The Virtue of Gratitude
Hearing footsteps in the corridor he knew might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the muggy, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.
Separated from friends & fellowship, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing and almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison cell. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!
The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. While he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything" (Ephesians 5:19).
Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation. Gratitude for Apostle Paul was not just a gesture, it was a lifestyle and in turn he went on to write 14 of the 27 books included in the New Testament, all inspired by the Spirit of God. Apostle Paul wrote that we should not let our minds dwell on negative thoughts. Instead, we should dwell on those things that are pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.
Today, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. Children forget to thank their parents for all that they do. Common courtesy is scorned. We take for granted the ways that others help us. Above all, we fail to thank God for His blessings.
One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him” (Romans 1:21). An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent to His mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything.
Why should we be thankful? Because God has blessed us, and we should be thankful for each blessing.
Thanking God glorifies and magnifies Him and also benefits us. The Lord doesn’t need our thanks, but we need to give it so we can become what He wants us to be: unselfish, encouraged, and confident.
To be grateful for the good things that happen in our lives is easy, but to be grateful for all of our lives’ events – the good as well as the bad, the moments of joy as well as the moments of sorrow, the successes as well as the failures, the rewards as well as the rejections - that requires hard spiritual work. Still, we are only truly grateful people when we can say thank you to all that has brought us to the present moment. As long as we keep dividing our lives between events and people we would like to remember and those we would rather forget, we cannot claim the fullness of our beings as a gift of God to be grateful for.
Let’s not be afraid to look at everything that has brought us to where we are now and trust that we will soon see in it the guiding hand of a loving God; for the trials we face regardless of how bad they are prove our undying faith for Him – “In this [we] greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7)
Tested faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness if you had not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God’s strength if you had not been supported in the flood. Faith increases in quality, assurance, and intensity the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too therefore give thanks.Thank God for grace in all circumstances. We should be thankful everyday, not just when we attend a church service or observe a special day of thanks. This is because there is always something to be grateful forremembering that someone out there is praying for the kind of life you have.