How did it feel? What was the expression on your face? Did it change your attitude? Did you complain about little inconveniences that day? What about big ones? Did you keep it a secret or did you tell everybody? How did you feel about the person responsible for whatever it was that made you thankful? What did you do for them in response?
When I'm really, truly thankful about something, I am moved beyond just words. A smile ends up plastered on my face. I am filled with happiness. I have a better attitude about everything all day long. Things that would normally frustrate me or get me complaining I take in stride and keep smiling. I tell people about my good fortune and share the great news of what has happened for me. I end up feeling like being generous to others. I also end up thinking about the giver of the gift more and wondering how I can be nicer to them and treat them better.
Thanksgiving, I mean real thanksgiving, is a powerful thing. It can change our minds, attitudes, outlooks, perspectives, actions and words. It literally flows out of our hearts and into our lives.
You know what should cause crazy thanksgiving in us? God's grace as seen in the gospel. Take a look.
...because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. -- 2 Corinthians 4:14-18
Think about it. As Christians, you and I deserved death and Hell for our sins, but instead we are getting the opposite. Jesus died to pay the full price of our guilt, shame, and sin. Jesus rose to new eternal life and God is one day going to raise us from the dead in the same way! We get to live with Him forever in paradise! This is the greatest gift that has ever been given! Better yet, more people every day are receiving this amazing gift of grace!
Paul rightly says that this grace of the gospel should cause thanksgiving to overflow from our lives to the glory of God. When you are tempted to lose heart, when you have a bad day, when you catch yourself sweating the little stuff and complaining, when you find your life to be filled with momentary troubles, remind yourself of this amazing gift of grace! Everything else becomes small in comparison. Fix your eyes on the eternal life that Christ has won for you! Its coming sooner than we realize. Remind yourself that it starts even now as you have the opportunity to have a real relationship with the Living God who loves you today. What a privilege!
When we really remind ourself of this and really believe it, the gospel should stir our hearts to such gratitude that our earthly troubles fade into the background and we can take them in stride. It should stir us to have a smile on our face when no other reason can be found to be happy. It should cause us to keep telling people about the amazing gift we have been given. It should inflame our hearts to love, worship, and follow the great God who has freely given us so much.
In fact, when we notice that we are bummed out, complaining a lot, troubled by life, not smiling, and generally discouraged or unhappy, perhaps this is exactly what we need. Maybe in those times, we need to fix our eyes on the hope and grace of the gospel. What we need is to preach the gospel again to our souls and remind ourselves of the amazing truth that we have somehow forgotten and let slip out of our thoughts: That God loves us, is with us, and, by Jesus' own death, opened the gates of heaven to us and has promised us eternal life in heaven with Him.
That's good news. That should produce thanksgiving in us. That thanksgiving should be real and overflow into our lives and the lives of those around us. Some questions for you and I...
Does the gospel cheer you up? If not, are you sure you understand it rightly?
Take a look at your life this week. Is it a life overflowing with thanksgiving or is it a life that lacks that kind of joy?
When was the last time you preached the gospel to yourself and reminded yourself of the amazing grace of God? How can you make that a more regular part of your life?