Welcome! We are grateful for your presence.
It’s our final week of our study of Gratitude.
Gather up a friend or two for fellowship and journey along with us.
Oh Lord, open our hearts to Your amazing goodness, grace, and love. Fill us to overflowing with gratitude.
Gratitude Review: God’s Grace in Affliction
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.
In our month of Gratitude, what have you learned about God from our meditation verse, Psalm 136:1?
- He is good, therefore He deserves our thanks no matter how we feel.
- He is the One we aim our thanksgiving toward.
- His love is steadfast and goes on forever and ever. Nothing lessens His love for us.
- All He does and allows is good: for our good and His glory. We can trust Him with whatever comes.
- His love for us is revealed in creation and in the sending of His Son, who endured much to make a way for us to return to Him.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.
The past week we gave thanks for the hard things in our lives and looked for things to be thankful for in difficult areas of life. In essence, shooting arrows of faith into our challenging circumstances with thanksgiving.
- What was your experience seeking His grace in affliction? did you find any to give thanks for?
I have to confess… I had a hard time opening my Gratitude Journal to give thanks for the hard things or even look for something to be thankful for in the hard things. It is a hard spiritual discipline. One the flesh bucks against.
I didn’t record three things each day… I didn’t even open my journal until the fourth day of the week…
But what happened, as I began to record – Thank You, Lord, for the timing of my mom’s death… for capturing my heart in an ICU waiting room… for Your grace greater than all my sin… – I couldn’t stop. The thanks flowed, well into Day 6 of my journal page.
What was hard to begin, and seems a sacrifice to do, became a complete joy as I saw Him in the dark places of life. His purpose, His goodness, His love, His grace.
It would have been easy to make a list of hard things and write down reasons to give thanks. It’s actually one of my automatic defenses for dealing with the difficult. I’m a “look on the bright side” or “find the silver lining” kind of girl. But the truth is I often use this as a way to escape the hard work of dealing with the negative emotions that come with affliction.
What I am beginning to learn is gratitude in affliction is not about seeing good in the circumstance but leaning into the understanding that the afflictions I face are only for a moment. And in this life of mine, I may never understand the purpose of my difficult. I may not see the good result.
Our focus Scripture reminds me “His steadfast love endures forever.” No matter how I see it. Whether or not I can look back over hard seasons and determine the results or purpose really doesn’t matter. Because these are momentary afflictions and God’s love remains forever.
The sacrifice in giving thanks for the hard places in life comes with what feels like sacrificing our wants! Laying down our desires, hopes, dreams and offering thanks for something we never wanted. But when we faithfully make our thanksgiving sacrifice we are blessed with seeing God’s love where we didn’t expect it or feel it.
God’s love endures and remains steadfast, even in the hard and painful places of life. His love for us is no more or less. His goodness not diminished one iota.
Read Psalm 126:5-6
- What does this verse tell us?
- How might it relate to a picture of giving God a sacrifice of thanks?
Those who sow in tears, bearing the burden of seed for sowing, will reap joy!
Our thanksgiving in the midst of affliction is like sowing seeds of faith, scattering them at God’s feet. The result is increased faith and increased knowledge of God’s goodness and love. Not because we read about it in the Bible, but because we experienced it firsthand.
Read Psalm 50:22-23
- What is the contrast between the two groups of people in these verses?
- What is the outcome of their lives?
Two types of people: There are those who forget God and find no deliverance. Then there are those who offer thanksgiving as a sacrifice and glorify God. The sacrificial thanksgiving magnifies God in their lives and they begin to honor Him in their day to day living. When people honor God with their lives, then He honors them by showing them the way of salvation.
- When are we tempted to forget God?
- When things are hard, and we don’t see Him at work.
- When we feel forgotten or unheard.
- When things are really good, and we feel like we have things under control.
- When we are mad at God for the way things turned out. We didn’t get what we wanted.
- When we are busy doing our own thing.
Thanksgiving, even as a sacrificial discipline, keeps us focused on God.
But how do we give this continual sacrifice of thanks?! How do we forge a state of gratitude in our hearts?
Read Hebrews 12:1-2
- Who are we to look to? Why?
God’s Word reminds us to look to Jesus who is the forerunner of our faith. He is the One who has walked through life faithfully and is the One who writes faith on our hearts. When we look at what He did for us on the cross, we are inspired to endure. Encouraged to keep on. He is the ultimate reason we can give sacrificial thanks to God – in all circumstances.
