Theologian R.C. Sproul says that if you had to summarize Christian theology in one word, it would be “grace.” And if you had to summarize the Christian ethic and attitude towards life it would be “gratitude.”
The Apostle Paul says that our lives should “overflow with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:7), and that we should devote ourselves to prayer, “with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2).
In last year’s Thanksgiving blog, I shared some very important words on gratitude from Dr. Hans Selye. As you may recall, Selye was an Austrian-Canadian scientist who died in 1982, and he was among the first pioneers in discovering the impact that emotions play in a person’s health. Over his life he wrote thirty books on the subject of stress and human emotion. At the end of his life he summarized all of his research and declared that anger, bitterness and revenge are the emotions most harmful to our health and well-being. He also concluded that a heart of gratitude is the single most nourishing response that leads to good health. Gratitude and thanksgiving are like therapy to the soul.
One of the primary reasons that gratitude is so vital is because it is a component of humility. Truly humble people are grateful people.
In his wonderful book, The Case for Character, Drayton Nabers provides great insight into the humble life. He says “…humility is a form of wisdom. It is thinking clearly. It is simply being realistic. It is knowing who really deserves the credit and the glory for what we do.”
It is an awareness that every good and perfect gift in our lives comes from the hand of God (James 1:17).
Drayton goes on to share a great illustration of true humility:
Let’s take the example of a tailback who wins the Heisman Trophy. This Heisman winner gets his name in the paper and his face on ESPN. But where did he get the DNA that created the strong body? And where did he get the great coordination that helped him win the prize? How many of the one hundred trillion cells in his body did he create?
We are told that for each of these cells there is a bank of instructions more detailed than the thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together. Does this tailback understand even one of these instructions?
“But I worked so hard,” the tailback might say. “I went to the weight room. I practiced harder than anyone else on the team.”
To him we could reply: “But who taught you to work that hard? Who built the weight room? Who bought the equipment? Who built the university, including the stadium you played in? Who cut the grass there and laid out the lines and boundaries? Did you hire or pay your coaches? Did you recruit your teammates? Did you open up those holes in the line that you ran through?”
If this tailback has humility, he will express nothing but overflowing gratitude when he wins the Heisman-to his parents, to his teachers, to his coaches, to all the players on his team, to everyone who helped him along the way. Most of all, time and time again, he will express gratitude to God.
Thirty-five hundred years ago, Moses said that if you do not give God thanks and the credit for your success and accomplishments, that “you will say in your heart, my power and my strength has brought me this success.” (Deuteronomy 8:17)
I will say it again: humble people are grateful people. They know who really deserves the credit and the glory for what they do.
The only problem is that gratitude does not come natural to human beings. We like to take credit for everything that comes into our lives. Therefore, a grateful heart is something that has to be cultivated. One has to be intentional about it. This is why I begin each day giving thanks to God. I thank him for the gift of life, for my wife, my children, and for all of the other relationships that He has blessed me with. I thank Him for all the resources He has entrusted me with and the work that He has called me to do. Finally, I thank Him for all the spiritual blessings of life, particularly for His son, Jesus.
As a result of this, I now find myself giving thanks to Him throughout the day. It has become a natural part of my life. It has truly changed the way I see life, as I now recognize that all I am and all that I have is a gift of God. And I am so grateful!