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Bible Study Notes

The Discipline of Gratitude

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
Gratitude means we are practicing and producing an attitude of Gratitude, of being thankful, even when we cannot see what we have. This is an aspect of our worship of Christ-expressing to Him our appreciation and reverence for how He has benefited our lives. We are grateful because His blood has redeemed us. This also has a relational application in that it helps us deal with others as we show our support, appreciation, and benevolence to them for how they have benefited our lives. As a discipline, this means we are to realize our indebtedness to God and
Is the Discipline of Gratitude Working in You?

  

Principle Scriptures on the Discipline of Gratitude: 1 Sam. 12:24; Matt. 5:17-20; Luke 17:11-19; Romans 12:10; 1 Corinthians 4:7; Col. 3:17; 1 Thess. 5: 12-18; 1 Tim. 5:17; 6:1; 1 Pet. 2:17; Heb. 12:28-29  

  

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this Discipline of Gratitude from God's most precious Word by examining your life and the passages above. Now ask yourself:

 

1.    How do I exhibit a life of Gratitude in my life now?

2.    How can I develop the willingness to be a more disciplined person who will realize I am grateful for His work in me?

3.    What blocks Gratitude from working and being exhibited in me?

4.    How can I initiate an attitude of Gratitude, and discipline myself to carry it out?

5.    What can I do to make Gratitude function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainty and stress?

 

·        Here are positive examples from Scripture: 2 Sam. 2:5-7; Dan. 2:17-23; Luke 17:15-18; Rom. 16:1-12; Phil. 1:3-7

 

·        Here are negative examples from Scripture: Gen. 31:36-42; Ex. 17:1-4; Luke 17:11-14; 17; Romans 1:18-21

 

The Discipline of Gratitude means we are practicing and producing an attitude of Gratitude, of being thankful, even when we cannot see what we have. This is an aspect of our worship of Christ-expressing to Him our appreciation and reverence for how He has benefited our lives. We are grateful because His blood has redeemed us. This also has a relational application in that it helps us deal with others as we show our support, appreciation, and benevolence to them for how they have benefited our lives. As a discipline, this means we are to realize our indebtedness to God and "practice" our faith and church life because of what He has done for us. Thus, this Discipline of Gratitude enables us to know Him and His will more and do for Him more as we keep our focus on God's promises and not our circumstances-His provision and care, not merely our experiences. Christianity is not for our personal benefit; it is for His glory. Seeing life from the perceptive of what I can't get or what I deserve rather than what I have already been given will create grave problems. We must discipline ourselves to see His gifts of eternal life, grace, and forgiveness-such things that could never been earned or merited-so that we are willing to grow closer to Him and to lead others to Him.

 

What Gratitude is not is mindless joy or a good attitude without a reason behind it, because it will not last. Good attitudes are important and essential, but we have to have a basis for them to keep them, to hone them, and further develop them.

 

What happens when we do not practice this discipline? We will be fueled and filled with ingratitude, refusing to acknowledge and respond to what Christ has done for us. This will produce in us a very unhealthy attitude and a life that is not Spirit-led. We will not realize what we have or could have, but rather focus on an "entitlement" mentality that says we deserve this or that, and where humbleness and servitude are absent. It will create for us a life of dissatisfaction and dysfunction. This can happen to a Christian who does little to nothing with his or her faith and remains in the ways of the world, or someone who refuses to grow and respond to God. This places a barrier to seeing the great, incompressible gift of grace we have received, and then refusing, or forgetting, to respond to Christ as our LORD.  When we refuse to be partakers of gratefulness, the waywardness of our sinful ingratitude will rise up and continue to fester and build and eventually take control of who we are and what we do, even as Christians. Then, pride will come in, causing us to hurt others and cutting us off our relationships and growth while creating self-defeating anger and bitterness that worsens to produce more ingratitude. We must be careful that ingratitude does not take root in us!

