Robert Griffith | 21 March 2023
Robert Griffith
21 March 2023


When the Apostle Paul signed off in his first letter to the Thessalonian Church, he exhorted them to, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Giving thanks in all circumstances is not easy and yet God has been encouraging us to do just that since the beginning of our time on earth. From cover to cover in the Bible we find exhortations and encouragement to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good.

But we humans have always wrestled with this challenge of being thankful when there’s so much to complain about or be fearful of or resent and be negative about. We have a framed statement hanging in our house which I walk past mulitple times each day:

It’s not happy people who are thankful – it’s thankful people who are happy.

We know that statement is true, but at times it seems easier to want what we don’t have, ignore what we do have and covet what our neighbour has! We tend to worship the past and fear the future. Such attitudes then cripple us in the present and rob us of the abundant life which God promised us in Christ.

I have found it fascinating during my lifetime to see the extent to which North American culture has been imported and embraced in our country. More and more each year Halloween is becoming part of our culture. There is nothing remotely Australian, edifying or culturally positive about Halloween, and yet each year it gets bigger and bigger here. We have also seen how Hollywood has done more to define the values and morals of our younger generations than their parents, grandparents or the Bible ever did. It seems there are no import restrictions when it comes to American culture.

But there’s one huge part of American life which we haven’t really embraced and it’s the most positive part of the cultural traditions! Maybe that is because its roots are very specific to American history, or it could be because our attitude and culture are not conducive to this tradition.

At the end of November each year across North America, hundreds of millions of people press the pause button on their busy lives as they gather with family and friends for what they call ‘Thanksgiving.’ This annual tradition dates back to 1621 when a little band of Puritans set out on the Mayflower for Virginia, only to get blown off course and finally come to shore hundreds of miles to the north.

As soon as they arrived the cold Massachusetts winter hit them really hard and more than half of them died. When the time for the first anniversary of their landing rolled around, discussion arose as to how it should be observed. Some proposed a day of mourning, when attention would be focused on all those who lay in unmarked graves in foreign soil.

But the others protested strongly and said, “No, a day of thanksgiving would be more appropriate. After all, fifty of us have survived. We have gathered in a good harvest. The Indians have been our friends. Let’s focus on what we have going for us, not on what we have going against us.”

That was the turning point for everything that followed. Had those Pilgrims chosen to mourn, complain and count their losses, rather than give thanks to God, I doubt that they would have found the courage to hold out as they did! They declared, “Let’s focus on what we have going for us, not on what we have going against us,” and for nearly 400 years now, all across America, that is what people try to do once a year.

Now just think of what that country would be like if they all did that every day of the year! Think of what our own nation, our city, our Church or our own lives would be like if we gave thanks to God every day for what is going for us and turn our attention away from what may be going against us. Just imagine feeling grateful, thankful, humble and joyful every day – not just once a year – but every day! Not possible, you say? Think again. God would not encourage us hundreds of times through the Bible to live like that if it was not possible.

We simply need God to help us re-program how we think. We need to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Life is so much better when your mindset, your orientation, your entire demeanour and attitude is that of thanksgiving for what you have, where you are and who you are, rather that focussing on what you would like to have, where you would like to be or who you wish you were!

If you focus on what you have, you’ll always have more than you need.
If you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.

Now of course every day won’t be perfect. Actually, some of them will be gut-wrenchingly hard. After all, we are broken people living in a broken world. So there will be bad days and sad days. But circumstances can never dictate our attitude, unless we choose to let them. No circumstance in life, no other human being, and not even God, can control what you think or dictate the attitude of your heart.

You are the only one who determines your attitude and if you choose every day to focus on what you are grateful for, your life will be transformed over time and any feelings of anger, resentment, selfishness and negativity which may pop up will just fade into oblivion as they are overridden by gratitude.

Now the real challenge for us today, living in twenty-first century Australia, is that grumbling and complaining is almost a way of life. We are a nation of whingers, so we’re told. We complain about everything. It’s seems to be a sport for some. The media feeds this spirit of complaint every day. The focus of almost every news bulletin is negative because bad news and complaints boost the ratings. Good news stories annoy a nation of whingers because they immediately have to compare that story with their own sorry lot in life and they resent it.

So is there any hope for us? Yes there is and you are part of that hope. It’s called the Church of Jesus Christ – in all its counter-cultural, transformational glory. We are the disciples of the Messiah; the Saviour of the world; the Way, the Truth and the Life – abundant life at that.

We worship and follow the One Who has promised to renew our minds, change our hearts and give us countless reasons to give thanks. We are the light of the world; the salt of the earth; vessels of the Holy Spirit – channels of the presence of God and the power of heaven! We carry with us the only answer to all the world’s problems: Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the answer to every serious question in life. Jesus is the creator of the universe, the author of our faith, the saviour of our souls, the mediator Who has reconciled us to God forever, the mentor and role model for our lives and our ministries, and the source of all wisdom, power, vision and purpose! As we turn our eyes upon Jesus and embrace all that He is and all that He has done and secured for us and given to us freely – developing an attitude of gratitude will not be a discipline, a chore, a burden or a dead religious work anymore.

As we turn our hearts, minds and focus towards Jesus, every day – gratitude, praise and thanksgiving will just overflow from the life of Christ within us.