- How did Jesus endure?
Jesus suffered greatly, just like we would if we were nailed to a cross. But He endured for the joy set before Him. He did not lose sight of the eternal perspective. He kept His sights on the joy of glorifying God the Father with every ounce of life He possessed, and the joy found in loving others with greater love (John 15:13).
God is good and His love is mightier than anything this world can throw at us. Giving Him thanks based on His goodness and not our emotional state helps us to remember our dependence on Him for everything. We see His love and grace in our lives, experience it firsthand, and want others to see it too.
This brings us to our final lesson in Gratitude.
Living God’s Grace
Read Hebrews 12:15
- As followers of Jesus, what is the one thing we are supposed to make sure everyone obtains? Why?
We are to see to it that no one misses out on the grace of God, so that bitterness will not spring up in the heart of a community and cause serious trouble.
Take note. First and foremost, we must make sure bitterness doesn’t take root in our hearts. Not bitterness toward God, others, or even ourselves. This is not about minding other people’s business. The only one we have any influence over is our self. So, this is about making sure we are fully rooted in God’s grace
- How might the practice of thanksgiving be a way of making sure no one misses God’s grace?
- Our own practice of giving thanks to God in all circumstances keeps us focused on God’s grace to all, God’s grace in action, and His grace in affliction.
- Giving thanks for the people around us, in our communities, as people God loves and Jesus died for.
- Encouraging others to be thankful, pointing out what there is to be grateful for.
- Giving thanks to God openly as a witness to others.
- Giving thanks as we stand in the gap for those who need someone to journey with them in hard seasons.
When we live grateful lives, we see God’s benefits in the world, remember the places where He has comforted, and are moved to trust His good purpose in all things.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
This truth is the joy set before us that helps us endure all things with thanksgiving, just as Jesus did (and does).
Read Psalm 138
This is a psalm of thanks written by David – shepherd, king, and forefather of Jesus – a man who sought God’s heart to follow (1Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
- What benefits of wholehearted thanksgiving are revealed in this psalm?
- Verse 1: Gratitude to the One True God frees us from the influence of other gods.
- Verse 2: Gratitude opens our hearts to receive His great love for us. We love because He first loved us. – 1John 4:19
- Verse 3: Gratitude strengthens us to do what He calls us to: love others, even our enemies.
- Verse 4-5: Gratitude is contagious. Others hear our heart of thanks and begin to see His glory too.
- Verse 6: Gratitude instills humility, grounding us in our dependence on God.
- Verse 7: Gratitude focuses us on God’s salvation and purpose.
- Verse 8: Gratitude enables us to give thanks in the hard things of life because we are confident He will fulfill His purpose in us.
A continual practice of giving thanks to God produces a heart of praise for God. This is the perspective we need to live in a state of gratitude.
The more we give Him the thanks He deserves, the more we see His love and His great goodness toward us. In turn, our love for Him is ignited and intensified enabling us to love others the way He loves us.
Read Colossians 3:16-17
God gives us a clear picture of the way to live in community with other Believers.
- What should Believers be filled with?
- How should it flow out of our lives?
- What are we to add to everything we do?
Believers are to invite the Word of Christ, the gospel, to dwell in our hearts. It is His Word, His truth, which we are to teach one another. The good news singing through our faith communities leads to thankful hearts.
Thus, thanksgiving making way for a continual state of gratitude is the mark of a Believer in Jesus Christ. A sense of gratefulness flows from our lives. Fills us with praise for God and love for the saints. Gratitude is at the heart of the encouragement we give to one another and in our outreach to the world.
At the last, this is what will determine a fulfilling, meaningful life — a life that, behind all the facades, every one of us longs to live: gratitude for the blessings that expresses itself by becoming the blessing.
–Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional
Homework: Gratitude Journal
As we wrap up this month of gathering in Gratitude, continue to let Psalm 136:1 impact your life and open your eyes to His grace in and around you.
Give thanks to the Lord, for the Lord is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.
We hope you will continue (at least for the next week) to record or make note of three things to be thankful for each day. Give thanks for the places you see God’s grace to all, God’s grace in action, and even in affliction.
But in addition, begin to look for those places where God uses you as a grace in the world, and be thank-full.
Father God, may our gathering for the study of gratitude transform our lives in a way that overflows in our communities and glorifies You. Amen.