Even African missionaries can be ungrateful at times.
Of course this is the truth; even Christian missionaries are works in progress, being transformed by God’s grace. But I found so much comfort in reading Dr. Helen Rousevere’s story because she encountered many hardships that led to frustration, fatigue and ultimately ingratitude—all of which have plagued me as of late. She called it “spiritual exhaustion” and wrote often about feeling inadequate in her medical work, her gospel-missions and her personal faith walk.
Often, Helen felt defeated and discouraged, succumbing to attitudes of complaining and self-indulgent guilt. It seemed a vicious cycle that would not break: her feeling of defeat would lead to complaining, which would lead to more spiritual defeat as she realized that her heart was not grateful…and the cycle would repeat itself.
What this amazing woman’s story revealed to me is that ingratitude is a massive heart problem. Ingratitude is an enemy of our faith. Ingratitude stands in the way of our glorifying Christ and trusting in His grace at all times, and in everything.
Ingratitude should not be taken lightly…yet we often brush it under the rug as “not a big deal”.
A huge lie that the enemy would want Christians to believe is that ingratitude is not really a sin…or not a large enough sin to really matter. He would want the sly power of ingratitude to slip past us unnoticed, to take root in our hearts, to grow into ugly bitterness, and to turn into unbelief.
Unbelief of grace. Unbelief of God’s goodness. Unbelief that Christ’s power made it possible to defeat attitudes of discouragement and complaint, when He overcame sin and death on the cross. Unbelief that there is another way to deal with hardship and trouble.
God’s Word calls us to His higher standard:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”
Here is the truth: Our obedient thankfulness, no matter the circumstances, demonstrates our trust in God’s goodness and gives glory to the Lord. Gratitude transforms bitter complaining into rejoicing; elevates our perspective towards God’s grace; and rids the enemy of his foothold on our lives.
Gratitude transforms bitter complaining into rejoicing. Warren Wiersbe writes, “When a Christian finds himself in a difficult situation, he should immediately give thanks to the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit, to keep his heart from complaining and fretting.” Why do you think Paul calls Christians to give thanks “always”? Because sometimes we will not want to, especially when “difficult” situations arise…but gratitude to God is good medicine for the heart!
This is because gratitude renews our minds to heavenly perspectives; He is Lord, and we are not. Our purpose is to glorify God always. Instead of turning inwardly and focusing on ourselves and our problems, we choose to thank God “always”, fulfilling His purpose for us and His will. When we are aligned with His purpose and His will, we will be filled with joy and satisfaction in Him. How wonderfully freeing it is to do what we were always meant to do—to praise God forever!
Gratitude elevates our perspective toward God’s grace. In paraphrase of Paul David Tripp’s spiritual reminder, God’s grace takes us where we never intended to go, to accomplish within us what we never could accomplish on our own. Therefore, even hardships, trials and tribulations are God’s grace at work! He intends to use even the difficult seasons for His glory and our benefit.
When I first heard the truth put this way, it made so much sense to me: God will do whatever it takes to transform our hearts to Christ-likeness, and anything that accomplishes this transformation is by His grace. Knowing this truth, our complaining turns to gratitude: “Lord, thank You for this trial. I know You have sent it by Your grace, so that You might change my heart and cause me to glorify You always, as I lean on Your strength and promises to endure it.”
Gratitude rids the enemy of his foothold on our lives. “Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). Satan is an opportunity-chaser. Any moment that we allow ingratitude and complaining from our minds and lips, a bitterness takes root in our hearts. The enemy simply adores implanting himself into those bitter roots, watering them with lies and accusations. He causes them to take root even more deeply, and bitterness will eventually bear the bad fruit of unbelief towards the Lord. Give him no opportunity; praise the Lord! Get rid of the enemy by participating in exactly what he despises most—glorification of God. “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him!” (Job 13:15).
“The devil moves in when a Christian starts to complain, but thanksgiving in the Spirit defeats the devil and glorifies the Lord.” The key to our gratitude is power by the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts. Gratitude is not some nice action we can muster up; it runs contrary to the fleshly nature. But the new nature given to us in Christ is empowered by the Spirit and desires to praise the Lord. Let us ask Him for help to rejoice always and in everything, demonstrating trust in God’s goodness and giving glory to the Lord!
Gracious Lord, Blessed be Your name! Thank You for every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, especially the gift of Your glorious grace. Work in us by Your power, that we may be thankful always and for everything, in the name of Jesus. Elevate our hearts to glorify You, to see Your grace at work, and protect us from bitterness and unbelief. We want to fulfill our purpose of praise and do Your will by being thankful always.