Pastor Bob Norton
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is at the heart of true spirituality. 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 scholarship or advanced degrees to practice it. It just requires obedience.
Richard Foster reflects, “Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” The spirituality of gratitude is going deeper.
Christianity calls for radical gratitude. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”
(1 Thessalonians 5:18). Developing the meditative habit of constantly whispering thanks to Him – no matter the situation – is in fact a mustard seed of life-changing power. Radical, for it goes to the root of who we are. Small, seemingly insignificant, yet it has the power to change our lives and blow our socks off, right in the middle of everyday. When we really give God thanks in everything, we are acknowledging that He is sovereign and that we trust Him. And we find that it changes us.
However, this kind of habitual gratitude is not unique to Christianity. Many religions commend thankfulness. The Internet (1,280,000 hits) encourages practicing gratitude as “self-empowerment” and reminds you that a habit of thankfulness has proven health benefits. In classical Western tradition, the Roman sage Cicero called gratitude not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others. Kant said that ingratitude was the “essence of vileness.” In our contentious, uncivil society of today have we lost our grip on civility because we have laid aside the practice of gratitude? In Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation he observed that in our self-congratulatory prosperity we have forgotten God. God is the Source. We are not. We must humble ourselves before our beneficent Creator.
Ellen Vaughn tells the story…Years ago there was an incident on the Washington subway system in which a crowded train stalled on an underground track. Harried commuters were beside themselves. No one had been talking with one another, but now they burst into mutual, frenzied spurts of accusations against the driver – as if the situation was under his control – the Metro authorities, the federal government, anyone and everyone they could blame for this vile inconvenience.
Somewhere in the midst of all this invective, 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. 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. Instead of following along on the lazy downward spiral of negativity, we can make a purposeful, daily decision responding to our calling to be the grateful one. The vistas of God’s great love call us to come and enjoy Him, now and forever. In so doing, we make a difference, practicing the spirituality of gratitude. Gratitude effects you, and others. Practice it. God’s smile will be upon you.