Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Life cannot be rich without gratitude.”
Gratitude is a matter of heart and either from it or before we will always have humility. Gratitude is the celebration of our place in God’s Grace and comes from a correct understanding of who we are in relation to Him.
Of course, as with many things, the world works from a very different understanding of humility. Culturally, we think of humility with negative connotations. Humility, by definition, means “The quality of being humble, a low self-regard, or a sense of unworthiness.” This carries with it the idea of low self-esteem, or may conjure up pictures of how humility is often twisted. For example, many see humility in terms of how it is used negatively, as a weapon or tool to manipulate, demean, or control others. Humility, in the carnal mind, looks a lot like humiliation and bondage and is defined only in the imagination and self-evaluation of the individual.
If we’re being honest, nobody wants to be told that they are ‘not acceptable’ or ‘unworthy’ and it is difficult to admit when we, ourselves, do not measure up. But in Christianity the understanding that we have, ‘missed the mark’ (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6) is the beginning of something beautiful. In admitting our failures and faults we accept the truth of our sinfulness and are able to begin to apply the wonderful work of Christ to our lives.
After all, the Bible says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) When the fear of the Lord shows itself in a respectful humility before God, it is not too great a stretch to say (in our context) that humility is the beginning of wisdom.
Christian humility, then, is an understanding of the right order of things. It is having a Biblical view of God and ourselves in relationship to Him. It is to understand our inability to do anything of value without Christ, to acknowledge our great need, our sin, and the great lengths God was willing to go to fill that need. In the end, humility is needed for acceptance of the awesome gift of salvation.
Humility is a necessary precursor to salvation but it is also important to the redemptive process. Humility is the most needed element for growth, it leads to reconciliation with God, it facilitates all that is necessary for righteousness, repentance, obedience, and faith. Amazingly, it can break the chains of apathy and entitlement and works in our heart for change. It allows us to submit to Christ and to identify with him. Humility causes the scales to fall from our eyes, to help us to truly see and understand more fully the presence and love of God. To be clear, God is in and behind all of the aforementioned blessings, but without the posture of humility our receptiveness and joy is impeded.
In understanding salvation, we see that gratitude and humility are inextricably linked.
Do we not know we deserve to die? (And prove it everyday.) How great God’s love and mercy is to us! Oh, how much we have to be grateful for!
Thanksgiving, then, is an expression of worship, the natural outpouring of praise from a soul who realizes that while they deserve death-they have been given life. Thanksgiving helps us to remember our faith and protects us from wandering away from God. In view of the work of Christ on the cross, humility and thankfulness are the foundations for joy… and no amount of hardship, pain or suffering can steal from it. Our gratitude is pleasing to God because it is the proper response to His Mercy, our thankfulness shows our adoration.
Thankfulness is also the preserver of our happiness. Much can be done for one’s happiness, even in unbelievers, by inducing a heart of thanksgiving and counting one’s blessings. Yet a deeper gratitude can be seen for the one who loves the Maker, Himself and not just His gifts. We have been given so many promises for our good, even in the life to come, while we wait we are secure in the Father’s hands. Have we any excuse to be without thankfulness? Our faith rests in an unchanging God, so our resolve and comfort can remain unchanged in Him despite the difficulty. This, an unbelieving world, simply cannot understand.
Is this so impossible to believe? After all, Kingdom realities are found usually in the opposite way in which you would imagine them. To be happiest, we should give…not receive. To be lifted up, we must be humbled and thankful. God is the lifter of our heads. He is our portion and our joy, it is in Him we find everything we need. In Him, there is contentment.
If we find ourselves discontented or thank-less perhaps the focus of our life is off? Give thanks to the One who deserves it and seek to enjoy the God who has saved you. Remember who God is and your position in relation to Him. Thank God for the many blessings you have enjoyed in life, even the things that seem commonplace or ordinary.
Remember your loving Father who has paid your way to FREEDOM and humble your heart.
Humility begets thankfulness but without it success besets success, for God esteems His own in the end to oppose the proud and lift the humble’s head.
Written by Melanie Barnfield. Melanie Barnfield is an artist, closet introvert, wordsmith, and lover of Christ. She has been married 14 years to the love of her life, and has been blessed with 4 beautiful children. Residing in Benton, IL, she is an avid reader who enjoys teaching, gardening, and photography.