The Gratitude Attitude

Greek translations and lexicon from the KJV (King James Version) of The Blue Letter Bible Scripture quotations taken from the NASB (New American Standard Bible) Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

1 Timothy 4:4 says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude;”

Do even simple tasks seem difficult lately? Is life laden with frustration? If so, please join me in a resounding cyber scream! I’ll spare you the details, but even this post has been fraught with a ridiculous amount of publishing barriers. In hardships little and great all over the world, these truly are times that try the soul. Even so, any believer in Christ has much to rejoice about. No matter how hard things are, we have a great God who gives us a great hope and future in Him.

Rendered “gratitude” in the NASB, the word in Greek is “eucharistia,” and used a mere 15 times in the Bible. It is derived from “eucharistos,” used once. Strong’s defines eucharistos as “well favored, i.e. (by implication) grateful:—thankful.” God’s blessings should make us thankful.

Eucharistia means “thankfulness,” or “the giving of thanks.” Strong’s definition makes the progression from the feeling to the act explicit: “gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship [emphasis mine]):—thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving).” If we are thankful, we should give thanks. To God. He likes it. It’s fun. It increases our joy and, I believe, our blessings.

The first instance of eucharistia is in Acts 24:3, where an attorney named Tertullus expresses thankfulness to Felix the governor in a trial against Paul. Even the ungodly realize it’s good policy to first thank those from whom you hope for favor.

In 1 Corinthians 14, verses 16-17 form an interesting parallel: “Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified.” Blessing in the spirit is equated with giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is a spiritual action of blessing. When we thank God, we bless Him, and others may be built up.

When I went through the worst depression of my life, which was probably post-partum compounded with sleep deprivation from my firstborn and my father’s dying from cancer, a friend suggested I keep a thankfulness journal. On a small red Mead notebook cover, I scrawled in black marker, “Thankfulness Journal.” My friend advised me to write one thing each day for which I was thankful. Many of my first entries only said, “I’m thankful the day is over.”

Gradually, I was able to write real entries that spilled into a life of praising God for all His goodness toward me and others. While thankfulness alone didn’t pull me out of the pit of depression, along with prayer and Bible study, it sure helped.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, Paul blesses (thanks) God:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

Thanks be to God! He “comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort” others “in any affliction” with same comfort He gave us! (verse 4) Our comfort through Christ is just as abundant as our sufferings of Christ (verse 5).

This isn’t to say that suffering is easy. On the contrary, Paul continues in verses 8-10:

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.

I came to the same conclusion as Paul in verse 9: my depression was given me so that I wouldn’t trust in myself, “but in God who raises the dead.” When I came through it, I thanked and trusted Christ.

Continuing in 2 Corinthians, Paul reiterates his conclusion and struggles in verses 7-10:

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Our weakness demonstrates the surpassing greatness of God’s power through us. We suffer, like Jesus, so that like Him, we may live.

Eucharistia makes its third debut in the following verses 15-18:

15 For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

God’s grace “spreading to more and more people” causes a multiplication of thanks (eucharistia) to His glory (verse 15).

The fourth eucharistia is also in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9:11-13:

 11 you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. 13 Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all,

God richly supplies us with more than we need, which causes us and others to give thanks and glory to Him (or should).

The next instances of eucharistia are prescriptive. Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:4, Philippians 4:6, Colossians 2:7 and 4:2, 1 Timothy 2:1 and 4:3-4 that thanksgiving is to be an integral part of our life.

In Ephesians, Paul lists a slew of things we’re not to be. Instead, we’re to give thanks–the positive rather than all the former negative. In Philippians, we’re to include it in our requests to God for our needs, so that we’re not anxious. In Colossians 2, we’re to abound with thanksgiving. In Colossians 4, thanksgiving is linked with prayer, something we’re to be cautious, active and attentive in doing.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul gives eucharistia a primary position again coupled with prayer:

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

It’s hard to get more basic and necessary than that.

1 Timothy 4:4 is the verse I began with, and preceded with another eucharistia that needs the entire passage for context:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.

“Gratefully shared in” is “received with thanksgiving” (eucharistia) in verse 3 of the KJV.  “Gratitude” is also “thanksgiving” (verse 4).

The word’s last appearances are in 1 Thessalonians and two verses in Revelation. 1 Thessalonians 3:9 says, “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account”. Paul’s joy over the Thessalonians causes him to rejoice before God and render thanks to God. Except for Tertullus, the Bible records no other instance of giving thanks (eucharistia) to anyone other than God.

Thanksgiving ought to be, first and foremost, God-directed. Fittingly, that is the context of the references in Revelation, starting with Chapter 4:8-11:

And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say,

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almightywho was and who is and who is to come.”

And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11 “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” 

Eucharistia’s second-to-last occurrence is in verse 9 above.

The last incidence is in Revelation 7:11-12, 11 “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen’.”

When we celebrate the Eucharist, known as Communion or the Lord’s Supper, Christ says we partake of His body and blood given and broken for us. He commands us to do so, “in remembrance of Me.” No matter how hard things get, let’s not forget what He’s done for us, which enables us to look forward to our reunion with Him and abide in his love in the present: our greatest reasons for an attitude of gratitude.

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