ODJ: The Gratitude Cycle

March 29, 2018 

READ: 1 Thess. 5:15-18 

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (v.18).

During a lengthy battle with cancer, I’ve learned many helpful lessons, and my life has been enriched in countless ways. By God’s grace, one thing I’ve encountered is something I call “The Gratitude Cycle”. The cycle involves: facing a challenge (like a disease); growing in faith through the experience (drawing closer to God); and possessing a heart of gratefulness to God (looking daily for things you can give thanks for). And when you face your next trial, a deepened faith and focused spirit of gratitude can provide greater hope and resiliency.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Encouraging his readers to possess an attitude of gratitude, he wasn’t saying we should give thanks for everything that happens, including evil attacks and disease diagnoses. But, as theologian Craig Blomberg writes, we can rest in the knowledge that “God is working out some kind of good in all situations, even evil ones, and that is why we can thank him.”

Breaking verse 18 into a few phrases, here are some practical ways to live out Paul’s teaching. Be thankful: possess a grateful heart before God. God’s will: humbly rest in His provision for today. Who belong to Christ Jesus: find in Him (through His Spirit) all you need to be thankful and content.

Even with a challenge before us, “when our hearts ache”, we can prayerfully give thanks to God for “everything” He’s provided (2 Corinthians 6:10). And as we cycle through challenges, growth in faith and deeper gratitude, may our joy in Him increase.

—Tom Felten

365-day plan: 1 Samuel 18:1-30

Read Matthew 5:10-12 and consider why Jesus says we can “be very glad” even when facing a challenge such as persecution. 
What might happen if you begin to embrace “The Gratitude Cycle”? Why do you think God wants you to possess a thankful heart?