Gratefulness is too frequently neglected in our picture of Christian maturity and in the evaluation of the health of a church. Yet in Scripture gratefulness is an indicator of spiritual life and ungratefulness of spiritual decay. Heaven bound saints are a grateful people; hell-bound sinners walk in perennial ungratefulness. It seems to me that the gravestone of many dead churches might have had the following epitaph.
Here Lies _________, the ungrateful church.
1. Our ungratefulness resulted in prayerlessness. We did not remember the works of the Lord from the past, and we soon saw no need to pray for his work in the future.
2. Our ungratefulness heightened judgmentalism and division in the church. We were not intentionally thanking God for his grace at work in his people, and we gradually began to focus on their failures and dismissed their value.
3. Our ungratefulness turned a warm and welcoming church into a reclusive and exclusive club. We dismissed the purpose of witnessing to an uninspiring gospel.
4. Our ungratefulness led first to duty driven service and giving as a tradition, then to an absence of serving or giving at all. We saw no need to sacrifice our time, energy, or money for a gospel we weren’t thankful for.
5. Our ungratefulness turned a love for holiness into legalistic Pharisaism and the freedom of grace into belligerent license.
6. Our ungratefulness precipitated spiritual apathy. Before our heart was hard, it was cold.
7. Our ungratefulness revealed a neglect of Scripture. We did not emulate Paul or David or reflect any of the Scriptural emphasis on thanksgiving. Ungratefulness then became the breach into which a general neglect of Scripture began to flow.
8. Our ungratefulness then set the table for outright heresy. Neglecting thankfulness for the truths of God’s Word and his gospel exposed us to the lie of a “better”, or “higher”, or more “appealing” belief system.
9. Our ungratefulness increasingly misrepresented heaven, where saints and angels constantly ascribe to the Lord the glory and goodness of his salvation.
10. Our ungratefulness to God invited his discipline; our ungratefulness for discipline expressed defiance toward his wrath. (Rom. 1:21)
Gratefulness is not an optional extra for a maturing Christian. Let us consider thankfulness a crucial mark of evaluation for the health of our own spiritual lives and our churches. Let us give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:16-18