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By Joyell Nevins – CFFM Blogger

The Kingdom of Heaven continually crushes cultural conceptions. To lose our life is to keep it. To submit ourselves is to be lifted up. To combat our enemies is to bless them.

One of those mind-blowers is that increase comes through gratitude. Whether materially or ethereally, we have to first be thankful for what we have right now before God can pour on more.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV

Gratitude, the art of giving thanks, is all about the attitude of heart. It’s no coincidence that gratitude and joy go together.

Remember, Paul was writing the letter of Thessalonians from under house arrest, after he’d already lived through beatings, shipwrecks, and stonings. His life had not exactly been rosy!

Yet, he looked at what he did have, at what God was doing, at who God had placed in his life. Almost every epistle starts with Paul giving thanks for the people he was writing to and/or the God and Savior he served.

“I thank my God always on your behalf…” 1 Corinthians 1:4 KJV (see similar introductions in Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, and Philemon)

 I have experienced this change of heart and perspective in both short and long-term circumstances. When I am stuck in traffic (which can happen a lot in a densely populated city), I remind myself that I have a car to drive, gas to put in the car, the physical capability to drive, and somewhere to go! Now, with all of those positive aspects in my favor, how can I be frustrated?

   Photo by Cindi Albright of flickr

Gratitude not only helps us to be joyful in the moment, but opens the door for God to pour out future blessings as well.

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse [those firstfruits offered to God as a sacrifice of thanks], that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10 KJV

 When I first moved to this city and was searching for a place to live independently, as long as I was complaining and frustrated about my lack of suitable apartments, I couldn’t find anything that worked.

But once I settled and became grateful for where I was living at the time and the doors God had already opened for me even to get there, then the next opportunity arose. To this day, I am still grateful for where I get to live now and the blessings God poured out of heaven on me in this place!

God’s Kind of Math

Jesus exemplifies this attitude of gratitude. One of the times he was preaching to a giant crowd, they were across the Sea of Galilee on a mountainside, and there was no Chick Fil A or Starbucks around (there wasn’t even a street vendor!).

He asks his disciples what they have to feed the people, and the answer is – not much.

“Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?’” John 6:8-9 NIV

Like with my apartment search I referenced earlier – and even apartment searches back in Ohio – it can be easy to look at what I don’t have or what isn’t available to me.

But when that perspective shifts, it allows God to move.

“Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about 5,000 men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” John 6:11 NIV

Image by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing

You see, gratitude is the multiplier. In Matthew’s recollection of this record, he writes that “all ate and were satisfied.” Everyone got their needs met – and then some!

I see this principle play out in other parts of my life as well: the jobs I have had, the writing opportunities I get, even the doors of ministry that open. As long as I am looking at what I don’t have or complaining about what is not available to me, nothing changes.

But when I am thankful for where I am and what I have right now, and trust that God continues to take care of me, He creates and multiplies opportunities in ways I hadn’t even considered!

 Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Gratitude

 Gratitude and anxiety CANNOT EXIST in the brain at the same time. As Christian singer Natalie Grant said, “Do not let your worry be greater than your worship. When you don’t know what to do, open your mouth and begin to praise.”

 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication [petition], with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV

Gratitude doesn’t just change our spiritual and emotional center; it physically affects our bodies as well. Did you know that the University of California Berkeley actually has an “Expanding Gratitude” project through their science center?

Through the center’s own research and collection of other scientific studies, it determined that shifting to an attitude of gratitude lowers heart rate, helps increase sleep, improves blood vessel function, and even lowers levels of cellular inflammation. We are literally healthier the more thankful we are!

So, believer friend, what do you have to be thankful for today? What gifts has God given you or people that He has placed in your life right now? Be thankful for what you have right in this moment, and see what God will do in the future!

Want More?

For other perspectives of Jesus feeding the five thousand, you can read the story in Matthew 14:13-21 and Mark 6:30-44.

To read an amazing testimony of gratitude, check out Joe Salvo’s From the Struggle Bus to the Victory Van.

For more on the other side of gratitude, joy, explore Pastor Wayne Clapp’s REJOICE: Our Heart Song and Battle Cry.