Gratitude: What a Blessed Attitude!
Study Guide, November 17, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
I read where a Pastor always began each Sunday service with thanking the Lord for something. One Sunday was a particularly nasty weather day, and some were wondering what he would be thankful for in the midst of a mess like that. And so the Pastor paused and then said, “Lord, we’re thankful that it isn’t always like this!” The Scriptures do say, ‘in’ everything give thanks’, but not ‘for’ everything. There’s a big difference.
But since this is the season for focusing on giving thanks, let’s look into some of the amazing and maybe surprising blessings that are embedded in the practice of ‘Gratitude’. And how like our great God to create us in such a way that when we do obey His commandments to practice gratitude we are the ones that get built up and blessed up! That’s right. Gratitude has a powerful effect on us physiologically, psychologically, and spiritually.
In other words, gratitude is just really good for you. Like good medicine: we each need a daily dose of it. Instead of a ‘carbon offset’, we need to practice ‘gratitude’ to act like a ‘crabby offset’ in our lives. Isn’t it strange what a huge capacity we all have for crabbiness? It’s like what we see with the Israelites in the wilderness, and what they showed us about human nature…human nature tends to default so easily to the dark side of ‘grumbling’. But God calls His people to a higher standard than that…a higher habit…to the light side, to the bright side of developing and practicing the habit of gratitude. And when God’s people do that, that’s when a dark world looks at this light of gratitude and sees something more than just human nature going on…they see the Spirit of Light, the Spirit of Christ at work in our lives.
God’s people are just meant to do basically everything different than the world anyway. That’s what the Apostle meant about being a ‘peculiar people’. We do life differently than the citizens of Earth, because we are also citizens of a land beyond Earth. Or like the chemical company BASF, that made the commercials where they said: “We don’t make the products you buy, we make the products you buy better.” By the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are to make the daily things we deal with in life ‘better’. And one of the powerful ways to make things in life better is through practicing ‘gratitude’ throughout your day.
In fact, this habit of gratitude is so amazing that it even has the power to alter the very structure of our brains! Really? Really! Research has shown that our thoughts have the power to shape our brains. Actually, all they had to do was to read the revelation of God to learn this: Prov 4:23- “Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.” ERV That’s how powerful our thoughts are. And that’s why we are instructed to control what we think about, because what we think about will then control what we think. Think about that! Why, the book of Proverbs even starts out by saying this about the need to think on and meditate on God’s Words: “They will teach you to develop your mind in the right way.” Prov 1:3 ERV
What this also implies is that without learning God’s revelation about life and living, the human mind will not be developed the right way. It will be developed a distorted way and a damaged way. Which also reminds us of how Jesus stated it when He said: Matt 4:4- “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” KJV Jesus made it clear that mentally feeding on the revealed Scriptures is even more important than feeding on physical food. And that explains much of the problem with the way people think and live right there.
Most people are mentally and spiritually malnourished! No wonder they are so weak when it comes to lifting the heavy matters of righteousness and justice and godliness and mercy and practicing Biblical love. They are so mentally and spiritually malnourished that they give into the weak things of unrighteousness and injustice and ungodliness and bitterness and selfishness. It doesn’t take any mental or spiritual strength at all to be ungodly. But it does take mental and spiritual strength to be godly. But that strength only comes from feeding on the Word of God and exercising with the Words of God.
And again, one of the exercises or practices that God commands is the practice of ‘gratitude’. Did we say commands? Yes, it’s not a suggestion. Being grateful is a command to obey. And when we do daily and obediently practice gratitude, we find that this godly habit is a blessed habit, even in our own lives. Gratitude strengthens our body, our soul, and our mind. We could think of ‘gratitude living’ like ‘weight-lifting’…it will ‘pump you up’! And, interestingly enough, like weight-lifting, or just exercising in general, just like you don’t always feel like exercising, similarly, you don’t always feel like giving thanks or expressing gratitude. But when you exercise anyway, or when you give thanks and practice gratitude anyway, the endorphins of your physical, mental, social, and spiritual life kick in and lifts you up, and strengthens you, and just out-right blesses you. It’s simply how God made us to function. Or, as the old VBS ‘Give Me Oil for My Lamp’ song might put it: Gratitude is the ‘umption in our gumption that helps us function, function, function’. Remember that one? We all need some daily ‘umption in our gumption’!
How about if we just listed some of the benefits or blessings that the habit of gratitude has on us? Here’s some research: Expressing gratitude: improves mental, emotional, and social well-being; improves ability to deal with instances of loss or crises; strengthens the heart, immune system, and decreases blood pressure; expands the capacity for forgiveness; decreases stress, anxiety, depression, and heightens one’s sense of spirituality. Gratitude is touted by Doctors as one of the best health choice habits that exists!
