What should you do when you find yourself low in gratitude?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF LOW IN GRATITUDE?

It is said that ‘confession is good for the soul!’ I have failed many times in my past life to be a ‘child of gratitude’. I have, too many times, taken ‘things’ (circumstances) into my own ‘weak hands’, Of course, when I have been a ‘complainer’ (gripping about the ‘lousy’ and ‘unfair situations’), I have not taken my place with the heavenly angels, in praise of the Lord on High!

During these difficult times, my vision has been clouded, my ears have been stopped, my lips of praise have been replaced with lips of complaint, and my mind has been beclouded with doubts and fears and even anger!

When I fail, as often I have, God is merciful to me, because He is a forgiving God. When I fall, I have learned that I must get up, I must confess my failure (sin), and then I must continue to travel on my ‘journey of faith’!

There is much in the living of the Christian life that deserves my ‘practice’, but probably the greatest need that I have in my living of the Christian life is the ‘practice of expressing gratitude’ towards my gracious and loving and grace-filled God! I am always behind in my ‘praise to the Lord’.

The blessings from God are abundantly poured out on my life (and relationships), and I am behind in the giving of thanks for those abundant blessings. Of course, in heaven, I will not only be more aware of the number of blessings and the nature of God’s earthly blessings, but I will be more adequate in my ability wholeheartedly and quickly to offer my thanks to the God of all praise!

Praise the Lord, ye heavens, adore him; Praise him, angels in the height, Sun and moon, rejoice before him, Praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise the Lord, for he hath spoken, Worlds his mighty voice obeyed. Laws which never shall be broken for their guidance he hath made.

Praise the Lord, for he is glorious, never shall his promise fail. God hath made his saints victorious; Sin and death shall not prevail. Praise the God of our salvation, Hosts on high, his power proclaim; Heaven and earth and all creation, Laud and magnify his Name.

Worship, honor, glory, blessings, Lord, we offer unto thee, Young and old, thy praise expressing, In glad homage bend the knee. All the saints in heaven adore thee, we would bow before thy throne: As thine angels serve before thee, So on earth thy will be done.

(Praise the Lord: Ye Heavens, Adore Him by Combined writers)


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Is yours a ‘portrait’ of gratitude?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


IS YOURS A ‘PORTRAIT’ OF GRATITUDE?

I have a personal friend (presently 62 years old, an African-American friend). His name is Bill Johnson. I have regular contact with him, in more than one setting. I have known him for several years, probably nearly 10 years- Once a month, he and I partner to go to two different small nursing homes, where we conduct a short praise service. The ‘heart’ of these monthly services (where a handful of beautiful elderly ones meet) is music.

Bill is an accomplished musician- a musician who plays several musical instruments. His ‘specialty’ in musical expertise is the violin. I have never heard more beautiful music than the music of Bill’s violin. He makes his musical talent available to a large number of persons, in a variety of contexts. He plays in formal settings, and he also plays in very informal settings (such as when he plays gladly and joyously for the few elderly ones, each month).

I exalt in his musical skills every time I hear him play, but, more important than his musical expertise is his loving and humble and joyous and, yes, grateful spirit. Every time Bill plays, he plays for the glory of God, and for the edification of those around him. As you can imagine, there are scores of persons who speak highly of his playing (his skill and his talent).

Time after time, instead of even thanking his praising ‘fans’, Bill will immediately respond by saying, “Praise God. Give God all the glory, Without Him, I could not do anything!” Bill is a man who is full of Gratitude – a man who ascribes all the praise to his wonderful Lord! He never takes credit to himself, for his amazing accomplishments!

It is often said that “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform! “It was through a great adversity that God opened the door of opportunity for Bill, to become an accomplished musician! When Bill was a rather small (grade school) child, a growth on his arm proved to be a cancerous growth!

This was shock enough to his parents, but that shock was multiplied when Bill’s doctor declared that, to keep the cancer from spreading, the arm would have to be amputated! A shock of all shocks, for a person of any age, but especially for a child!

Bill’s father refused to follow the prescription of the doctor. Instead, several believers in the child’s church, laid hands on the young Bill and they asked, obviously, for physical healing. Instead of removing the arm, the doctor made a large indentation in the arm, as a result of the less-severe surgery. Of course, the young child’s arm was greatly weakened as a result of the surgery.

Bill”s father and Bill’s physician agreed that something needed to be done, to strengthen the arm of Bill. Bill’s large family (siblings and other relatives) were quite musical. Perhaps it was this obvious reality that caused Bill’s father and Bill’s physician to come up with an idea!

They both believed that, if young Bill would take violin lessons, that the movement of the arms, involved in playing this delicate instrument, just might strengthen the muscles that were left very weak as a result of the cancer surgery.

