The apostle Paul provides a great role model for gratitude. He was a man who was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, whipped, and starved, yet in and through it all, he was able to make the following claim about his own life and attitude: “Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Philippians 4:11–12).
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says that in whatever situation he was in, he learned “to be content.” To me this implies that contentment may not be an automatic response to the situation, but that we are to be content. Even in the first century it was believed that we could directly affect our attitude, contentment, and gratitude. Paul’s attitude was not affected by his circumstances. This means that when things are going well, we are not to take undue credit and feather our ego with the goodness we have in the moment. And as well, we are not to remain in the doldrums when we struggle with life’s challenges.
In addition, Paul’s says he’s learned the secret of how to face whatever hand he’s dealt. Paul continues, “For I can do everything through Christ, who give me strength” (v. 13). He credits Christ (Jesus) for providing the strength needed to persevere in any situation.
One could argue that people who follow Jesus don’t always adopt Paul’s attitude. True.
I know a number, too many, people who would claim to be Christians and have chronically poor attitudes. Could that be a testament to the genuineness of their faith? Not for me to say, but it does beg this as an obvious question. And just as well, there are people that have no stated faith in a higher being or specifically Jesus, and yet these folks have good attitudes in tough circumstances. I really do think that is an admirable and curious thing.
It is certainly possible to have an attitude of gratitude without Jesus, but I wonder if it’s easier to do this and not be alone in it, why do it alone?
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