God, Grace, and Gratitude

by Nancy Kay Grace

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

A small, wooden plaque on my office shelf contains three words: God, Grace, and Gratitude.

When I saw it in the store, the simplicity of the message spoke to my heart. The three words remind me of the blessings God has freely given and guides my response to them. Let’s look at the interesting connection between those three words.

God. The “God of all grace” is one of the names given to God in scripture (1 Peter 5:10). God is the author of grace, freely given though we are undeserving. God’s greatest gift is the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. The blessings in daily life like family, sustenance, or even the next breath we take are also gifts given out of grace. I praise God for this amazing salvation and the daily outpouring of his grace gifts.

Grace. The word for grace in Greek is charis, meaning goodwill or favor. This is also the root word for charity, which is generosity and helpfulness shown especially toward the needy.

Charity is a free gift. We are in need of God’s free gift. Every day, I need connection with the Lord. God, the author of grace, generously gives us his favor as a free gift, not from anything you or I do.

Gratitude. It is interesting to note that the Greek word for gratitude is also charis. Our response to receiving grace from the Giver of grace is gratitude. The difference is that one charis (grace) flows from the Giver and the other charis (gratitude) is the response of the receiver. Grace flows from God to us; his blessings flow to us. We receive them with gratitude, the counterpart to grace.

God, grace, and gratitude are related words that spill into our lives. No matter what season in life you are experiencing, whether it’s a time of great blessing when things are going right or a time of distress when life overwhelms you, the God of all grace is present.

Thanksgiving is more than a season. When we begin and end every day with thankfulness, we gain a better perspective. Simple ways to live with overflowing thankfulness are to make a gratitude list and refer to it often, to thank others for their impact on you, and to thank God for the small and large grace-gifts in your life. Cultivating a heart of gratitude lifts our eyes to the expansive gift of God’s grace.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Nancy Kay Grace is the speaker and award-winning author of The Grace Impact, a devotional about God’s grace. Her website, blog, and GraceNotes newsletter sign-up are found at www.nancykaygrace.com. As a cancer survivor, she writes about hope, perseverance, and God’s grace. Nancy enjoys hugs from grandchildren, playing worship songs on piano, hiking, and travel.

Join the conversation: How does gratitude help your perspective?

Please Pass the Peace

by Christina Rose

It’s much better to live simply, surrounded in holy awe and worship of God, than to have great wealth with a home full of trouble. It’s much better to have a meal of vegetables surrounded with love and grace than a steak where there is hate. Proverbs 15:16-17 TPT

As the holidays drew near, Dad paced nervously, puffing on his pipe and jiggling the coins in his pocket. He was a quiet and pensive man, yet I noticed his feeling pressured as he stared out the window. Autumn leaves swirled in the wind as dark clouds filled the sky—setting the perfect stage for the storm that was about to hit with Oma’s arrival.

Mom’s mother was coming to help with the holiday meal. Oma was a tall, commanding captain of the nurses at Walter Reed military hospital, and she had a critical nature. She came from a frugal family of German immigrants who settled near the Amish in rural Pennsylvania. They worked the fields, raised livestock and saved every penny. Their diet of sauerkraut, pickled pigs’ feet, pickled beets and eggs (and all things pickled) didn’t help to sweeten their serious, hardworking demeanors.

Since Dad came from a family that loved to laugh and didn’t take things too seriously, Oma had a hard time understanding Mom’s choice of Dad for her husband. And Oma aired that opinion far too frequently.

After Oma arrived, the kitchen was on lockdown for several days while she and Mom created the perfect holiday meal. Dad took us hiking and we tossed the football around, then we enjoyed pizza and ice cream with a movie in the den. All of this was much more fun than being scolded for wandering into the kitchen and disrupting the cooks. “Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife” (Proverbs 17:12 NIV).

Dad grew up on the beautiful coast of New England, and whenever we visited his childhood home, Grammie Dot greeted us with warmth and hugs. We gathered in the front room where aunts, uncles and cousins would laugh and jest for hours. When everyone got hungry, we ordered lobster rolls, fried clams, shrimp and French fries; then we tossed the paper plates in the trash so that no one was stuck in the kitchen washing dishes. These memories are full of joy.

The contrast of those memories reminds me of something I learned after my car broke down recently. I felt overwhelmed by car replacement choices and prayed to God for the right one. When a little white Ford Focus landed in my driveway, I realized it was more than a car; it was a word from God. Each day, when I see “FOCUS” on the back of my car, it’s a reminder to focus on what matters most.  

