March 3, 2020 • Life for Leaders
In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we began to consider the implications of the word “always” in the line “In our prayers we always thank God for you.” I suggested that “always” functions figuratively here. The point is that Paul is persistently giving thanks to God for the Colossians, not that he is doing so in every single waking moment.
There is something else about “always” that I want to explore with you today. I think it suggests, not just persistence in thankful prayer, but also a posture of gratitude. I’m not speaking of a literal posture, but rather of a way of thinking, feeling, being, and acting. One who has a posture of gratitude sees all of life as full of God’s good gifts. A person with this posture pays attention to how God showers us with blessings upon blessings. Spoken thanks to God flows naturally from such a posture.
When I think of people I have known who demonstrate a posture of gratitude, many come to mind. For example, I remember Howard E. Butt, Jr., the founder of Laity Lodge in Texas, where I worked for several years. During my tenure with the H.E. Butt Foundation, the “mothership” of Laity Lodge, I had the privilege of spending time with Howard in a variety of settings, including business meetings, retreats, and one-on-one appointments at his home. In all of these contexts Howard expressed deep and consistent gratitude. He didn’t ignore the challenges and pains of life. In fact, Howard was more open than just about anyone I know when it comes to life’s struggles. But, even in the midst of hard times, Howard was able to step back and see God’s blessings. Sometimes, in the middle of a tough conversation, he would begin praying without warning, “Lord, thank you for blessing us in this way. Thank you for . . . .” And he was off to the gratitude races!
Howard is now with the Lord and I expect he’s still thanking God for all sorts of things. The last time I met with Howard individually, his health was failing, but he was eager to hear in detail about my work and all that was happening at Laity Lodge and the other Foundation ministries. Howard didn’t say much because he was having trouble speaking. But he listened attentively. Finally, at the end of our two-hour meeting, he offered to pray. For several minutes he prayed articulately and without hindrance. What did he pray? Thanks upon thanks upon thanks. He thanked God in detail for all I had reported to him, without consulting any notes. He remembered it all. Then he expressed gratitude for related blessings, for all the ways God had been gracious to him in life, for his daughter and son-in-law who had assumed responsibility for the Foundation, for his wife and sons, for his brother, sister, and parents—and on and on and on. I felt privileged to witness such effusive and intimate prayers of gratitude.
I want to be like Howard and others I know who have developed postures of gratitude. I want thanks to flow spontaneously and generously from my lips. I want gratefulness to fill my heart because I pay attention to God’s good gifts. I expect you do too.
How can we develop a posture of gratitude? We’ll be working on this question as we move through this Life for Leaders series on living gratefully. For now, let’s recognize that one way to develop a posture of gratitude is by offering thanks to God persistently, as I suggested yesterday. Spoken thanks is surely an expression of a posture of gratitude. But it also helps us become deeply and truly grateful people. What we speak in our prayers enters and shapes our hearts.
Something to Think About:
Have you known someone with a posture of gratitude? What was this person like? How did he or she express their thanks?
Would you say you have a posture of gratitude? If so, how did this happen? If not, why not?
Are there things in your life that are true gifts from God but things you rarely thank God for? What are some of these things?
Something to Do:
Following up on the last question, take some time to thank the Lord for things you easily take for granted. For example, as I’m writing this devotion, I’m listening to some quiet music. In a moment I’m going to thank God for: the composers, the musicians, the technology that allows me to enjoy this music, the human capacity to hear and to delight in music, etc.
Gracious God, thank you for all the gifts you shower upon me. Thank you for the multitude of gifts I’ve received even this very day. You are so good to me!
Help me, Lord, to be thankful, not just every now and then, but persistently. May I live my life with a posture of gratitude. In what I think and feel, in what I do and say, in how I perceive and believe, may I be full of thanks. Amen.
Explore more at The High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project:
Reflections on Servant Leadership from Howard E. Butt, Jr.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.