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Reshaped by Gratitude

Larry Ali, Executive Pastor

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

There are hundreds of verses that exhort us to give thanks to God.  Additionally, Philippians 4:8 reads, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

To get a bit personal, I grew up in a home where there was a lot of negative talk. I didn't realize how much this had affected me, but somewhere along my faith journey I realized that this negative talk shaped me in ways that I didn't like about myself.  Since then, God has slowly helped reshape my attitude.

I emphasize slowly because in our instant results and super-fast paced culture we can tend to overlook the slower progression of change that can be a significant part of our spiritual growth. Gratitude and thanksgiving are powerful habits to cultivate over time. I used that word cultivate as I find that God often works in concert with, or in participation with us as we yield to the change that He guides us towards.

I don’t know about you, but for me change doesn't come easily. However, I have been noticing that as I have been "practicing" gratitude by using a journal and other resources, I have found that God, through His Holy Spirit, is actually changing the way that I perceive things. I'm finding that if I take the time to really "listen" to the Holy Spirit, and allow God to show me the things I have in my life to be grateful for, that there truly is so much to be thankful for.

From here we need to just do it, to actually "give thanks", which helps strengthen and reinforce our posture of gratitude. That in turn changes not only our own lives but the lives of those we come into contact with.  A recent study has shown the following attributes follow people who practice gratitude:
  • Feel better about their lives
  • More optimistic about the future
  • Report fewer health problems
  • Experience heightened satisfaction in their relationships
  • Have increased sense of resilience in the face of stressful events
  • Discover an enhanced ability to empathize with others
  • Reduce the experience of toxic emotions
  • Sleep better
  • Experience improved self esteem

Of course, as we celebrate Christmas, we have Jesus to be thankful for. (And we have all of eternity to do so). So even with the pandemic and all that may be happening around us, let's not lose sight of the blessings and joys that God has provided for us.  And let's be thinking of those things that are praiseworthy.

I'll end with this excerpt from "The Gratitude Sidekick Journal" by Habit Nest (habitnest.com):
No matter who you are, where you're from, and what your circumstances are, you have much more to be grateful for than be unhappy about.
The emotions we experience are not dependent on the circumstances of our lives. They are a result of the way we perceive our circumstances.

Finally, let's remember to "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

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