The rest is history! Young Bill Johnson practiced diligently, not only to become proficient with the violin, but with several other instruments. Bill Johnson became a professor of music, and Bill Johnson, for decades, has played his violin before hundreds of persons (in many churches and in secular settings- and also before a handful of elderly folks). Bill Johnson cares not if he is playing before a large group or a tiny group – all he wants to do is to let his light shine for his Lord, whom he dearly loves and whom he serves.

He wants to be in ‘the shadow of the cross’! He is very careful not to draw attention to himself. He wants all the ‘focuses of his audience to be on Christ alone! Hidden from the applause of men, in order that he may exalt the name and the cause of Jesus Christ! That describes the life of Bill Johnson!

I know this to be true, for I have often seen him, and I have known Bill Johnson in various settings. He not only makes beautiful music with his instrument, but, more importantly, he makes beautiful music with his humble and generous and loving and prayerful and, yes, grateful life! As a grateful man, I know him to be a man who entrusts his entire life with the Spirit.

I have seen him during his ‘down times’ (adversity), and I have seen him during his ‘exuberant times’ joy and satisfaction). Amidst all these changes and chances of his life, I have seen Bill Johnson to be a man who remains steadfast in his faith, and who remains grateful to God for all God’s good gifts to him!

He has some health issues, he never had the joy of being married, he often ‘pinches pennies’ financially, he sometimes is misunderstood because of a few of his eccentric mannerisms, his pool of friends has sometimes become somewhat drained because of the relocation of his friends or because of the death of his friends, he sometimes has difficulty sleeping, as a minority person he has a few barriers to get over!

Yes, these are some of the ‘challenges’ that Bill Johnson has faced, and that, by God’s grace, he has had to learn to overcome. But, amidst his unique adversities, Bill Johnson remains steadfast in his loyalty to his God, and he continues to remain loving and joyous in his fellowship with his fellow believers!

In addition to his faithfulness to his Lord, and in addition to his maintained fellowship with his fellow men, Bill has been involved in intentional witnessing to non-believers (including his weekly witness to inmates in the county jail).

God has graciously given Bill Johnson the gift of music (violin), and wherever he goes, often the violin goes with him! Heavenly music that honors God and that blesses fellow human beings! Bill Johnson’s entire lifestyle is definitely the lifestyle of ‘Gratitude’!

He is grateful that God spared his arm from amputation. He is grateful that God providentially worked through his father and his doctor, to encourage him (require him?) to start playing the violin!

He is grateful for the talent that God gave to him. He is grateful for the countless opportunities that God has given to him, to bless the ears and the hearts and the souls of persons (far and wide), for many years! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude- these are among the ‘vivid colors’ that would be used to ‘paint the portrait’ of Bill Johnson! When I am around him, he influences me to be a more ‘grateful person’ (the kind of person that God is glad to bless!).


From whence comes the ‘power’ to live a life of gratitude?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


FROM WHENCE COMES THE ‘POWER’ TO LIVE A LIFE OF GRATITUDE?

The ideas, just shared in the previous paragraphs, are the ‘background'(the context) for understanding the ‘touching beauty’ of the spirit of gratitude. The grateful person (like my brother), during life’s losses and grief’s, may be tom up in his/her emotions, during times of great sorrow. But we must always remember the ‘classic statement’: “There is an expulsive power in a new affection!”

The power of ‘gratitude’ is able eventually to expel the weaker power of despair and heart-breaking grief. Grief is an emotion that comes (understandably) to a person, during life’s periodic losses, but gratitude is a perpetual attitude that a believer practices throughout his entire life.

The spirit of gratitude (based on the knowledge of God’s unconditional love) is the spirit that can confront and can powerfully overcome any other negatively-oriented attitude and emotion. Other emotions will ‘come and go’, but the spirit of gratitude is the stable and abiding and permanent attitude in the life of the Spirit-controlled Christian! There is great ‘expelling power’ in the spirit of gratitude – power to force out any spirit which is destructive and negative and God-dishonoring!

Gratitude, is has been shown previously, is not a mere ‘human attainment’; rather, it is a ‘divinely- given gift’. A gift whose source is the Holy Spirit, and a gift that, through the Spirit’s enablement, must, nevertheless, be activated and practiced by fallible humans.

It is when we (weak) believers fail to ‘tap into the divine resources’ that are resident within us, that we begin to live ‘fleshly-driven’ lives, instead of Spirit-motivated lives. And the results? Many possible negative results, but one of the sad results of not ‘walking in the Spirit’ is a life that is characterized by discontent and complaining and criticism and self-centeredness and, yes, ingratitude!

Only Spirit-motivated Christians have the power to consistently live a life of Gratitude! Christians, of course, must cooperate with the indwelling Spirit, but it is only the Spirit who is able to empower a believer to live a life of Gratitude – a life in which a believer expresses thanksgiving during loss (grief), and humility during gains (successes). The Spirit is the great stabilizer, the great balancer, the great Helper in all times of need.


Is Gratitude the undergirding power in your life?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


IS GRATITUDE THE UNDERGIRDING POWER OF YOUR LIFE?

