- Being grateful is recognizing the good, whether it is seen or unseen.
- For the past three weeks, we have been talking about mostly the unseen blessings that we need to recognize and be appreciative of. Last week, we even talked about the unseen work of God deep down in our souls, of which we are often unaware of, to deliver us from soul issues that hinder us from being grateful to God in all circumstances.
- Now, we need to ask, “How can we practically do this?” In other words, how can we practice gratitude on a day to day basis?
- This has to do with refocusing ourselves on God in practical ways.
- We will look at Ephesians 5:15-21 to examine three areas where we need to refocus on God once again to develop gratitude in our hearts regardless of the situation.
THREE AREAS OF OUR LIVES WHERE WE NEED TO REFOCUS ON GOD
- We need to practice gratitude in our use of time.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
The apostle Paul is teaching the Christians in Ephesus to be very careful in the way they live. The word “then” looks back on the Gospel that Paul has been emphasizing throughout this epistle. This reminds us of the vital importance of using our time wisely. In other words, our use of time is a stewardship issue. We must not waste it. We must make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. We can only do this by being wise, not unwise. By having a God-centered focus on our use of time, we can show our true gratitude to God.
A lot of people are wasting their time nowadays. They spend their time on insignificant things that will not really matter in eternity. Instead of using every opportunity to glorify God, and to fulfill His purpose, they throw away the time that God gives them.
How are you using your time lately? Are you wasting it? The pandemic is revealing our true priorities in life. Sadly, for many of us, time is passing us by. Because of the current limitations, we feel bored so we engage in all kinds of useless activities. Instead of using every opportunity to serve God, we waste time. We can practice our gratitude by being more productive in our use of time to the glory of God.
- We need to practice gratitude in our decision making.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
This is related to the first point. But the thought moves forward. Paul is talking about two pursuits in life: the pursuit of foolishness or the pursuit of wisdom. Wisdom is knowing God’s will and then applying it in our daily lives in practical ways. He is reminding the Christians in Ephesus to pursue true wisdom by understanding God’s will. To understand is different from just hearing about it, or even memorizing the Bible. To understand is to engage with God’s revelation, to test and approve it so that we can make wise decisions. We show our gratitude by choosing well based on God’s wisdom rather than leaning on our own wisdom.
A lot of people still prefer foolishness rather than pursuing the wisdom of God. Consequently, they as well as others around them suffer unnecessarily. We show our gratitude to God in practical ways by seeking to know His will before deciding anything. This may involve waiting upon the Lord, inquiring from God’s word, seeking godly counsel, and examining the dynamics of our soul (i.e. consolation vs. desolation).
How are you doing with your decision making? Do you consult God when it comes to important decisions in your life? Do you even pray about such things? You can learn gratitude by seeking God’s will above all else before making important decisions.
- We need to practice gratitude in our relationships.
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
This third point is very important. Paul devotes a lot of space on this very important issue. In fact, this introduces verses 22 to 33 as well as Ephesians 6:1-9. Also, verses 18 to 21 are actually just one sentence. Paul is talking about the importance of relationships here. He is exhorting Christians in Ephesus to be God-centered when it comes to their relationships. This is actually the meaning of being filled with the Spirit here. They are not to be filled with wine, or any other chemical (or attachment) for that matter, which can lead to wasted opportunities to give and receive love to and from people (the word debauchery means waste). Instead, they are to be filled with the Spirit, which involves relating well with people. Paul uses participles to describe how they should relate with one another in the church (verses 19 to 20) as well as at home (verse 21 actually introduces verses 22 to 33 and Ephesians 6:1-9).
Many today show their lack of gratitude by not focusing on God’s will in their relationships with other people as well as at home. Instead of growing and deepening their relationships with others, so that we can encourage one another, some of us isolate ourselves or neglect others.
How are you doing in your relationships both inside the church as well as at home? Are you reaching out and connecting with others? Are you building your relationships at home? We can show our gratitude by valuing the people around us.
Turning Point: “Refocusing on God results in gratitude to God.”
GROUP DISCUSSION (30 minutes)
- Which of the three practical areas of life do you need to see from God’s perspective again?
- Why do you need to focus on this area to practice gratitude?
- What can you do this week to practice gratitude in this area?