 

Further Questions

 

1.    How would you define the Discipline of Gratitude? Are you a person who is Grateful? If so, why? If not, why not? How does knowing who and what Christ has done help you to be grateful? How does ingratitude affect the way people treat one another?  What about your church's vision and agenda (whether you are in leadership or not)?

 

2.    What part does Gratitude play in your relationships with church members, friends, coworkers, and family? Have you ever met a person who is ungrateful yet happy? Why do you suppose he or she is that way? How would the Discipline of Gratitude help your church handle problems and overcome difficulties?

 

3.    How does the Discipline of Gratitude give us rewards and successes in life? Do you realize that gratitude creates a happy heart and a functional Christian life and that ingratitude creates chaos, confusion, strife, and discontentment? What about Christians who think they are entitled to something?

 

4.    What happens when your church does not engage in Gratitude or teach and model to its people their indebtedness to Christ?

 

5.    What happens to your relationship with God, with others in your church's community, and with the opportunities God gives you when your church refuses to be grateful for whom Christ is and what He has done-such as taking Him for granted?

 

6.    When have you exercised Gratitude the most? How does gratitude produce happiness? How does ingratitude produce bitterness and unhappiness? Why do so many Christians engage in ingratitude and bitterness and not pursue His promises? What do you suppose their rationalization is? How would Christ feel about it?

 

7.    In what situation did you or your church fail to engage in Gratitude when you should have? How would people respond to your church if you all actually and sincerely gave God the glory for all that you do and practice?

 

8.    Do you have a sense of His presence in your daily life? If so, how does this help you be grateful? If not, why? What can you do to have a heart that is aware of His care for you?

 

9.     How does a list of agendas and personal motivations show ingratitude? Do you have a stilled soul or a raging cry? What would real, authentic Gratitude look like in your church fellowship, meetings, and other doings?

 

10. What issue is in your church that would improve with a dose of Gratitude? What do you need to do to raise your trust in Christ? How does Gratitude play out here?

 

11. Do you come to Christ only when you feel that things are going great, or only when you are facing a crisis? Do you realize that gratitude creates a happy heart and a functional Christian life and that ingratitude creates chaos, confusion, strife and discontentment?

 

12. Think through the steps that you need to take to put Gratitude into action in a specific instance. For example, what can you do to instill within yourself a sense of gratitude, even when you do not see a reason for being thankful? What will you do to get rid of it ingratitude in you and prevent its reprisal? How can the Discipline of Gratitude help your church focus on being edifying and equipping for its people? What will you do about this? What can your church do to make this a priority?

 

Are you a Christian who is overflowing with praise, or overflowing with criticism? Do you have a sense of His presence or a list of agendas? Do you have a stilled soul or a raging cry? Do you come to Christ only when you feel that things are great, or only when you are facing a crisis? How you answer these questions may indicate if you are practicing a discipline of thankfulness or a life of stress and fear. We must realize that gratitude creates a happy heart and a functional Christian life as well as a triumphant church and that ingratitude creates chaos, confusion, strife and discontentment! Gratitude comes from the relationship we have in Christ; when we are happy in Him, we are happy in general and content, humble, and mature. Our hearts are secure and at rest in Him! When our relationship with Christ is not working, it is usually because we messed it up by our attitudes, refusal to work at it and focusing on our disappointments and not Him. Thus, we become ungrateful, and in turn, unhappy and immature (Psalm 131; John 13:17; Philippians 4:6-13).

 

Gratitude shows character because it is a temperament that comes from the spiritual growth we are called to emulate; it is also a discipline because it fuels our spiritual growth. But, it does not come to us naturally and we have to work at it. Just like the other disciplines, we need to do it consciously, constantly, and carefully. We need to think through and meditate on the things of God and in so doing, be aware of His presence and practice His presence by being thankful to Him. This stimulates our spiritual formation. Gratitude should be a daily practice, as any discipline, and not just at set times. Like prayer; it is a way we commune and grow with and in Him.

