St. Paul pens these words in his letter to the Colossian and Laodocians house churches: walk in the Way of Jesus, flowing abundantly with thankfulness towards our Father. (my edit/translation).
This core idea is found again and again in Deuteronomy and the Psalms: God wants us to live as beneficiaries of his blessings, and thus live a life rich in gratitude - a heart that aches from so much laughter and tongues tired from telling of our thankfulness to the Creator of all that is Beautiful and Delightful and Mysterious.
There is a way that we can walk that leads to unthankfulness - which is understood as resentment/bitterness, "everybody is out to get me", "you owe me", lonliness, helpless, independent, unloved, etc. It is a dark way to live, it is as if one is blind to the beauty of God, and deaf to his words of instruction.
One way to understand the ministry and mission of Jesus is this: He came as One overflowing with thankfulness to the Father, and he came so that he could pour his abundant gratitude into our hearts. The goal of Jesus' work with humanity is seen when we have hearts thankful towards God. The mark of "salvation" is a grateful heart towards God. When we say that we are saved, we are saying we are constanly grateful for/to God.
We often discredit the importance of thankfulness. Yet I know how many of you feel like maybe your service at Anchor doesn't matter because rarely are you noticed or thanked. We all feel underthanked in one way or another. Including me. And we are always looking for someone to notice us, we are always hoping that we will be appreciated/thanked. So by our yearnings we admit that thankfulness is a big deal. And so we should not underestimate how important it is for us to be thankful towards God. If anybody anywhere is thankful towards God, it is a sign that Jesus has been at work there.
The way you walk ties closely with the abundance of gratitude coming from your heart. And Jesus says it is more blessed to give thanks then to receive thanks. And so for us, everytime we feel underthanked, unappreciated, etc, it is a moment for us to mutter a prayer of thanks to God...which hopefully will begin to change our disposition, and result in a lightened heart that begins to focus outward.
The next time someone asks you how you are doing spiritually, measure your answer by how thankful towards God you have been lately.
Thankfulness is born out of reflection, on the heels of having received something. To be thankful towards God you must be aware of what it is you have been receiving from God. And if at first consideration you are not sure what you have been receiving from God, you may want to reflect where your "stuff" has come from if not from God...I'd be a little wary of "stuff" that you don't know where it came from!
Dianna Burt's class did a study on gratitude last fall and she has some leftover books. If you want to do some reflection on gratitude, pick up one of the books and begin a new journey.
Jesus envisions people whose delight in God gets expressed in a wealth of gratitdue, the result being that others become more grateful because of your gratitude (it is a a great-attitude that is contagious). Also, the more rich you are in thankfulness, the more thankful you can be when the hard times come, when life comes difficult, wearisome, dull, painful, lonely, etc. Paul encouraged the Jesusians in Colosse and Laodacia to be overflowing in thankfulness as he wiled his time away in a Roman prison.
Consider: who are the people in your life who seem ungrateful, resentful, feel a strong sense of entitlement, are picky, etc? Obviously those people are very annyoing, and your first inclination is to get away from them. But they need your rich gratitude, the thankfulness overflowing from your heart is desperately needed in the deeply impoverished and oppressed souls.
A heart overflowing with gratitude is like a cup being poured into another vessel, a cup that never empties. There are plenty of empty hearts at your school, office, factory line, playground, church...and they need to "catch" the contagious thankfulness that has infected your heart.
And if you are not feeling that rich in gratitude, Jesus invites you to reconsider the "tradition" going into your head, and the choices you are making with your feet and the experiences on your knees. God needs your heart to be a conduit of his blessing to a hurting world: get your head, feet and knees into the game so that your heart can be rich in thankfulness.
The people in your world will be grateful and glad you did.