I Believe in Jesus: Because He Died for Our Sins

Jesus didn’t have to die, but chose to do so because it would help others – including you and me – in ways we could not achieve ourselves.

1 – Jesus gave Himself for the sins of the world. One of the most familiar passages of Scripture emphasizes this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:16, 17). Jesus said, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). He gave Himself for sinners (Rom. 5:8-9).

He is willing to help us even when we sin again: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:1-2). But this makes willful sin much more egregious (see Heb. 10:26-31).

God is completely impartial and shows no regard between nationalities, cultures or status (Acts 10:34-35). The invitation to benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice is open to anyone who chooses to follow Him (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:38-39; Rev. 22:17).

2 – Jesus gave Himself for the church. The value of the collective group of baptized believers who follow Him is seen in His sacrifice. “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Eph. 5:25). And, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). His death was intended to motivate His followers to live loyally to Him: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14; see II Cor. 5:14-15).

Jesus said He intended to die for His followers: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep (John 10:11). And, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

3 – Jesus gave Himself for those who are imperfect. This should lead us to be more patient with those who are still learning about His will. Paul reminded the stronger, more knowledgeable Christians: “But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died (Rom. 14:15).

Fourth, Jesus gave Himself for you and me. Our names may not be found in the Bible, but He was thinking of us on the cross: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). He “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1:4).  He offered Himself out of love: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Rev. 1:5). He offered Himself in our place as our example to love others: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Eph. 5:2). Because God loves us (John 3:16), we should love others (I John 3:16).

Watch our YouTube video: Jesus’ Death in Five Words.

I Believe in Jesus: Because He’s the Promised Messiah

The early disciples were persuaded to follow Jesus because they recognized He answered the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah. For example, in John 1, as the first apostles were dedicating themselves to follow Him, this was a compelling consideration:

“The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:43-45).

The Old Testament contains over 300 prophecies of the Messiah, with 109 being highly detailed. And Jesus fulfilled them all. 

The Old Testament is so replete with forecasts of Jesus that He has been described as the only person who ever lived who had His biography written before He was born. Jesus recognized and declared He was fulfilling these prophecies (see Luke 4:14-22; 24:27, 44; John 5:39). Consider some eight categories of prophecies He fulfilled:

1 – The forerunner of Jesus – John the Baptist – was described in Old Testament prophecies.  The Old Testament ends in Malachi with a promise concerning the one who would precede and prepare the world for Christ: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5). Isaiah described the forerunner’s work: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). John the Baptist fulfilled these (see Matt. 3:1-3; 11:9-15; 17:11-12).

2 – The birth of Jesus was prophesied.  The Old Testament predicted: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14; see also Gen. 3:15). It was also foretold He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It happened exactly as predicted so “it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet” (Matt. 1:22).

3 – The childhood of Christ was prophesied. Jesus’ family lived for a time in Egypt, as foretold (see Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:13-15). Young children were slain, as predicted (see Jer. 31:15; Matt. 2:16-18). Jesus’ family settled in Nazareth, just as the Old Testament had implicitly predicted (see Matt. 2:23).

4 – The method of teaching by Jesus was prophesied. He frequently taught in parables, which was predicted in the Old Testament (see Psalm 78:1-2; Matt. 13:34-35). See more about one of Jesus’ most memorable parables in our YouTube video on the Parable of the Good Samaritan: Ten Ways to be a Good Samaritan.

5 – Jesus’ miracles were foretold. The Messiah would heal in every form (Isa. 35:5-6). So did Jesus (Matt. 11:4-6).

6 – The mission of Jesus was prophetically described. The Messiah was foretold as a suffering, sinless Savior to sacrifice Himself for our sins (see Isaiah 53). He would be betrayed by His closest friend (see Psalm 55:12-15) for thirty pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12). This is Jesus.

