By Evan Johnson
One of the most exciting things I get to do is preaching in front of a group of people. Even if it’s just public speaking, I don’t possess that fear. It’s just natural for me. However, since there’s a spiritual attachment to preaching, there’s just something truly special about it. Yet realizing that heaviness that goes along with publicly communicating the Word of God, for a long time I would tell people it was God and “not me.” To encourage me as a young aspiring preacher, I would hear that my sermon was really good. Hearing that, I refused to express gratitude. I refused to say “thank you.” In my eyes, I would be taking credit for God’s Word.
This went on for a while until a friend of mine took me aside and told me to get over myself and just say, “thank you.” It had never occurred to me that I was robbing other people of serving me. They wanted to express support for me as a young (sometimes stupid) pastor-in-training. Their support was a means of serving me emotionally, and I was blocking them. I was hindering the Spirit from moving me forward. I was not letting them serving me spiritually. I was not letting them build me up as a brother in Christ.
Showing gratitude towards others is a staple of the Christian life. Here are just [number] ways gratitude is intertwined with living like Christ:
Showing gratitude reminds us that service is not about us. We can get caught up in thinking only about ourselves in our service in two ways: we either focus on how much we’re serving or how others deserve to be serving us. As Christians, the former is usually more likely. Regardless, showing gratitude for encouragement reminds us that we do what we do as Christians not because it’s about us. It’s about the people around us. Hearing the people around us encourage us reminds us of that.
Showing gratitude is a discipline of humility. Humility is both an attitude and a discipline, and it is an attitude that is only formed out of discipline. Humbling ourselves to show gratitude reminds us that we cannot do life alone. Everyone wants to feel validated in their accomplishments as well as their struggles. Being humble enough to express thankfulness to a friend who is there in a hard time or to express gratitude for a compliment after a public speaking venture forces us to take the spotlight off of us. It forces us to focus on how great they are for seeing our struggles or talents.
Humbling ourselves in expressing gratitude shows that we’re letting the Spirit work in our lives. As said before, showing gratitude towards others is a staple of the Christian life. I’m not of the theological persuasion that when Peter passed the bread of life to John at Passover that when John thanked him, Peter said, “No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t me. This is God. I don’t deserve credit for being able to pass this bread to you.” Humbling ourselves to show gratitude frees us from any Christianese barriers we set up for others to think that we’re incredible armchair theologians.
The wheel of salvation turns on the axle of thankfulness. We are thankful that God has saved us. In our thankfulness, we know that it is because of what Christ has done and not us. This does not change our attitude of gratefulness. This needs to bleed into the rest of our life and our daily interactions. We know that God shines through our hearts of servitude. Being thankful of others’ building us up is just as much a testimony to Jesus’ greatness as a novella-long explanation of the Gospel. It shows one of the ultimate characteristics of Jesus: humility.