When it comes to cultivating gratitude, we need all the help we can get. As I wrote last week, thanksgiving does not come naturally to sinful people. Grumbling and disputing comes natural (Philippians 2:14). Gratitude is the heart’s response to seeing and experiencing grace. And we must intentionally look for grace. It’s all around us. But selfishness distorts the lenses of our heart-eyes. So we need scriptural prescription lenses to see right.
But once we begin to see, oh how things change. It is then that the real meaning of Thanksgiving dawns on us. We discover that the real feast of Thanksgiving is feasting on thanksgiving. Thursday’s American food feast is not the focus but is a finger that points us to a feast for our souls: God’s abounding, all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Now, if we (Americans) rush into Thursday’s celebration having barely reflected on gratitude, we will fill our stomachs but leave our souls hungry. So here are some resources that will help increase your thanksgiving appetite.
Make your debt of gratitude bigger, not smaller! (4 min) I love this interview with John Piper where he says, “the greatest Christian is the one who reaches the finish line with the most debt to God.” Christ paid your debt of sin and delights in giving you everything freely forevermore!
Bathe in the gospel! (38 min) Listen to this wonderful Thanksgiving sermon John Piper preached 25 years ago titled, “Thanks Be to God for His Inexpressible Gift.” It’s a swim in the gospel.
Pursue true gratitude. (6–7 min) Just being grateful isn’t necessarily Christian. In this brief article, Jonathan Edwards (via John Piper) helps us understand what Christian gratitude is built on so that we don’t actually commit idolatry in giving thanks.
Starve your pride. (10 min) John Piper explains how “everything, without exception, is a free gift” but that “Proud People Don’t Give Thanks.” Then he provides us with counsel on how to be free of love-blocking, joy-stealing pride.
Learn from grateful examples. (12 min) No one has been more helpful to me in both example and the nitty-gritty how-to’s of daily cultivating gratitude than Ann Voskamp. Here is an interview she gave David Mathis when she stopped by the DG studio a couple years ago. And if you haven’t yet, read her book, One Thousand Gifts.
Even in Suffering. (30 min) Years ago John Piper preached a Thanksgiving sermon titled, “Thanksgiving in Suffering.” It can be very hard to feel grateful in and for profound pain. But nothing is too difficult for God to redeem into something unspeakably beautiful. In this message, John shares a story of a young woman who suffered terrible facial burns as a child, the alcoholism of an unaffectionate father, the sexual molestation of a neighbor, a gang rape as a young teen, anorexia, bulimia, drug addiction, multiple marriages, and multiple suicide attempts. She then experienced the radical grace of God that resulted in the radical liberation of gratitude.
The Thanksgiving spread. (10 min) A few years ago David Mathis wrote an excellent post titled, “Making the Most of Turkey Time: Thanksgiving on Mission.” In cultivating our own gratitude, we don’t want to neglect the joy and need of spreading the gracious news to those who need to hear.
There’s more… Want more? Here’s a list of other resources to use as thanksgiving appetizers as you prepare to feast.
So carve out time this week to cultivate gratitude by looking at and tasting the grace of God in Christ and the thousands of gifts (even painful ones) that flow to us through Christ every single day. And let the feast of Thanksgiving mainly be a feasting on thanksgiving.