November 5, 2022 | by: Raymundo Estenoz | 0 comments
Gratitude is a spiritual practice that should distinguish the life of Christians and the church of Christ. To thank God is to recognize his sovereign work, perfect and full of grace in our lives. Living a life of gratitude to God must go beyond the ritual we practice in corporate worship. Instead, it must be a lifestyle that saturates every action that we practice in our daily lives.
Considering this godly and essential habit for the life of every believer and the church as the family of God, the Apostle Paul encourages his beloved flock of Thessalonica to:"...give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1Thes. 5:18). This exhortation challenges us to change the complaining lifestyle for a life grateful to God for his redemption in Christ. I want to share with you three truths about gratitude to God that have been a great blessing in my life.
First, God deserves our gratitude for his sovereign work in our lives. The exhortation is addressed to give thanks to God in all circumstances. In his own experience, Paul perceives all of life as favorable and unfavorable circumstances under God's control. No circumstance is beyond God's sovereign plans, however difficult it may seem. He controls the smallest detail in all creation (Matt. 10:29-30), including our lives.
It is interesting that Paul, who gives this beautiful exhortation, had experienced such extreme and difficult circumstances in his life as we will never experience. Allow me to enumerate them: Beatings (on several occasions and in different ways), prisons, stonings, shipwrecks, dangers of all kinds, false brothers, tiredness, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, worries, illnesses (2 Cor. 11:23-29), etc.
Still, Paul acknowledges that God controls every situation that comes into his life and uses it to form the image of Christ in his life. He affirms: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28-29).
Do you believe in this sovereign God who controls every detail of your life? Do you thank him for everything you are experiencing in your life, the good and the unpleasant for you? All the circumstances that constantly come into your life are an opportunity to know God more and thank Him.
If I have had to learn something during my walk with the Lord, it is to suffer challenging circumstances in my life with a thankful attitude. Being a Christian and a pastor in a communist country was really difficult for me. Being a Christian and a pastor in a country where I am a foreigner is not easy for me. But despite any challenges and difficulties I face, I can be sure that my God is using every circumstance to transform my life into the image of his Son. Every difficult circumstance I face will bring me eternal benefit. Isn't this more than enough to be thankful all the days of my life to Him?
The second truth is that considering the blessing of gratitude is because it is God's will. God, who knows best the reason for my existence and has the authority to decide what is good and bad for me, has decided that gratitude is how I should relate to Him. His will is always good, pleasing, and perfect (Rom. 12:3).
God knows that we tend to rebel and constantly complain in our fallen condition. As Israel in the desert, we are ready to complain about the difficulties rather than express our gratitude to God. That is why gratitude should be an act of obedience and not an emotional reaction. When we live in difficult circumstances, we tend to complain, have self-pity and become discouraged. Instead, the Lord asks of us in His gracious will to be grateful.
Charles Spurgeon said: "Here is a standing reason for thanksgiving. Although we may not always be healthy, nor always prosperous, yet God is always good, and, therefore, there is always a sufficient argument for giving thanks unto Jehovah. That he is a good God essentially, that he cannot be otherwise than good, he should be a fountain out of which the richest praises should perpetually flow".
In my moments of greatest sadness and pain due to the difficult circumstances I have had to live through, I have often allowed myself to be carried away by complaints and self-pity. But when God has made me see that it is his kind will that I thank Him, and I have obeyed His call, He has taken care of filling me with the joy that I need to move forward.
The third truth we must live thankful to God is that we are now in Christ. It is in Christ that God challenges us to obey because it is in Christ that God has given us all the priceless blessings for our lives (Eph. 1:3-14). Because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Christ (Eph. 2: 1-6) and filled us with all his blessings.
Living a life of gratitude shows our understanding of the gospel. We who deserved damnation now have the gift of eternal life (Rom. 6:23). We who were not God's people, who had no hope, and were excluded from the promises of God, now in Christ we are His people, we have hope and enjoy all the promises of God (Eph. 2: 12-13). We were rescued from our futile way of life by the sacrifice of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19). We must live every day thankful to God for our salvation in Christ.
One of the reasons ingratitude builds in our hearts is that we believe we deserve everything we want. However, it is not the truth, what we deserve is condemnation, and God has given us salvation in Christ. Isn't this enough reason to live every day of our lives in thanks to God?
I remember that on one occasion, I felt very upset after a difficult situation of persecution by the communist authorities in Cuba. I remember that in my annoyance, I complained to God and told Him: – Lord, I don't deserve to have to suffer so much contempt for serving You. At that moment, God made me review the gospel and see that what I deserved was death and that, by His grace, He had given me eternal life. That was the day I learned again that I had to thank God for saving me from Hell. Isn't that motivation enough to express our gratitude?
Timothy Keller said: "A life of gratitude to God for being saved is far more pleasing than a life based on self-righteousness over being good." It is in faith in the work of Christ for us that we will always find sufficient reasons to live grateful to God and not in our justice.
This month Christian families hope to celebrate Thanksgiving to remember God's blessings. I humbly urge you to make thanking God a lifestyle, not an annual celebration. Our gratitude to God should permeate our entire life. May every difficult circumstance become an opportunity for you to obediently express your gratitude to God and celebrate the blessing of being in Christ for eternity.
Remember how the psalmist encourages us to draw closer to God:
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name"!
God bless you.
Raymundo Estenoz Aguilera, Ph.D.
Raymundo Estenoz Aguilera is a Pastor and Teacher at Grace Bible Church en Español.
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