"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever!
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods!
For His mercy endures forever!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords!
For His mercy endures forever" (Psalm 136:1-3)!
A researcher began a
study by asking these questions: "How do I become more like
What can I do to develop authentic Christian character?
What can I do to truly care about people and to love
them as God does?
How can I finally—and permanently—become a better
person than I am today" (Zigarelli)?
Those are some important questions.
Then this researcher "studied the beliefs, behaviors
and, character attributes of 5,000 [believers] worldwide,
using a methodology applied regularly in the social
sciences: compare the 'gold medalists' to the 'silver
medalists' and see what really distinguishes the champions.
In other words, for this study he compared a group of
what he called 'high-virtue [believers]' (that is, people
who consistently display 'fruit of the Spirit' virtues) to a
group that he called 'average-virtue [believers]' to see
what makes the high-virtue [believers] different" (Ibid).
What he discovered surprised him.
"Of all the possible explanations for why some
believers look more like Jesus than others, one
explanation—one characteristic—clearly stood out above the
rest: gratitude" (Ibid).
Now this surprised the researcher because we usually
link things like Bible study, prayer, worship, or fasting to
the development of a strong spiritual life.
But his research was showing that "gratitude dwarfed
the practice of anything else as an explanation for how
believers go from average in virtue to consistently high in
Well, this made the researcher even more curious about why
gratitude was so important.
Then he read some more and began to see that
gratitude is sort like a root that supports the leaves of
many other character traits.
He explains that gratitude "does this by setting a
new thought context for processing our circumstances in
life—a context of an abundant life.
A context where we realize that everything we have is
a gift [from God].
A context where we see clearly [and rejoice in] all
that we really do [already] have in life, and where we
recognize that things could always be worse" (Ibid).
He discovered further that gratitude is not really
tied to wealth but to a state of mind.
He discovered that just about everybody can be
grateful when they have some blessing occur, but "one of the
major secrets to success for 'high-virtue believers'—those
who are most consistently Christ-like—is that they have
mastered the art of
maintaining a grateful disposition.
Gratitude is simply part of who they are, rather than
being some sporadic, refreshing occurrence" (Ibid).
Well, of course, this led him to ask some more
questions: "How do they do it?
How do they nurture and sustain a grateful spirit"
see his answers to those questions at the end of our lesson
If your gratitude classification was low and if you need to
learn to think differently in order to be more grateful, now
would be a great time to ask Jesus to help you to improve
and develop some new habits.
He want to bless you and help you grow in gratitude.
Put complaining and ingratitude behind you as you let
Jesus help you!
How would classify yourself in terms of gratitude?
Before you answer that, the Scriptures might be able
to provide you some help.
It looks like that teach us that there a five
classifications: the continuous complainer, the ungrateful,
the barely or minimally grateful, the moderately or
continually grateful, and the exceedingly or very grateful.
Let's look at each of these categories more closely
First of all there is the highly ungrateful or the
This person is basically always dissatisfied with
nothing ever going right and nothing ever good enough.
This person is usually very negative and hyper
look at three passages in the New Testament and then a
The first passage is Philippians 2:14: "Do all things
without complaining and disputing, that you may become
blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the
midst of a crooked and perverse generation."
The apostle Paul is
very plain; he wants these Christians in conflict to stop
their complaining and bickering!
The next passage is 1 Corinthians 10:10: "Nor
[let's us—a continuation of vr. 8] complain, as some of
them complained [that is the Israelites], and were
destroyed by the destroyer."
Because of their
complaining against the leadership of Aaron and Moses,
thousands of Israelites were killed by a plague (Numbers
"These things were written for our admonition," says the
very next verse.
We're NOT to follow their bad example in complaining!
We're to learn from it.
Now let's notice Jude 16 which is a passage about
false teachers: "These are grumblers, complainers,
walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great
swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage."
If false teachers are complainers, then what should
true Christians be?
They should be just the opposite; they should be
givers of thanks!
Now a good rule of interpretation is this: if
something has a command, an example, and an inference behind
it in the Scriptures, then there a strong case for it.
Well, notice here, Paul gave a command not to
complain, the Israelites are an example against doing it,
and Jude provides us with an inference that complaining is
not a part of the true Christian's life.
So, there's a strong case against our being continual
Now here a
modern example that could be beneficial to us.
A college teacher like to conduct an experiment each
year. He told
his students that he wanted them to keep a written record of
how often they complained or almost complained in a 24 hours
course, they immediately began to complain!
He urged them to follow through and give it try.
In the next class session, he asked them to guess how
many out of 30 had not complained.
Most usually guessed between 6-12, but the answer
always came out every year at zero, which was
a sad indication of how our culture teaches us to
deal with our frustrations.
The students quickly learned that they all complained
too much and what they complained about was usually pretty
Are we continuous complainers?
Could we pass the 24 hour test?
Let's abandon complaining and shoot for a higher
The next classification is ungrateful.
This is the person who doesn't complain much but
doesn't also have a real attitude of thanksgiving either.
They rarely, if ever, thank God for anything.
Here's two examples of ingratitude from the Old
David was on the run from King Saul, he went to a city
It was being attacked by the Philistines.
