Cultivating a Heart of Thankfulness in an Entitled World
I remember sitting in my Jeep and sipping the gas station coffee I had just bought and taking a couple minutes to think and answer messages on my phone before hitting the road again. What was written on the side of my coffee cup got me thinking. It said:
WHAT YOU WANT
HOW YOU WANT
WHEN YOU WANT
As I thought about those words, I was struck by the attitude of entitlement we have in our world. One of the problems with entitlement is that it leaves no room for gratitude. If I am entitled then I deserve everything and therefore, I owe no one any thanksgiving.
A quick search of the dictionary online yielded this definition for Entitlement:
“the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”
As I think about this concept, I know that I don’t want to have an entitled attitude or mindset. As I have already stated, entitlement leaves no room for gratitude. A person who is thankful to God for everything and in everything is very different from a person who believes they are entitled to everything. These two people will have totally different views of God, themselves, and others. I believe in thanking my God daily for the blessings He gives me and I believe in thanking people when appropriate too. I remember after every Christmas spending time with my siblings and mom as she taught us how to write thank you notes to relatives who had sent us gifts. Even as I write this post, I have a stack of thank you notes on my desk to write to people in my life who have been a blessing to me.
As important as it is to thank people in our lives, the most important point I want to make is that we owe God thanksgiving every day! So, let me share with you some of what God’s Word has to say about thankfulness to God:
Ephesians 5:20 “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
2 Corinthians 4:15-18 “15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Cultivating a heart of thankfulness should be a priority in the life of the follower of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 136:1-3 “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever”
Colossians 2:7 “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”
Thanksgiving to God is important and valuable in God’s eyes. Cultivating a heart of thankfulness should be a priority in the life of the follower of Jesus Christ.
A friend and mentor of mine once told me something I will never forget. He said, “If you had only what you thanked God for today, how much would you have?” I have found that to be a good question to ask myself daily as I intentionally cultivate a heart of thankfulness to God.
“If you had only what you thanked God for today, how much would you have?”
Sometimes we struggle with having a heart of thankfulness because of difficult and trying circumstances we are in the midst of or have dealt with. It’s not that we have an attitude of entitlement, but rather, we are hurting in some way. Or we are simply overwhelmed by our struggles, or just so busy! I understand that life has trials! Yesterday I had a lady in our church share that she is thankful for trials. She said that trials make her remember how much she needs God. That’s quite a perspective! I know for myself, when I am facing trials, I have to ask God to do a work in me so that I can “count it all joy” as I face various trials as James writes about in James 1:2. I know that the year of 2020 has been a difficult year for most people. Almost everyone I know has faced trials of some sort this year. It is important that we be intentional about cultivating hearts of thankfulness this thanksgiving and all the time! And so, I want to encourage you, as you live your life be intentional about cultivating a heart of thankfulness to God.
Ways to Intentionally Cultivate a Heart of Thankfulness:
Meditate on who God is and what He has done through Jesus Christ at the cross and raising Him from the dead.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”
Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered.”
Make a list of blessings. This requires us to take time to meditate on God’s many great deeds He has done, and when we take the time to reflect on God’s blessings and actually list out what He has done, it is a way to cultivate a heart of thankfulness. I encouraged our church family this year (and last year) during the week of Thanksgiving to write a list of 100 things they are thankful for!
Psalm 103:2 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”
Psalm 77:12 “I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”
Praise God. When I am singing praise to God my attitude changes. The focus moves from myself to God, and when I focus on God it is hard not to have a heart filled with thankfulness
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Psalm 146:2 “I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”
Psalm 69:30 “I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
Tell other people about the good things God has done for you. Not boasting in yourself, rather, making much of God and who He is and what He has done.
Psalm 9:1 “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”
Psalm 40:5 “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”
Psalm 105:1-2 “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 2 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!”
Spend time thanking God in prayer. If you make this a daily practice it will shape you into a thankful person and grow within you a heart of thankfulness.
Philippians 4:6-7 “6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 4:2 “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”
I don’t want to be one of God’s ungrateful children!
A final thought I want to share with you: One of the things that has opened my eyes the most in my life about my relationship with God through Jesus Christ, is having children, because God calls those who believe in Jesus, His children. Every parent knows the disappointment they have when their child has an ungrateful attitude about something. As I thought about this, I wrote in my journal, “I don’t want to be one of God’s ungrateful children!” So, in this crazy year of 2020, I’m choosing thankfulness to God and I hope you are too!