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The Method for Cultivating Thankfulness

In our two previous posts, we have discussed Cultivating a Heart of Thankfulness and The Reasons for Cultivating Thankfulness. We laid the foundations for both the basis and the reasoning for developing a heart of thankfulness.

Perhaps you have been convinced that you must, on biblical grounds, be thankful. But you have difficulty putting that into action. If that is so, you are not alone! Often times, believers know they should change, they know the reasons and the basis for the change, they simply do not know how to change.

Psalm 1, the very first psalm of the hymnbook of Israel, provides us with insight into how we cultivate thankfulness. Here is Psalm 1 as rendered in the Christian Standard Bible:

1 How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! 2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

4 The wicked are not like this; instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

The opposite of thankfulness is ungratefulness. These opposites are contrasted with the righteous one and the wicked. Notice the differences between the two. The righteous, or “the one who does not…,” avoids the wicked, the sinners, and the mockers. He does not “walk” with them. The term walk is used in Scripture in a variety of ways, but the picture here is more than simple association. It presents a picture of closeness.

The righteous one does not “get close” to the wicked. He or she avoids them, because they will influence them negatively. To place it in our present discussion, should the righteous get close to the wicked, they will increasingly be more ungrateful and less thankful.

“Instead, his delight is in the LORD’s instruction,” writes the psalmist (Psa. 1:2, CSB). The LORD’s instruction is God’s Word, the Bible. He delights in it! He loves it, cherishes it, and protects it. But he also “mediates on it day and night” (Psa. 1:2, CSB). This gives us a method for cultivating thankfulness: delighting in and meditating on the Word of God. But this method of delighting in the Word of God can be fine-tuned by adding several points of focus for us.

The method of cultivating a heart of thankfulness is a regular, personal, and intentional consumption of the Word of God. It should be regular, as a normal part of our day. We should, if we are to cultivate thankfulness, read the Scriptures every day. It should be personal, as it is God’s Word to us. We read to see what God has done, to study how His people lived, and then we make it our own. This, in turn, leads to the third step of intentional consumption. We should look for practical ways we can incorporate what we have read into our daily lives. For example, if I read about greed from 1 Timothy 6:2b-10, I can find ways that I can kill the sin of greed. If I see someone with something I want, I can ask God for help to be thankful for what I do have. I can praise Him for all my earthly possessions, my health, and my salvation. To put it more practically, I can say that each time I am tempted to be greedy I will recite twenty things for which I am grateful. That is what is meant by intentional consumption.

Now, this three-fold method of delighting in and meditating on the Word of God can be enhanced with three additional helps. These center around three topics:



Our Response

First, when reading the Scriptures we need to remember who God is. Isaiah chapter 40 presents God in majestic details, and keeping this biblical view of God when reading will enable us to be thankful. Imagine the Lord, the Creator of everything, communicating to us! It is “God [who] is enthroned above the circle of the earth,” as Isaiah tells us (Isa. 40:22, CSB). This is the God who talks to us.

Second, consider who we are as we read the Scriptures. We are, as Isaiah calls us, “like grasshoppers” (Isa. 40:22, CSB). Or, to paint a darker picture, we are “by nature children under wrath” (Eph. 2:3, CSB). We are inherently corrupt. Or, to use a term popular in theological discussions, man is totally depraved. Charles Ryrie offers a helpful paragraph to this,

“Totally depravity must always be measured against God’s holiness. Relative goodness exists in people. They can do good works, which are appreciated by others. But nothing that anyone can do will gain salvational merit or favor in the sight of a holy God.”[1]

When we consider who God is and who we are, every time we open the Scriptures we have cause to be thankful! In fact, every breath we breathe is a cause to be thankful!

Finally, as we read the Scriptures, as we delight in and meditate on the Word of God, we must consider our response to God. Consider Paul’s admonish to Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, CSB) Did you catch that? God provided His Word for the purpose of (“that”) of growth. Our response should match the Scripture passage we are reading. If it is dealing with a sin to avoid, our response is to make changes to avoid or confess that sin. If the passage addresses something we must do, we need to make the necessary changes in order to be obedient.

What is the method to cultivate thankfulness? Delighting in and meditating on the Word of God with God, us, and our response in mind.

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), 252.


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