While Oma focused on creating the perfect holiday meal, Grammie Dot focused on enjoying her family. Prioritizing God’s plan for us gives us the peace, knowing He directs our steps, meets our needs with abundance, and holds our future safely in His hands. When we learn to live this way, we can relax and enjoy our lives instead of worrying about details that rob us of the joy that comes from loving God and one another.

Jesus imparted that wisdom to Martha when her sister chose to sit at his feet to listen and learn, deeming it more important than helping prepare the holiday feast. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her”(Luke 10:41-42 NKJV).

While I know that both my grandmothers wanted to create special memories, the focus on family over the feast was far more enjoyable. A holiday masterpiece feast is a treasured gift, but the love, laughter and joy we share with one another is paramount to celebrating the life that Christ died to give us.   

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Christina Rose is an author, trainer and speaker certified by the John Maxwell Team of Leadership.  She is a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) whose ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. She is a world traveler, surfer, foodie, cappuccino loving chocoholic and a devoted mom to kids and dogs and auntie to many nieces and nephews who live around the world.

Christina’s book, My Appeal to Heaven, is her story. With her young family on the verge of falling apart, Christina finds herself in a desperate situation with no resources other than herself.  After appealing to heaven, the Lord takes her on a journey of awakening and miraculous empowerment. That power is available to us all, especially those who need hope and freedom.

Join the conversation: What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory?

Discovering Gratitude

by Candy Arrington

I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God. Psalm 9:1-2 MSG

Have you experienced a time when you really wanted something, prayed constantly, did everything humanly possible, and still things didn’t turn out as you’d hoped? It’s difficult to express gratitude when dreams go unfulfilled, and prayers seem unanswered.

Hannah’s story in the Old Testament is one of wanting, suffering, trusting, and answered prayer. In Hannah’s time, a woman’s self-worth depended largely on her ability to have children. Hannah’s husband loved her and was concerned about her, but no matter how understanding and loving her husband, Hannah still felt like a failure, because she was childless.

While you may not be able to connect with Hannah’s situation, we’ve all experienced times of disappointment, frustration, and defeat. When we focus on what we don’t have, gratitude is far from our thoughts.

Following Hannah’s example, we can discover and cultivate gratitude by:

Worshiping Wholly

Despite her sorrow, Hannah understood worship. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit prays for us in our weakness with groans too deep for words (Romans 8: 26). That’s the kind of intense worship and prayer Hannah expressed, even in her disappointment.

Often when we go through a time of emotional upset or difficulty, we fail to worship. Even if we attend church, we’re not totally there mentally or spiritually. Our minds drift to imagined scenarios of what we wish would happen. In times of difficulty, worshiping God totally requires intentionality.

Eliminate Envy

Hannah potentially had a major source of envy in her life – her husband’s other wife, which sounds a little like the title for a daytime drama! Peninnah possessed what Hannah wanted most – children. Peninnah seized every opportunity to make Hannah feel worse by taunting her.

Steer clear of the envy trap. Envy robs us of joy and leaves us with an attitude that can sour our whole outlook on life. Although it’s hard to do, praise God for how he’s blessed you, and stop looking at others and envying their situation. You can be sure there are difficulties in their lives of which you simply aren’t aware.

Recognize Blessings

Often, we choose to focus on hard circumstances rather than blessings. To redirect your thoughts, consider starting a gratitude journal. As your blessings list grows, notice how your thoughts track toward positive aspects of life.

Once Hannah shifted her focus to praise and thanksgiving, Peninnah’s jeers faded. Ultimately, Hannah’s prayers were answered, but even before she had that assurance, she praised God. Our lives transform when we learn to recognize and give thanks for blessings.

Live in the Present

Like Hannah, we sometimes get so involved in the wished-for future we forget to enjoy life today. Hannah modeled some practical steps we can adopt when we’re discouraged and not feeling grateful.

First, Hannah prayed. She honestly poured out her fears, frustrations, and hurts to God. Second, she told Eli, a trusted church leader, her situation. Eli listened, prayed for Hannah, and encouraged her. Sometimes, we need encouragement and help from someone else to get an objective view of our situation. Third, Hannah stopped feeling sorry for herself and trusted God. She left her unfulfilled dreams at the altar, dried her tears, ate a meal, and went home with a smile on her face.

