Cultivating the Value of Gratitude

swing poverty playset

One time we were raising money for a new playground for the kids at our church. You may have seen these colorful wonderlands in parks where you live. They’ve got slides, swings, climbing walls, curved balance beams, and monkey bars. (Not only do my kids love these playlands, but I’ve been known to climb on top and have a bit of fun myself.)

Knowing our church’s parents would be excited to get behind this project, I recorded a simple video to show an example of the playground we’d get for our kids. When the video was almost over, I looked into the lens and said, “Let’s give big because our kids deserve the best.”

At the time, I didn’t think anything of the video. It looked good. Sounded good. Felt good. Until my good friend approached me after watching the video during one of the weekend services at church. Steve had just returned from a mission trip to a very poor part of the world. The people in the village he served didn’t have running water, plumbing, or electricity. They fought daily to get enough food to survive. Most people died early, either from starvation or some treatable sickness. Steve told me all about the trip and showed me pictures of the kids that had nothing.

Then he said, “Next time you make a video to raise money for a luxury like a very expensive playground, maybe you shouldn’t say that our kids ‘deserve’ it. They really don’t.”

Steve was right. Without even knowing it, I’ve been sucked into an entitled, demanding, and ungrateful culture.

I deserve my pizza delivered to my home in thirty minutes or less. I need a phone with an unlimited data plan or I can’t function. I have to have an SUV to keep my family safe. I’ve got to have the $120 pair of jeans. My kids must be in soccer, dance, and piano.

Without knowing it, we take for granted all our luxuries and whine like spoiled brats when we don’t have the new tech gadget or pair of shoes that we really desire. We never stop to say, “Thank you, God, that I have a toilet — in my house — one that actually flushes.” “Thank you for air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.” “Thank you for my health, my friends, my church.” Just like the nine lepers, we take what God gives us and never express true gratitude.

Have you ever gone to a lot of trouble to do something special for someone, but they barely acknowledged your effort? You planned. You saved. You prepared. You thought of every detail. You made everything just right. You worked like crazy to surprise someone, bless someone, honor someone. And they didn’t say thank you. Of course you didn’t do it to be rewarded, but an acknowledgment would have been nice.

Imagine how God feels when he gives us life, his love, his presence, his blessings, his Son. And we ignore him, continuing to do our own thing. Or perhaps we’re a bit more gracious and give a polite, token “thanks, God.” We show up for church once or twice a month, if we’re not too tired or don’t have the chance to take a weekend trip out of town. We halfheartedly sing a few songs, listen to the sermon, nodding to acknowledge God before rushing to our favorite restaurant to enjoy our normal life.

I promise you that to honor God and maximize his potential for you, you’ll need to learn and live, embrace and cultivate the life-changing value of gratitude.

Gratitude kills pride. Gratitude slays self-sufficiency. Gratitude crushes the spirit of entitlement. When we place our discontented egos on the altar of gratitude, we develop contented altar egos filled with thanksgiving.

Learning to be grateful to God puts us in a constant awareness of the source of all good things in our lives, always reminding us of our need, which God met through Christ. Rather than demanding that God serve our wishes, gratitude puts us in our rightful place — eternally indebted to the one who gave us life.

When you dig up the roots of entitlement, gratitude will grow in the good soil of a fertile heart. Gratitude will change how you see your past, acknowledging God’s sovereignty in all things. Gratitude positions you to experience God moment by moment in the present, depending on him daily. Gratitude places you in a posture of worship, ready to give praise to God for every good thing he will do in your future.

Your Turn

What has God done in your life? What has he given you? What blessings do you take for granted? Your life? Your health? Your friendships? Your job? Your home or apartment? When you pause to really think, I promise you can see God in all things, even in the things you wish had never happened.

I’ve always found it interesting that people ask why bad things happen to them, but they rarely ask why good things happen to them. These attitudes reflect the false belief that we don’t deserve bad but we do deserve good. Remember, all we really deserve is hell. If you’re a Christian, Christ has saved you from the pit of your sin. You’ve been filled with the Spirit of God. You’re adopted into God’s eternal family. Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price — the blood of Jesus shed for you on the cross.

Just like the lepers, you’ve been cleansed. Healed. Transformed. Will you be like most in our society — like the nine who are too busy to say thank you? Or will you be different, live gratefully, and return to say thank you to the God who gave you everything that matters?

Photo by: Péter Gudella (Photos.com)
Craig Groeschel

New York Times bestselling author Craig Groeschel is the founding and senior pastor of Life.Church, a pacesetting multicampus church and creators of the popular and free YouVersion Bible App. He is the author of several books, including #Struggles, Fight, Altar Ego, Soul Detox, Weird, From This Day Forward, The Christian Atheist and It. Craig, his wife, Amy, and their six children live in Edmond, Oklahoma.

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