Do your children struggle being thankful? Join AMBrewster as he shows Christian parents how to teach their children to embody true gratitude. Today he discusses what gratitude is, who deserves our gratitude, what we have to be thankful for, and what the root of true gratitude is.
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Happy Thanksgiving Week!
I pray the gratitude you feel now will not waiver as the year progresses, but will burn steadily brighter as you daily are reminded of God’s unending mercy and grace.
And if you’re having a hard time with gratitude this year, may this short two-part series refocus your mind and the hearts of your family.
This series is called Teach Your Children to be Grateful, and it’s part of a larger collection of episodes designed to help you teach your children valuable, biblical truths.
If you go to TruthLoveParent.com you can find all of our “Teach Your Children to _________” by hovering over Podcast and clicking on “Episodes by Series.”
As I usually do with such episodes, I encourage your children to listen along with us. You can even listen to this episode together and then spend some time as a family discussing what the implications for your household may be.
And, of course, you can find our episode notes at our blog, Taking Back the Family
What is gratitude?
The English word refers to "a feeling of appreciation or thanks.” The word “thanks” is "a good feeling that you have toward someone who has helped you, given you something, etc." "Kindly or grateful thoughts.”
Please notice the stress these definitions put on our feelings. This should not be surprising given our modern addiction to emotions. As a culture, I believe we truly embody “If it feels good, do it.” I also think that — with the help of secular psychologists and their ever vigilant desire to convince the world that all of our problems are biological — we have taken many concepts the are supposed to be spiritual and relegated them to mere emotions.
But this is not how God would have us live. Nor is it how He would have us understand gratitude.
In the Greek, the word refers to “actively grateful language (to God, as an act of worship) and thankfulness.” Please note that this definition focuses mainly on the action of expressing thanks versus the feeling of gratitude.
Here’s the Brewster expanded definition: “A state of mind that grows from humility whereby the individual acknowledges he does not deserve anything he has and that God is good for bringing it into his life.”
Let’s pick apart this description.
I believe that one can feel “gratitude.” But I would be interested in discovering the root belief of that feeling. If you remember the Merest Christianity, everything we feel grows from what we want, and what the want grows from what we believe about God, His Word, and ourselves.
I believe some people feel a happiness that is directly related to receiving something they desired. And — generally speaking — that individual likely believed that the person bestowing the gift was loving and kind and that the gift was unmerited.
This idea that something is unmerited is a humble notion. It recognizes that I do not deserve something. To believe I’m entitled to a gift or certain behavior, and that to not receive that gift or behavior would be unacceptable, would be prideful.
But I believe we can deepen the roots of our gratitude by removing it from the planter of emotions and sinking it into the warm soil of our minds.
Like Christ illustrated for us in Matthew 5 on the Sermon on the Mount, we must realize that we are spiritually destitute, that should cause us to mourn over our condition, and that should produce in us a spirit of humility where we can approach God and ask for that which we know we can’t conjure on our own.
The person who looks around them and understands that they do not deserve anything they see, is a person who will be thankful for all they see.
And the focus of our gratitude needs to be correct as well.
Consider the following:
I Chronicles 16:8, "Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name.”
II Corinthians 4:15 "For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God.”
II Corinthians 9:11 "You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
II Corinthians 9:12 "For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgiving to God.”
Philippians 4:6 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Revelation 4:9 "And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever.”
Obviously, wisdom dictates that our gratitude be ultimately heaped upon the one who is sovereignly in control of all things.
Now, let’s reconsider our definition, gratitude is “A state of mind that grows from humility whereby the individual acknowledges he does not deserve anything he has and that God is good for bringing it into his life.”
It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in life we know we don’t deserve.
Psalm 7:17 tells us to be thankful for all of God's attributes. We don’t deserve a God who loves us even when we’re disobedient. We don’t deserve a God who’s sovereignly prepared to work out every situation to our greatest good and His greatest glory.
