Dear pastors, missionaries, chaplains and friends,
Steve here… All of us have lots to be thankful for as we celebrate “Thanksgiving” this weekend. An attitude of gratitude is the cornerstone of a truly spirit-controlled disciple of Christ. Is that your daily reality?
A man writing at the post office desk was approached by an older fellow who had a post card in his hand. The old man said, “Sir, could you please address this post card for me?” The man gladly did so, and he agreed to write a short message on the post card, and he even signed it for the man too.
Finally the man doing the writing said to the older man, “Now, is there anything else I can do for you?”
The old fellow thought about it for a minute, and he said, “Yes, at the end could you just put, ‘P.S. Please excuse the sloppy handwriting.’”
How often do you hear people express sincere gratitude? Try an experiment. Keep track of the number of complaints you hear each day, and compare that with the number of times you hear people express sincere words of gratitude.
John Henry Jowett, a British preacher of an earlier generation, said this about gratitude: “Gratitude is vaccine, an antitoxin and an antiseptic.” What did he mean? He meant that gratitude, like a vaccine, can prevent the invasion of a disgruntled, discouraged spirit. Like an antitoxin, gratitude can prevent the effects of the poisons of cynicism, criticalness, and grumbling. Like an antiseptic, a spirit of gratitude can soothe and heal the most troubled spirit.
Gratitude is powerful. It changes our perspective on those things happening in our lives.
Researchers have done studies on what “gratitude” does for people and leaders. Very few of us know what makes people consistently happy, but researchers consistently discover that happy people are thankful people.
In one of the most seminal studies on happiness, they discovered it was gratitude that made people happy.
Dr. Emmons from UC Davis, and Dr. McCollough from SMU were curious about why people who are involved in their faith seem to have more happiness and a greater sense of well-being than those who are not. After making initial observations and compiling all the previous research on gratitude, they conducted “The Research Project on Gratitude and Thanksgiving”. The study required several hundred people in three different groups to keep daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of the normal, everyday events that occurred, while the second group recorded their unpleasant experiences (the bad things that they saw or experienced on a daily basis). The last group made a daily list of the things for which they were grateful
The results indicated that those who daily noted the things they were thankful for reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Additionally, the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, was more likely to help others, exercised more regularly and made more progress toward personal goals. According to the findings, people who feel grateful are also more likely to feel loved.
The findings for the other groups were telling as well. The group that simply wrote down their thoughts about the day experienced no statistical differences in any category. They really were a good control group! The group who looked for the negative things in life? Their experience was pretty much the exact opposite of the gratitude group. Life had gone downhill for them since the time they started focusing on the negative aspects of life.
As leaders and people of God, what can we learn from this?
· First, the huge importance and influence that attitude has in personal life and church leadership.Are we thankful people?
· Second, we are capable of controlling our attitudes. Outside forces or circumstances do not have to rule our attitudes. Does my attitude tend to look for the best in people?
· Third, leaders are responsible for the ministry culture and prevailing attitude that characterizes their church. If we consistently preach that people are bad, apathetic and unfaithful, what kind of culture is this leader feeding?
In Africa there is a little berry called the “taste-berry.” It’s called that because it changes your taste perception so that everything you eat following a taste-berry tastes sweet and pleasant.
In a very real way, gratitude is the Christian’s taste-berry. It turns even the difficult, sour things of life into sweetness and joy.
At the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mother Theresa told the story of finding four people on the streets of Kolkata who were in terrible condition. She told her workers to care for three while she cared for the one in the poorest condition. Mother Theresa said:
“I did for her all that my love could do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand as she said two words only: ‘Thank you.” and then she died.”
Mother Theresa then said she pondered for a moment what she might say just before dying. She believed she would have drawn a little attention to herself, saying, “I’m hungry”, or, “I’m in pain”, or, “I’m dying.” But she realized this homeless woman had not taken, but given Mother Theresa so much more.
“She gave me her grateful love”, said Mother Theresa, “and she died with a smile on her face.”
Gratitude always brings a smile, and then it becomes a gift for others!
Have a blessed week,