Monday, March 10, 2008

Displaying Gratitude

In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB)

Giving thanks for everything seems like an oxymoron. Twenty-first-century society tells us that this is an unrealistic expectation. However, the Bible directs us to give thanks for everything (1 Thess. 5:18). A study of Christian biographies reveals that God's "giants" were people who knew how to praise the Lord in the midst of suffering. God used their lives to impact others because they knew how to give thanks - even in difficulties.

The unsaved world is accustomed to hearing people complain; they really don't know what to do with people who are joyfully praising the Lord! It is a sober realization that a complaining Christian will be a pitiful witness of her faith; in reality, she is too much like the world to have much effect on it. Are you the type of Christian whose prayer list is filled with personal wants, while your praise list stays the same or shrinks? Or are you choosing to be a wise Christian who offers praise and thanksgiving daily? Your response to these questions determines your level of spiritual maturity.

The excerpt below is called "An Exercise in Thanksgiving," taken from the book New Every Morning by Philip E. Howard Jr. (You may have heard of his daughter, Elisabeth Elliot.) This excerpt tells us a lot about his character:

Blessings taken for granted are often forgotten, yet our Heavenly Father daily loadeth us with benefits. Think of some of the common things which are nevertheless wonderful:
  • the intricate, delicate mechanism of the lungs steadily and silently taking in fresh air 18 to 20 times a minute,
  • the untiring heart pumping great quantities of clean blood through the labryinth of blood vessels,
  • the constant body temperature normally varying less than one degree,
  • the atmospheric temperature (varying widely, it is true, but never so much as to destroy human and animal life),
  • the orderly succession of day and night, spring, summer, autumn, and winter, so that with few exceptions man can make his plans accordingly,
  • the great variety of foods from the farm, the field, the forest and the sea, to suit our differing desires and physical needs,
  • the beauties of each day, the morning star and growing light of sunrise, the white clouds of afternoon, the soft tints of a peaceful sunset and the glory of the starry heavens,
  • the symphony of early morning bird songs, ranging from the unmusical trill of the chirping sparrow to the lilting ectasy of the gold finch and the calm, bell-like tones of the wood and hermit thrushes,
  • the refreshment that sleep brings,
  • the simple joys of home - the children's laughter and whimsical remarks, happy times around the table, the love and understanding of husband and wife, and the harmony of voices raised together in praise to God...
All these and many others come from the beautiful hand of Him who redeemeth thy life from destruction, who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's [Psalm 103 KJV].

Is this how you think naturally? I admit it's not my normal "bent." Too often I am like the nine lepers who were healed of a disease that labeled them as outcasts of society; they wanted the gift of healing but failed to give thanks to the Lord Jesus (Luke 17:11-19) once it was bestowed. We all must work harder to cultivate this attitude of gratitude that is so opposite from the mindset of our culture.

This piece of prose written by Priscilla Maurice (1810-54) and published in the September 16 selection of Joy and Strength gives some practical advice for how to start cultivating this sense of gratitude for all things:

Begin with thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise: thus you will find their numbers grow wonderfully; and, in the same proportion, will your subjects of murmuring and complaining diminish, until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving. If you cannot begin with anything positive, begin with something negative. If your whole lot seems only filled with causes for discontent, at any rate there is some trial that has not been appointed to you; and you may thank God for its being withheld from you. It is certain that the more you try to praise, the more you will see how your path and your lying down are beset with mercies, and that the God of love is ever watching to do you good.

Admittedly, it is not easy to look up and say, "Thank you, Lord," when circumstances are challenging. However, it is a necessary reaction and one that demonstrates you are exercising your will rather than your emotions. While our Lord may not change your circumstances, praise will affect what the circumstances do to you. Just as we delight in hearing others express gratitude to us, so God finds great delight in hearing His children say, "Thank You." He inspired the psalmist to write, "It is good to give thanks to the Lord" (Psalm 92:1). Since saying, "Thank You," pleases God and encourages others, we should do it often!

This material adapted from the book Becoming a Woman Who Pleases God by Pat Ennis and Lisa Tatlock.


Kim said...

Jennifer...this made me tear up...such a beautiful message about our Lord! Your blog is gorgeous and I can tell the spiritual depth of it is going to bring me back again and again!

I am revamping somethings on my blog...can I add yours as a link on my blogroll?

Have a great day!

Jennifer said...

Thank you for your kind words. As I was reading this chapter yesterday, I was just really moved to post it. I don't know how often I will be posting, but you're welcome to put it on your blogroll.

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