A quick review:  In order to allow the power of God to reign freely in and through our lives, spilling out in effective ministry, we must cultivate certain spiritual habits. God's idea of success in ministry is realized when we recognize these habits and choose to nurture them personally as well as in ministry.

Habit one:        Perceive your true identity.
Habit two:        Uncover your life plan.
Habit three:     Recognize the value of rest.
Habit four:       Practice the attitude of gratitude.

Focus verse:  Philippians 4:11 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  (NIV)

It was an uncommonly beautiful day. The park gradually filled with young and old alike drawn to celebrate and bask in the promise of the coming spring.  One young man sat quietly on the park bench, reading his bible, oblivious to the swirl of activity around him.  Suddenly he jumped to his feet and cried out, "Praise the Lord! What a miracle!"  An older man strolling by was caught off guard by the startling outburst and demanded to know why the young man was so excited.  "Sir, I was just reading how God parted the Red Sea and the whole nation of Israel walked through it on dry ground," the young man exclaimed.  The older man shook his head in amazement.  "Don't you know that it wasn't a real sea at all?  Scientists have reported it was just a few inches of water!" he scoffed.  Having set the record straight, the smug cynic turned and walked away, leaving a confused and slightly dismayed young believer alone with his thoughts and his bible. It was only seconds later when shouts of praise once again punctuated the air. Exasperated, the unbeliever turned and bellowed, "What are you yelling about now?" Through a smile of childlike faith the young man proclaimed, "Well, sir, I just read how God drowned the whole Egyptian army in just a few inches of water!"

How often do we allow the disgruntled church member to keep us from praising God? What difficult ministry circumstance are we tolerating because we are afraid to step out in obedience and faith?  Why are we so quick to give audience to the whiners and joy robbers who stalk our every step?  When we, as women in ministry, permit anyone or anything to deny us the joy of praise, we are authorizing the enemy to set the agenda of our heart.  Practicing gratitude, making praise a habit is a fundamental exercise in spiritual obedience and always - always pleases God. 

The life of the apostle Paul offers a sterling example of someone who faithfully practiced the attitude of gratitude - no matter what.  Humanly speaking, he had every right to be angry with God.  After all, Paul was a faithful follower of God, giving up material wealth, forfeiting political power and enduring great pain because of his radical commitment to Jesus Christ. Yet he writes the book of Philippians, a book of joy and gratitude, while under house arrest, awaiting his own trial and probable execution.  "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." (Philippians 4:11)  What an amazing statement coming from a condemned man!

As a woman in ministry it has certainly taken less pain and fewer trials for me to shake my ungrateful fist in the face of God, questioning His plan and purpose.  Now - let me be "gut honest".  In my darkest moments, from the bottom of a slimy pit teeming with doubt and fear, I questioned His power and presence.  I stood in the rubble of my broken life, blaming Him.  Yet, His love for me never changed and His commitment to me never wavered.  How can I become a woman of perpetual joy, my heart forever filled with sweet, simple gratitude for what He has done in the life of this unlikely servant?  I can do what Paul did.