Like you, my thoughts are turning toward Thanksgiving Day. Turkey, family, football, mashed potatoes, friends, and maybe a nap! Oh, and remembering to thank our great God for Who He is and what He has done. Will you remember the “thankful” part of Thanksgiving?
I just want to ask you three questions.
First question: Am I a thankful person?
I’m not asking if you think if I am; I’m asking you to ask yourself the question, “Am I a thankful person?” Are you? Well, let’s go to school on thankfulness just for a moment here. There are three levels of thankfulness. Grade school. High school. Graduate school.
Grade School: Thankful. Just thankful. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Let us offer onto God the sacrifice of praise.” That is the fruit of lips giving thanks to His name. Level one—grade school is the sacrifice of thankfulness. “Thanks God. Okay? Is that what You want to hear? Okay. That’s right. You did do that for me. Thanks.” Now that’s not nothing, but it’s not much. As long as thankfulness is just a sacrifice, like, “Well, I’ll do it if I have to, I guess”, you might get to the edge of the Promised Land, but you won’t find a lot of the joy that’s there.
But there is a better place. We’ll call level two—high school thankfulness. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” In every situation, I can always find something to be thankful for. Always. I can make that decision. I could look away from what’s wrong and focus on what’s right and give thanks. “In everything give thanks.” That’s kind of a high school version.
But if you want the real joy—if you want to be done with the poverty-cheerless-joyless-wilderness thing, level three—higher education is thankful for all things. Ephesians 5:18-20, “Be filled with the Spirit, giving thanks always to God for all things.” Even the bad things. Even the things you wouldn’t choose.
Maybe you have a health crisis or a great sorrow that won’t go away. Maybe you’ve got a financial need. Get to the place, by faith, where you can thank God for that thing—“Thank You, God. This is the thing that You’re using in my life. Thank You, God, for that!” When you can do that, get ready for the land flowing with milk and honey.
Second question is: Am I seeing the blessings of thankfulness in my life?
Am I? Am I seeing the blessings of thankfulness in my life and the joy that comes with that? Or is my life like a wilderness?
What percentage of my thought life is focused on good, positive, praiseworthy things? How often do I go out of my way to recognize with gratitude a person that God has used to bless me? A parent or a neighbor or a friend or a Small Group leader. Is thankfulness part of the discipline of my life, and am I seeing the blessings of that?
Third and last: Am I choosing thankfulness over complaining moment by moment?
Am I choosing thankfulness over complaining? Because it’s at a moment. It’s like freeze-frame! Am I choosing thankfulness right now? Am I? Remember, attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time.
Find a 3” x 5” card, but don’t write on it. Take it and put it on a photocopier and make three hundred sixty-five of them. Then put it by your night-stand. Now I’m telling you, in Jesus’ name, you fill out that card every night before you go to bed. Big things. Little things. Something good today. Things you’re thankful for.
You lay your head down to sleep with that on your mind. You get up in the morning and you read that before you begin your day. That will change your life—that will absolutely change your life. You say you want to live in the Promised Land? Do you want to know the fullness and the fulfillment that only God can bring?
Nobody’s life is perfect, but we dilute the complaints of life with thankfulness. It’s all a matter of perspective. It’s what we choose to focus on. God’s fullness comes to those who turn from complaining and embrace thankfulness as the focus of their thought life.