“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his faithful love endures forever.” ~ Psalm 107:1 CSB
The Bible says a lot about being thankful. In fact, it is commanded often.
Even though I know should be thankful and have much to be thankful for, I struggle with having a thankful heart. Nearly everything in this world seems to lead me down a path of seeking my own happiness. A self-inflating culture stands in opposition to true thankfulness.
For years I’ve been told I am always right and I deserve things to be “my way, right away.” There are few attitudes that are as anti-biblical and anti-Christian as these. (For this writing I am speaking from the consumer side, not the customer service side – much could be said of the value of these approaches as a customer service professional.) As followers of Jesus, we are to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than [ourselves]… [looking] out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) When we are truly looking out for others, it will be hard to be consumed with our own selfish desires. A common side effect of shifting our focus from ourselves to others is a grateful attitude for what we already have.
James 1:17 reminds us that “every good and perfect gift is from above… .” Gifts such as air to breathe, clothes to wear, a roof over my family’s head, healthy kids, a job that provides for my families needs and many of our wants, an incomparable wife whose depth of service to her family is immeasurable, friends and family who encourage and challenge me to follow Jesus and live a holy lifestyle, and so much more.
I have much to be thankful for. So much in fact, I should easily be able to follow Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything.” So what prevents me from having a thankful heart? Discontentment.
Discontentment is the enemy of a thankful heart. With the world around me telling me to pursue my own happiness at all cost, discontentment is always close by, lurking in the shadows. Paul tells the church in Philippi “in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” So what’s the secret? The answer is found in verse 13 – in Christ. Paul’s contentment was the result of a lifestyle of not worrying about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, as the peace of God surpassed all his understanding and guarded his heart and mind in Christ Jesus. He recognized that his life is dependent on Christ, and in Christ, he can do all things. (Philippians 4:6-7,11-13)
One of the prayers I pray with and for myself and my kids is that we will constantly pursue a thankful heart through contentment. Not just during the season of Thanksgiving, but all year ’round. As we follow Jesus, our lives, like Paul’s, should be marked by contentment and a thankful heart.
For a little #ThrowbackThursday fun, check out the VeggieTales video below “The Thankfulness Song”
Psalm 78 begins with a beautiful picture of what a community of faith should look like as they strive to cross generational boundaries and be faithful to pass on the most important things to future generations. Then the psalmist gives a brief summary and commentary describing the wonders God showed to the Israelites during the Exodus and beyond.
As I read through Psalm 78, my heart swells as I identify with verses like:
“But they continued to sin against him.” (v17)
“Despite all this, they kept sinning…” (v32)
“How often they rebelled against him…and grieved him…” (v40)
Then we get verses 38-39. Oh, what a beautiful verses!! “Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh…”
Even in the midst of constant disobedience and disbelief in the wonders He performed for His people, God was compassionate and often turn his anger aside. Amen, and thank you, Lord!
As I read, my heart is moved. Thank you, God, for being patient with me, too. Thank You that You are “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” (Psalm 103:8) Thank you that you are not finished with me yet. (Philippians 1:6)
What makes your life worth living?
Money? Notoriety? Legacy? Family? Job? In 21st Century America there is no shortage of things that vie for our affection.
“But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” ~ Philippians 3:7-8
Oh, how I pray to have this outlook on life!
God, make my spiritual hunger and thirst so strong that I would count everything else in my life as lost in comparison to my satisfaction and purpose in You.
Years ago there was a song called “He’s Still Working on Me” which said “how loving and patient He must be ’cause He’s still working on me.” (https://youtu.be/AGjrqV-EOfg)
Last week on Good Friday, we celebrated the completed work of salvation in Jesus’ death on the cross. However, His work of sanctification continues on in the lives of Christians all around the world as we are “conformed into the image of [Jesus].” (Romans 8:29-30)
In my daily struggle between a willing Spirit and a weak flesh (Matthew 26:41), I am thankful for the confidence that “He’s still working on me.”
Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus
“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2a (CSB)
Think of people you know who have “run the race” of faith well. People who seemingly soared in their growth and devotion to God. These people should be examples to us that an “all in” life for Jesus is not only possible, but living “all in” for Jesus gives us the most satisfying and abundant life we could desire. Following the great examples from the “Hall of Faith” in chapter eleven, the writer of Hebrews issues 3 challenges we should consider for our personal faith race.
1. Lay aside anything that competes to steer your attention away from God, such as sin, fear, inadequacies, etc. Anything that might distract you from loving God with your whole heart, soul, and mind must be relinquished (paraphrased from Matthew 22:37, see also 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 2:20).
2. Run with endurance. Endurance can be defined as the “strength to continue… despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/endurance) Paul said one thing I do: forgetting what is behind I press on to what is ahead (paraphrased from Philippians. 3:13b).
3. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Jesus said we should love Him with ALL we are. He’s not interested in just having the largest compartment of your life; He wants you to filter your life through Him.
God, reveal to me anything that hinders me from loving You with all I am and grant me the strength to lay it aside.