November is a great time to reflect upon what God has to say about gratitude in the Bible. It’s not just because we celebrate Thanksgiving this month. We’re also getting close to the end of the year. For ministry leaders, it is a busy season because we’re preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. Our calendars are full.
Also, as we enter the final weeks of the year, it’s a great time to reflect upon the past year and prepare for the upcoming year. And gratitude is an important part of that process.
You can’t read through the Bible without seeing how important gratitude is to God. A few years ago, as I prepared for a Thanksgiving sermon, I found over 400 Bible verses that reference either thanksgiving or gratitude. I then saw two major themes.
First, God expects gratitude to be the primary motivation behind everything in our lives. For example, Paul tells us this in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT).
Second, God rewards gratitude with a long list of blessings and benefits. Scientific studies have come along in recent years to echo many of these benefits and share some new ones.
What are some of those benefits?
1. Gratitude improves our brain and physical health.
Doctors say that gratitude is the healthiest human emotion. It improves your brain. It improves your physical health. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength” (Proverbs 17:22 NLT).
2. Gratitude creates happiness.
The happiest people are those who are the most grateful. Focusing on the good things God has done in your life brings you joy. David wrote, “The LORD has done great things for us, and we are very glad” (Psalm 126:3 NCV).
3. Gratitude is the antidote to toxic emotions.
Gratitude defeats emotions, such as worry, depression, anger, and fear. You can’t be grateful and worried at the same time.
Paul described the connection between gratitude and the kind of peace that overcomes negative emotions: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).
4. Gratitude improves relationships.
Whether it’s your relationship with your spouse, children, coworkers, or neighbors, gratitude will transform it. You’ll have fewer arguments, too, when you grow more thankful for the people in your life.
5. Gratitude opens the door to people and opportunities.
I could share a number of personal examples of this. When you show gratitude, you receive new opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise. People respond to gratitude.
6. Gratitude is the evidence of spiritual maturity.
You know someone is growing spiritually when you see them express gratitude. Colossians 2:7 says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (NLT).
7. Gratitude pleases God and brings his blessing.
God says in Psalm 50:23, “It’s the praising life that honors me” (The Message). It has always baffled me that we spend very little time on Thanksgiving Day actually giving thanks to God. We spend hours preparing the meal, watching football, and hanging out with family. Then we may spend a couple of minutes thanking God before the meal.
Just like you enjoy hearing your children say “thank you,” God enjoys it when we stop our busy lives (or Thanksgiving celebrations) to express gratitude.
This Thanksgiving, honor God by making gratitude the center of everything you and your family does, and watch how God rewards you with blessings and benefits.