by Pastor Bob Norton
(Our Special Thanks to Ellen Vaughn for her Insights on Gratitude)
Being thankful is not rocket science. Though the topic of gratitude goes as deep as the grace of God, it does not require tough biblical exegesis or advanced degrees to practice it. It just requires obedience. We are called to be a grateful people.
Cultivating a grateful heart is not just an add-on nicety, a civil tip of the hat to God as we steamroll through our day. A posture of purposeful, perpetual thanks to God is absolutely central to Christian character. It gives glory to Him. It is the key defense against Satan’s temptations to despair, distrust, dysfunction. It protects us from sin and self. It is the hallmark of heaven. It does not exist in hell. Gratitude is at the heart of authentic spirituality.
Ungratefulness can become a heart-hardening habit. First comes complaining, then bitterness, anger, then feeling victimized or entitled to things that we’re just not getting. Covetousness. That mindset stealthily lifts the latch and eases open the dark gate to all kinds of sin.
The apostle Paul describes this slide into ungratefulness and that we are without excuse. He writes in a direct way in Romans 1… ”For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Ungratefulness – the refusal to glorify and thank God – is the clearest manifestation of the mother sin, human rebellion against God. “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” “God gave them over to shameful lusts.” “God gave them over to a depraved mind.”
Practicing gratitude becomes the fragrance of Christ in our world today. Years ago there was an incident on the Washington subway system in which a crowded train stalled on an underground track. Harried commuters and shoppers were beside themselves. No one had been talking with one another, but now they burst into frenzied spurts of accusations and blaming as to who was responsible for this vile inconvenience. A woman with a number of bulky shopping bags dropped a new bottle of perfume and it shattered. Within a few minutes, the pure, luxurious fragrance had wafted the length of the crowded car. It was as if the fresh smell released people from a dark spell. They sniffed, smiled, and relaxed, laughing with each other. Surprise!
Followers of Jesus have the opportunity, in life’s crowded moments when people feel stuck, to be the fragrance of Christ. What it takes is a purposeful, daily decision on our part to be the one to reverse the lazy downward spiral of negativity with a timely and authentic expression of heartfelt gratitude. Be the one!