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How Two Small Letters Can Awaken Gratitude

This past Sunday, my friend, Rich Good, made a statement in his sermon that I can't shake.

Not that I want to shake it.

But you know how there are things you hear that keep pinging around in your head.

In a message on living with a posture of thankfulness, he said, "Gratitude is the appropriate response to grace."

In view of the gospel, being thankful to God just makes sense.

It's as appropriate as cheering for a touchdown that wins the game or saying "mmm" aloud after the first bite of chocolate chess pie with homemade whipped cream.

Gratitude is the expected reaction to grace. If there isn't excitement after the score, the fan just doesn't get it, or they're not really a fan. No "mmm" after chocolate chess pie and we assume the absence of taste buds.

As it relates to the spiritual life, an ungrateful disciple of Jesus is someone who has lost sight of the cross, minimized its implications, or lost sensitively to the sweet taste of grace.

Sadly, I can relate to such blindness, minimization, and loss of sensitivity.

A spirit of entitlement resides deep in my flesh. It reinforces the world's insistence that…

  • I deserve better.
  • I deserve more.
  • And I don't deserve the hard, the bad, and the ugly.

Hard, bad, and ugly are real. Not only do these things lead the evening news, but they also stare back at me in the mirror. The brokenness in the world and in myself rises up as physical suffering, emotional distress, spiritual angst, etc.

As Paul assures us in Romans 8, suffering is not an anomaly in the Christian life. It's par for the course.

You may be there now.

Yet even when life is hard, bad, and ugly, gratitude is still the appropriate response to God's grace, which is ever present for the child of God. Even when we can't see it or feel it.

This is not to minimize the anguish of suffering. It's to maximize the presence and power of a good Father in the midst of it.

Lament often is a battleground for the soul.

Consider David's prayer in Psalm 13.

1 How long, O LORD?

Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle in my soul,

with sorrow in my heart each day?

How long will my enemy dominate me?

3 Consider me and respond, O LORD my God.

Give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death,

4 lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes rejoice when I fall.

5 But I have trusted in Your loving devotion;

my heart will rejoice in Your salvation.

6 I will sing to the LORD, for He has been good to me.

Did you notice where his despair began to turn? In verse 5, "But I have trusted in Your loving devotion."

He is convinced that the Lord is more committed to his good than he is.

That's easier said than felt. Especially when grief is so deep, we can't imagine ever laughing or even smiling again. The pain is too raw.

From that place of brokenness, it would be understandable to rage against the sovereignty of a God who would allow human suffering.

But such a posture (with which I'm all too familiar) defies an experience of the undeserved kindness and unmerited mercies of God toward the ungodly.

Hold up. Mercies toward whom? The ungodly?

It is precisely at this point that we stop to realize that God the Father allowed his own beloved son, Jesus, to suffer a storm of grief beyond human imagining.

One of the most staggering texts in all of Scripture is Romans 5:6.

"For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly."

Since the world tends to operate on merit, the mercy of those two letters, un, undermines conventional wisdom. It's not what we expect.

Quite honestly, the implications of the "un" as a prefix to worthy are so vast, we could spend a lifetime meditating upon the significance of those two, small letters.

Or we could simply live day to day considering what it would look like to take a Spirit-empowered posture of embracing the "un" in our lives as the unworthy who've been recipients of God's undeserved kindness and unmerited mercies.

What an amazing thing it is to realize that the qualification for membership in the family of God is unworthiness. The only way to qualify is to be unqualified.

Embracing those two small letters has the power to release an eruption of previously dormant gratitude to God for the innumerable mercies that lurk in the shadows.

Oh, how absolutely staggering is the gospel!

So, what can we do when we're convicted of our sinful sense of entitlement?

Simply confess it, believing that Jesus died for that, too!

That posture is called abiding, where the unworthy rest in the worthiness of Jesus that now wraps us secure in the eyes of the Father, now and forever.

This is the grace that fuels the kind of gratitude that says "mmm" aloud and boasts in the victory of the Savior over sin and death.

Now, in Christ, we can know that, regardless of how hard, bad, and ugly it gets, not only is God with us now, but on the horizon is a day when there will be no more tears. No more suffering. No more hard, bad, or ugly.

Only peace and joy in the presence of Jesus, to whom we'll erupt with a thankfulness that will flow forever.


  1. Why does it make sense that gratitude is the appropriate response to grace?
  2. "An ungrateful disciple of Jesus is someone who has lost sight of the cross." Have you ever struggled with feeling entitled or ungrateful in your spiritual life? Where do you tend to struggle with this?
  3. What do you think it means to "embrace the 'un' in our lives as the unworthy who've been recipients of God's undeserved kindness and unmerited mercies"? How can we live that out practically?
  4. How does the reality of the hard, bad, and ugly relate to gratitude? How might Psalm 13 help process this challenge?
  5. What does it mean that "the only way to qualify is to be unqualified" for membership in God's family? Do you find this concept freeing or challenging?
  6. How is the cross of Jesus the epicenter of gratitude?
  7. As believers look ahead to an eternity without sorrow, tears, or pain, how does this future hope fuel gratitude in the here and now? What are you most looking forward to about that day?

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