Gratitude is a humble, happy response to the good will of someone who has done or tried to do you a favor. This humility and happiness cannot coexist in the heart with coarse, ugly, mean attitudes. Therefore the cultivation of a thankful heart leaves little room for such sins.
There is a sense in which gratitude and faith are interwoven joys that strengthen each other. As gratitude joyfully revels in the benefits of past grace, so faith joyfully relies on the benefits of future grace. Therefore when gratitude for God's past grace is strong, the message is sent that God is supremely trustworthy in the future because of what he has done in thepast. In this way faith is strengthened by a lively gratitude for God's pasttrustworthiness.
On the other hand, when faith in God's future grace is strong, the message is sent that this kind of God makes no mistakes, so that everything he has done in the past is part of a good plan and can be remembered with gratitude. In this way gratitude is strengthened by a lively faith in God's future grace.
Surely it is only the heart of faith in future grace that can follow the apostle Paul in "giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20). Only if we trust God to turn past calamities into future comfort can we look back with gratitude for all things.
It seems to me that this interwovenness of future-oriented faith and past-oriented gratitude is what prevents gratitude from degenerating into the debtor's ethic. Gratitude for bygone grace is constantly saying to faith, "Be strong, and do not doubt that God will be as gracious in the future as I know he's been in the past."
And faith in future grace is constantly saying to gratitude, "There is more grace to come, and all our obedience is to be done in reliance on that future grace. Relax and exult in your appointed feast. I will take responsibility for tomorrow's obedience." Or, as Jesus would say, "O ye of little faith. Do not be anxious"
Let these three humbling truths penetrate our hearts today, and empty us of pride and fill us with overflowing thankfulness to God.
1. Nature teaches us that an infinitely marvelous, eternally powerful being created us and all we have. Therefore we are his creatures. He owns us. Our life, our breath, and everything we have is a gift. Our duty is simply to be thankful to Him from our heart and to cherish His glory.
2. All of us have fallen short of this duty. We have not consistently prized the diamond of God's glory with an affection anywhere near its value. Instead, we've exchanged it again and again for the cracked marbles that in our great "wisdom" we have determined are more valuable.
3. God, in his great mercy, sent his Son to suffer the judgment of people who are broken and contrite in spirit and who trust in him.
We are utterly dependent; we are depraved sinners; and we are redeemed and forgiven through contrite faith.
Excerpts from Future Grace by John Piper
Everyday is Thanksgiving Day!