7 – The victory of Christ was prophesied. The Old Testament foretold the death and the resurrection of Jesus (see Psalm 22-24; I Cor. 15:1-3). Jesus explained to His disciples that all of this was foretold (Luke 24:44-49). One of the frequently cited prophecies of Jesus’ resurrection is: “For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10 NKJV). And Psalm 110:1 is quoted more times in the New Testament than any other single Old Testament verse, and it described in advance this monumental event: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”

8 – The church of Christ was also foretold. Prophetic statements in Isaiah 2, Daniel 2 and Joel 2 all look forward to what transpired in Acts 2: a body of baptized believers formed around the common purpose of glorifying Jesus and serving others in His name. Paul explained that  one of the goals of his ministry was that “the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10).

The fulfillments of these advance descriptions of Jesus and His work are meant to signal unmistakably that He is “‘the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ)” (John 1:41).

I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Stirring Message

Jesus was remarkable not only for His miraculous works (see, e.g., Matt. 9:33; Mark 2:12; John 3:2; 7:31; 9:32), He was also a brilliant teacher. More than  once the people who heard Him speak were amazed at His message: “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).

Two features of Jesus’ teaching captured widespread attention: (1) the content – He taught with originality, which we’ll focus on in this lesson; and (2) its composition – He frequently utilized parables, which is the subject of our next lesson. 

The Sermon on the Mount

Perhaps the closest example we have to an entire teaching session of Jesus is found in the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5 through 7. In this message, He distills the essential principles for following Him. The content of the Sermon reflects common themes of His teaching: He inspires hope; tells them how it is, then how it ought to be; and shakes them up with warnings. 

Here are the primary topics of the Sermon (summarized from the Dictionary of Bible Themes by Manser):

  • The blessings of being in the kingdom (Matt. 5:3-12).
  • Jesus Christ’s disciples are to have a positive influence on the world (5:13-16);
  • The relationship between Jesus’ message and the Law (5:17-21)
  • Jesus’ disciples are to exhibit a new level of righteousness (5:20; 5:48). More particularly:
  • Not only murder but also anger and broken relationships are wrong (5:21-24)
  • Not only adultery but also lust is wrong (5:27-37). Faithfulness in marriage is called for.
  • Retaliation must be abandoned, and enemies as well as neighbors must be loved (5:38-48)
  • Jesus’ disciples are to seek only God’s approval in their religious duties (6:1-4). More particularly:
  • Giving to the poor, prayer and fasting are to be done secretly (6:5-18). He includes a pattern for prayer (6:9-15)
  • Speaking of money, the kingdom is to be valued above material possessions (6:19-34)
  • Jesus’ disciples are to avoid being judgmental (7:1-5)
  • Jesus’ disciples should pray, confident of an answer (7:7-12)
  • True disciples will obey Jesus’ teaching (7:15-27).

The principles of patience, pure motives, showing dignity to others, and having the habit of prudent action are key element of His Sermon, and are expected of His true disciples.

More about a key passage in the Sermon on the Mount: The Golden Rule (Matt 7:12) is in our YouTube video: Four Essentials for Following the Golden Rule.

I Believe in Jesus: Because of His Supernatural Power

As the New Testament opens, Jesus the Messiah is performing miracles at a level that far exceeds anything that had been seen previously. The Old Testament contains accounts of miraculous signs performed by God’s spokespeople, such as Elisha’s healing of Naaman the Syrian military leader in 2 Kings 5, but Christ’s supernatural works were at a much greater frequency and magnitude.

Near the end of John’s gospel account, he explained: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31 NKJV). And John closed his book with a similar note: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written” (John 21:24). Jesus performed miracles, and the New Testament biographies of His life describe them, so that we will place our faith and trust in Him.

Miracles in John: The Magnificent Seven

The Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John report thirty-five distinct miracles by Jesus. Matthew and Luke described 20 apiece, and Mark recorded 18. John – who said Jesus had performed countless supernatural acts – only described seven. But these magnificent seven miracles are notable:

  • Water is turned into wine (John 2:1-11);
  • Nobleman’s son in another town is healed (4:46-54);
  • Lame man is healed by the Pool of Bethesda on the sabbath (5:1-17);
  • 5,000 fed from five loaves of bread and two fish (6:1-14);
  • Walked on the Sea of Galilee (6:16-21);
  • Gave sight to the man who was born blind (9:1-41);
  • Raised Lazarus from the dead (11:17-44).