David conquered the Philistines and got back much
livestock that had been taken away.
Now when Saul heard that David was in Keliah, he
tried to muster up an army to attack the city.
David discovers that the men of Keliah will turn him
over to Saul if he remains there.
David had defeated their enemy, but they were so
ungrateful that they were ready to betray David to his enemy
(1 Sam. 23)!
Here's another example.
There was a little city in Israel wth just a few men
in it. Then
there was this mighty king who besieged it and did his best
to bring about its destruction.
There was also a poor man who was very wise.
Somehow this wise man was able to persuade the king
to give up his attack, so the king stopped, and the city was
spared. As the
poor man grew older, nobody in that city ever thanked him
and all the men forgot what he had done (Ecclesiastes
these examples, we see that some people just don't seem to
be able to express gratitude for the help that they receive.
Let's look at some New Testament passages now.
The first in Romans 1:20ff where Paul is talking
about the Gentiles: "For since the creation of the world,
His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood
by the things that are made, even His eternal power and
Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although
they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were
thankful, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
Paul told other
Gentile audiences how God had manifested Himself through
rain, and seasons, and crops, and other things that bring
mankind gladness (Acts 14:14ff).
Now the proper response to a Divine Being who
provides like this should be gratitude, but these pagans
have foolish hearts and ignore all of God's blessings!
Someone had noted that a person who forgets the
language of gratitude can never be on speaking terms with
next example is seen in Luke 17:11ff where Jesus comes upon
They ask Jesus to have mercy on them, and He tells them to
go show themselves to the priests.
As they were going, they were healed!
Only one of them, a Samaritan, came back to Jesus,
bowed himself before, and thanked Him!
This story shows us that as high as 90% of us will
rarely express thanks to God, even when something very good
happens in our lives.
Maybe we're just becoming too culturally conditioned
not to offer thanks.
One person has observed: “In this world of being
obsessed with what’s 'in'—from the newest fashions, to the
latest songs and to absurd political correctness—gratitude
has been all but declared unconstitutional" (Pack)!
One last example is found in 2 Timothy
3:1ff: "But know this, that in the last days
perilous times will come [by the way, we are in the last
days]: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of
money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents,
unthankful, unholy, [and then follows many more bad
traits, now go down to verse 5], having a form of
godliness but denying its power.
And from such people turn away!"
Did you notice that unthankfulness was right in the
midst of all these others sins that these proud false
won't acknowledge that God is source of all good things.
Let's don't live ungrateful lives.
Let's remember how much God and other people, both
believers and unbelievers, have loved, and served, and
blessed our lives!
Someone has made this interesting comparison: “Let's
be grateful for those who give us happiness; they are the
charming gardeners who make our soul bloom" (Proust)!
The next classification is the barely or minimally grateful.
This is the Christian who thanks God for the obvious
physical and spiritual blessings, for the pleasant things in
life. They say
prayers occasionally for their health, their food, their
home, their clothing, their family, their friends, their
nothing is wrong with this.
In fact, Paul states that food should be received
with thanksgiving, and he was continually giving God thanks
for the churches that he knew.
Someone asked this interesting question: “God gave
you a gift of 86,400 seconds each day.
How many are we using to say: "Thank you!" each day"
(Ward)? Are we
just trying to “get by” with the minimum time in prayer?
Remember the experiment that the college teacher did.
Well, it didn't stop just with keeping a record of
had two other steps.
First of all, he told his students to take a piece of
paper and divide it into three columns.
Above one column, the students were to write
"Things," above the next column, they were to write
"People," and over the third column, they were to write
"Other" (anything which wouldn't go into the other columns,
such as freedom, beauty, love, truth, etc.
They were amazed at how much they had to be thankful
for! After that
part was done, the students were then to review their list
four times before coming to their next
class, at each meal and when they got up the next
they arrived at school the next day, [the teacher] asked
them if they felt any different then they did the day before
.... They came to class with a totally different
disposition; different attitude then they had the previous
described the students this way: 'They had more and bigger
smiles, eyes were opened wider and their bodies were more
alive.' So he concluded this: 'Thankfulness does wonders for
the soul. All
we need to do is ask ourselves what's getting our attention?
When we focus on what's right instead of what's
wrong, life improves considerably'" (Welty).
Let's not be
satisfied with the minimally grateful classification!
No, there is another classification that we can discover in
the Bible, the moderately or continually thankful.
This is the Christian who has learned to give thanks
in every situation and circumstance.
They not only give thanks when things are going well,
they give it when things are difficult and hard.
Let's look at three passages quickly.
The first is in Ephesians 5:18ff: "Therefore do
not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is
dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one
another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and
making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks
always for all things to God the Father in the name of our
Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of
Notice that these verses explain how we can be filled with
the Spirit: we do it through singing, expressing thanks
always for all things, and submitting to one another.
Notice now Colossians 2:6: "As you therefore have
received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and
built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have
been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving!"
If you have been rooted in Jesus and established in
your faith, then what is going to the fruit or outcome?
Isn't going to abundant or habitual thanksgiving!
In fact, remember that eh apostle Paul was writing
these encouraging words while being under house arrest and
chained to a Roman soldier!