We can do the same. By making an effort to discover gratitude, we gain a new perspective that provides joy today and hope for the future.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals on faith, personal growth, and moving through and beyond difficult life circumstances. Her books include: Life On Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books),  When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H Publishing Group). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s new book, Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Wellprovides insights on learning from and growing through a time of waiting.

Join the conversation: Have you allowed gratitude to influence your attitude towards unanswered prayer?

The Good List

by Crystal Bowman

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 117:1-2 NIV

When the coronavirus pandemic arrived on the northwestern shore of the United States, we did not know what to expect because this was out of our realm of experience. Some people were fearful and anxious, while others boldly proclaimed that we would get through this. And here we are—ten months later, still living with the pandemic threatening our daily lives.  

As days and weeks have come and gone and calendar pages have flipped, I am beginning to get weary of all I have lost. If I made a list of all the negative things over these past several months, it would be long. But here are a few items at the top of my list:

  • I am separated from my out-of-state grandkids.
  • The conferences and book events I planned on attending have been canceled or postponed.
  • I miss having lunch with my friends.
  • I miss hugging people.
  • The beautiful new coat that I bought in February still has the price tag on it!

When I am tempted to grumble and complain, I think of the Israelites in the wilderness. When God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians and miraculously brought them through the Red Sea by parting the waters, they danced and praised God for delivering them. In Exodus 15:11 they sang, “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” But can you believe that only three days later they were grumbling because they were thirsty? Their leader, Moses, went to God on their behalf and God quickly answered by giving them fresh water to drink.

On the 15th day of the second month after they coming out of Egypt, the whole community grumbled and complained because they were hungry. Moses again intervened for the people and God sent manna and quail. The manna rained down from heaven every morning, and the people were instructed to gather enough for one day with the exception of the sixth day when they could gather enough for two. God met their needs day-by-day, as Moses led them and prayed to God on their behalf.  

One of the lessons I have learned during 2020 is to depend on God one day at a time. I don’t know when bookstore events will return. I don’t know when I can travel to visit my kids and grandkids. I don’t know when it will be safe to hug my friends or meet them for lunch. But I know that I can trust God to meet my needs each day.

Another thing I have learned is to stop added items to my negative list and start making a “good” list. Here are some things I have on that list:

  • My husband and I are spending more time together, since neither of us are traveling.
  • I am enjoying time with my three local grandkids and helping them with virtual school.
  • I have more time to study and write.
  • I can call or email friends whom I miss.
  • I can attend Zoom conferences.
  • I am able to be a virtual guest at bookstores in other states.
  • I am reading books to my long-distance grandkids over FaceTime.  
  • I’ve gotten really good at ordering things online.

I don’t know how much longer the pandemic will be affecting our lives, but I do know that I can depend on God to provide what I need. I hope to keep adding items to my “good” list so that I will recognize and appreciate the blessings that surround me—because there are many! 

Lord, help me to trust you each day, knowing that you will lead me and provide all that I need. Thank you for life, health, and daily bread. Amen.  

About the author: Crystal Bowman is a bestselling, award-winning author of more than 100 books including, Our Daily Bread for Kids.She and her husband have three married children and seven huggable grandchildren.

When a child’s grandparent or great-grandparent is afflicted with dementia, it’s difficult to explain the disease in a way that helps the child understand why the person they love is not the same. I Love You to the Stars–When Grandma Forgets, Love Remembersis a picture book inspired by a true story to help young children understand that even though Grandma is acting differently, she still loves them–to the stars!

Join the conversation: What is on your good list?

The Healing Power of Gratitude

by Ginny Brant @GinnytBrant

In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

The story of the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving is one to ponder. After the most difficult year of their lives, these Christians gave thanks to God first and then to their Native American friends. They were able to remain grateful even after terrible trials and losses. The celebration is a wonderful example of the healing power of gratitude.

Imagine being close to starvation, losing half your family members, needing warmth and shelter, fearing strangers in a new land, and at times wondering if your journey was worth the losses. Yet, these Godly people practiced daily gratitude. And so should we—even in the deepest trials of our lives.

The Apostle Paul exhorted the young church in Thessalonica to give thanks in everything. This church was growing quickly and miraculously, but the consequences of their newfound faith resulted in much persecution and significant losses. In the previous chapter, he comforts their despair by explaining what will happen to those who’ve died in Christ. Then after a series of exhortations, he closes chapter 5 with the blessed hope that gives comfort to all our hearts—the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2020 is a year most people would like to erase from their memories. I couldn’t have imagined a worldwide pandemic, raging forest fires, and hurricanes, all bringing so much destruction and loss of life. Then destructive riots and political unrest turned American cities into war zones. There seemed to be bad news at every turn. Does Paul’s admonition ”in everything give thanks” also apply to 2020?