Characteristics of the Master’s Miracles

Jesus’ supernatural works share a combination of distinctive features:

They were complex: All kinds of subjects were addressed in Jesus’ works, including miraculous healing, raising the dead, casting out demons and supernatural control of forces of nature.

They were complete: His miracles were discernible, verifiable, flawless and immediate. These were not sleight of hand or some type of trickery, but were actual, historical supernatural events.

They were conservative: Jesus was never wasteful with His ability or blessings. They weren’t performed for purely entertainment. Consistent with the principle of parsimony (detesting unnecessary use of money), Jesus used whatever resources were available first, natural and human: available water was turned into wine; food on hand was used to feed a huge crowd; bystanders rolled away Lazarus’ stone; Lazarus fed himself after he was raised. And baskets of leftovers were gathered.

They were compassionate: Jesus performed miracles with a desire to show real love to those who were in distress (Matt. 9:35-36; 14:14; Mark 5:19). Keep in mind, though, that He did not heal every illness of every sick person on earth. Neither did the apostles (Phil. 2:25-30; I Tim. 5:23; II Tim. 4:20).

They were compelling: Many who observed His miracles were convinced of His deity (John 3:2). But not everyone who saw His miracles believed (John 12:37).

More about one of Jesus’ amazing miracles is in our YouTube video: Calm in the Storm.

God’s Makeovers: How Paul Became a Christian

Paul is one of the best-known figures in the Bible. He was the most prolific writer of the New Testament, with 14 books (including Hebrews) authored by him under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He was specially equipped by God to perform all types of miracles to confirm that his message was sanctioned by heaven. And he was recognized as one of the most capable teachers and logicians of the early church. But the way he first became a Christian, when we closely examine it, is no different from the form by which anyone else becomes one.

The Book of Acts describes the way that Paul first became a Christian in three of its chapters – Acts 9, 22 and 26 – and two of those are in Paul’s own words. When we harmonize those three sections, we see how the Lord miraculously appeared to Paul. At that time, Paul (then known as Saul), was a Jew, and a member of its strictest segment, the Pharisees.  He was on a mission to hunt down Christians so they could be punished for their supposed heresy.  At the brilliance of the Lord’s appearance, Paul was struck sightless, and begged the Lord to tell him what he should do to appease Him. What happened next is important from the standpoint of showing that everyone – Paul, you, me, everyone in between – in the details, becomes accepted by Jesus as His follower in the same manner.

Read Acts 9:1-19, 22:6-16 and 26:12–18, and notice these three steps that Paul took in the process of becoming a Christian:

(1) Teaching: Consider carefully that Jesus, when He miraculously appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, did not make Paul a Christian at that moment. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, He had provided forgiveness to some He encountered, but no instance of that type of direct pardon is recorded after His resurrection. Also, Paul’s seeing Jesus did not make Paul a Christian. Jesus directed Paul to continue traveling to Damascus, and gave him a specific address to visit. Meanwhile, the Lord directed one of His disciples to meet Paul to teach him how to become a Christian and to disclose the role of greater service to which the Lord invited him.

This is consistent with the pattern Jesus had described for how all of humanity would be brought into a relationship with Him. Christianity is a taught religion: “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV).

(2) Penitent faith: Upon the Lord’s instructions to Paul to continue to Damascus, he complied and once there, he intensely prayed to God. What’s notable is what Paul was not doing: persecuting Christians. His desisting from oppressing Christians and his instead pleading to God to be appeased reveals the abrupt change inside of him.

The specifics of how a person shows he has a contrite, and fully trusting heart toward God will likely take different forms from person to person, but all have this demeanor in common. When Jesus explained how the apostles were to begin the cycle of leading the world to Him, He specifically included this element:  “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

(3) Baptism: In Acts 22, Ananias finds Paul praying, and it appears he had been intensely fasting and praying for about three days.  But Paul’s prayers were insufficient to complete the process of his translation from outside of Christ into Him. Ananias advised him: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’ (Acts 22:16).

It was not possible for Paul – or any other – under the New Covenant, to pray so earnestly that the Lord will accept him on his prayer and make him His disciple. This is because Jesus has already announced the terms of admission to His kingdom, which includes a command for initiates to be immersed for that purpose: “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

Anyone today who desires to become Jesus’ disciple can follow the same elements that were taught in the New Testament, and then we can have peace of mind in knowing that we are just what Paul and the other first-century Christians were – Christians only.

