November 25, 2015

Gratitude & Thanksgiving

One of the things I have loved to do over the last while is to study the commandments of God and then try to see how the Savior and our Father in Heaven obey these same laws. We know that God is perfect and that He would not give us a law that He was not willing to obey Himself. In addition, God does not just give us laws and commandments to bind us down and subject ourselves to Him. These laws are methods that one gains power. God's laws are eternal in nature and are unchangeable.

C.S. Lewis, when deciding if he believed in a God, found that one of the strongest testimonies of God is the fact that certain rights and wrongs exist. For example, why is killing someone wrong in basically any culture in the world? Why is sleeping with another man's wife wrong in any nation of the world? How did we all decide that kindness, gentleness, love, and charity are right, while hate, envy, and discord are wrong? Is it just chance that what is right is right, and wrong is wrong almost anywhere in the world? After pondering this, C.S. Lewis came to the conclusion that there must be a greater Power behind these rights and wrongs. There must be a God.

One of these rights that has fascinated me is that of "gratitude." When I first began thinking how God obeyed this law, I was not quite sure how to answer it. I thought, why would God want us to be grateful? Why does God need gratitude? Is it just to build Himself up? Why would the scriptures say "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments" (D&C 59:21). This is a very strong statement. This would mean that if ingratitude is one of the greatest of sins, gratitude would be one of the greatest acts of righteousness. Of course, God is God whether or not we are grateful to Him, so why gratitude then?

When I study these Laws of God I like to ask myself three questions (try it for yourself, you will be surprised by what you learn). First, how does God and the Savior obey this law? Second, why do They obey this law? And third, why would They want us to obey this law?

First, the greatest example of thanks is given by the Savior. In most of the prayers Christ gave, He gave only thanks. Here are a few examples of thanks the Savior gave to the Father:

Jesus feeds the 4,000 — Matt 15:36 "And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude."

Jesus feeds the 5,000 — John 6:11 "And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would."

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead — "John 11:41-42 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me."

Jesus gives the sacramental wine — Mark 14:23 "And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it."

Notice that each of the times Jesus provides food for the thousands He does it by thanking the father. It never mentions that He asks that a miracle be performed, or that the Father bless the bread and fishes, He only gives thanks.

It is also significant that to perform one of the greatest miracles, that of raising Lazarus from the dead, the Savior likewise gives thanks instead of asking for a blessing. It is almost as if thanks is the sanctifying and blessing power that provides these miracles.

The Father likewise obeys the law of gratitude. This gratitude is focused toward us, in that He showers down blessings on us as we obey His commandments. This is true gratitude. It is one thing to thank someone for something they have done. It is a higher thanks to give thanks through your actions, and in particular, giving thanks by giving something of value to another. We thank God for Him blessing our lives most often through prayer. God thanks us for doing the right, by blessing our lives even more. Note that God teaches us to give our gifts in secret. No other being obeys this more than the Father. He seeks to bless us in secret, so much so, that only when we are deeply looking for His hand in our life, will we see it. He does not flaunt the blessings He gives, He does so on a daily basis, yet we rarely see His works of thanks.

This leads us to the second question of why God and the Savior obey the law of gratitude. Let me suggest that one of the strongest reasons is the power that comes from gratitude. How much more are we endeared to someone when they give gratitude for what we have done. Especially when the gift we have given is nothing in comparison to what they could have done. God sees our meager gifts, brought to the altar, as magnificent gifts of the greatest value. He never belittles us for the imperfect efforts we give, in fact He sees these actions of faith as whole and complete. Why does He do this? After all, a perfect being should expect perfect efforts. Yet, He accepts whatever gift we give. Why? Because He knows that through His gratitude towards us, we will be drawn to Him and desire to bring an even more valiant effort to the altar. Through His accepting our meager gifts, He is teaching us of His perfect patience, long-suffering, and enduring love for us. As we see these true attributes of the Father, we long to be more like Him, we long to be with Him. In short, the power of gratitude, is the power to bring unification.

Finally, why then would the Father ask us to be grateful. Again, it is not because God needs our gratitude, it because we need gratitude. As we look for the hand of God in our life, we will better know and understand the true power of God. As we learn of who God truly is, we will better be able to have a stronger faith in what He can do in our lives. As we see the bounteous blessings He has given us, we will have faith that He will continue to bless us in the future. As we are weak, we will know that by relying on Him—because of the blessing we have seen in the past—we will gain the needed strength we need to endure to the end.

This Thanksgiving season, let us begin the effort of giving thanks on a daily basis. Let us look for the "secret thanks" that our Father in Heaven gives us. Let us count our many blessings for that which He has done for us. Like the Savior of the world, let us learn to give thanks for our blessings, instead of asking for more blessings. I am grateful to live in a wonderful, free nation. I am grateful for an incredible family, for amazing parents, and for devoted friends. And most of all, I am grateful to my Savior for all He has done for me. I am grateful he gave His life for me on Calvary, and that through Him I may return to live with my loving Father in Heaven.

Truly as the Psalmist wrote: "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto [His] name .... For [the Lord] hast made [us] glad through [His] work: [we] will triumph in the works of [His] hands" (Psalms 92:1,4).

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