THANKFULNESS

Read Time 9 Minutes

Once again it’s the season of love, caring and kindness.  It feels so wonderful . . . we have a spring in our step . . . we think of our lives in review not only to enjoy the good times and adventures again, but also to seek areas in which we might improve.  The area of focus God is bringing to my attention this year is the lack of Thankfulness.

Once the Holy Spirit brings this issue to the forefront and you begin to study the repercussions of an unthankful heart, alarm bells should begin to go off.

Romans 1:21 Amp – Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

21 Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened.

The startling point about the verse to me, was not that ingratitude is displeasing to God, but the result of which He so clearly outlines. The outcome is a primrose path to a place no one should want to go – futile and godless thinking with a darkened, senseless mind.

As a Mississippi girl, the first analogy that popped into my mind was a frog dropped into nice warm water.  Initially, he could easily just jump right out, but he was enjoying his swim so much while the temperature slowly climbed, he didn’t notice what was happening to him.  Before too long, he was overcome with his own leisure.

The minute we think we have God all figured out and everything under control, we’re swimming in a warm bath with no way out.  His ways are not our ways and the moment we begin to take God for granted we begin the trek to become futile and godless in our thinking and ultimately darkened in our minds.

God will not be taken for granted, ever.  Yet, many in America today, even in the Church, have enjoyed the blessings of God for so long we believe they are ours By Right . . . we believe we deserve them.

A former Google engineer has applied for 501C3 Non-Profit status for his new Church of Artificial Intelligence, called The Way of the Future.  Isn’t this just a perfect example of godless thinking and a senseless darkened mind?  Now, I recognize there are more than a few steps between failing to say, “Lord, I thank you for the food I am about to enjoy, the family around me and friends who love and care about me” to opening a Church of AI.  But, doesn’t futile thinking begin somewhere not completely obvious?

Praying about this and pondering it, I believe it begins with our failure to understand the difference between in and for.  I know you think it can’t be that simple, but it is.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Most of the folks I know, and I am thankful for every single one of you, have no problem giving thanks in your blessings.  The brand new, healthy grandbaby, the new house, the acceptance to college for the one you thought might never make it or the promotion at work all bring forth showers of praise and thanksgiving.

Where we often fall short is the day we’re stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire and a flat spare.  Especially difficult is the day of the cancer diagnosis or heart attack.  That’s the day most of us look up and say, “Why me, Lord.”  The Word didn’t change, the circumstances did.  We are still required to praise Him IN the circumstance, not FOR it.  Always the greatest example in scripture is Jesus.

Luke 22:19-20 KJV Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

The passage is from the Lord’s supper, just prior to the Crucifixion and Jesus was giving thanks in the circumstance.  He was about to suffer the most ignominious death imaginable with brutal beatings and public shame beforehand, yet he gave thanks.  I am convinced He did not merely give thanks FOR the bread or the cup or what He was about to suffer.  He was giving us the clearest of examples of how to give Thanks IN a situation more horrendous than any we will ever face.  He explained the bread represented the breaking of His own body and the cup represented the spilling of His own blood, yet He gave thanks IN the circumstance which would bring about our redemption.

Matthew 11:25 ESV Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;

The wisdom of man leads us to be thankful when things go our way and the perceived gain is evident for all to see.  Only the true revelation of God, the things hidden from the wise, allows us to see and recognize the greatest opportunities, the areas in which we are being refined.  Daily tribulation should cause us to draw closer to Him, to be more daily dependent upon His direction, if we simply choose to notice and do so.

The gems we fail to see are in the thorns, when we take the gifts and trials of life and the things of God for granted.  Nine of the ten lepers took their healing for granted.

Luke 17:11-19 ESV – Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”

The lepers all stood at a distance, for their disease was so horrific and highly contagious they were not allowed to approach the citizenry.  Yet, Jesus saw their condition, was moved by their plight and healed them all.  Ten Lepers were healed and cleansed and, apparently, all except one were from Judea.  The one exception was the Samaritan, only half Jewish and despised by those of the Temple and even the other lepers.

Only the foreigner, the lowest of the lowly returned to give thanks.  His genuine gratitude is obvious, for he falls to the ground at Jesus feet to thank him.  Because his heart of thanks was evident, Jesus told him to rise and go, for his faith had made him well.  I believe the man received an additional blessing of salvation as well as healing, for he responded “in faith”.

