I have written before that it is my opinion that gratitude is essential to happiness. Our first duty is gratitude to God. As R. T. Kendall puts it in Just Say Thanks!, “When God grants us sovereign mercy, it ought to make us exceedingly grateful.”
Though it is an obligation to be grateful to God, Kendall notes that God takes notice when we express thanks. The Bible records many expressions of people’s gratitude to God. It may be a duty that could be beneath notice, but it seems that God delights in those who do it far beyond what a mere duty would imply.
The first thing Christians should be thankful for is our salvation. We should be constantly praising God for all He did for us in and by Jesus Christ to atone for our sins, to implement His mercy and to reconcile us to Himself. God’s grace is fundamental to the Christian life, both to bring is unto it and to help us live it, and because that grace is a constant presence we should be constantly grateful.
Kendall even discusses a doctrine of gratitude, which is often called sanctification. Christians refer to two parts of our salvation. First is justification, in which our sins are forgiven and the righteousness of Christ is imparted to us. We are made right with God through Christ. The second part is sanctification, in which we are transformed over time so that we increasingly act right and become more the kind of people we are supposed to be. Kendall describes sanctification as a process of gratitude. If we are grateful for what God has done for us, we will act like it by praising Him, sharing the good news what He has done, loving Him and showing love to people because He loves them, obeying Him and doing what is right.
One of the things I thing is important about gratitude that is discussed by Kendall is that it puts things in perspective, especially when times are tough. We shouldn’t wait until everything seems good to be thankful. We should always be acknowledging kindnesses, mercies, answer, help and other good things; we experience them even in the midst of trouble. In addition, Kendall wrote, “Every trial has a built-in time scale. It will end! God will see to it.” We can be grateful that better times are ahead, and for Christians the trials of this age will seem very brief in comparison to eternity in God’s blessing.
Unfortunately, gratitude does not come naturally to us. It is something we must learn. We must intentionally remember the good God and others have done for us. We need to rehearse the benefits that have come our way and do it often. When we forget, we easily become ungrateful, and I think unhappy as well.
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