January 2nd Devotion

An Attitude of Gratitude for This Year and the Next
By Aaron D’Anthony Brown

“Give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

As Scripture reveals, God’s will for His children is to give thanks in all circumstances. Speaking honestly, it all sounds like a lot, especially as we recall not-too-distant events. A pandemic, food shortages, supply shortages, high gas prices, broken families, political divisions, sexually indoctrinated children, corrupt governments, war, and so much more. There are plenty of reasons to think life will get better next year, and they very well might, but does this mean we wait until next year to be happy, or do we start today?

After all, God says to be grateful in all circumstances. This is the same sort of question we can apply to our new year's resolutions. We look out at the horizon, pick a date, and say this is when we still start doing such and such a thing—getting ripped, eating less, and building better habits.

Why do we wait? We claim not to be ready, prepared, or equipped to make changes just yet. But why do we really wait? A lack of motivation. We do want change. That much is true. But we want things to stay the same. That is also true. And the latter is what we want more. So why wait until the new year to be grateful?

Notice that God doesn’t tell us to be grateful for all the bad circumstances that happen to us, but rather to be grateful in all circumstances. Not doing things God’s way results in us inevitably looking out to each new year with hopeful anticipation, as though the grass is greener on the other side. That could be the case, but maybe not. Some years bring in more bad things than others, but every year brings a reason for joy; every year brings a reason for sorrow. We need an attitude of gratitude year-round, not just heading into the new year.

Intersecting Faith and Life:
Talking about an attitude of gratitude is much easier than developing one. No wonder we have to remind our children at every turn to say, “Thank you!” From that age onward, we have no issue wanting or even taking from others, but being grateful and content are easily lost on us. But rarely are good things acquired without effort. Once we do cultivate a stronger sense of gratitude, we’ll watch as our perspective on life changes for the better. Here are five steps you can take now to cultivate an attitude of gratitude for this year and the next.

Take Note of Your Obvious Blessings
Some of God’s blessings jump out at us without needing to reflect much. An answered prayer, a loved one being healed, getting a job promotion. These blessings seem obvious in the moment, but very often, when bad things come our way, we begin to forget. If we want to help ourselves recall what God has done, we should take note of His works, either in a journal, on notecards, or in a book of prayers. The more effort we put into remembering, the less we will forget.

Take Note of Your Not So Obvious Blessings
Some of God’s blessings are not as obvious and require us to think more about them, though we may still experience a ‘duh’ moment when we do. For example, our ability to drive to work in the morning or work from home, or having two feet to stand on, or having toothpaste for our teeth. The not-so-obvious blessings are the ones we often take for granted because we experience them every day.

They are limitless in number, and yet, if we’re honest, would recognize that we won’t have these blessings forever. One day we may not be able to drive to work or work from home. We may not have two feet or have teeth to brush. Let’s be sure to thank God for what we have while we have them. These, too, should be journaled and remembered, especially in those tough seasons.

Search for Contentment
Paul taught us a very important lesson about contentment through his life, one full of blessings yet rife with sorrows (Philippians 4:11-13). His attitude is one we should emulate in our own lives. We won’t always experience life’s comfort, nor will we also dwell in life’s pitfalls. Sometimes we will have, and sometimes we will not. But no matter what, we always have God with us. That’s reason enough to be grateful.

Study Scripture
On the subject of gratitude, Scripture benefits us in at least two ways: giving us text that highlights the importance of the concept and giving us stories that showcase the effects of gratitude. Grateful people give. They offer thanksgiving, and instead of building up fences, they build bridges to connect with others and share in their surplus.

Sometimes we, unfortunately, mature from childhood into adulthood without maturing our sense of gratitude. By then, there won't be as many people, if anyone, willing to remind us to say thank you when we should. Developing some good habits on our own is helpful, but having an outside influence is great too. That’s why if you’re aiming to be more grateful this year, not just the next, then praying is a good way to go about growing. Talk to God. Tell Him why you want to become a more grateful person.

Hopefully, among your reasons, like healthier living and being more generous, you also recognize that gratitude is a sure way to honor God. Gratitude shows that you acknowledge and appreciate what He has done rather than taking His work for granted.

Pray for Him to help you see ways to grow your gratitude and even give you people who will help you develop this trait. Building an attitude of gratitude requires time, energy, and so much effort, but when we do, the result changes our lives and shapes us into people who are Christ-like. Let’s all offer praise as we venture from this year into the next.
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