More about God’s Makeovers: Paul (1 Timothy 1:13-16) is available in our YouTube video.

How to P-R-O-C-E-S-S the Stress

If experiencing emotional pressure or strain, try these prescriptions from Scripture for helping us p-r-o-c-e-s-s- the stress:

P – Pardon. This refers to the need to release bitterness and the feeling of being treated unjustly. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). This wasn’t as much for their sake as it was for His benefit: He wouldn’t resent even those who were maliciously treating Him.
R – Read. Yes, get out your Bible and dig into one of its passages. Reading has a way of giving us an escape to another time and place.
O – Outside. Get back to nature. Read again Jesus’ instructions for how to overcome worry  (in Matthew 6:24-34) and notice how many times He refers to lessons we learn from what we’ll see in the great outdoors.  The heavens announce that there is a great and good God (Psalm 19:1-7).
C – Conversation. God made us for companionship and relationships. Numerous passages direct us to engage in upbeat communication: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29 NKJV). Call up someone you’ve been thinking about and ask them how they’re doing and what they’ve been up to.
E – Exercise. Okay, Paul wrote that “bodily exercise profits a little” (1 Tim. 4:8), but he didn’t say it profits nothing. In whatever way you can, get the blood flowing and get moving and work off some of that tension. Perhaps ride a bike. Go for a walk. Maybe work in the yard or in the garden. Activate the muscles and joints and see if you don’t feel better.
S – Sustenance. It could be that you’re not eating as you should. When Elijah was under stress, what he needed was a good meal (see I Kings 19:5-8). Make sure your diet is a healthy one.
S – Supplication. If you haven’t laid the matter before the Lord, then do that right now. Take a moment and “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV).

God’s Makeovers: Second Chances for Struggling Christians

An episode that arose during the First Missionary Journey provides some insight into the patience of God – and our need to be patient with others who may be struggling.

John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas on the first major expedition by the church at Antioch to send the gospel of Christ into the heart of the Gentile world (Acts 13:3-5). John Mark, however, didn’t finish the journey. Luke explains that after the party landed along the southern coast of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey), “John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem” (Acts 13:13). Not much is suggested in the text to convey the idea that anything was troubling with that development, except that it is specifically pointed out. We learn later, when Paul and Barnabas were planning their second journey together, that John Mark’s leaving them had much more significance to it. When Barnabas suggested that they allow John Mark to travel with them on the second trip, it was not welcomed by Paul:
“Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:38-41 NKJV).

The separation of Paul and Barnabas is disappointing, but the disagreement – over a matter that was not related to faith or doctrine – was so intense that they elected to take different paths in the mission.

Whatever the cause for John Mark’s decision to leave the mission on the earlier trip, he later regained a strong relationship with and respect of Paul. In some of Paul’s later writings, he describes John Mark as a productive coworker (Col 4:10-11 and 2 Tim. 4:11). Peter referred to John Mark as his spiritual son (1 Peter 5:13). Early church history reveals that John Mark is the penman of the Gospel According to Mark.

Christians are forgiven, but they aren’t flawless. In John Mark’s life we see how the mistakes we make don’t have to define our lives – we can make a new start in Jesus Christ.

See more about God’s Makeovers: John Mark in our YouTube video.

God’s Makeovers: Manasseh’s Prayer

If your prayers have been infrequent, perhaps a dose of motivation is needed. In 2 Chronicles 33:12-13,  we learn what turned one of Judah’s most ungodly kings, Manasseh, into a man of earnest prayer: 

“Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.”

Notice three features of this prayer that can help us reinvigorate our prayer-life:

1) The incentive for Manasseh’s prayer: “when he was in affliction” (v. 12a). Sometimes the turmoil or trauma of life can remind us of our humanity and mortality and reawaken us to our spiritual needs. Manasseh had created these problems by many years of ungodly living and turning away from God’s message. The Lord was open to receive him back. His forgiveness, however, won’t necessarily take away the course of natural consequences set in motion by our misconduct. Nothing bad that we experience is for nothing if it draws us closer to our Creator.