 

Gratitude is fueled from our heartfelt thanks to God for what we have, for what He has done, and is a lifestyle of worship and adoration. This also allows us to give to and value others with respect and honor because it takes the focus off us and places it on God's purpose and direction. This aspect is central in producing our character by focusing our heart on Christ and thus taking the focus off ourselves and our situation, fears, and self-centeredness. When we are making God our complete focus, we will see what we have and what we can have. This helps us develop a good attitude of gratitude. We are not consumed just with our needs and desires; being thankful is an essential aspect to growing deeper in Christ, and in character and maturity.

 

Our focus needs to be on our gratitude for the gift of grace we received from Christ's work on the cross, and disciplining ourselves to keep front and center in our Christian walk. Gratitude is the carrot on the stick for our scriptural and relational growth. This helps us focus on God and live a life of Christian maturity, faith, and character as well as being happy and fulfilled. Grateful people realize that God indeed cares, even when they can not see it. This forms a mindset that cultivates happiness and enthusiasm and subsequently inspires love toward others. Those who are ingrates promote anger and bitterness. If Gratitude is not our focus, then ingratitude will be what leads us-what we do or do not get. Ingratitude says, "I did not get what I deserved," or "I am not going where I want to go." So, we become consumed with our wants and desires. This causes mistrust, an absence of hope, and/or a mindset that one is unworthy of love and acceptance. All produce a lack of love, lack of Fruit of the Spirit, of hospitality, generosity, and of good stewardship. This further escalates when the hurts, pains, and disappointments of life come knocking on the door. Disappointments come when our expectations and our experiences collide. Disappointments for a Christian come also by ignoring God, His promises, and His provisions. Then, ingratitude will turn into hostility and bitterness.

 

When we fully recognize our dependence on Christ, and fully feel the love and acceptance we have from Him, then our spiritual walk will increase. When our walk increases, then the flow of love and care will proceed from us in a powerful and focused way. We will then see that we already have all that we could ever want or need because all that we are and could ever be is found in Christ.

 

Gratitude also shows that our obedience to God is motivated by the fullness we receive from our Christian life and the joy that can't be found without Jesus. Thus, we are able, and should give God the glory for that all that we do and practice in life, no matter what happens. Holding on to Him in our struggles and fears and still having Gratitude means we are maturating in Him. If all we have is ungratefulness, then all we will have is stress and fear and not the holding on of faith in Christ, a life of disappointments without meaning, and a hope that is not seen. Then, all we will produce is bitterness and malevolence to self and others.

 

I have found something very interesting through the years of my counseling experiences and that is people in causes that are self-defeating or are chaotic to society are started, run, and staffed by people who are very ungrateful in life. (I have not seen any study on this subject, just my observations.) Ingratitude produces a firm desire to destroy and cause havoc to others out of jealousy or contempt or for whatever reason. Ungrateful people hate and desire to destroy. For example, when I was involved with "Operation Rescue" in the 80s, we would go to abortion clinics to pray and hand out literature showing pictures of unborn fetuses as a "proof" for their humanity, showing they were persons. But, such people who perform abortions or work with those who carry them out do not see the humanity of the unborn. They demonize or rationalize that a fetus is like a tumor even though the biological evidences clearly show it is fully human. And primary, I noticed they tend to be people of extreme ingratitude who are motivated by anger and bitterness. While rational, honest, and even some grateful people will think through this issue and say it is human, they say that the mother's rights supercede its rights (which is flawed logic and I strongly disagree with). The same attitudes, arguments and rational were used by Nazi Germany to show the Jewish people as inhuman and deserving of extermination. And, having met some of the doctors who experimented on the Jews and researched this ("Logo-therapy Center," run by holocaust survivor Victor Frankel in San Jose in the early 80s, was a goldmine for such research!), I found them to be extremely ungrateful in their character makeup; they also had entitlement issues. Ingratitude can produce great amounts of evil and rationalization that a lie is a truth. The ingratitude mindset is extremely dangerous to a Christian personally, because it stagnates. We will never realize what we have, nor will we be able to grow in faith or worship God with this mindset. And, if we remain in it, we may even become evil in our thinking and eventually in our actions. It is essential that this discipline of Gratitude is pursued for the sake of contentment and for the sake of humanity.