Research also shows that the practice of gratitude can literally rewire the human brain. That happens by the brain creating new neural pathways and even alters existing ones by training the brain to develop a more grateful outlook on life and expressing gratitude more often in our day to day experiences of life. That’s another way to describe what the Scriptures call for us to do in passages like: Ps 1:1-3- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.” NASU ‘Meditation’ is another word for ‘brain training’. And our brains definitely need training throughout our lives. An untrained mind is a terrible thing to waste. But even more, God wants to be the primary ‘Trainer’ of our brains in order to enable us to be more useful and effective in the plans that He has for us… especially in blessing others and in Him blessing us. Again, this ‘training of our brain’ to think thankfully and think gratefully is one of the major things God is seeking to develop in you and in me…to train our brain so that gratitude is so ingrained into our thinking that God can use us for the purpose of blessing.
Think about it: A grateful person is a great person to be around. A grateful person tends to know a great deal more about the goodness of God and the steadfast love of God than others. Think about the ‘King of Giving Thanks’, the Psalmist. Look at what he understood about God. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…who alone does great wonders…who made the heavens with skill…who made the great lights…the sun to rule by day…the moon and stars to rule by night, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Ps 136:1-9 NASU A grateful believer will turn your eyes upon your great Creator, as well as inspire you to trust in your great Deliverer. Ps 30:4-5- “Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And then verses 11-12- “You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!” NLT Gratitude literally opens a new door to learning more and more about our great God and understanding more about His wonders and His works and His ways. And on the contrary, ingratitude is like shutting the door yourself on learning more about God and understanding His works and ways. Ingratitude severely restricts spiritual growth.
Plus, think how refreshing it is to be around a grateful believer? A grateful person also helps you learn how to deal with hard circumstances. Through practicing thankfulness you become stronger than you ever thought you could be. Through practicing a ‘gratitude attitude’ you experience a better aptitude for problem solving. You develop better social skills than you would have ever experienced without developing a habit of gratitude. You also generate more social capital, as they call it. You become more trustworthy in the eyes of others, more likeable to be around, more sought out for counsel, more appreciated by those who have been blessed by the experience of your gratitude. And in God’s amazing and benevolent ways with us, He sees to it that in your giving of this gratitude that you receive great blessing from Him from it all and through it all. As Jesus put it: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And the spiritual principle and astounding truth about that is that God sees to it that you will receive even more than you gave; in everything from your time, to your talents, to your treasures. And when these are given with thanksgiving, the results expand exponentially in blessings to you. That’s how God’s ‘blessing economics’ works!
We should also know that ‘gratitude’ protects us from self-inflicted miseries, as well as protects us from the consequences that self-pride and self-centeredness set into motion. If we were to walk back through all of those benefits that result from practicing gratitude and talk about the negative side of each of those, well it’s not anything that anyone would choose to experience. Who would choose to be more stressed, more depressed, more miserable, more troubled and worried and bitter…oh my?! Deliberately, no one of course. But logically? Note: By not choosing to practice gratitude you will default to grumbling. We have a plethora of Scriptures and human experience proving that!
Every day there are countless things that we could grumble about naturally. We live in a muddled up, troubled up, grumbled up world! But as redeemed people, who are to ‘do life differently’ from the ‘natural man’, there are also things that we are to count…we are to ‘count our many blessings!’ Do you remember that great hymn? “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. So, amid the conflict, whether great or small, do not be discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, Angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.”
What a great hymn and what great truths! The Psalmist put it like this: Ps 103:1-2- “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits. “NASU In other words, ‘Count them one by one’.
Remember, we also stated that God is counting on us…counting on using us to be useful in reaching out to others for His purposes. But to be deeply useful people we first have to be deeply thankful people. Every useful and effective witness for Christ has first been a deeply thankful Christian. The more grateful we are to Christ for His amazing grace the greater our passion will be for the Great Commission. And remember, the greatest thing in life is to be useful to God. And being useful to God not only blesses God greatly, but that is what will bless you greatly as well. But it starts by being grateful, being thankful. Brothers and Sisters, be a man or a woman that is characterized and known by others as one whose attitude is filled with gratitude. And when you are filled with gratitude, then get ready to enjoy the blessings that grow out of gratitude. That’s just the way our God has designed it all…it’s the way He designed us! What an awesome God we have!
Some research findings gratefully found at: