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2018: The Year of Thanksgiving

January 8, 2018

Every year the Lord drops a word or phrase in my heart that is to be the “theme” for that year. This morning in church our worship leader, said “This is the year of Thanksgiving,” and the Lord said to me, “That’s it!”

Sometimes at Christmas, people say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if people acted all year the way they act around Christmas?” Last November I had a similar thought at Thanksgiving. It’s great that we have a special day that we set aside to give thanks to the Lord. But wouldn’t it be even better if we had an “Attitude of Gratitude” throughout the year?

The Bible tells us over and over to give thanks to the Lord, but my favorite verse is Psalms 107:1 – “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Thankfulness and gratitude go hand in hand. In addition to the spiritual benefits of gratitude, scientific studies have shown five major benefits to being a person of thankfulness:

  • Emotional benefits
  • Social benefits
  • Personality benefits
  • Physical health benefits
  • Psychological health benefits
The spiritual benefits are amazing. Thankfulness is a form of worship. What we call The Lord’s Prayer is actually The Disciple’s Prayer. Jesus wasn’t teaching the disciples what to pray; He didn’t mean for us to memorize it or recite it in church. He was teaching them how to pray. He didn’t say, “Pray this prayer.” He said, “Pray this way.” (Matthew 6:9)

And what was the first thing He taught them? To say to the Father, “Hallowed be Thy name.” Hallowed: holy, honored, sacred, reverenced, praised. In other words, He taught us to express praise and thankfulness to our Father – before we start asking Him for stuff!

So the first spiritual benefit of thankfulness is that it allows us to give something back to  God - Who has given us everything. It expresses our love back to Him. But we can never outgive God. So even when we express our love and thanks to Him in worship, He blesses us again. The Bible tells us He inhabits our praise. (Psalms 22:3)

Thankfulness helps us know our place. It helps us to be humble before the Lord. It reminds us that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.”   (James 1:17) When we acknowledge that He is the Giver, and we are the grateful recipients, it makes it hard to “think more highly of ourselves than we should.” (Romans 12:3)

It reduces anxiety. Paul said in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Thankfulness is a stress-reliever!

I Corinthians 13:4 tells us that, “Love does not envy.” Thankfulness helps us obey the 8th, 9th and 10th Commandments. When you are thankful for all the blessings God has given you, you won’t envy or covet what others have.

Thankfulness helps us have the mind of Christ. If we’re living a thankful life, we’re more likely to leap to gratitude instead of grumbling when hard things happen. Thankfulness draws us to depend on God. When we think of all the times the Lord has shown His faithfulness toward us, it makes it easier for us to trust Him to be faithful again.

Finally, to quote an often misquoted verse, God tells us in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So many people have told me that I should thank God for everything. But the Bible says, “In everything…” God doesn’t tell us to be thankful for a loved one dying, or a friend being diagnosed with cancer. Living in gratitude every day helps us to be thankful to God for His goodness and mercy in every situation.

God knows what He is doing. When he teaches us to be thankful, He knows – because He created us – that in addition to spiritual benefits, our attitude of gratitude will result in other benefits that will enrich our lives. These benefits have all been demonstrated in scientific tests...
Emotional Benefits. A 2015 paper in the Journal of Religion and Health found that those who were more grateful for who they are and what they have were more hopeful. And a 2003 paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people with neuromuscular diseases who kept “gratitude journals” reported a greater sense of well-being and more positive moods at the end of the study, compared with those who didn’t make such lists.
Social Benefits. One 2006 study in the journal Psychological Science found that those who expressed more gratitude were also more likely to help out others. And a 2006 study in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, scientists found that Vietnam War veterans with high levels of gratitude were more resilient, and less impacted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Gratitude towards the people close to you has also been shown to improve relationships.
Personality Benefits. A 2012 paper in Social Psychology and Personality Science found that higher levels of gratitude were linked to greater empathy and lowered aggression. “Gratitude motivates people to express sensitivity and concern for others,” the researchers wrote.
Physical Health Benefits. Psychology Today cites several studies that found people who report being more grateful also report feeling fewer aches and pains. And A 2009 study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that those who expressed gratitude more often slept better and longer than those who didn’t.
Psychological Health Benefits.  Experiments have shown that people whole partake in the “three good things” exercise — which, as the name suggests, prompts people to think of three good moments or things that happened that day — see considerable improvements in depression and overall happiness. Gratitude is something that leads to sustainable forms of happiness because it’s not based on immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind
So, once again we see that God knows how to guide His children. Whether it’s spiritual benefits as a result of thankfulness, or the multitude of physical and mental benefits, God’s word works. So make this a year of thankfulness in your life, and invite your friends and family to join you.

The Spiritual Practice of Gratitude
17 Benefits of Gratitude and Thankfulness

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude
The Benefits of Gratitude

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Dr. Tom Barrett is a pastor, teacher, author, conference keynote speaker, professor, certified executive coach, and marketplace minister. His teaching and coaching have blessed both church and business leaders. He has been ordained for over 40 years, and has pastored in seven churches over that time. Today he “pastors pastors” as he oversees ordained and licensed ministers in Florida for his ministerial fellowship.

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