For Women in Ministry: Practice the Attitude of Gratitude
- Mary Southerland Contributing Writer
- 2005 3 Mar
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.
Paul explains that he "learned" to be content. Paul chose his attitude - trained his mind and heart to select his perspective. "Learned" means "to be educated by experience". Paul is saying that all of his life experiences - good and bad - had become his tutor in gratitude. Paul learned to be "content", a word that means "contained". In other words, Paul trained himself to focus on inner resources - those God resources deposited in his heart and soul - rather than outward circumstances. He chose to be grateful, to give God praise no matter what his outer circumstances might be.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
"I rejoice in knowing that
There is no oil without squeezing the olives
No wine without pressing the grapes
No fragrance without crushing the flowers
And no real joy without sorrow."
Paul knew that He could trust God. Paul counted on Him to come through because God had always come through for Paul. You see, there's a money-back guarantee on every promise of God! Behind every promise of God is the perfect and flawless integrity of God.
Psalm 138: 2 "I will give thanks to your name for your unfailing love and faithfulness, because your promises are backed by all the honor of your name." (NCV)
Our Father entrusts trials to us, giving us the opportunity to rest on His promises and choose the attitude of gratitude in the midst of those trials! When we choose gratitude, we are choosing joy! When our heart is fixed on gratitude we are choosing praise, enthroning God in the midst of the circumstance. Our praise prepares a place for Him to dwell and reside. No matter how deep the valley - no matter how painful the wound - no matter how treacherous the road - our choice to praise Him is an invitation for Him to come. And when He comes, everything changes.
Psalm 22:3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. (NLT)
It is easy to choose gratitude when the seas are calm, the skies are clear and the boat is full of fish! But the real test of gratitude accompanies the greatest storms of life! At the very axis of gratitude we find inclusive trust and unqualified acceptance. Gratitude realizes that God is sovereign and rests in the knowledge that His ways are not our ways. It is not necessary for us to understand His process in order to trust His heart. Gratitude is a learned choice made by the heart that relentlessly seeks God. When gratitude becomes our heart habit we will naturally trust Him more and live with a sense of anticipation, knowing that He is constantly at work in and around us.
It is said that in Africa there is a fruit called the "taste berry". It changes a person's taste so that anything eaten afterwards tastes good and sweet. Gratitude is the "taste berry" of the Christian's life. When we choose to fill our hearts with gratitude, life is sweet. Make gratitude a habit!
A personal note from Mary: I have been singing for as long as I can remember. One of my favorite childhood songs was, "Thank You, Lord". Then, the words were just lyrics to be learned. Today they are the cry of my heart. I pray that they are yours as well.
"Thank you, Lord for saving my soul.
Thank you, Lord for making me whole.
Thank you, Lord for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free."
Other articles in this series:
For Women in Ministry: The Power of Rest