The Discipline of Thankfulness

How can we grow in the area of thankfulness in our own lives? That was the topic that came up this past weekend as I shared a message in preparation for the Thanksgiving that is taking place on Thursday of this week and thinking about how we can develop more gratitude in our lives. And thankful is a spiritual discipline, I talked about that. And the reason why God gives us spiritual disciplines that we are to work towards and to practice and apply in our lives is because he wants us to train ourselves to be Godly. God wants to conform us more and more those who follow Jesus, to conform us more into the likeness of Jesus.

And disciplines are one of the ways that that can happen. And disciplines can be things like reading God’s word or praying or fasting or those kinds of things to feel God’s presence in our lives and to be again, conformed more into the likeness of Jesus. But we also need thankfulness in our lives. Why? Because we tend naturally to not be thankful, as we talked about on Sunday in our message.

So we need to develop this spiritual muscle, we need to develop this discipline, we need to develop the ability to be able to still be thankful and to choose to be thankful even when we’re not feeling particularly grateful in the moment. So how can we do that? How do we develop this discipline of thankfulness? Here’s some thoughts for you. One is to just recognize and to be aware of the fact that we are so distracted during the course of our usual days that we can often miss and not see the things that we should be thankful for because we just don’t see them.

And so one of the things we need to do is to practice the gift of presence, truly being present. Because at any given moment during the course of a day we’re so distracted, there’s so much noise in our lives, we’re so busy that we’re not truly present at given moments. We may be physically present, but we’re not emotionally engaged. And thankfulness requires us to truly be present. And so one of the ways we can grow in thankfulness is by slowing down and to begin to recognize what is happening around us so that we don’t miss those things around us for which we should be thankful.

Another thing that we need to be mindful of is that we tend to be really expert at forgetting things. And so we need to remind ourselves of all the things for which we should be thankful, especially when pain and suffering and frustration comes our way. So the Bible talks about sort of counting our blessings, this idea of what we see in Psalm 103 we’re to rehearse and to remind ourselves of all of God’s benefits, for instance, to remind ourselves of the ways that God has provided for us. So this is a very common way that at Thanksgiving time that, for instance, we can just start naming the different ways that God has provided. He’s been present for us.

He’s come through. And as we begin to remind ourselves of those things, thankfulness automatically follows. Another thing that we can do is taking all the different things in your life that you’re super thankful for. It can be relationships. It can be something connected to your job or something connected to whatever it is that God has done or is doing in your lives.

And if you begin to sort of mentally trace back how those things came to exist in your life, how did those things come to be in your life? You begin to see that grace, god’s grace, is silently behind each and every good thing in your life. And when you begin to remind yourself of God’s grace, it begins to put an end to this idea of entitlement and of God owing us something. Because God’s been so gracious to us again, giving thanks for not only those things, but the grace from the very, very beginning that God has provided for us to even have access to those things. Here’s a couple of other reminders that, again, can help us to grow in thankfulness.

One of those things is to start every day before you grab your phone, before you do anything else, just as you lay in bed and your eyes open up to just pick one thing to say thank you to God for, before you do anything else, be specific about it and tell God thank you for that. And tell Him thank you for why that thing, whatever it is that you’re choosing to give thanks for, is so meaningful to you. And then end your day doing the same thing. Before you close your eyes, before you nod off and go to sleep, end your day by saying thank you for one specific thing in your life and telling God why that thing is so meaningful to you. That’s a way to grow.

In the area of thankfulness, there’s other things to recognize that we often make statements of comparison when we see what somebody else has and we’re envious of them. We can often miss the things that God has already given us. And so practicing the discipline of thankfulness requires abstaining from making comparative statements that create envy and discontent and entitlement within us and instead replacing those statements of comparison with statements of thanksgiving for what God has given us. There are other things that we can do, like meditating on Scripture, meditating on different psalms. Reading a psalm can remind us of God’s faithfulness through our lives and throughout history.

You can also choose to memorize perhaps a small verse like Philippians four six, that says do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your request to God and just reminding yourself of that. When you’re feeling anxious, meditating on that Scripture. Memorizing it. Calling it to mind can be so helpful. Or first, thessalonians 518, which simply says give thanks in all circumstances or for all things.

Or in all things. Because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Reminding ourselves God’s will is for us to be thankful people. Now, as we develop this spiritual discipline, I do just want to say here for a moment that this isn’t about being in denial. This is not about pretending as if everything’s okay when everything’s not okay.

What it is, is it’s helping us to practice having perspective, a divine perspective, God’s perspective, a biblical perspective in the midst of whatever it is that you’re going through. So I hope that you and your loved ones are able this season to give thanks. But again, as I shared on Sunday in our message, god wants us to be thankful as people who follow him to be thankful every single day of our lives. And I hope that these things will be helpful for you. Bye.