Thursday, November 25, 2010
I threw a party for myself this week - complete with cake, party hats, and noise-makers. But I wasn’t celebrating my birthday, or any other special occasion, or monumental milestone. The party in which I made myself guest of honor was in fact, a pity party.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in the midst of a trial and all you could focus on was YOU? It’s so easy to become caught up in our pain, and when that happens, an attitude of thankfulness is difficult to find among the selfish cries of, “why God?”
I once heard it said that we are too anxious to receive and too careless to give thanks. A perfect example of this is the story of the ten lepers found in Luke chapter 17. Jesus heals all ten of the men with leprosy after asking them to go and show themselves to the priests. All ten men received, but only one bothered to come back to thank Jesus for his healing. We are so quick to hurl our requests at God. Shouldn't we be even quicker to fling a word of thanks in His direction?
Why is it so important to foster a thankful heart regardless of our circumstances?
1.) Thankfulness is God’s will for our lives.
“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
2.) Thankfulness is a result of the goodness of God.
“Praise the Lord! Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1)
3.) Thankfulness is a form of worship.
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4)
4.) Thankfulness is a result of spiritual maturity.
“Let your roots grow down into him (Christ), and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:7)
Thankfulness is an attitude. It is never self-serving and always places the focus on the giver. A grateful heart means humbling a selfish spirit to acknowledge that something has been done for, or has been undeservingly received. Thankfulness is what God desires in response to His goodness, mercy and grace. It is an act of worship and should be a direct result of spiritual growth.
But, let’s revisit 1 Thessalonians 5 a bit further. Notice, it says to be thankful in “all circumstances”. Some versions state , “in everything”, or “whatever happens”. WOW! It doesn’t say, “be thankful when things are going well”. It doesn’t read, “have a grateful heart when you get what you want”. God asks us to live a life full of thankfulness no matter what trial, pain, or suffering we are enduring. So how in the world do we do it?
Grasping God’s Grace - I don’t believe Paul is urging us to be thankful in every circumstance to make us feel guilty, or to bog us down with a request we simply cannot handle. I believe Paul is suggesting that we take a look at how big our God is and how much grace He has to offer. His love is unfailing and His grace is abounding - in ALL things and in ALL circumstances. By His grace, God supplies the power we need to overcome.
Grasping God’s Eternal Perspective - Being thankful, regardless of the circumstances, begins with an eternal perspective and hope. I know that my salvation can never be taken away from me despite the trials I face here on this earth. The circumstances of this life will one day diminish. In heaven there will be no pain, no tears, no heartaches, no bills to pay, or people to satisfy. Our lives here are temporary, as is our sufferings.
Grasping God’s Goodness - The thankful Christian looks for the goodness of God in all circumstances. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t grumble if you don’t have what you want; be thankful you don’t get what you deserve.” We all deserve an eternity separated from God because of our guilt and sin. But God has saved us with the redeeming blood of His Son Jesus. His goodness provides us with the only way to eternal life. For every pain we selfishly focus on in our lives, there are countless blessings that are overlooked in the process.
Grasping God’s Purpose - “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We may not always recognize God’s purposes for our lives. In some circumstances, we will never completely comprehend why He allows us to experience the sufferings we go through. True contentment can only be born into our pains when we grasp the fact that God has a purpose. And even though it may not be revealed in our timing, it is a matter of trusting the One who holds us in the palm of His hand. For He who promised is faithful.
Thankfulness is so much more than comparing our own circumstances to someone else’s. Thankfulness is so much more than having plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over your head, money to get by, or good health. We so easily take all of these things for granted. For in a blink of an eye, any of these things could disappear.
Thankfulness is a state of being and a way of life. Let’s make an effort today to recognize the blessings we’ve come to take for granted. Let’s focus on what we have rather than on what we don’t have. It’s easy to be thankful for the good things in life, but a life of true fulfillment can come to those who are also thankful for their setbacks - despite the temptation to break out the cake, the party hats, and the noise-makers.