Recently, our family celebrated the 7th birthday of our twin girls, Adleigh and Liana. Amid the festivities marked with Barbies and princess dresses, what made this day extra special for us was remembering the words spoken by doctors days after they were born 3 months premature. We were told that Liana would never have a “normal life.” That she may never walk, talk and or get out of diapers. In fact, we were asked to consider taking her off of life support. But when they both came home 3 months later as healthy babies, our hearts were overwhelmed with gratefulness. And now at 7 years old, Liana does everything we were told she couldn’t do. They are both daily reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God.
Not long after their birthday, though, I noticed that I was getting frustrated that Liana couldn’t play sports with her friends because of the brace she wears on her right foot. As I complained to my wife, the Lord convicted me with this thought – “How can I complain when I was told she shouldn’t even be here?” The fact that she could run at all was a miracle. Every day of her life is a miracle. But somehow what was once special had become common. Since that moment, I am learning I need to do a better job at guarding my gratitude.
Gratitude is essential to our lives as followers of Christ and as ministers of the gospel. One of my favorite expressions of gratitude in all of Scripture is found in Luke 7. I particularly love how it is phrased in the Message. After Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead in the village Nain, it says:
“They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful—and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, “God is back, looking to the needs of his people!” The news of Jesus spread all through the country.”
I love that response – “quietly worshipful and noisily grateful.” I never want to lose the wonder of what God has done in my life. That same sense of awe should also fuel our passion for ministry. At our church, we believe in the power of setting the right atmosphere, and gratitude more than anything else sets the atmosphere of our hearts. So we must guard that sense of gratitude within us if we want to set an atmosphere of thankfulness in our churches. Here are 3 simple ways I am learning to do that.
Guard your gratitude by looking for blessing. Psalm 103 says “remember the good things He does for me.” God’s goodness isn’t just in the past. It is in the present tense. He is always working on behalf of His children. If that’s the case, then every day I should be on the lookout for His goodness. Even in failure, I can find a way to be grateful for what God is teaching me or developing in my character. But I have to be actively looking for it or I will miss it.
Guard your gratitude by celebrating others. I don’t want my gratefulness to only be linked to what God does through my life. If I am only celebrating what I get to do, I am missing the point as a leader. My pastor says that mature ministry is being more excited about what God does through others than what He does through me. I want to cheer other people on and celebrate their success as they flourish in their gift.
Guard your gratitude by taking action. I know my kids are grateful for a gift I give when I actually see them play with it. We show our gratitude for the privilege and joy of being in ministry when we work at it with all of our heart. When we multiply what has been entrusted to us, or find ways to honor the people we serve with, we are cultivating an atmosphere of thankfulness.
If we lead and serve this way, our churches will notice. And that is when our gratitude becomes contagious.
Elevation Church Worship Pastor