Ive spent a lot of time waiting for everything to be right. I kept thinking that sooner or later all the problems would be solved, all the relationships would be mended, all the unhappy people would become happy, all the dangers would end, and all those who didnt believe in Jesus or stubbornly refused to obey Him would see the light. And as time passed many problems were solved, and many relationships were mended, and many unhappy people became happy, and certain dangers have ended, and many have seen the light. But even while these old challenges were being resolved, new ones emerged. No sooner had I finished rejoicing over something that had gone right, than something else started to go wrong. So Ive come to see that at any particular moment of life there will be good things and bad things going on. If I let my mind focus on the bad things I can spiral downward into sadness, and sometimes bad news arrives in bunches and it seems like there are forces intent on taking my joy away. But Ive also found I can decide to stop listening to negativity, at least for a while, and turn my thoughts to God and the blessings He has given me. Its not always easy. Looking at whats good can be harder than youd expect. Yet, if I hold my mind steady on those things, my sorrowful mood will evaporate and a warm sense of Gods goodness will envelope me. Im old enough now to know there will always be something to worry about. My peace of mind mustnt depend on all my problems getting solved, because new ones will always be waiting. But peace is also waiting whenever I deliberately start thanking God for all the good things Hes done for me.
A. Philippians 4:4-9
v 4 Paul tells us it is possible to rejoice in the Lord independent of the circumstances in our lives.
v 5 He wants us to react to trouble and offense with patient reasonableness rather than becoming emotional and argumentative, demanding our rights
v 6 When problems come, were not to worry about them but instead take them to God in prayer. And whenever we pray were suppose to thank God by faith for the answers Hes sure to give.
v 7 And a wonderful peace which doesnt depend on an improvement in the situation will settle over us preventing fleshy and demonic attitudes from gripping our thoughts and emotions and pressing us to make bad decisions.
v 8 When false teachings and lies come, focus your mind on Gods truth; when youre disrespected or dishonored, focus your mind on the respect and honor God has given you; when you face injustice, think about Gods justice; when you feel condemned or are tempted by moral impurity, think about Christ and the purity He has given you; when you see prejudice and hatred, think of how God loves people; when you are gossiped about or slandered, think of what God says about you. Look for something positive in that person or situation, something you can praise God for, and then rethink the situation in light of these until your attitude changes.
v 9 This is the way Paul himself functioned. Its the way he kept from becoming bitter and sad (2Co 6:4-10)
B. How do I prepare myself to be thankful?
1. See the good
Ephesians 1:15-19 Ask God to open your spiritual eyes to see the gifts He has given you.
Physical: provision, protection, healing, guidance
Spiritual: righteousness, power, eternal life
What good things are happening:
- in your life
- in His church
- in our nation
- in your family
- around the world
2. See the source
James 1:17 Everything good in our life comes from God.
He is my Source (not me, not luck, not people)
Romans 8:28 And if bad comes into our life He will use it for our good even though He didnt send it.
Romans 8:29 Hell use every situation to refine us into the image of Jesus Christ.
3. See the implications
How should I respond to all the good things He has done for me?
Worship: In light of all youve done I give myself to You in full surrender (Heb 12:28; Ro 12:1).
- Its important to say thank you (Ps 103; Lk 17:11-19), but words arent enough. The appropriate response is full surrender.
Generosity: I give to others because I have generously received (Mt 10:8 Freely you received, freely give).
Boldness: Knowing God is my Source frees me from fear, including the fear of poverty. If He is my Source I will always have enough (Php 4:12). He can create out of nothing (Heb 11:3).
C. Reflections in Thanksgiving
1. Its a national holiday, not a family holiday. As a nation we thank God for all Hes provided, recognizing Him as our Source.
2. Dont eat alone (if possible)
Add places to your table and invite those who might not have a place to go.
Give to and/or help with the Thanksgiving Food Drive (Heb 13:16).
Invite someone to a restaurant with you (have turkey)
Spend time discussing: signs of Gods provision; special people in your life; spiritual blessings you have received this year.
Pray for: our country, our church, the church world-wide, missionaries, our leaders (national, denominational, congregational)
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
3. Habakkuk 3:16-19
1. Whats the best thing thats happened to you this year?
2. When did you see God be your Source this year? In other words, when did you see Him intervene to provide, protect, guide or bless you?
3. Name someone outside your immediate family you recognize to be Gods gift to you.