The Lost Art of Gratitude

Discipling Women Towards Thankfulness

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Guest Contributor

We all need friends who not only will share in our daily joys, but also speak truth into our lives as fellow disciples of Christ.

If you have the privilege of discipling a younger sister in the faith, there are, of course, the essential spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer for others and yourself, Scripture memory, and meditation. But how often do we neglect to incorporate an element of gratitude into our daily routine as well?

Posture of Purposeful Gratitude

Biblical gratitude is much more than quickly “counting your blessings” or a task to check off the to-do list. Rightly focused gratitude can transform how we view God and his world, and spill over in how we appreciate others. Gratitude has been called a parent virtue for a reason. When we train ourselves to look for ways to be grateful each day, we see other virtues mature as well. How nice that we can become more patient and joyful as we become more grateful!

As you disciple women, you can point them to any number of biblical passages that admonish gratitude. The meaning is hard to miss. Paul instructs Christians plainly,

As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6–7)

The fact that we too have received Christ Jesus the Lord changes everything. Our calling is to walk in him. The best way to do that is to daily read God’s infallible word and then carry it out to the best of our ability down the path set forth specifically for us. Clearly, some believers have much rougher paths than others, but our Lord will equip us to walk boldly. Paul reminds the Colossians of the privilege they have to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” He states earlier, in Colossians 1:7, that he is aware of how they have learned from Epaphras, a “beloved fellow servant” and presumed minister in the church there. What a joy to be rooted in the faith!

Ask your women if they have had that experience. Are some of their earliest memories hearing Bible stories from their parents? Can they still picture the layout of the Sunday school classrooms and the dedicated teachers who were there week by week? If so, there’s another reason for gratitude. If not, let’s be encouraged that the children we teach both at home and in the church are even now being rooted in the faith. Our Lord is hiding his word in their hearts — and we get to be a part of that process. What a privilege!

Overflowing Gratitude

Further, Paul says they were “built up . . . and established.” Their immature faith grew to a mature faith as they were taught and diligently learned. We certainly hope to follow suit. Unlike the church at Colosse, we have the entire canon of Scripture available to us. We can read it in our study Bibles or on our smartphones. We can listen to learned, godly preachers expound on the truths found therein. We can read books carefully written by sound Bible teachers. We can seek to be lifelong learners who are ever seeking to be firmly established in the faith, as Paul writes later in Colossians 1, “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:23).

And what happens when we do all of that? We abound with thanksgiving. Paul doesn’t suggest we give thanks as a way to finish up this topic and move on to the next one. No, he says we are to abound — or overflow — with gratitude. How can we not? It should be a natural response to the fact that we belong to Christ Jesus the Lord.

Pray God’s Word into Their Hearts

Do you encourage your friend to pray Scripture as a part of her prayer life? It’s uplifting to pray the Psalms, but it’s also profitable to pray prayers found in both the Old and New Testaments. In Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1, he prays for the spiritual wisdom of the people but includes gratitude as one beautiful aspect of wisdom.

We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9–14)

Paul says he prays this for the people of Colosse. We should be encouraging those we disciple to pray prayers like this for themselves and for others. This prayer is so rich in theology. God the Father has qualified, delivered, and transferred us through redemption and forgiveness in Christ alone. What else can we do but give thanks?

Gracious and Natural Gratitude

As women of God, let’s not only thank God for what he gives. Let’s also thank him for who he is. These are two distinct acts. We should be intentional about daily thanking him for both his character and his provisions for us. As we make this part of our mind-set, it will become second nature. What some may see as a lost art will be manifest in us.

This attitude of gratitude towards our great God will spill over into our encounters with others — both believers and unbelievers. Remember, we are to abound in gratitude, so it’s not a small part of who we are. Model and teach those whom God has placed under your influence how you work hard to express gratitude for matters big and small. Realize that your simple expression of thanks accompanied by eye contact and a smile may be a bright spot of the day to many who feel overworked and underappreciated. I have never thanked anyone who said in return, “Please, stop. I am always hearing words like that, and it’s really unnecessary.”

Contentment Slays Entitlement

As you mentor women, be sure that they are aware of the prevailing entitlement mentality that is so rampant today. Gently remind them again of how we deserve divine condemnation — but thanks be to God, we have been redeemed. We should eagerly run up against the argument that life is all about our being happy in this world and grabbing the best things we can here. We have been bought with a price — the very life of our precious Savior Jesus Christ.

Our countenance should reflect that as we strive to show the world how our gratitude is grounded in Christ and overflows in all we do. They should look at us and wonder how we can act this way. They may be puzzled by us at first, but should God give us opportunity, may we show by our lives that we are different because we have indeed been delivered, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

And they can be as well by trusting in Christ alone.

Enjoy the privilege of discipling whomever God places in your sphere of influence for this season of life. Be sure she knows of your humility as you too are “one beggar trying to tell another beggar where to find bread,” as the missionary D.T. Niles once said. Be sure she knows that you seek to live out what you are teaching her. Be sure she sees the joy of the Lord in your grateful heart. Be encouraged that God may choose to use your efforts invested in her to multiply as she in turn invests in others to his glory.

serves in ministry as the president’s wife at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and as the founder and director of Seminary Wives Institute, an academic program for student wives at Southern Seminary and Boyce College. Mary is also the author of the new book Growing in Gratitude.