This is similar to Psalm 9:1, Psalm 26:7, Psalm 28:7, and Psalm 107:8 which call us to be thankful for all of God's deeds. Again, if God is Who He says He is, then everything He does is worthy of praise.
Of course, no born again believer would ever not be thankful for her salvation. II Corinthians 9:15 and I Corinthians 15:57 both call us to that.
Our progressive sanctification is also part of that amazing gift of grace. Romans 7:25 speaks to this.
And of course we — like the angels — should be moved to praise God for all conversions. I Thessalonians 2:13 illustrates Paul’s gratitude for people who received the Word of God.
But that’s not where our gratitude should end.
When I was in college I came to the conclusion that I didn’t thank God enough for His goodness. So I set out to actively and regularly thank Him for every blessing in my day. I thanked Him for the warm bed, the hot shower, the delicious breakfast. I thanked Him for the beautiful day, a good school, and a close parking spot. I also thanked him for raises, good grades, and girls who would accept my invitation to dates.
And I believe that time in my life was instrumental in me seeing the good and perfect gifts that were coming down from the Father or Lights.
But it was after a few months of this that I found myself grumbling about a parking spot that was quite removed from my destination, and it hit me. I was sitting in a car, having arrived at a mall where I was about to work a job, as part of my life as an American, Christian university student, and here I was grumbling about having to walk a little farther.
There are people all over the world who walk everywhere. They walk miles every day. They would never dream of owning a vehicle, and — if they did — it would likely be a mess.
And that day I stopped where I was and I thanked God — not only for all the amazing things He’d given me — but for the parking spot that required more walking.
That day I started thanking God for the difficult days at work. I thanked him for the cold showers and the skipped breakfasts. I thanked Him for the illnesses, unkind roommates, and dropped grades. I thanked Him for the consequences of my sin, the inclement weather, and the girls who would not go out with me.
And — you know what — that exercise had a far more life-changing effect on me. I quickly became a very different person.
Now, I wish I could say that I’ve consistently grown in that discipline, but I have not. There have been long seasons of my life that I fallen into grumbling, complaining, and a complete refusal to be thankful for that which God has lovingly brought into my life.
All of this to say that I believe mature gratitude is thankful for all people and all situations. I Timothy 2:1 and Philippians 1:3 illustrate the importance of being thankful for all people, even people in our government who don’t govern the way we’d like. And I Thessalonians 5:18, Philippians 4:6, and Ephesians 5:20 give us absolutely no room to wiggle out of being thankful for all circumstances.
Now, next time we’re going to discuss how it’s even possible to achieve that. It’s one thing to be thankful for rainy weather and broccoli, but does God really expect us to be thankful for cancer and for when people sin against us?
I’m going to say the answer is, “Yes,” and I look forward to discussing that with you next time.
But today we’ve looked at a definition of gratitude that praises God for all things, and I want to finish up by looking at the root of Thanksgiving. Just like a tree will not be able to grow without a healthy root, gratitude will dry up without these four roots.
But, before I do that, I want to thank a really special, and brand new Patron! Dave recently went to patreon.com, learned about our goals, and — for less than the price of one coffee a week — Dave committed to faithfully worshipping God by supporting TLP.
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1. Okay, first root of gratitude is one we’ve already seen — humility.
The wholly arrogant person is never grateful because he believes he is the best and deserves it.
But none of us are wholly arrogant. That means that even the most prideful person you know is likely thankful sometimes. That’s because we’re all shades of prideful for different reasons.
The point is that we will never be thankful in the areas where we are the most prideful. A rebellious child will not be thankful for reinterpretation or discipline because they believe they’re doing the right thing.
The arrogant ball player will believe he deserves to be on the court and deserves for you to pass him the ball. He will not be thankful for those things.
Do you want to know where pride is crouching in your heart? Look to the areas in your life where you don’t express sincere, deep gratitude.