The Bible gives us no wiggle room—in everything give thanks—for this is the will of God in Christ for you. Paul prescribes a life of gratitude for all believers. We can be grateful because we can count on God using all circumstances in our lives for His glory and our good. Best of all, no matter what lies ahead, our eternal destination is secure.

According to the research of Dr. Robert Emmons, having an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression. Dr. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University Medical School, proclaims, “If thankfulness were a drug, it would be the world’s best selling product with a health maintenance indication for every major organ system.” No wonder so many doctors are prescribing the practice of gratitude as a way to improve psychological, social and physical health.

Research clearly indicates that people who practice a lifestyle of gratitude are healthier and heal better. An attitude of gratitude promotes peace in the middle of life’s storms by calming the emotional brain. (Yet Paul prescribed having an attitude of gratitude over 1900 years ago before these outcomes were known!)

The art of practicing daily gratitude does not stop when bad news like cancer comes knocking at your door. Surviving chemotherapy was a blessing for me, even when I saw my bald reflection in a mirror. My husband was a wonderful gift to me, loving me unconditionally even though my appearance was less than appealing. The more I thanked God, the more I found contentment. I now appreciate that every day I’m alive is a gift.

Gratitude gives us a new story—a new beginning. Any trial, no matter how grim, will not have the final word. God has decreed eternal life for those who are truly His. This eternal perspective provides hope and healing for the weary, enabling us to bathe in gratitude, rather than grumbling. Paul’s prescription for a life of gratitude promotes healing and costs us nothing.

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The Healing Power of Gratitude – Insight on #Gratitude from @GinnyBrant on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.

Join the conversation: What brings gratitude to your heart in 2020?

Expressing Gratitude

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

…Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.  Ephesians 5:18-20 NASB

From the outside, my friend Peter seemed to have it all together. He was a bright, gifted young man, who became a Christian during his college years. Immediately he began to study and grow, and soon discovered he had an incredible gift for teaching. After graduation, Peter spent his first two post-college years in full time work for the Lord, teaching Scripture and mentoring students at several local colleges and universities.

Yet as he progressed in his ministry, Peter began to be plagued with doubts. He may have been a dynamic teacher on the outside, but on the inside, he was a mass of conflict. So much of what he preached was coming back empty for him on an emotional level. He began to doubt about even the existence of God. Finally one evening, after much inner turmoil, he decided he could not live with the doubt any longer. He would abandon his faith for good.

A half-hour later, there was a knock on his door. A young college co-ed stood outside with tears in her eyes. As she entered, she explained that she had serious doubts about the existence of God. “I want to believe,” she told Peter. “Please help me.”

Peter stood in his doorway, uncertain of his response. He knew exactly what this girl was experiencing, since his own struggle had just come to a head. Yet at the same time, he knew Jesus said: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6 NASB).

So he sat down and shared with her from God’s Word. In Romans, they looked at many witnesses who saw the resurrected Christ. In Matthew, they saw how over one hundred prophecies written eight hundred years before Christ’s birth were fulfilled during His lifetime. Too much evidence was contained in Scripture to be denied. It just didn’t make sense NOT to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.

As Peter saw his young friend out the door, he knew he had just talked himself back into believing. By teaching the truths he already knew, those truths became even more compelling for him. There is a power that comes in verbally expressing our faith.

Paul tells the Ephesians that they should live lives yielded to the Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-21 NASB). What he suggests to foster this is to make verbal expressions of their faith: speaking to one another in psalms, singing hymns and spiritual songs, as well as giving thanks for all things. There is something powerful about truth, that when shared aloud with others, it benefits the one speaking as much as the recipient.

Perhaps that is why Paul makes sure to mention giving thanks in many of his letters. We should be faithful to express thanksgiving aloud. And as the words come off our tongues, what they express becomes real to us in a fresh way. When we remind others about the faithfulness of God, we also remind ourselves and are enabled to trust Him more fully.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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Expressing Gratitude – encouragement from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300

About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Does verbalizing what you believe strengthen your faith?

Finding Forgiveness—Just in Time for Thanksgiving

by Patti Richter

A depressed soul and a holiday make a poor pair. So, I sat down to pray about my unhappy condition one morning in November.

