Thanksgiving: Are We Committed To It?
Sometimes the circumstances of our lives are not always great. We can be tracking along just fine, and then get bumped or jostled off course.
In fact situations may become downright bad, BUT as believers in Jesus Christ there’s a high standard and expectation placed on us—we are to always look for something for which to be thankful.
Christ-followers are to be the most gracious and appreciative people on the planet. As the cliché says, we are to always look for the silver lining.
Consider the following illustration: Once upon a time, a young mother was out shoveling the driveway after a snowstorm. She was whistling and humming cheerfully as she laboriously piled and pushed heavy loads.
A neighbor came by and watched for a spell, then asked why her husband wasn’t out helping her. She stopped to explain that one of them had to stay inside to take care of their toddlers, so they’d drawn straws to decide who’d go out and clear the snow away.
“Sorry about your bad luck,” the man said, sounding sad.
The woman replied, “Don’t be sorry. I won.”
We can learn from the young lady’s outlook—she had a commitment to keep the silver lining in perspective.
I Thessalonians 5:18 - NIV
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
What can we glean from that one simple verse?
First, it’s a command—give thanks in all circumstances.
Second, it’s God’s will for us—for this is God’s will for you.
Third, it’s supernatural—in Christ Jesus.
In the real world where we all live our lives, NO ONE can give thanks in all circumstances—no one’s knee-jerk response to calamity or adversity is gratitude. Humanly speaking, it’s simply impossible because our sin nature is one-dimensional—selfish and self-absorbed.
But, in Christ Jesus, we are changed. According to Paul in a letter to believers at Corinth, we become new creatures, but I’ve noticed that carnality hangs tough and gets off the leash from time to time.
Scripture is clear that our me-centric, mine-obsessed perspective is transformed, though the totality of evidence reveals that the shedding of the self-instinct is not instantaneous. We wish it was a swift process—some might even proclaim it to be effortless, but not so.
However, when we are faithful in the application of effort our mindset undergoes adjustments. When we generate lots of spiritual sweat, then little by little our focus shifts away from a sole fascination with me and mine. We begin to filter the happenings around us through the grid of eternity, which can be a remarkable release from the shackles of the temporary.
In Christ Jesus, we are to look upward to our heavenly Father—we also ought to be continually determined to look outward and carry a concern for others.
Even when bad stuff happens, even when evil strikes close to home, in Christ Jesus we can be thankful for God’s presence and peace—we can be thankful that God is actively working out his purposes in our lives.
Is that ever easy? No, but whoever said living out Scriptural precepts was going to be easy? If one embraces soft-soap theology that assures easy-breezy paths covered with rose petals, then they’ve been deceived by lies from the pit of hell.
What we are promised is that no matter how troubling or worrisome life may become, we are not alone—we have this on the authority of Jesus, straight from his mouth: “And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Regardless of how arduous or demanding it might be to respond to upsets with thankfulness that is the task before us. When situations or hardships beat us down and just make no sense whatsoever, being in Christ Jesus means standing firm on God and the mysterious truth of his written revelation to us.
Romans 8:28 - NIV
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.
What part of in all things do we not understand? What part of God works for the good do we not grasp?
The point is this: If we are in Christ Jesus, then we love God and have been called according to his purpose, so exactly what portion of the command to give thanks in all circumstances do we not get?
We can be extremely thick-skulled and dense—we can miss what’s staring right at us. Many folks attend church week after week, month after month, year after year, and NEVER grasp four straightforward words that are the foundational truth of Scripture.
“In the beginning God. . .” are the first words of Genesis, the opening book in the Bible. These four words carry an enormous weight that seldom gets placed in the balance of our lives—the story we are immersed in is God’s story. Life is about God—life is about what God desires to accomplish in and through us.
We are to develop a commitment to thanksgiving, which can only happen as we intentionally keep our attention on who God is and who we are—to give thanks in the face of sorrows or difficulties we need to remember that every moment of our life is a gift from God.
If we truly viewed our life as a gift from God, would that not nurture in us a dedication to thanksgiving?
Let It Shine
Here’s an observation from experience: People do not complain because they have lots of problems—they have lots of problems because they complain.
Complaining doesn’t change anything or make situations better. On the contrary, grumbling amplifies frustrations, spreads discontent, and can invoke an open invitation for our enemy to wreak havoc in our lives. Grouching and grumping makes us miserable.
Given the choice, would you hang out with a sourpuss whiner or a positive, thankful person? Given the option, would you willingly choose to work with someone who acts like they were weaned on a poison pickle or with a person who has a cheerful smile?
What's tragic is if the sourpuss bellyacher is a believer—that’s a tragedy because as believers in Jesus Christ we are supposed to shine like stars in the universe. A griper doesn’t shine.
The flipside is that a positive and thankful person is a great witness in this dark world. We only shine when we are thankful. Our light shines brightly when we are genuinely thankful—when we live it and express it even while traveling along those murky avenues. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
If you’re a chronic complainer, why not make this little verse your theme verse—if you’re positive and thankful, sing it loud: Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Let’s have a moment of sheer, unadulterated honesty: Even in periods of economic downturns, within the affluence of North America, we have it so good—we enjoy so much, and all too often we express thanksgiving so little.
Snoopy can teach us a vital principle: In a Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown brings out Snoopy’s dinner on Thanksgiving Day. It was just his usual dog food in the bowl.
Snoopy took one look at it and said, “This isn’t fair. The rest of the world is eating turkey with all the trimmings and all I get is dog food. Because I’m a dog all I get is dog food.” He stood there eyeing the bowl for a moment, and then remarked, “It could be worse. I could be a turkey.” Snoopy found the silver lining.
Instead of fixating on the negatives in our lives and complaining, we must search for the positives and give thanks. Rather than wishing for what we don’t have, we are to be thankful for what we have been given. We need to work at developing the following kind of mindset:
I’m thankful for the tax bill that comes due all too often—why?—because it means I’m gainfully employed.
I’m thankful for my shadow who watches me work—why?—because it means I’m out in the sunshine.
I’m thankful for the hedges that need trimming, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing—why?—because it means I have a home.
I’m thankful for the rainstorm that postponed a family event—why?—because it nourishes the crops I’ll purchase at the farmer’s market.
I’m thankful for the parking spot I find at the far end of the lot—why?—because it means I’m capable of walking.
I’m thankful for my monthly heating bill—why?—because it means I’m warm and comfy.
I’m thankful for the boxes, tape, and chaos of moving—why?—because it means we’re preparing for a brand new adventure.
I’m thankful for the perspiration and aching muscles from a workout at the YMCA—why?—because it means I’m not under-loved or underfed.
I’m thankful for all the anti-government yammering on the airwaves—why?—because it means we have freedom of speech.
I’m thankful for the lady behind me in church who sings off key—why?—because it means I can hear and she makes me sound good.
I’m thankful for the piles of household tasks that never end—why?—because it means my loved ones are nearby.
I’m thankful when the alarm goes off and wakes me in the early morning hours—why?—because it means I’m alive and kicking.
I’m thankful for the weariness at the end of the day—why?—because it means I’ve been getting a job or two done.
To recap—I Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
It’s a command—give thanks in all circumstances.
It’s God’s will for us—for this is God’s will for you.
It’s supernatural—in Christ Jesus.
So, as Christ-followers, are we committed to thanksgiving?
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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