The greatest lesson we can learn from the leper, is not only the blessings which come with thankfulness, but the infinite blessing which comes from true gratitude in situations others take for granted.

The measure of those who are the elect versus the ones chosen offers another cautionary tale.  All scripture tells us the Hebrews are the elect and nothing will change their status.  However, they have a personal responsibility and choice to accept or reject Messiah in gratitude. Israel’s leaders were not only ungrateful, they denied Jesus’ purpose and deity.  Many who will read this message, would not have the opportunity to know and follow our Savior, if not for their grievous error.  For this we should be Thankful for all eternity!  But, how often do we behave as the Judeans did, as though the blessing is our right?

The Syrophoenician woman asked for the bread of the children, a demon to be cast from her daughter, yet she was willing to beg for crumbs for her daughter.  Not once did she assume the help was her right or take for granted Jesus would respond.

Mark 7:25-30 – Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

25 But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 28 But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

Can we even imagine her gratitude, her thankfulness?  She judged the heart of the Savior rightly, for He will never deny faith from any person. But, her heart of non-expectancy won His heart.

I saw recently one of the most egregious examples of the lack of thankfulness. Three Basketball Players from USC were in China and arrested for shoplifting.  The President obtained their release, yet one of the fathers spoke openly of his ingratitude and their entitlement to be released and even maintained they should have been returned on Air Force One.

This attitude, while recently a young man’s release was negotiated from a N. Korea prison and he died shortly after returning home from the torture he endured while imprisoned.  This attitude, while another young American has been in a Chinese jail for over a year with no hope on the horizon for release.  As egregious and inexplicable as the father’s response was, many in this country and the media agreed with his sentiment.

My point has absolutely nothing to do with politics.  My point is the evidence exhibited of an America where generations have been raised with a sense of entitlement and an attitude of ingratitude we have never seen before.  We saw a clear and present example of a society which has become futile and godless in their thinking and their senseless minds have been darkened.

If we are entitled to the blessings we enjoy, what do we have to be thankful for?  If we allow ourselves to move into the mental place of, “I deserve this”, “I am owed that”, “the benefit is my right because I am a human being”, it is no longer a blessing or a gift which will or should elicit thankfulness.

Many, even and perhaps especially in the Christian faith, believe because we do x, y, or z we “deserve” what we have or even more.  The thinking in your heart of what you deserve speaks to a failure to recognize the source.  Is it about you and what you “do” for Him or is it about God and His Magnanimous, Beneficent gifts to His children?

Thankfulness must be our own internal gauge, our method of reckoning our heart status.  It tells us where we are in our relationship first with God and then with others.  If we stop being thankful, we don’t give up our belief in the Virgin Birth, Jesus’ Death on the Cross or the Resurrection – we don’t lose our salvation, but we lose the closeness of dependency and reliance on the Savior.  We fall woefully short in sanctification and the return trip could be a very rocky one.

How is it possible to be thankful in the most difficult storms of life?  

Matthew 14:25-30 ESV – – Highlight and Underline Emphasis Mine

25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

The disciples were certainly fearful for their life, there was no apparent good in the raging storm and yet in these circumstances they would be given the greatest gift of all.  First, they sought their source.  Then Peter walked on the water and all in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Our moments of walking on the water for Jesus come not from the top of the mountain, but from the valley, when we call to Him in fear, in despair and in praise and thankfulness . . .  and in every circumstance!

What does this mean in our everyday, walking around life?  Salvation and its accompanying blessings are given to those who Trust in Jesus Finished Work on the Cross as a gift.  It is not our right, nor do we deserve Him or His Blessings.   His Blood Atonement is a gift given freely and at the greatest cost imaginable.  Are we thankful?  Do our actions match our tearful, glowing testimony on Sunday morning or have our minds become darkened?

Do not forget to thank Him in all those difficult moments . . . for it is then you will learn to . . . Walk on the Water!

Thanks for taking time for me . . . 

BLESSINGS,

Sherry Driskell Griffin

P. S. If this was a Blessing to you . . . be a Blessing and pass it along!

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