Three Gateways to Gratitude

by Andy Wood on May 25, 2012

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Esteem, Five LV Laws, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Abundance

UPDATE:  The giveaway has been moved to Tuesday, May 29.  (Forgot it was Memorial Day Weekend.)

(Shameless Plug:  Be watching Sunday, May 27, for our first-ever prize giveaway.)

The Thanksgiving holiday is still a long way off.  The turkeys are still strutting around the barnyard as if life will go on forever.

Nobody’s playing football on TV, though I did hear that Peyton has started working out with his new team and somebody else has joined the sue-the-NFL club.

School is out this week in a lot of places, so maybe families will be getting together for the Memorial Day Weekend holiday.  But I fear as a nation we’re just as thankless on Memorial Day as we typically are on the fourth Thursday in November.

So.  Since nobody’s going around the table making you share what you’re thankful for, what are you thankful for?  Since you haven’t eaten yourself into a ‘bout-to-pop stupor, what are you thankful for?  Since nobody is having a pre-Christmas sale right now (that I know of), what are you thankful for?

Grateful in the Grind

We spend most of our years grinding it out, whatever “it” is.  We’ve figured out how to squeeze all the margin out of our lives – so much so that somebody recently joked about being bored in the bathroom because they forgot to take their smart phone.

But somewhere in the nonstop activity and pressure, we need to take time to breathe.  And that’s where gratitude comes in.  Gratitude is oxygen to the soul.  And while you can’t always see where it’s taking you, creating pockets of spiritual and emotional breathing is an investment you’re making in your future.

Tucked away in a friendly greeting in one of Paul’s New Testament letters, you’ll find these words:

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

Lest you assume this was written by somebody with plenty of free time on his hands, I should remind you that Paul was one of the busiest people in the Bible.  But he routinely incorporated gratitude to God in his hard-charging schedule, and I think that was one of the secrets of his power and productivity.

In greeting the Thessalonians, Paul categorically states that he always thanks God for them.  In essence, whenever Paul thought of them, he gave thanks to God.  That’s because something he saw in them reflected the powerful work of God in his own life.

Who do you have to thank God for?  And how long has it been since you did it?  Here are three gateways to help you frame it:

Tools

Paul saw the Thessalonians as a tool of God in his own life.  They were extending and continuing his ministry when he could no longer be there to do it himself.  As his letters will attest, they were also great sources of support and joy throughout his ministry.

When I thank God for somebody else, it’s often because God has used them significantly in my life.  They are my encouragers, my teachers, my role models and my supporters.  They are the people who have reminded me that God is love and that He is generous and kind.  These people gave me chances when nobody else would, put up with me when I wasn’t all that fun to be around, and saw in me something I often didn’t see in myself.

How about you?  Who are the tools God has used or is still using to change your life for the better?  Whose shoulders do you stand on today in your work or ministry?  Who pointed out your potential genius, imparted an important skill or insight, or walked beside you through the mayhem?  Who told you to shut up, grow up or wise up when you needed it?  Who picked you up when you were down, slowed you down when you were going too fast, or shut you down when you thought you were invincible?

Stop.  Breathe.  Thank God for them.  And if they’re still living, tell them:  “I thank God for you.”

Trophies

Paul saw the Thessalonians as recipients of God’s work through his own.  They were trophies of God’s grace, but that grace was extended as an affirmation of Paul’s ministry.  Their faith, hope and love brought joy and fulfillment to Paul because he was God’s instrument to lead them to Christ.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this.  In a life so marked by hostility, persecution, and frustration, having such trophies of grace is extremely affirming.

I was having my weekly call with my old friend Randall yesterday.  As we often do, we did a review of some of the old days – people who had touched our lives, befriended us, or responded to us in some way.  We also did a postmortem on some really stupid things we said or did – often in the name of God – that I so wish I could redo.

Somewhere the question came up:  Was any of our apparent influence real?  The temptation was to write it all off as a couple of high school or early college kids expressing their annoying and often flawed zeal for God.  But there is fruit that remains, and God is using people to this day that we had the privilege of influencing.

What about you?  Is there somebody still moving forward that you once encouraged not to quit?  Is there somebody still serving God because you shared Christ with them?  Is there somebody influencing others today because they’re standing on your shoulders, following your example, extending your influence?

Stop. Breathe.  Thank God for them.  And if they’re still living, tell them:  “I thank God for you.”

Testimonies

Paul saw the Thessalonians as examples and models – testimonies to the world around them of what faith, hope and love look like in the real world.  They were examples of service and endurance and a living reminder to Paul himself to keep moving forward.

I’ve often spoken of the difference that Fred Wolfe, my pastor, has made in my life in a myriad of ways.  But one of the things I’ll never forget is a hand-written letter he sent me after I had forwarded him a copy of a message I had preached, sharing a significant testimony in my own life.  In the letter he thanked me for sending it, and added, “It really helped me.”

What? I possibly did something to help him?  Talk about encouraging!

How about you?  Is there someone whose example you are following, whose influence you still profit from?  Is there somebody who motivates you to keep going, who challenges you to believe, or who show you how to love – even if you may have never met them?

Stop.  Breathe.  Thank God for them.  And if they’re still living, tell them:  “I thank God for you.”

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