When was the last time someone thanked you for something you did for them? Were you surprised? —”Wow, I had no idea what I did meant so much to them.”
When was the last time you thanked someone for something they did for you? If you’re convicted by the last question, do not fell put upon! That is me. That is all of us.
What I want to share with you is not a typical Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving message (I’m not kicking dust on ole Norman). But it is something that I hope will be a great encouragement to you and lead to greater joy in Christ—which is what I want to be about.
My main point is simply this: when we say, “thank you!” we bless others, and receive a blessing back in the form of a changed life. Here’s how this happens in three steps.
STEP ONE – Practice saying, “Thank you!”
Given human nature, it is safe to say that our natural tendency is toward entitlement rather than thankfulness. Sometimes, “thank you” is not reflexive but something we have to remember to say—or to say well. For example, as parents, we know how hard it can be to get our children to say thank you for a gift from a friend or grandparent. I suppose in this way our children are more like us than they are unlike us, but I digress.
Over time, saying those two words and penning handwritten notes create an awareness that we each have been given much more than we realize. We have taken a lot for granted. It is not only decent but healthy to practice saying “thank you” for everything from a Christmas gift, a good deed, a word of encouragement, personal concern voiced, or even for an enduring friendship.
STEP TWO – Grow in gratitude
Over time, as we practice saying “thank you”, we become more grateful people because we realize how dependent on each other we really are. Little things: the words of encouragement, the times given for impromptu conversations at desperate moments, the simple meals with a friend, the many “I’ll pray for yous” about your scary doctor’s appointment, financial or marital struggles matter. These and so many more blessings we enjoy take on much greater meaning. And this is where it really gets good!
As we cultivate a grateful attitude, we enjoy a huge benefit. We begin to see how God is really the One who is behind all of our blessings. God is behind every act of kindness we receive because he is love. Giving was his idea because that is who he is. He is the giver and redeemer of life. He is at work in all our lives, making us more like him as we are woven together as one in Christ through his Holy Spirit. This is a joyful thing to see happen.
STEP THREE – Let joy change you
Our joyful response to seeing God’s love poured out to us through others, quite frankly changes us. Here’s how. God’s love is reflexive. It has the effect of causing us to love others (see 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Growing in being others-centered represents Christ-like change. Gratitude causes us to see ourselves as the truly unworthy recipients we really are. This gives us joy! God loves me so much that he has put people in my life who genuinely care about me and who will help. We become what the world is desperately seeking but that apart from Jesus, will struggle to ever find: people who really care about others—no matter who they are.
Say thank you to someone this Thanksgiving. Say thank you to someone the day after Thanksgiving, and on January 11, March 3, July 21, and September 15 (i.e. every day!) Doing so cultivates a grateful attitude that will not only spawn new and deeper relationships. It will increase your joy and also change your life.
As I close this Thanksgiving article, I want to say, “thank you!” to you, our faithful audience. Some of you are new to the ministry, some have been with us for years. All are a blessing to our family. As you listen to our humble attempts at podcasts and support the ministry through donations and prayers, you have meant so much. We look forward to walking into the new year with you and growing in the joy of the gospel, together. Happy Thanksgiving!