By Stephen Leonard
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Of course, I am grateful,” you quickly respond. “Why wouldn’t I be?” But merely saying “thank you” doesn’t always make you a person who is fundamentally grateful for what you have received and did not deserve, especially from the hand and heart of God, your Creator, your merciful Father, and the sender of the Savior. Being thankful to God of primary order is not always the initial step in your day-to-day response to all that happens to you.
A truly grateful person is “a Beatitude person.” As described by Jesus in Matthew 5, He sets an impossible measure for anyone to attain. Who is really “poor in spirit?” This is not your nature. Who mourns consistently and inwardly about their sin, but never gives off the vibe of “poor me!” Who settles on one unusual word to describe himself: “meek!” With very serious introspection, do you really hunger and thirst for righteousness? Are you merciful and pure in heart? Can you stand to be reviled and persecuted by others? And after that, still rejoice? Always?
For if you are truly characterized by Jesus’ description of the truly happy person, then you have earnest cause to be an abundantly grateful person; for God has visited you with an amazing amount of grace, truly overwhelming you in every portion and every corner of who you genuinely are; for gratefulness to God then flows out of you like a river.
Gratefulness is not characteristic of who we really are. Thank you, thank you, thank you, may naturally and readily flow from your lips, but in itself does not make you a truly grateful person. It certainly makes you a courteous person. But genuine gratefulness of heart and mind is an entirely different matter.
Gratefulness does not characterize a person who is not poor in spirit of first order, who does not regularly mourn over their own habitual sinfulness, who is not always seen by others as meek with an unquenchable thirst for righteousness.
The Beatitudes, when taken as the authentic descriptor of what it means to fully follow Christ, can absolutely level a man. But when these become your one true goal and the purpose of your life, your heart is transformed into humble gratefulness to God for who He is and what He has done for you. You actually never cease to praise and worship Him.
Jesus’ great sermon should regularly penetrate your soul, reminding you of how far you have to go, but equally satisfying your understanding that God’s grace is fully sufficient to do all that is needed to get you there. In Christ alone, you can be “a Beatitude person.” Then you will come to know what gratefulness is really all about.
“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts my daily thanks employ; nor is the least a cheerful heart that tastes those gifts with joy.”
(Verse 4 of Joseph Addison’s hymn, “When All Your Mercies, O My God,” 1712)