Although Canadians and Americans celebrate thanksgiving in different months, I’m sure we can all agree on one thing: it’s a beautiful time of the year. The leaves are changing, apples are ready to pick, and families get together for good food. For most people it’s also a time to focus on gratitude. However, thanksgiving shouldn’t be the only time of the year where we express our gratitude as much as Christmas shouldn’t be the only time we remember Jesus.
Thanksgiving should be a daily thing we practice. God loves gratitude. Complaining and grumbling? not so much. Just read through Exodus and see for yourself; the Israelites were professional grumblers and God was often displeased with their attitude.
But aren’t we all guilty of this to some degree? I know I am. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. If you live in North America or any 1st world country for that matter, you live a pretty good life. In fact, you are richer than 80% of the world, which means you have more that you need. However, we can often feel like we need, well…more. And that’s our problem.
We can focus too much on what we don’t have that we often miss out on the abundance that we do have. And that’s why gratitude makes all the difference. Gratitude sobers us to reality and creates a sense of contentment in us. And contentment is not about our circumstances; it’s about our perspective on life.
Gratitude leads to Contentment
According to the dictionary, contentment is defined as “a state of happiness or satisfaction.” And I believe gratitude is directly connected to contentment.
Better yet, it’s a fact.
Professional psychologists have performed multiple studies and results show that grateful people tend to experience more happiness. The scriptures also supports this claim, and one particular man in the Bible was an exceptional example of gratitude, Paul.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul expressed many words gratitude to the church despite his circumstances at the time. Simply put, Paul was in jail. Most scholars agree that he was on house arrest in the city of Rome. For what reason? for sharing the gospel of Jesus. But what amazes me the most is his attitude toward the situation.
Let’s look at Philippians 1:12-14
“Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard[c] and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.”
What? Really? Paul was content while in prison? Well, according to his words, he was. As long as people knew why he was in prison, Paul rejoiced. The more people knew why he was in prison, the more people heard about Jesus.
A few verses before (Phil 1:1-3) he also states:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you..”
Again, here we see a heart of gratitude. He is thanking God and praying for other people while in prison. He is not grumbling. He is not complaining. He is rejoicing. You see, gratitude is not about a person’s circumstance; it’s about their perspective. And Paul’s perspective on life was God-centred.
Paul’s Secret to Contentment
Paul not only understood the power of gratitude, he also understood God’s grace and providence over his life and his circumstances.
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul states the following;
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Paul’s God-centred perspective on his situation allowed him to maintain a heart of gratitude and contentment. He understood some key truths about God and his situation:
- God was his source of strength
- God would always be with him
- The situation he was in would some day pass
- He had better and lasting treasures stored up for him.
Seeing life from a God-centred perspective will make all the difference in the way you express gratitude. Paul understood something that David also understood around 1000 years before: “The lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” – Psalm 23:1