The Sustaining Power of a Grateful Heart

This post is a continuation of the conversation Bill Mills had with Craig Parro titled Finishing Well in Life and Ministry: 20 Years Later. Listen to the full conversation below.

Craig Parro: Along those lines, I wonder if we were writing the book again today if we might emphasis gratitude more fully. It seems like gratitude is key to resting in the moment-by-moment work. When we express gratitude to the Lord, we are verbalizing the reality that ministry is about Him and not about us. We’re affirming that God is at work – yes, through us; but He’s the explanation, not ourselves.

I think over these last twenty years, I’ve grown a little bit in living more with an ongoing heart of gratitude. I still have a long ways to go. There’s something healthy, freeing, delightful about just walking moment by moment, day by day with a heart full of gratitude – saying, “Thank you God, thank you God for the big things, for the little things, for the surprises, for the difficult things. Thank you Lord.”

Bill Mills: I think part of gratitude comes from the fact that God has already done with us more than we ever dreamed that He would. That leaves me personally in a place of freedom to be thankful to God rather than this pressure to accomplish more before I’m finished. I could leave this earth next week and be very grateful for what the Lord has done without regrets that my ministry wasn’t more fruitful or more effective in those places, since God is at work. I’m walking with Him in what He’s doing. What I hoped at the beginning in a one-to-one discipleship ministry (learn more about LRI’s history), God had plans to bring that to discipling pastors around the world. I never dreamed of this; I never thought it was possible. So, what regrets could I have experienced that I wish God would have done more? That gratitude is a place to rest in, Craig. I think you’re really on to something.

CP: Gratitude also protects us from a sense of entitlement – that somehow God owes us because of our faithfulness, or whatever. Gratitude, circling back to your earlier point, puts God on display. Big God, small us – and that’s a healthy way to walk through life and ministry, isn’t it?

BM: Yes. You know, I’m thinking of pastors that I’ve known who have burned out along the way in ministry. I think the thing that most of them have said is, “I tried as hard as I could. I did the best I knew how to do, and it just didn’t work. God just didn’t do it, and I just gave up along the way.” When God is at work, this God who fulfills His purposes, things not only happen, but we see that He is doing it. That creates this sense of gratitude and worship. It also gives us a place of rest.

Going back to this thought of resting in the work, I think of Paul. He defines his ministry in his letter to the Colossians. This is towards the end of chapter one, where he says, “My desire is to bring everyone I meet, everyone I teach, every person to maturity in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). He says, “This I do with all of His energy which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29).

You think of the schedule – the ministry schedule of the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul – and we’re staggered by it. We want to set boundaries. We want to make limits. I’ll give this much of myself and then no more. I need to think of myself, my family, whatever. There’s a place for that, of course, but with the Apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus, nothing was ever measured out. They were able to pour out their lives – Jesus, because of the work of the Father within Him; Paul, because of the power, the sustained grace, the energy, and the pleasure that he found in serving.

Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.