I could have written a turkey-size list of things to be thankful for, including: good health; loving family; beautiful home. Instead, complaints ran through my mind like newsfeed in bold type, obstructing the bigger picture.

We had recently moved to another state for my husband’s job. Throughout this adventure, I sensed God’s help in all of the challenges: selling our house, getting our daughter off to college, resettling our sons into school, and house-hunting. But my confidence in God suffered a blow on the day we moved in to our new home. My wallet disappeared.

Such a loss on this big day left me reeling. I’d stuffed the oversized wallet with move-related receipts, cash, credit cards, and my wedding ring—tucked inside an envelope until I could find a jeweler to fix the loose diamond. A thief would have my driver license too, perhaps to steal my identity!

Two men had arrived unexpectedly to finish electrical work on the house while my husband and I directed the incoming boxes and furniture. I noticed one of the two had a strange look on his face as they left. When I reached into an empty kitchen cabinet to retrieve my purse and discovered my wallet was gone, I abandoned the move-in effort to head back to our hotel, in case I’d left it there. Disappointed and exhausted, I sat down to make phone calls to cancel credit cards.

Unpacking in the following days kept me too busy to let anger take over. But at night my bitterness came out like air from a pin-pricked balloon, and I woke up deflated each morning. I began second-guessing our decision to move, and I worried about everything. After too many sleepless nights, I fell into depression.

With Thanksgiving coming, I anticipated our daughter’s first time with us in our new home, but I needed the Lord to revive me. When I sat down that morning to ask for his help, those angry thoughts sprang up instead. And I blamed my poor outlook on the man I believed had robbed me.

Such bitter meditations made me realize I’d lost more than a wallet. I could live without getting all those items back, but I couldn’t go on without joy and peace. Paul warns against refusing to forgive in Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice…” (NASB) Holding on to bitterness was stealing my joy and peace. I realized what I needed to do: ask the Lord to help me forgive, and pray that He would help the thief see his need for a Savior.

By the time I finished praying, I felt sincere forgiveness toward the man. As the day went by, I realized my anger had somehow dissolved in the transaction. That night, my sleep returned to normal—just in time for Thanksgiving.

When the holiday arrived, I relished having my family together again. After dinner, while washing dishes with my daughter beside me, I noticed my husband stretched out on the floor of the guest bathroom. He wanted to examine the plumbing beneath the pedestal sink. Suddenly, with a smile on his face, he held out my wallet—as thick as the day it went missing. Except for thirty dollars of cash missing, everything remained inside, including my wedding ring!

Though I felt so thankful to have my wallet restored, I realized the Lord had allowed it to stay hidden for weeks. Perhaps he wanted me to discover something more valuable first.

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. Matthew 6:14 NIV

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Finding Forgiveness—Just in Time for Thanksgiving – Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1n (2)About the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global resourcing stories for The Gospel Coalition, and her Good Faith column appears at BlueRibbonNews.com. She is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering (2019).

Luann Mire faced overwhelming circumstances when her godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Signs of His Presence is the story of her experiences, as God proved Himself faithful to His promises. Signs of His presence came at timely moments–often in astonishing ways.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt the relief of finally forgiving?

More Gratitude = More Faith

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136:1 NASB

Turning onto the main highway through Annapolis, I knew I needed to spend the next half-hour’s drive in prayer. Several things were weighing heavy on my mind. But before beginning my list, I decided to spend a couple of minutes thanking God for how He had already blessed me. I thanked Him for my family, naming them one by one. I thanked Him for my church, His provision in my ministry work, for the people in my life who were so important to me. I thanked him for our home, our neighborhood, and provision for our physical needs.

There was so much to be thankful for. Before I knew it, I had arrived at my destination. And I was still thanking God. I hadn’t even gotten to naming my requests! Those urgent items I had been stewing over? Suddenly they didn’t seem so urgent after all. My heart now brimmed with trust in a God of provision and love.

In Luke 17, we find three passages that together remind us that gratitude is vital to trust.

Jesus encountered ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem. In response to their desperate request for mercy, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” It was an odd thing to say, because lepers were not welcome in the temple. But the men turned and in faith did exactly what He said. And on the way, they suddenly realized they had been healed.

Most of them continued on to finish doing what Jesus commanded. One turned around and headed back to Jesus. His heart was too full of gratitude to continue forward.

Jesus had just finished talking with His disciples about their need to forgive. If someone sinned against them seven times a day, they were to forgive them seven times. The disciples were taken aback. “Lord, increase our faith!” they cried.

