Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Fighting for Gratitude

"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." - 1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

One of the most powerful weapons in the fight to overcome sin and temptation is gratitude.

Does that sound strange to you? Something happens in our hearts when we become aware of God's blessing and erupt in thankfulness. It cuts our sin off at the root and weakens whatever self-justifying structure we had built up for our sin. The opposite happens when we choose to not give thanks, and instead become bitter and angry and grumble. Remember the Israelites in the wildnerness? Constant grumbling, constant sin. They're connected.

Gratitude sets our hearts in joy and thankfulness towards the Lord, recognizing His good gifts, and framing our sufferings as smaller in comparison to the weightiness of God's blessings. Suddenly our momentary feelings of loneliness one evening aren't so bad when we remember and praise God for the multitude of family and friends and church community that God has given us. Suddenly our momentary anger at not getting a parking place near Panera is cooled and seems insignificant when we remember that we own a car, have a credit card, are walking with functional legs, and are about to enjoy a fantastic meal. All God's gifts!

So here's the challenge: This Thanksgiving, write down a list of 100 things that you're thankful for. Sound like too many? Don't worry, it's easy once you get going. Here's a few categories to get your list started:

  • Physical health and body function (heart works, legs work, eyes, ears, smell, taste, brain, memory)
  • Blessings in the Gospel (forgiveness, sanctification, adoption, cleansing from shame, gifted righteousness, eternal life, justification)
  • Family and Friends (comfort, joy, fun times, events, meals together, giggles, hugs, kind words, cards, Facebook)
  • Material things (house, car, cell phone, laptop, food each day, clothing, books, money, technology, job, YouTube, pets)
  • Immaterial things (living in a free country, liberty, joy, motivation, purpose, passion, energy, creativity, belonging, pleasure in your work, positive emotions)
  • Metaphysical Realities (for the geeks: gravity, laws of physics, chemistry, space, time)
  • Existential Providence (God has sustained your life thus far! Think of the many risks you've experienced that have not resulted in death like car crashes, falls, dangerous situations, dumb decisions)
  • God Himself (knowing Him, joy in His presence, the comfort of the Holy Spirit, the pleasure of seeing His glory, the privilege of joining in His mission)
And then when you are tempted to grumble and complain, look at the list. When your temptation to self-medicate with porn or cutting or alcohol gets strong because of the stress or pain in your life, look at the list. When you're angry with where God has you, and very conscious of the things He has chosen to NOT give you, look at the list. And give thanks :)

Fighting for Gratitude,
The Relentless Fight

PS: Why not start right now by naming 5 things you're thankful for today in the comments below, or comment on the Facebook post?