For many years Dr. Carl Mitchell served as a professor at Harding University, preached for a local church and also served as one of the pastors.
He once related an occasion when he and his fellow elders had asked that the theme of one worship service be focused on gratitude. By that he meant that songs chosen, the communion, the giving, the sermon, and prayers be centered on gratitude.
Regarding the prayers, he said that we had specifically asked that no requests be made, only thankfulness for what God has done, is doing and will continue to do. Then he commented: “That Sunday, the prayers were unusually short!”
Our word of the week is gratitude.
The Roman orator Cicero opined that “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.”
The American actress Doris Day is credited with saying. “Gratitude is riches. Complaining is poverty. Instead of complaining about what’s wrong, be grateful for what’s right.”
“Gratitude takes three forms,” suggested the 18th-century merchant John Wanamaker, “A feeling in the heart, an expression in words and a giving in return.”
“Gratitude,” as defined by J. B. Massieu, “is the memory of the heart.”
Then an unknown author expressed it this way, “True gratitude consists in thanking God for everything when you’ve got everything.”
From the Old Testament to the New, God has called His people to be grateful. Thankful. Appreciative.
The Psalmist penned, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. –Psalm 100:4-5.
The apostle Paul commanded, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:5-6).
In the United States on the fourth Thursday of November, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is rooted in Pilgrims’ appreciation for the corn harvest of 1621 and has been a national holiday since Abraham Lincoln proclaimed it as such in 1863.
Christians, of course, recognize that Thanksgiving is not just a single holiday. But a way of life. An attitude of gratitude. A daily recognition of God’s providence. His goodness. His grace. And mercy.
It’s that spirit that allows us to change our problems into possibilities. And to turn our troubles into triumphs. Thanksgiving is not dependant on a certain set of circumstances, but a certain set of attitudes.
The Bible says, “in everything give thanks” (1 Thess 5:8). Everything? Yes! Even adversity bears the seed of some benefit. William A. Ward was right when he wrote, “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
William Law said, “If everyone could tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and all perfection, he must tell you to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you. For it is sure that whatever seeming calamity happens to you if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing. Could you, therefore, work (wonders), could you not do more for others than yourself by this thankful spirit; for it turns all that it touches into happiness. You want to be happy, be thankful!”
Gratitude also leads us to seize opportunities to care and share with others. It is touched by the problems and plight of those who are struggling and suffering. And then to serve and help as we are able.
Finally, in the midst of our abundance, take time to think and to thank. Consider your material blessings. Your family. Friends. Spiritual fellowship. Talents. Abilities. Gifts. Opportunities. A beautiful sunrise or sunset. The wonder of God’s creation. Your health. Your hope. And God’s promises.
Let’s make Thanksgiving more than a day in which to indulge in turkey and dressing and pumpkin pie. More than a day of football. But a spirit that fills our heart. Widens our perspective. And daily directs our lives.
In the words of G. K. Chesterton, “When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”
–-Ken Weliever, The Preacherman