Showing Gratitude

Over the last couple of weeks as I prepared to lead the last chapters of the Book of Hebrews, I realized that it was a perfect time to study them because both chapters mention thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him, then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”  And Hebrews 12:28 says, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe”.

While pondering them to teach them and also to apply them personally to Thanksgiving, I was struck by how Hebrews 12:28 expresses the idea of thanksgiving.  It’s not how we typically think of it.  Here are the verses that usually come to mind when I think about thanksgiving:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 – “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6 – “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Psalm 107:1 – “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

thanksgivingAll of these have the idea of being thankful as “giving thanks” – of doing it to the Lord verbally.

But Hebrews 12:28 says “show gratitude”.  A very different thing from verbally giving thanks.

Of course, verbally giving thanks to God isn’t something to take lightly.  It’s an amazing way to change my attitude, to focus on God’s goodness to me, and to demonstrate faith in thanking Him for things that I struggle with being thankful for because they are hard.

But showing gratitude costs me something.  It involves a life surrendered to Christ – one that is obedient to Him.  At different times, it will involve giving of my time, my money, and myself to others.  It will mean moving from a self-centered life (one that my flesh gravitates towards) to living a Christ-centered and others-centered life.

What does showing gratitude involve?  “An acceptable (or pleasing) service with reverence and awe.”  The author gives us some ideas in Chapter 13 about what that service looks like:

  • Loving other believers (13:1)
  • Showing hospitality to strangers (13:2)
  • Remembering those who are being persecuted for their faith (13:3)
  • Honoring marriage through sexual purity (13:4)
  • Being content with what you have (13:5)
  • Remembering those who led you and imitating their faith (13:7)
  • Not being carried away by strange teachings (13:9)
  • Doing good and sharing (13:16)
  • Submitting to your leaders (13:17)

Not an exhaustive list, of course, but quite a start!

Not only can we show gratitude towards God with service, but we can also do that with others.  For example, at this stage of my life, I can show gratitude to my parents for all they have done for me by helping them now that they are older.  What things serve my husband in a way that he knows how thankful I am for him and for what he does for me?  How can I show gratitude to a co-worker who helped me out or who did a great job on a project?  I always appreciate someone thanking me for something and never take it for granted, but someone actually showing me their gratitude just blesses me that much more.

So this Thanksgiving – give thanks!  Thanks to God and to others.  Do it heartily and joyfully and reverently.   But let’s also find ways to show gratitude for all that has been given to us.

 

Meant for Something Better

Driving along Hwy 49 to Charlotte one day, I was drawn in to a catchy song on the radio that I’d never heard before.  So I focused in to listen to the words.

I never met you, but I know you’re out there
If I cross the oceans, would you be there?

A stranger’s eyes that somehow look familiar
I know that when it’s you, I’ll remember
Remember

So wait for me, I swear I’ll find you
Climbing every wall that hides you
I know we were meant for something better
So wait for me, the world is changing
Underneath, the ground is shaking
You and I were meant for something better
Better, oh

A glance down at the broadcast info on my radio told me it was by Audien with Lady Antebellum.  What really struck me was the line “You and I were meant for something better”.  After I looked up the lyrics when I got home, I realized that I definitely agree with them but not in the way that they meant this phrase.

Since I’ve been leading a Bible study on Hebrews this fall, as I listened to the song, my mind quickly went to that book of the Bible where the word “better” is used 13 times.  In a way, the author sums up a lot of his point of the book when he says in            Hebrews 11:40 “God had provided something better for us”.

The book of Hebrews was, of course, written to a group of Christians who had been Jews before coming to understand and embrace the gospel.  They are undergoing persecution (and not for the first time) and apparently are tempted to quit which for them means going back to Judaism.  So the author lays out a masterful argument showing how Jesus is “better” than anything in the Old Testament and how, ultimately, the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant.  In Jesus, God has provided “something better” for us.  The author urges them to persevere, to not go back to what is easy and miss what is “better” in the process.

“You and I were meant for something better” sings Audien and Lady Antebellum.  I think this phrase resonates so strongly with us for a couple of reasons.  One is that, deep inside of us, we know there is something better.  We were literally created for that.  Human beings were originally made for Paradise but, because of sin, we all live in a fallen world which leaves us knowing inside that something isn’t right and wanting “something better”.  Those of us who know Christ will eventually fully experience that when we are in Heaven – what we were really made for.

Another reason I think the phrase strikes us deeply is because there are times in life when we are stuck with something that isn’t what we hoped it would be.  Maybe it’s a relationship.  Maybe it’s a job.  Maybe it’s our social life.  So we remind ourselves that we were meant for “better” to motivate us to go find it and not settle for less.

“You and I were meant for something better.” As Christians I think it’s a good reminder.  Think of all that Jesus has provided for us.  Grace.  Forgiveness.  Peace.  Joy.  Transformation.  Direct access to God.  Freedom.  And so much more.
And yet, so many times I settle for less.  For example:

  • I refuse to forgive myself for sin when I’ve already been forgiven because of Christ.
  • I stress out and worry instead of trusting Him and experiencing His peace that surpasses understanding.
  • I criticize myself for not meeting my standards instead of giving myself grace when I fail.
  • I give up hope of ever changing when He has made me a new creation and given me His Holy Spirit.
  • I miss out on the joy of serving Him because I don’t think He can ever use me when He has already prepared good works beforehand for me to do.
  • I burden myself with legalism instead of enjoying my freedom and acceptance in Christ.

Jesus died to give me better than that!  We are “meant for something better”.  Thankfully God has provided all of it – both here on earth and for eternity – through Christ.  I don’t want to let fear or doubt or discouragement or hopelessness or lack of faith cause me to miss out.  I don’t want to settle for less than all God has provided for me.  Instead I want to take hold of it by faith day by day, moment by moment.