2) The intensity of Manasseh’s prayer: “he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him” (vv. 12b-13a). Manasseh’s prayer reminds us of the publican who “standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” (Luke 18:13). Prayers that lack spirit or are merely repeating words without feeling perhaps won’t rise any higher than the ceiling. Prayers that reach the ear of God are like “groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26). “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). 

3) The impact of Manasseh’s prayer: “He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom” (v. 13b). What a tremendous example of God’s presence and patience! Manasseh had ignored the Lord for decades, yet our Father readily provided for Him when he turned his situation over to Him. Of course, the precise outcome of our prayers are in God’s plan and according to what serve His purpose. For example, the apostle Paul pleaded for relief, and in his situation, the Lord saw that instead of eliminating the problem, He would continue to equip Paul to endure it (see II Cor. 12:7-10). As he relied on God, “Manasseh knew that the Lord was God“ (v. 13). Regardless of the manner in which the Lord answers our prayers, we can continue to have certainty that He is providing for us in the way that is best for us. 

James pointed out that “you do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2). As we increase the urgency of our prayers, the Heavenly Father increases the frequency of His answers.

More about God’s Makeovers: Manasseh are in our YouTube video.

“Let Us” Take the Next Step

In grammar, “let us” uses a helping verb that focuses on an additional action. In the Book of Hebrews, readers are invited to take that extra step 13 times:

  • “Let us therefore fear” (Heb. 4:1).
  • “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest” (Heb. 4:11).
  • “Let us hold fast our profession” (Heb. 4:14).
  • “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16).
  • “Let us go on unto perfection” (Heb. 6:1).
  • “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22).
  • “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering” (Heb. 10:23).
  • “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:24).
  • “Let us lay aside every weight” (Heb. 12:1).
  • “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).
  • “Let us have grace” (Heb. 12:28).
  • “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp” (Heb. 13:13).
  • “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually” (Heb. 13:15).

What is the next step you should take to respond to the Lord’s message?

Always… Be Thankful

God’s plan for our lives includes developing a spirit of continual gratitude. Paul wrote, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thess. 5:18). When we focus on being thankful, it will improve the way we cope with our past, our present, and give us incentive for the future. So it is useful to be familiar with techniques for becoming more appreciative when we may not necessarily be in that mood at the moment.  Here are three ways we can become more grateful:

First, write it down.  We sing about “Count Your Blessings,” and that’s a great idea. When we begin to think of specific good things in our life, it changes the way we feel. 

Scripture teaches we should be living intentionally, not taking any moment or blessing for granted. The psalmist wrote, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Being continually grateful includes thinking of how we are being blessed at every moment.  We should be “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). 

Take out a sheet of paper and write down something you are thankful for, and continue adding to the list. There is something potent that happens when we actually write it. A study in 2010 by Professor Anne Mangen and neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay, reported in the Advances in Haptics Journal, revealed that we process what we write with our hands more powerfully than typing or reading only (Daily Mail, Jan. 21, 2011, “Why the pen is mightier than the keyboard: Children who write by hand ‘learn better than those who type’”). 

Second, take it away. Reflect for a moment on “What if I’d never…” or “What if I didn’t have….” When we are keenly aware of what we would have missed or lost without what we have now, we become more appreciative. Paul realized what he would have been without Christ: “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (I Cor. 15:10). Jesus reminded us: “without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

A recent report in Psychology Today reiterated this technique. Dr. Ryan Niemiec explained in “New Happiness Strategy: Mentally subtract the positive from your life” (publ. Oct. 30, 2013) that when we think about what our life would be without a supportive friend, education, health, our home, safety, any positive event or achievement, that we experience an “enhanced sense of appreciation.”  This method helped George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life and it can help us, too.

Third, work it out.  If you can find something to do, especially something that will help someone, it will immediately trigger the capacity to feel connected and grateful. In his New York Times article “A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day,” John Tierney pointed out that when we realize how we’ve been helped, it compels us to help others. Paul advised, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Titus 3:8).

More about how to “Always… Be Thankful” can be found in our video on YouTube.