Thomas a Kempis says, “Grace always follows those who are grateful.” Those whom the grace of God follows are the blessed ones. Thomas a Kempis saw that the secret of the blessed one is gratitude. Because they are weak, human beings easily grumble and complain. God knows that human beings cannot help but grumble and complain. But God wants us to be grateful. It’s because we can be happy when we are grateful. God wants us to be happy. Look for those who are happy around you. Their common characteristic is gratitude. Then how do the grateful people experience joy through gratitude?
First, a grateful person is humble. A proud person is not grateful. The proud person is full of dissatisfaction and complaints. The proud person does not know how to be content. He always covets higher and more things. On the other hand, the humble person is grateful. The humble person always considers himself ‘undeserving.’ The person thinks that he or she is undeserving for such a grace or blessing. The humble person thinks that he or she lives well ‘thanks to someone.’ Professor Yoo Young-man says that ‘thanks to someone’ means that someone shares his or her virtue with us. It means that we live well because of a person who has contributed a great deal of virtue that has been accumulated. We live not by our own strength but by the virtue that someone has contributed. The person with humble heart saying, “Thanks to God, thanks to parents, thanks to husband and wife, thanks to children, thanks to church, thanks to teachers, thanks to friends,” can be always grateful. The humble person is content with him or herself. The person is grateful for what is already given rather than coveting the higher or greater things. He or she knows how to enjoy what God has already given.
Second, a grateful person is thoughtful. The word ‘thank’ comes from the word ‘think.’ Gratitude comes through thinking. To think means to realize. Those who realize the grace of God and the favor of people can be grateful. We have lots of things to be thankful for if we would just give a little moment to think about it. But we hate to think. It seems that we would do anything if we don’t have to think. The holiday of Thanksgiving is counting the blessings that we received from God through deep thinking. Gratitude is counting the blessings that we have received from God. On the other hand, jealousy is counting the blessings of the others. If you are thankful, you will be filled with joy, but if you are jealous, your resentment will fuel you.
Third, a grateful person is wise. Wisdom is discernment. Wisdom is the ability to choose the right one and the best one through discernment. A fool chooses to complain. It is foolish to choose complaints, because there is not much benefit to gain from complaining. If you complain, you will only have a complaint. If you complain, you become unhappy. If you complain, your relationship gets worse. On the other hand, if you choose gratitude, you will experience miracles. Gratitude touches our hearts. If you give thanks to somebody, your relationship will get better. People like grateful person. Happiness comes to you when you are grateful. The best thing comes to you when you grateful. If you are grateful, you will always have something to be thankful for. The pastor Charles Spurgeon said, “If you give thanks when you are unhappy, your misfortune will end. If you give thanks when you are prosperous, your prosperity will be prolonged.”
Fourth, a grateful person is full of faith. A man of faith knows how to give thanks in all circumstances. Giving thanks in all circumstances is to give thanks in the circumstance of hardship, difficulties, trials, and injustices that an ordinary people can not be grateful. Try to be obedient to God’s word: “Give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thes 5:18). Watch what kinds of fruit that the obedience would bring forth. Paul gave thanks to God in all circumstances. He was always grateful (Eph 5:20). He was in prison when he wrote a letter to the Ephesian Church with exhortation to give thanks always in all circumstances to our Father God. The reason that he could give thanks in all circumstances was because he believed that God would work for the good 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” (Rom 8:28).
When suffering comes, do not think that the suffering is unconditionally bad. The almighty God is the one who creates a beautiful future through the ingredients of suffering. The Bible characters did not complain at the time of suffering. They put their trust in God, who works for the good in all things, by looking upon Him quietly. They were even grateful for their sufferings. At that time, God made them more glorious through hardship. Let us give thanks to God who works for the good in all things. Let us give thanks to those who favored and graced us. In this season of Thanksgiving, let us give glory to God. I sincerely thank you for serving beautifully in the past year.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.