“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” - Ps. 106:1
“Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." - Col. 2:6-7
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” - 1 Thess. 5:18
It’s the time of year when many stop and take stock of all they have to be thankful for. For us, as believers, an attitude of gratitude (yup, I went there!) is something we should pursue daily, not just once a year.
But why? Why is it so important for us to pursue thankfulness as followers of Christ?
For every aspect of His own life-giving character that Jesus calls us to put on, He calls us AWAY from an aspect of our sinful nature that is destructive. Another way to say this is that God calls us away from brokenness and towards wholeness in Himself.
So as we pursue giving thanks, which is “God’s will for us in Christ Jesus,” we move away from:
-Jealousy. It’s hard to be jealous of what others have when giving thanks for what we’ve been given.
-Entitlement. When I am grateful for what I have, I tend to stop thinking about what others, including God, owe me.
-Complaining. Have you ever tried thanking God for something and complaining about it at the same time? Try it. It’s impossible!
-Bitterness. We become bitter when we spend our time focused on what we DON’T have instead of being thankful for what we do. It’s an easy hole to fall in to, but not an easy one to climb out of.
How does all of this apply to youth ministry? Think about the list above. Have you ever been jealous of someone else’s ministry? I have. Have you ever felt a sense of entitlement, that you DESERVE something that you aren’t being given, whether that’s praise, compensation, or whatever? I have. Have you ever complained about your youth ministry situation? I have. Have you ever wrestled with feelings of bitterness? I have.
All of these attitudes can lead to self-destruction in ministry, but pursuing thankfulness can not only help us become closer to Christ and stronger in our walk with Him, but help us create healthier youth ministry environments in which we can lead young people away from these destructive attitudes in their lives and towards wholeness in Jesus.
So go ahead - take stock. What can you be thankful for today?