Saturday afternoon I sat in the kitchen of a beautiful country home eating one of the best potluck meals ever with a group of old friends. The fire in the wood stove crackled away, while we chatted, laughed, told stories and reminisced. Later that evening we all journeyed over to a local church for an evening of country gospel music. Again, we had a chance to reconnect with some great friends from our past and make some new acquaintances.
As I look back on that day I can’t help but be glad. There are many things in our lives to be thankful for if we just take a minute to think about them. I’m thankful for this beautiful little town that I live in, I’m thankful for new friends, and old friends, I’m thankful for the wonder of my children, and I’m thankful for the grace of God that saved a wretch like me. What are you thankful for? What are the blessings that you have every day of your life that you take for granted?
In Romans chapter one are these words, “for although they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.” (v. 21) If we claim to know God should we not give honor to Him and thanks to Him? Maybe, at its basic core, sin is simply the refusal to give thanks to God for all that He has done for us. After all, if we are not willing to give thanks and honor to Him, it must be because we either are too indifferent towards God or we think that we are better than God. Poor indeed is the person who receives a great gift but refuses it or is too self-absorbed to give proper thanks to the person who gave the gift.
There is a great story in the gospel of Luke about Jesus healing ten lepers, and you can read about it in chapter 17:11-19. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when ten lepers who came begging for healing, confronted him. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests and when they did they were “cleansed”. What is interesting about the story is that only one of the former lepers came back to thank Jesus. “Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” (V. 15, 16)
The Samaritan came back and fell at the feet of Jesus giving thanks for his changed life. The other nine just wandered off happy with what just happened to them. But without a second thought about the One who changed them from outcasts, who would die separated from family and friends, into new life.
Look in the back of your Bible and read in the index all the references to thanksgiving and thankfulness. Look them up and you will be surprised about how important this simple concept of thankfulness is to our relationship with God. If we are not thankful to God then we do not have a concept of the sinfulness of our souls. If we are not thankful to God neither do we have an understanding of the cross and the love that led Jesus to it.
I’ve been thinking lately about my prayer life and feeling that something isn’t just right with it. My mother always said that we should count our blessings but I never understood until years later. When we come to God in prayer it is easy to come wanting and expecting something from God, but how often do we come in humility and thanksgiving for all of those blessings.
I have a challenge for each of us and that is to start being thankful for the blessings that God has given us. I guarantee that when you start looking around you will find scores of reasons to be thankful. Then thank God in prayer for these blessings. You will find your prayers go from a checklist to a heartfelt talk with God. Share those blessings with others through kindness and compassion. As we draw closer to God through our thanksgiving we find new humility and a better understanding of the holiness and wonder of God. We find thanksgiving in the sacrifice that God gave for us that we might have eternal life. Our eyes drift away from our own performance and wants and become fixed upon the grace of God. We also become healthier and more productive Christians because we are rejoicing in the positive and turning away from the negatives in life.
Paul writes in his first letter to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”(V. 5:16-18) Notice the will of God in Christ Jesus for you; rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances. For the next week let’s ask God to give us the strength and courage through the working of the Holy Spirit to rejoice instead of complaining, pray with a humble heart instead of a checklist, and constantly give thanks for all His blessings.