Gratitude in Action

By Felicia Searcy

The story of how Jesus fed the five thousand is a wonderful illustration of the practice of gratitude as a causative agent. You’ll recall from your Bible studies that Jesus had been teaching all day to a crowd of thousands of men, women, and children on a hillside. Evening came, and the people were hungry. Dealing with 5,000 or so restless, hungry people in the middle of the desert would certainly have been a challenge.

Jesus’ disciples knew this and started to get a bit nervous; in fact, they tried to whisk Jesus out of there before the crowd became too disorderly. I see them as first-century secret service ready to put Jesus into a chariot and get him out of there fast.

But Jesus would not have any of that. First he suggested to the disciples that they feed everyone. They reacted with a doubter’s typical response: “How do you expect us to take care of all of these people? What could you possibly be thinking?” You can almost hear them mumbling among themselves about how Jesus had been in the sun too long and must be suffering from heatstroke.

Jesus then took the matter into his own hands and asked those around him to gather any food they could find among the crowd. There was a young boy in the crowd who had two loaves of bread and five fish to share. Making no judgment, Jesus acknowledged what he had, and with poise and confidence, he took the bread and fish and blessed them. …

According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, to bless means “to confer prosperity or happiness upon.” When Jesus blessed the fish and loaves, he saw the appearance of prosperity and gave thanks for it. His gratitude gave him the ability to look beyond the appearance of insufficiency and instead see the potential waiting in the invisible realm.

Unlike Jesus, we get locked into appearances. We perceive things with our senses and form opinions that create our beliefs, and then claim that what we see is the gospel truth.

Jesus taught us to look beyond what our five senses tell us to the realm of Spirit, or the invisible, and to give thanks for what we know is present even though we might not be able to see it. Blessing something with the power to confer goodness is another way of saying “thank you” in advance.

Charles Fillmore, cofounder of Unity, wrote in his book Prosperity that scientists were close to discovering how to manifest items from the ether. Is it possible that one day we may be able to literally pull a loaf of bread out of thin air? Who knows? But it may have been what happened on that hillside thousands of years ago.

Later in that book, Fillmore shared how God is the substance from which everything is created. God is not the man in the sky who drops food at our doorstep; rather, God fills us with divine ideas and guidance that, when followed, result in the outer satisfaction of our needs and desires. Whether we pull what we need from thin air or heed the direction from divine inspiration, gratitude is an important ingredient in unlocking the divine power and presence of Spirit.

However it happened that day on the hillside, Jesus fed thousands of people—either with actual food, by his words, or both—and as a result, his listeners were changed by the event. They became more aware of God’s good in their lives. Something life-transforming happened that day, and its effects continue to reverberate. And giving thanks in advance was a vital part of the day’s lesson.

We in the modern world say “thank you” in advance all the time. Think of the times you have ordered something over the phone. You described the item and even provided your credit card information, trusting that within a given amount of time, the mail carrier would drop off the item at your house. You then thanked the salesperson for his or her service and the item.

Expressing thanks in advance with God is no different. We’re acknowledging a need and giving thanks before actually having it met. As Jesus showed us, in order for our thanks to be effective, we must ask from a state of trust or belief that our requests will be fulfilled. …

When we live in a state of gratitude, our focus shifts to the good in our lives, on what is working. This does not mean that we are in denial. We are not ignoring the facts in our lives. But Jesus modeled faith that God, or Infinite Substance, is always present and active, even when that presence is not obvious. He understood that he was the channel through which this energy expressed itself. He built his life around this belief, and it showed.

Again, he knew that the food he had before him was not enough, but he focused on the unlimited supply of substance, and God as the infinite supplier of good. Jesus saw how substance flowed through him because he was a channel for God’s abundance. He didn’t see God as a withholder of good. He understood that even in physical form, he was not separate from the Father.

Rev. Felicia Blanco Searcy, ordained in 2008, was the founding minister of Unity Church of Life in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She is now a professional speaker, coach, author, minister, and certified Life Mastery Consultant. She wrote the book Do Greater Things: Following in Jesus' Footsteps, which explores the spiritual teachings of Jesus. For more information, visit www.feliciasearcy.com.