalities!  1 Timothy & Titus I can’t explain.

Scholars tell me that Paul was following standard letter templates as he opened his letters first by introducing himself and the recipients and offering a greeting. He also followed the usual conventional structures by including a thanksgiving paragraph in his letters.

As you read through the list above you’ll notice a fairly consistent format to these thanksgiving paragraphs. I’m not going to break down that structure any further. The more practical point is to notice that Paul personalises each of these thanksgiving paragraphs.

I don’t believe that these thanksgiving paragraphs are mere flattery.

They are not just form letters where Paul has Timothy fill in the blanks with different names. He takes time to think of traits about that church for which he can offer thanks to God.

Now I get to jump on one of my favorite soap boxes.

In every church I know the list of prayer needs far exceeds the list of thanksgiving points.

It seems that most Christians view prayer as a means of communicating our needs, wants, hurts, and requests to God. I happen to agree with this.

It also seems that most Christians, myself included, make very little effort to look for God’s presence in our lives and then pause to thank Him. The church prays for Sister Brown’s foot pain as she submits a prayer card each Sunday for weeks and months, then when she finds a helpful medication we offer a brief prayer of thanks mixed in with other needs, if we mention it at all. (Luke 17:11-19 seems pertinent here.)

This unbalanced prayer life impacts the way we see God. We don’t use prayer to express love and appreciation to a loving Father. Rather we view him as a giant-vending-machine-in-the-sky and if we can just hit the buttons the right way we’ll have our hearts desires drop into our lap.

family breakfast 01I wonder how our lives would be different if we consciously decided to “Start with Gratitude”.

Would we appreciate our spouse and kids more if thanked God not just for their presence, but for something about them? Would it make the breakfast table be a different place if our daily routine started with thanks?

Would we have a better attitude toward our co-workers, or teachers, or classmates if we thanked God for them on the way to work or school?

Would we speak differently about our church if each day we gave thanks for the presence of the church, a ministry of the church, and some individuals from the church? Have you ever prayed down your church directory just thanking God for the way he’s working in that person or family’s life and the way he’s using them to bless others? Do you think that if you thanked God for that young Christian who seems to stumble more than grow but is still committed to Jesus, do you think you might say something different next Sunday?

I believe that when we make gratitude our starting point in our relationships with God and others the whole relational dynamic makes a positive shift.

On Sunday I encouraged the church to deliberately spend more time offering prayers of thanks rather than requests this week and see if it makes a difference. Perhaps you’d like to try this also?

DISCLAIMER: We all experience season of our life where we feel closer to Psalm 13:1 “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?” than we do Psalm 34:1 “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.

There are moments when praise and thankfulness seems shallow and fake. There are times when grief and pain overwhelm us. This post is not intended to tell those of us experiencing this darkness to “just get over it” or to “fake it”. If that’s you, I pray that God provides healing. I pray you don’t feel guilt because others experience joy and gratitude. Even Paul in Galatians felt that the urgency of the Galatian problems meant skipping his usual paragraph of thanks. I pray that your day of gratitude will arrive soon.

 

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