If you’re not overwhelmed with thankfulness for your family, your house, your job, your church, your cancer, your poverty, your riches, your friends, your education, your unemployment, then you can be sure that you have pride surrounding those facets of your life.
And the same goes for your kids. Are they annoyed by chores? Then they have a prideful lie living in their spirit that says they deserve better than to have to do chores? By the way, we have a great episode about chores on episode 154.
Are they ungrateful for church? Then they arrogantly believe that it’s below them, unnecessary, foolish, or even harmful. We also have a series about the importance of church attendance. That series starts in episode 175 and may be helpful showing your child the truth about church.
The point is, pride is the enemy of gratitude.
2. The second root of thankfulness is trust.
Consider Psalm 100, a very familiar psalm of praise, “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
What does this have to do with trust?
Do you remember from the Merest Christianity series that faith/belief/trust is why we do what we do. If I’m entering God’s presence with praise and thanksgiving, it’s because I believe His promises. If I’m giving thanks to Him and blessing His name, it’s because I trust Him when He says that He is good, that His steadfast love endures forever, and that His faithfulness extends to all generations.”
In humility I must trust that God will keep His promises, even when it doesn’t look like He will. This allows me to be thankful for anything that may intrude itself into my life.
3. The third root of gratitude is contentment.
In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Contentment is being at peace with my current situation. This provides fertile ground of thanksgiving because I rightly understand that regardless of what I have, it’s exactly what I need. Merriam-Webster says that contentment is a “feeling [of] satisfaction with one's possessions, status, or situation.”
“Satisfaction” is defined as “fulfillment of a need or want.”
Now, this causes a little bit of a breakdown in our understanding if we divorce these concepts from the Bible.
If contentment is only felt if my desires are met, then there will be many times that I won’t be thankful.
If contentment is only felt if my perceived needs are met, then there will be times that I can justify not being thankful.
But if I understand what my desires should be, and if I understand what my biblical needs are, then I will constantly be in a state of contentment because I will correctly understand that God will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.
So, if I’m going to humbly trust God, then I’m going to acknowledge that I have exactly what I need, and if my desires are tuned to His will, then I’m only going to want what’s best for me, and if God has chosen to withhold something, that will okay with me, because His will is my will. And when I delight myself in the Lord He will give me the desires of my heart because 1. He will be my desire, and 2. I will only desire that which conforms to His will for my life.
I speak thoroughly on the concept of true, biblical needs in “The Rock, The Bread, and The Donut” series that starts in episode 106. That series would be a great follow-up to today’s study — especially episode 107.
So, gratitude will not exhibit itself in someone’s life if there is not at least a little humility, trust, contentment, and the fourth criteria is . . .
But before I tell you what it is, don’t forget that we have free episode notes at TruthLoveParent.com under the resources tab on our blog, Taking Back the Family.
Okay, the last root of thankfulness is 4. Joy
Psalm 95:2-3, “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
We should be joyful because we serve a great God and King.
James 1:2-4, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
We should be joyful even when things are not as good and great as we may have liked because God is still good and great, and He’s at work in the trials and testing to produce steadfastness and maturity.
And regardless of the situation, regardless of whether our lives are comfortable and blessed or uncomfortable and blessed, Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”
My joyful spirit can remedy a trying circumstance, but my depression and anxiety can kill an otherwise healthy spirit.
Of course, there’s so much more that could be said.
The very real downside of having only 15 to 20 minutes together is the amount of Bible into which we can dig.
But even with these few passages we can see that we must be thankful to God for all things, there are countless blessings for which we should be thankful, and that gratitude will not flourish in a life devoid of humility, trust, contentment, and joy.
And next time I hope to discuss the opposite of thanksgiving, the only people who aren’t thankful, and how we and our kids can truly be grateful for everything . . . even the uncomfortable things.
Please share this episode with your friends. Word of mouth is the best way to tell people about TLP, but social media is really good too!
I know your children likely don’t exude thanksgiving, but what better time of year is there to teach them about our great God and the gratitude He deserves?
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
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