So Jesus told them a parable about a slave who spent all day working in the field. He returned to the house exhausted and hungry. But his master told him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink.”

Jesus finished: “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10 NASB).

The very next thing Luke records is the story of the ten lepers. Are we supposed to connect these three sections? I believe we are. Luke tends to group his stories together to make a point.

The disciples had asked for more faith. Without it, what Jesus was telling them to do would be impossible. When the one leper came back to fall at His feet and thank Him, Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” That was the kind of faith the disciples had just begged for. Where did it come from? A heart full of gratitude.

Why is gratitude so key to increasing our faith?

Gratitude supplies the correct perspective. Remembering what God has done puts Him at the center instead of us. When we thank Him, we are expressing belief that the good things in our life are evidence of a God who is at work on our behalf (James 1:17). We are acknowledging that our lives are in His hands. He is in control. That puts everything else we have been focusing on in proper perspective.

Gratitude teaches us to trust. When we remember His past faithfulness, we are empowered to trust Him for the future. Psalm 136 is a great example in this. As the psalmist recalls the works of a mighty God, the audience repeatedly responds: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136: NIV). What better way to increase their faith in Him?

We need to stop thinking like a slave, and start thinking like a leper. A slave focuses on obligation: what he needs to do to keep his master happy. But a leper focuses on what he has been rescued from—and his heart overflows with gratitude.

So in these days before Thanksgiving, remember who He is to you and what He has done. Then spend time thanking Him from the bottom of your heart. The very act of expressing gratitude will provide an accurate perspective on his power and help you to go deeper in your trust.

Be that leper—the one whose full heart makes doing anything but adoring Him impossible. Start with simple gratitude.

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More Gratitude = More Faith – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: For what are you most thankful today?

 

The Mysterious Gift of Being Grateful

by Afton Rorvik @AftonRorvik

The package on my doorstep surprised me. I hadn’t ordered anything. No one in my household had a birthday. No national holiday loomed on the near horizon. And I hadn’t heard the doorbell ring. My dog hadn’t even barked.

I ripped opened the squishy package and discovered a pillow with a large word written on it: GRATEFUL.

Who could have sent this? I hunted and hunted for a card, but clearly someone had ordered this from a company and had it shipped to me. Was it the friend I helped out last week? Or the guests we housed last month?

Although I wanted to send a thank you note, I sort of loved not knowing who sent the pillow because it caused me to evaluate my life over the past few weeks. Had I interacted with people in such a way as to make them grateful? Had I lived in a grateful state within my own heart—looking daily for God’s good gifts?

I love this word: Grateful.  I want it to stick to me like Velcro and follow me around like a love-me-please puppy.

BUT gratitude takes effort. I naturally tend toward more of a glass-half-empty view of life—an Eeyore mentality. I can wallow in worry about what-ifs, isolate myself, criticize people in process who don’t respond to me the way I think they should, keep a list of all that seems upside-down in my life. . .

I’ve working to retrain my brain and heart by starting my days with worship. I sit in a cozy chair, turn on my playlist of worship songs, and open my hands to God. I let go of what weighs on me (often naming them specifically) and celebrate God’s good gift to me of Father-love as I let the music wash over me.

And I find myself returning again and again to this verse in James 1:17 (NIV): “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

How could I NOT live in gratitude when I live in the truth of these words and in the presence of the Father who does NOT change?

After posting a photo of my mysterious gift on Facebook, I learned that it had come from a friend I first met when I was 13. We now live states away but have managed to stay connected all these years. What a delightful no-good-reason, just-for-the-fun-of-it gift! J  But even more fabulous—what a gift of enduring friendship!

This November my new pillow sits in our dining room window reminding me (and hopefully all who enter there) to remember the transforming power of this word: Grateful!

O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.                                                                                                                                    1 Chronicles 16:34 NASB

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The Mysterious Gift of Being Grateful – @AftonRorvik on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

afton rorvik2About the author: Afton Rorvik savors words, flavored coffee, time outside, and living connected. Although an introvert, she has come to realize that what really matters in life is people and faith in Jesus, which gives her the strength and courage to live connected. Afton wrote Storm Sisters (Worthy), a story-filled book about learning to stick around when storms hit a friend’s life. She blogs monthly at  aftonrorvik.com and thoroughly enjoys Pinterest (Afton Rorvik).

Join the conversation: For what are you grateful this week of Thanksgiving?