Romans 8:28, considered by most Christians to among the greatest verse in the Bible, excitedly declare that God can use all of life’s experiences (good, bad, indifferent experiences) to benefit the character-building of God’s people. “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.” (Romans 8:28 Living Bible)

As expounded previously (in this book), God is the Great Compensator. Why did my brother’s 15 years old (godly) daughter have to die when she was verily getting started in her life? No one will ever know, but we do know that God is a God of perfect love, perfect wisdom, and perfect power. Why the God of love and wisdom did not exercise His limitless power to rescue my brother’s daughter from the death of an accident, we will never know.

We are sure of one thing: God did not cause this young person’s death, and God did not will (desire) her death. A force, other than God’s force, was responsible for my niece’s death! God wept as much when my brother wept, the night (Aug. 14, 1981) of Sharla’s death. Sharla is safely home (in heaven), and she is in perfect health, where she will grow in the knowledge of her Savior forever, where she will love the saints of the ages forever! She, of course, will never again experience the trials and temptations and troubles of this earthly life. She is safe forevermore, worshiping at the feet of her blessed Savior.

For several decades now she has been hugged by countless heavenly saints, and she, in turn, has greatly enjoyed loving the heavenly saints. She awaits the arrival of her dear father and mother, and so many other earthly inhabitants. But, of course, the recitation of these blessed ‘facts’ about the ‘heavenly life’, while these facts are so helpful, these declarations regarding the joys of heaven do not permanently remove the sorrow and the grief from the hearts of those who were left behind after Sharla suddenly died (when she was only 15 years old).


Does ‘Gratitude’ describe your ‘Way of Life’?

Let My Praises Be Heard!


DOES ‘GRATITUDE’ DESCRIBE YOUR ‘WAY OF LIFE’?

Unfortunately, during my own long life, I have manifested the spirit of ingratitude (in word and in action) countless times, and I have, thus, grieved the God whom I love! I thank God for His gift of forgiving grace and restoration!

Sadly, the sin of grumbling (complaining) which is condemned in scripture has sometimes been evident in my life (just ask my wife, and she will confirm this reality!). In spite of my failure (in speech and in activity), I want to increasingly be a more thankful and a more grateful person- a person who spends time in thought and in word and in deed, praising the God of all grace and graciousness, praising the God from whom all blessings come, praising the God who gives us humans all things richly to enjoy, praising the God who is always on the ‘giving end’ in terms of ‘gift giving’!

God is never ‘in debt’ to me, but I am always ‘in debt’ to God! What I give to Him, He greatly appreciates my gift, even though my gift is so very small! The degree and the kind of giving on my ‘end of the transaction’ cannot be compared to the degree and the kind of giving that God imparts to me on His ‘end of the transaction’! “God giveth, and giveth, and giveth again!”

The storehouse of God’s resources is limitless! How could I ever repay God for the number of breaths that He gives to me, during my lifetime, or the number of heartbeats that He gives to me during my long life of 70 years? How could I repay God for the number of light rays that He allows to reach my eyes, to allow me to behold the beautiful mountains (and the millions of others images in God’s world)?

I am indebted to God for the growth and the harvesting of the corn and the wheat and the soy and the sugar beets and the scores of other crops – all of which I am the recipient – to feed my stomach and to nourish my entire body! When there are crop failures, because of inclement weather, we suddenly begin to be grateful for the dynamic relationship between adequate water and needed sunshine and proper cultivation. When there is a shortage of food, all of a sudden become more humble and more grateful people!


God’s Commands

Let My Praises Be Heard!


GOD’S COMMANDS

According to the scriptures, God actually commands that we ‘give thanks in all things’ (for this is the will of God concerning us believers)! This attitude of gratitude is the attitude of the person who is truly God-like in character, of the person who is living a life of holiness! Of course, God is not requiring us to thank God FOR everything (like the untimely and premature death of one of our loved ones), but God does require us to thank God lN everything that happens.

We have confidence that our all-loving and all-wise and all-powerful God is ‘sovereign’- that is, He has total charge of earth’s events and of our own personal events. He is the great transforming God, that is, He is the God who can make everything that happens to us, to fit into a plan for our ultimate good. Every stumbling stone can become a stepping stone to further spiritual growth!

Not everything that happens to us is good (obviously), but God is able to transform even our ‘bad’ experiences, to use them to accomplish some kind of good in our lives. God alone can see the ‘big picture’, and He knows how every ‘piece’ in our life fits into the ‘big picture’. God knows what is ‘best’ for each of us (He is all-wise). God wants to give to each of us what is best for us (He is all loving). God has the ability to do what is best for each of us (God is all-powerful).

Based on the foundation of the character of Almighty God, we can rest assured – with great gratitude – that the final outcome of our life will be ‘good’! lf we base our life in God – in the self-revealed God, we will ultimately make heaven our eternal home! God is faithful (beyond doubt), so we can be grateful towards God!