Do You Have a Thankful Heart?

What if I were to tell you that I know what God’s will is for your life? Sound a little iffy?

Actually, I do. I can tell you that it’s God’s will for you to be thankful.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

That’s pretty clear. And I didn’t say it, God did.

So what does it mean to give thanks in all circumstances? We’ve heard sermons on how this doesn’t mean we are thankful FOR all circumstances, we just have to be thankful IN them. But really, what is the difference? No, we don’t have to say thank you God for cancer or for tragic accidents, but we can still say thank you God that we don’t walk through any of it alone. We can be thankful for what God will teach us as we walk through. No, we don’t have to like what is happening but we can still find something to be thankful for. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted so each life circumstance has some sort of value in eternity. We might never guess what that value is as we are in the midst of a terrible situation, but God knows the value and must have decided it was worth it or he would never have allowed it in the first place.

As I watched my mother die of cancer over an 18 month period, I had a hard time being thankful. But at her funeral, my father came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Was it worth it? I think if I could ask my mother today, as she sits at the Lord’s feet, she would say it was absolutely worth it.

How do you remain thankful when you are watching a loved one die an agonizing death? Or when a friend has lost a child? Or when a marriage has disintegrated beyond repair? God could have prevented those tragedies and yet, He allowed them. How can we be thankful?

We are thankful that God is still good. We are thankful that God is still a loving, caring God. We are thankful that God walks with us through every step of every journey he calls us to. Life is difficult. We can easily forget to look for the things to be thankful for.

I recently read a book called Lessons I Learned in the Dark: Steps to Walking by Faith, Not by Sight by Jennifer Rothschild. She talks about how she lost her sight at the age of 15 and how she’s learned to be thankful for her life in the 30 years since that time. In the book she says,  “I genuinely thank God for what I do have, because it’s so much greater than what I’ve lost.”

And, Dietrich Bonhoeffer perhaps summed it all up the best when he said,” Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy.”

Life is bittersweet at times and we must never allow ourselves to hang on to the bitter at the expense of the sweet. Thank God today for where you are, because He is right there with you. Sorrow may last for a night, but joy comes in the morning. Be thankful for the morning!

Does Not Play Well With Others

When my boys were young there was a family we got together with on a regular basis. This family had young boys too and when our families were together they enjoyed playing with each other. All except one boy. It seemed strange, but when I would see this mother with just this particular boy, he would be well behaved and a pleasure to talk to. However, when he was together with his brother and several of my boys there was a transformation. He could not get along with any of them. He was constantly tattling and arguing and just being contrary. He was a perfect candidate for the label “does not play well with others.”

It’s sad, but I see this all the time in the adult world as well, and Christians are not exempt.  One of my boys works for a car dealership and he made a statement the other day that has made me think. He said it was disappointing to see how many of the rude, demanding and grouchy customers were the ones with Christian bumper stickers on their cars and their radios set to Christian radio stations.

We have no excuse to ever be contrary to anyone. If you check the scriptures there are four groups of people mentioned.

Our enemiesLuke 6:27: But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.

Other believers. John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Neighbors. Romans 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Strangers. Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

We would have a difficult time finding a person who is not in one of these groups. In every case, we are to show love and kindness. We should never be in a situation where we are the ones wearing the tee shirt that says ” doesn’t play well with others.” Be like Jesus to the people you encounter today.

Still Waters

Have you ever gone to a lake and skipped stones? What happens to the surface when you throw a stone into water? Or how about going on a windy day? What does the wind do to the water’s surface? In both cases, the surface of the water is disturbed.

I  recently read a quote from a German philosopher named Hans Margolius  that said “Only in quiet waters do things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.”

It’s easy to see the significance of this observation. When we are disturbed or anxious by the things that impact our lives, we have a distorted view of life. We can’t see things as they really are. We must be willing to calm our hearts, casting our cares on the Lord so that we may see and understand what God is trying to show us. The reflection is made clearer by our willingness to let go of our anxiety. The only way that happens is for us to drop our rocks and wait for the water to become still.

The Lord has much to teach us if we are willing to still the waters.

Proverbs 17:27  The one who knows much says little; an understanding person remains calm. (MSG)

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

Take the Stairs

At the mall, my husband and I take the stairs as often as possible. We avoid the escalators and elevators because we know that we need the exercise whenever we can get it. Sometimes we get funny looks when we choose to climb a flight of stairs while other shoppers relax as they ride effortlessly to the next level. As they ride, those other folks can casually look around, taking in all the distractions happening in every direction. We, on the other hand, must pay attention to our climb or risk losing our footing and taking a tumble.

I believe our walk with the Lord is the same way. God didn’t design our walk with him to be a mindless ride where we glide along without a thought of where we’re going or how we are getting there. He intended for us invest some effort into growing in our relationship with him. He intended for us to pay attention to our daily walk with each step. We aren’t supposed to begin our life with Christ by taking that first step toward him as we take the first step on an escalator and then just relax and enjoy the ride.

The destination is important, but what we invest in the journey we take to get there is of immeasurable value.

Choose today to be intentional in your relationship with Christ. Choose today to take the stairs.

Philippians 3:12-14  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.