 

Be aware: when we become infected with these age-old diseases of ingratitude, ungratefulness, and thanklessness, they will lead to apathy, envy, anger, lust, misplaced ambition, greed, aloofness, and bitterness. They will block the growth of our relationship with Christ and cut us off from the character and reflection of Christ to the world. It has been said we cannot control our circumstances, but we can control our attitudes. I have found, both from Scripture and my personal experiences and research, that if we forget who we are in Christ, we will actually dismiss God from our lives and replace Him with the gods of self and ingratitude.

 

The reason the Discipline of Gratitude is a discipline is because it comes easy theoretically and actually; all we have to do is recognize Christ and His work in our lives. But, the "practice" seems to come hard; we have to work at it. To cover ourselves in the call and blessings that Christ has for us should be easy; He says so. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matt. 11:29-30). Christ actually offers to us His love in place of His wrath. Grace takes the Law off our shoulders when we turn to Him, and away from all that is false; this means freedom (Jer. 6: 13-20; 27:2; Gal. 5:1; 1 Cor. 1:26-31)!  But we complicate it, so we must discipline our focus and work at it.

 

Take this subject seriously. As a church growth consultant and a pastor, I have seen lives as well as churches destroyed by ingratitude! A church that allows the ungrateful Christian to run amok will cause enormous damage that may never be repaired. Such a person will quickly turn to legalism and/or connive with his or her ill begotten feelings and agendas to manipulate others and in turn produce the various forms of discontentment toward others. Because he or she is unwilling to see the love that Christ has for him or her, he or she is unable to give it to others. They do not see appreciation from others or even from God, so their focus becomes "entitlement" or the "poor me" attitude. This attitude will reciprocate discontentment in a very powerful and focused way. If you want your Christian walk disarmed and muted, be ungrateful; if you want your church destroyed, all you need to do is allow people who are ingrates to be in leadership; your pews will either soon be empty, or your church will become a festering haven for ingrates who fuel off one another. Ingratitude is a serious disease that must be cut out like a malignant cancer and healed by the sowing of love, serious counseling, and awareness of Christ. If you or another person refuses to heal, then you must be removed from others until healing and forgiveness can take place and help can be obtained. If you are in leadership, it is essential to help these people while at the same time keeping them away from others until they are able to be people of gratitude. If they refuse, they need to be under church discipline and be cut off from the rest of the flock, if necessary, until they accept and realize healing and forgiveness. If not, they will spread their disease to others.

 

 

Ideas: Use these Scriptures to count your blessings (start off by taking two a day and read them several times): Psalm 30:4-5; 12; 75:1; 97:10-12; 105:1; I Chron. 29:6-13; Dan. 2:23; Mark 1:15; John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 27:34-35; Rom. 1:8; 6:17-18; 8:26-27; 1 Cor. 1:4; 15:55-57; 2 Cor. 2:14; 9:15; 12:9; Eph. 1:18; 5:20; Phil. 1:3-5; 2:9-11; 4:6; Col. 1:12; 2 Thess.1:2-3; 5:18; 1 Tim. 4:3-5; Heb. 2:3; 12:28; James 1:2-4; Rev. 11:16-17. Now, consider what it is like in a third world country, 100 years ago, and compare it to all the conveniences we have today!

 

Thanksgiving of faith for who Christ is and what He has done (Rom. 15:1; 25-27; 1 Cor. 11:4; Phil. 1:3; Eph. 4:15-16; Col. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:1; Philemon 4

 

If you need more Scriptures on what to be thankful for, get a "Bible Promise Book" that lists scriptures in various categories, such as: The golden Treasury of Bible Wisdom, published by Barbour Press. 

 

 

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D., Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org  

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