One last passage is in 1 Thessalonians 5:16ff:
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give
thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for
you want to do God's will, then you need to rejoice, pray,
and express gratitude continually.
One man tells this story of a Christian woman who was
suffering from a terminal illness: "Marcia is incredible
evidence of this.
She began pursuing an attitude of thankfulness while
I was out of town for several weeks.
When I visited her on my return, I couldn't believe
Physically Marcia hadn't changed—still emaciated, the
hardened skin on her hands stretched so tightly it pulled
her fingers in toward her palms.
She was on heavy doses of pain medication and rarely
got out of bed.
Emotionally, however, she was a woman transformed.
'What's happened?' I asked, scarcely believing the
sparkle in her eyes.
Marcia smiled. 'I've been thanking God!' she
First, she said, she'd begun with little things: the blue
sky outside her window, the roof over her head, her
Every day she persevered in this task regardless of
how much pain she was in.
'It's the most astonishing thing,' she said. 'The
more I praise God, the more aware of His presence I become.
In fact,' she continued, 'one morning as I was thinking of
things I was thankful for, without even realizing it I heard
myself say, 'God, thank you for this disease that's brought
me so much closer to you!'
I could only stare in astonishment.
In her determination to be thankful ... Marcia had
loosened the choke-hold of terror in which the disease had
Marcia had switched her focus from her helplessness to God's
wonder God tells us to cultivate thankfulness in our lives!
It's an attitude that empowers rather than
Giving thanks always, with abundance, for all things
and in everything!
This classification shows a Christian who has learned
a comprehensive gratitude.
The last classification is the very grateful.
"This is the Christian who thanks God for who and
what He is. In
other words, loving the Giver more than the gift.
Praising God for who and what He is [no matter what
may be the circumstances]" (Welty).
Let's look at three examples.
The first is Hannah's prayer of thanksgiving for her
newborn son in 1 Samuel 2:1-2: "My heart rejoices in the
Lord; My horn is exalted in the Lord.
I smile at my enemies, because I rejoice in Your
one is holy like the Lord.
For there is none besides You, nor is there any rock
like our God."
See how her focus in the Giver in this time of joy.
Secondly, notice Job words in Job 1:21: "Naked I
came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed
be the name if the Lord."
See again how the focus is on the Giver in this time
of anguished pain.
Now notice Jesus' thanksgiving in Matthew 11:25:
"I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You
have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have
revealed them unto babes.
Even so, Father, it seemed good in Your sight."
We see once again the focus on the Giver in a time of
"Thankfulness is an indispensable part of Christian
character because it affects our relationship with God"
Someone else has noted: "It is a rare person who, when his
cup frequently runs over, can thank God instead of
complaining about the limited size of his mug" (Bob Russel)!
Were the classifications thought-provoking?
Where did you find yourself?
Can we all stand some improvement?
Now let's return to answering those questions our
first researcher raised: "How do they do it?
How do [the high-virtue believers] nurture and
sustain a grateful spirit" (Ibid)?
And he discovered this: "they
differently from the way many of the rest of us think.
The mind of the high-virtue [believer], it seems,
is a disciplined mind, a pure and godly mind.
A mind that is adept at immediately clearing away
It is a mind that is focused on what one has, rather
than what one does not have.
[It is] a mind that refuses to think in terms of
what's missing from life—in terms of how much better life
could be 'if only …'
Instead, the high-virtue [believers] ... want what
they have. They
are fully content with what's been conferred upon them, and
they frequently thank God for their blessings" (Ibid).
He discovered that 53% in the high-virtue group said
that they "always" or "almost always" tried to immediately
clear sinful thoughts from their minds while only 18% tried
to do this in the average-virtue group.
He concluded that the high-virtue group had
conditioned their minds to eradicate the incubators for
ingratitude—jealousy, greed, lust, and so on.
That [was] one of their secrets to success.
Another secret was that 68% of the high-virture group
said they "rarely" or "never" desired what others had while
55% of the average-virtue group said they "often" or
"always" wanted what others had.
This shows that envy is great killer of gratitude,
and the high- virtue believers were training themselves not
to be envious.
Here was a third secret.
In the high-virtue group, 80% consistently remembered
throughout the day how God had blessed them while only 40%
in the average-virtue group did this.
So the researcher made this conclusion: "What does
drive gratitude is proper perspective.
Remaining mindful moment-to-moment of what God has
bestowed upon you.
High-virtue [believers] are perpetually aware of
their bountiful life, regardless of what that life entails.
They have trained their minds to think about the
abundance in their lives rather than the insufficiencies.
And it is this habit—a habit of keeping
perspective—that transports them to the next level of
gratitude and of character" (Ibid).
Let's review just a moment.
How can you be a better Christian, or more like
how do you develop gratitude?
You think differently.
There were six ways to do that: Focus on what you
have, not what you don't have!
Don't think: "What's missing?" or "If only I had
sinful thoughts immediately!
Don't let what others have make you envious!
Think: "I'm not living at rock bottom yet (you're
probably far from it)!"
Concentrate on how much God has blessed you already
and thank Him often for it!