Gratitude and Grace
Did you know gratitude goes hand-in-hand with grace? It makes sense when you think about it! The definition of grace is “the undeserved favor of God.” Romans 3:24 says that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The natural response to a gift as big as the undeserved grace of God towards us—a people who chose rebellion against our Creator—is gratitude. And if it wasn’t, there would be something seriously wrong! Have you witnessed a new believer on fire for God? You can hardly contain them from telling everyone around them about what God has done in their life. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” And that should be our daily, natural, thankful response to God—we should tell everyone around us about what Jesus did on the cross for them. So what are some ways we can do that? Well, today we will be exploring three: having a ministry of gratitude, consistently checking our motives, and daily carrying our cross.
HAVE A MINISTRY OF GRATITUDE
If we truly have hearts full of gratitude toward our Savior and Lord, our first steps in showing thankfulness would be to find ways to follow His example. Our King who “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8, KJV emphasis added). So we need to ask ourselves…have we begun a ministry in our lives for the sole aspect of glorifying Him? And if we have, what is the nature of our ministry?
You might be thinking, “Well, John…what do you mean by that?” Every day we have a choice. We can either walk in joy, peace, and thankfulness or spiral into frustration and discouragement. Because let’s face it: life is busy. And in the “busy-ness” we can easily lose sight of what’s important. And perhaps the highest calling we have been given is to share the Gospel with others—and to do it with gratitude to God. We should model ourselves after Paul, who labored for the Lord with a thankful heart. Because true gratitude causes action. If you are thankful, you don’t sit around. You give back or pass it on! And when we share the Gospel with others out of gratitude to God, others will see that thankfulness radiate from our hearts. Let me encourage you today, begin to look for ways to share the Good News of the Gospel with others! And if this isn’t a natural inclination for you, don’t despair. We have all had those seasons. Pray that God would give you a new zeal for sharing His love for others. If you find yourself lacking enthusiasm, let me encourage you to…
CHECK YOUR MOTIVES
There’s a phrase we hear Christian comedians and pastors use as a joke: “If that doesn’t light your fire, your woods wet!” Well, joking aside, it’s actually a sobering statement. You see, our motives matter to God. If we are operating in our day-to-day lives for our own sake, we are missing the purpose God has for us; and we aren’t living in gratitude for what He has done. When we truly understand the cost of what God paid for our salvation, thankfulness comes first. God comes first. And His glory and commission to us to share the Gospel with every creature becomes very important. A grateful people will share what God has done in their lives—and testimonies will abound. You can even read some today if you like and learn to write down your own at www.whatsmystory.org. The Bible clearly states how powerful our testimony is in Revelation 12:11, where John wrote, “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony.” If we as a grateful people each share what God has done in our lives and the Gospel in thankfulness, the world will begin to look different. Because those who hear the Gospel around the world will respond to it and place their trust in Jesus. And what does that do in their lives? It changes everything. So let’s put God’s glory first and share our gratitude with others. Who can you share your testimony with this week?
While God gives us some amazing blessings tell others about, other testimonies may not be quite as easy to share. Due to the fallen nature of this world, some of the things we walk through are quite difficult. But, just like in Joseph’s situation in the Old Testament where he was sold into slavery and thrown into prison, God can use the trials we face for good. So in gratitude…
CARRY YOUR CROSS
Hudson Taylor said even though he endured great hardships and tragedies in his lifelong mission work in China, “I never made a sacrifice.” He counted all the riches of this world (or even the basic comforts) as a loss in gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” We carry our crosses in gratitude to Jesus! And through the hardships, we tell others the Good News of the Gospel.
A few years ago in a small village in Lebanon, a family heard the Gospel from an team of Christians who knocked on their door. The husband, the wife, and all the children gave their hearts to Christ that day. The villagers were not pleased. They began persecuting them heavily. However, God used the Christians who came to encourage the family to share with the village about Christ, and the villagers’ minds were changed. Many more have come to a saving faith in Jesus since then. And this is just one of many testimonies about how God uses our lives when we carry our crosses for Him.
Our ultimate example is Jesus, who took on the full weight of dying on the cross for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God. When we put our trust in His work on the cross, we are seen by God as blameless in His sight. We take on Jesus’ perfect life and give Him our sinful one, which He died for. When we look at it this way, carrying our own crosses seem but a small task compared to what Jesus has done for us. We praise Him for it and joyfully set about sharing the Gospel and making disciples as He tasked us with! May many come to have the hope that is only found in Jesus because we choose to take bold steps today and endure hardships for Christ.
So let’s be a grateful people. Each one of us can have a ministry of gratitude, a heart motivated to keep God first, and strength to carry our crosses even through persecution. May we do so to the glory of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
John Sorensen (Doctorate of Divinity, Knox Theological Seminary & Doctor of Humane Letters, Montreat College) is the president of Evangelism Explosion International (www.evangelismexplosion.org) and host of Share Life Today (www.sharelife.today). Sorensen has authored the books Well Done and Your Story Counts and travels the globe for Evangelism Explosion. This past year Evangelism Explosion International equipped more than 435,000 Christians worldwide to be witnesses for Christ, and saw, by the grace of God, more than 7.9 million people make a profession of faith in Jesus. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with his wife, Ann, and he has four adult children and six grandchildren.