“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV) This short verse has occupied my thoughts for several weeks, the theme of my November sermons, the challenge of my personal life. The Spirit is calling me (and you) to bring thankfulness to God to the forefront of our mind. G.K. Chesterton wrote that we need to get in the habit of “taking things with gratitude and not taking things for granted.”
A Christian who wants to reflect the heart of Jesus to the world will learn to be grateful – to God, to others – consistently. It takes practice, discipline, and prayer! Self (ego) will devour as much attention as we give to it. If we believe that gratitude is a reaction, something we ‘feel’ rather than an intentional choice, we will only find thanks on those days when the kids are mysteriously wonderful and kind to each other, when our spouse is especially attentive to our needs, when our coffee is served ‘just right,’ and everyone on the road is courteous. If we wait for some emotion to find us, we will not be thankful very often. It’s a simple command, but true – choose thanks as a way of life. (See the opening line today.)
Henri Nouwen discovered the importance of intentional thanks. “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
If we allow our mind to wander in the maze of ‘if only’ and ‘could be’ we will not find the joy of gratitude to God for this day and the unique opportunities it presents. Every moment that I spend daydreaming about different circumstances is a moment where I am not present right where I am. That does not mean that I cannot work to change things, or that I cannot acknowledge pain or disappointment. Gratitude is not escapism, nor is it denial. Gratitude finds God in the now and accepts His grace.
Here are a few practical suggestions for making Thanksgiving a richer day. They are not novel, not profound, but true.
Begin the day with thanks to God.
Be thoughtful, getting beyond “Thank you, Lord, for all You have done.” Make it personal.
Make your first words to someone else be thankful.
If you start with God, this will flow more naturally.
Should irritation stir in you, (and if you’re with large family groups, it surely may) meet it with a choice to be thankful and replace it with a positive thought about that person who is getting under your skin.
You might even want to attempt to write your own “Psalm.” (Model it after Psalm 103)
“Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit and
crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2-5, NIV)
Thankfulness is contagious. A person who is genuinely filling up life with gratitude will inspire others to be grateful.
Here is the word from the Word. Let’s live it, honoring the Lord with an attitude of gratitude!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.” (Psalm 107:1-2, NLT)
“Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Let them exalt him publicly before the
congregation and before the leaders of the nation.” (Psalm 107:31-32, NLT)
I pray a most rich and blessed Thanksgiving for you!
There will be a service of thanksgiving at Faith Discovery, Weds., 11/27, at 7 PM.
CoffeeBreak will be back next Monday, 12/2.
You’re invited to be a part of our Advent observance starting Sunday.
Our theme is the “Cast of Christmas,” encouragement to participate in the preparation for the Coming of the Savior and King.