Have you noticed that people who have difficulty accepting grace also have trouble with gratitude? Grace and gratitude go hand in hand. While many believers express the belief that salvation is a free gift from God, their thoughts and actions say the opposite. They think they earned or deserve all the good gifts they receive. Grace, for them, is the result of living rightly, instead of being an extravagant gift from a wildly magnanimous God. The good news of the gospel is that grace is not merited favor. It’s favor that defies logic, a crazy generosity that has nothing to do with us and everything to do with who God is. God does not keep score. He gives unconditionally and unreservedly to the just and unjust, the rich and poor, the lovely and unlovely alike.
When we truly understand grace, gratitude washes over us, overwhelming and changing us. We see everything and everyone in a new light. Things we used to take for granted become evidence of God’s extravagance. We begin to recognize the gifts in the smallest things and in the biggest challenges. We are moved to extend grace to others. Gratitude flows out of receiving grace as it is, undeserved and freely given. Richard Rohr writes,
Brothers and sisters, you and I don’t “deserve” anything, anything. It’s all a gift. But until we begin to live in the kingdom of God instead of the kingdoms of this world, we think, as most Christians do, exactly like the world. We like the world of seemingly logical equations. Basically, to understand the Gospel in its purity and in its transformative power, we have to stop counting, measuring, and weighing. We have to stop saying “I deserve” and deciding who does not deserve. None of us “deserve”! Can we do that? It’s pretty hard . . . unless we’ve experienced infinite mercy and realize that it’s all a gift.
We encourage students at Rockbridge to keep a gratitude journal as one of their spiritual exercises. You can do the same thing by reflecting daily on things, people, and circumstances for which you are grateful. We can even be grateful for hardships. Write your items down each day, and don’t repeat your list. Get the big stuff out of the way, such as family, friends, and a paycheck. Then, begin to notice the smallest of things: the smell of coffee, the taste of a strawberry, the people around you who often go unnoticed yet make your life possible. Practice gratitude and you’ll discover a whole new meaning of grace.
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