Our “new creation” life is radically different from our old one. One of the big changes is the new freedom to “put on” a heart of gratitude…..to be an always thankful person.
My earlier post, Sacrifice of Thanks, mentions that the spirit of thankfulness is bigger than the celebration of good things that God sends our way. It’s a gratitude-response to the fact that he is good (always)…even when it seems that his good gifts are by-passing our address. The truth that he is always good frees us to be always thankful.
Human energy can’t drive an always thankful lifestyle, and it’s an illogical way to live. Singing gratitude in a storm, celebrating in a crisis or offering thanks when there’s reason to complain is a puzzle to the natural mind. But it makes perfect Kingdom sense, and the Spirit of grace is the great Energizer of always thankful.
The always thankful heart knows that the Lord has placed an altar for thank offerings into every circumstance (which his goodness filters before it reaches us), 1Thes 5:18. So it doesn’t wait for a better time to voice gratitude, or allow feelings to decide whether or not to do it.
The always thankful heart is a growing one – it doesn’t want to be rigid or stay the same. It wants to keep growing in its habit of adding gratitude-responses into the spaces, activities and circumstances of daily life. For the always thankful heart, the goodness of God is always a big enough reason.
Always thankful was part of foundational apostolic teaching (Col 2:6-7). It wasn’t an optional add-on; it was a daily life essential, a ‘spiritual breathing’ that accompanied everything done or said: always giving thanks for everything, and thanking God the Father every step of the way. It wasn’t a show of religious form, but an overflow of Word and Spirit fullness. (Eph 5:20, Col 3:17 MSG).
Look for the thanksgiving gateways
In praying for the Thessalonian believers (2Thes 1), Paul and his prayer team had some good things, even urgent ones to ask God for. After all, they were a persecuted church experiencing rough times. But, the prayer team didn’t rush into asking. They began by thanking the Lord for what he was already doing there. The always thankful heart finds it easy to ask the Lord for more of his goodness, but not without honouring him for what he has already given.
We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.
The prayer team looked for the thanksgiving gateways. There were signs of God already at work: the church’s faith was increasing, love was growing and persecution was unable to stop it. The need to ask should never obscure our reasons to thank him. The apostolic prayer team did get to their asking, but they approached it through the thanksgiving gateways (11,12). Admiration of his goodness (thankfulness) led the way into asking.
- Focus on a prayer point for a person, group or situation in which you long for the goodness of the Lord to work powerfully, to make a difference.
- Before asking, look for thanksgiving gateways. What signs of God’s goodness do you see in that situation? Are there indications of the Lord already at work? Can you see ways in which he has shown his kindness to them (even if they themselves are unaware of it)? Are there signs of a partial answer that can be celebrated? Your unhurried thank offering is not side-lining your asking point but serving it.
- Move towards your prayer point through the thanksgiving gateway(s). As you ask for more of his goodness for them, your asking has an always thankful fragrance.