"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
November 21, 2018
I recently read a quote that says, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough." (author unknown)
Most of us can quote 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."
Other versions say the first half of that verse like this: "Give thanks in all circumstances." (NIV) "Be thankful in all circumstances." (NLT) "Whatever happens, keep thanking God." (CEV) "In the midst of everything be always giving thanks." (TPT) "In every situation [no matter what the circumstances] be thankful and continually give thanks to God." (AMP)
The second half of that verse is worded like this: "For this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus." (NLT) "For this is God's perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus." (TPT) "This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live." (MSG)
Regardless of which version of the Bible you read, they all say the same thing: The will of God for those who belong to Christ Jesus is to give thanks in everything, regardless of the circumstances in which they may find themselves.
It's not an option, nor is it just a good suggestion, but it is the will of God for us.
I find that I often struggle with this. I worry, fret, become frustrated, try to figure things out, question, get disgruntled; and yes, I sometimes even get angry. Some days I'm in a grumpy mood. I don't always have an attitude of gratitude. I don't always give thanks in everything and in all circumstances. So perhaps I'm writing this for myself as a reminder!
There is a quote by Abraham Lincoln that says, "We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses." It's all about perspective. We can go through life seeing the thorns, which are the negatives and problems and how bad everything is; or we can see the roses that is the beauty and blessing that life brings.
We have a beautiful rose bush that blooms from spring through late fall. Right now it is full of red flowers, that just recently started dying back when we had a snow and heavy frost. For many months of the year it adds color and beauty to our backyard. When Jon and I look at it, we don't see the thorns -- that's not our focus; but we see the loveliness of the roses.
There are times when we can make ourselves miserable because we are focusing on everything that is wrong in our life and in our world, and we end up settling into a rut of discontentment. When that happens, we tend to become negative and fail to see the blessings in our life. We focus so intently on everything that is going wrong, that it soon feels as if there is very little good around about us. We begin grumbling and complaining and finding fault. We are miserable, so want others to join us. As the old saying goes, "Misery loves company."
I was recently listening to a short video message given by pastor/evangelist Shawn Bolz. He said something along the lines of when he is facing seemingly impossible situations and in need of a miracle, he will start remembering all of the things that God has done for him and his wife in the past. They keep a list on their phones of what God has done for them and miracles that they have received, and as they begin reading back over their list, their faith will increase. As they remember back to what God has done in the past, there comes that moment when they think, "Oh yeah! God's got this!! We don't have to worry; He is going to take care of this situation, just as He has in the past."
We all know that God has been good to us. We all know that He has blessed us and answered prayers and taken good care of us. But there are times when we can become forgetful and our focus is on the wrong things. We see what we're dealing with and it feels overwhelming and doubts and worry overtake our thought-life. What we need God to do seems so big and impossible. We know that He can, but sometimes we wonder if He really will. Our faith feels small and weak compared to the size of our problem.
Perhaps it would be beneficial for us to get a notebook/journal and make a list of everything we are thankful for, answered prayers, blessings we've received, etc. Keep it handy and as we think of things, write it down. Then on those days or times when we are feeling discouraged or in need of a miracle or feeling disgruntled, we can take a few minutes and sit down with our list and read back over what God has done for us and how He has blessed us. We read it and remember. We read it and give thanks. We read it and allow our faith to become reignited and flourish and grow. We read it and allow gratitude to fill our heart.
There is an old hymn that says, "Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done." Thinking about our blessings is a good thing, but often our mind tends to wander and we get distracted. But when we write them down, then we actually have to take the time to sit down and think about all that we are thankful for. We make a conscious choice to stop what we're doing and list everything that we are grateful for. We have a copy to read back over when difficulties arise.
Even the world sees the benefit of being thankful. In the movie 'White Christmas', there is a song by Irving Berlin entitled 'Count Your Blessings'. Some of the words are: "When I'm worried and I can't sleep; I count my blessings instead of sheep; and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small, I think of when I had none at all; and I fall asleep counting my blessings."
1 Chronicles 16:34 says, "Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever."
Psalm 103:2-5 says, "Let all that I am praise the Lord (some versions say, "Bless the Lord, O my soul"); may I never forgot the good things He does for me (forget not all His benefits). He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle's!"
Many Psalms speak of giving thanks and praising the Lord. David recognized the value and benefits of having a heart of gratitude and giving thanks to God. Hundreds of years prior to Paul writing those words to the church in Thessaloniki, David had learned and really "got it" and understood that God's will for him was to give thanks in everything.
Jesus, who is our greatest example that we are to daily follow, put into practice giving thanks in everything.
In John chapter 6, we read about the miracle of the feeding of 5,000 people with five barley loaves and two small fish. Jesus instructed His disciples to have the people sit down. Then He took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and distributed them to the people. Afterward He did the same with the fish. And they all ate as much as they wanted.
We read about the death and resurrection of Lazarus in John chapter 11. Lazarus had been dead for three days and was in a tomb when Jesus finally arrived. When He, Lazarus' two sisters, and the others arrived at the tomb, Jesus told them to take away the stone that was sealing it. Verse 41 says, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me."
Jesus could have just spoken and the miracles would have happened; but He took the time to stop and give thanks to His Father. I think that speaks volumes about the power of having a heart of gratitude.
I read several quotes about a grateful heart and miracles being connected. I think there is much truth to that. If we don't have a grateful heart, then we won't have an expectant heart. If we truly live our lives following 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and in everything we give thanks, recognizing that that is the will of God for us, then that will cause our faith to increase and we will have a heart that is ready to receive miracles.
There is a quote by Albert Einstein that says, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." When we see each breath we take as a miracle, look at nature and see the miracle of creation, view God's protection and care as a miracle, the gift of Jesus coming to earth, dying, and raising again as a miracle... and the list could go on and on.... then we have a sense of the wonder and majesty of God. When we go through each day and never consider anything other than what is right in front of our face... paying bills, sickness, world turmoil, working and making a living, etc.... then we fail to recognize miracles that we each experience on a daily basis. We miss out on truly knowing God and failing to understand everything that He does for us. We go through life with an ungrateful heart.
In Matthew chapter twenty-six we read about the last passover meal that Jesus shared with His disciples. Verses 26-28 says, "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'"
Jesus knew what was getting ready to happen. He knew that this was the last passover meal that He would have with His disciples before His death. He knew that Judas had betrayed Him. He knew that His purpose for coming to earth was on the brink of being fulfilled. He knew that the cross and all that went along with it -- the torture, shame, and disgrace -- was soon going to take place. Jesus knew what was getting ready to happen, yet when He sat down for the last time with these men, He took the bread and cup and He gave thanks. Wow! Just moments prior to the darkest moment of His earthly life, He took the time to give thanks. I think we could learn from Him!
We generally think of saying what we are thankful for and having a heart filled with gratitude on Thanksgiving day. But there are no stipulations on the verse in 1 Thessalonians. It's not limited to only one day a year. But it is to be a lifestyle, a daily choice for those of us who belong to Jesus. It's the will of God... the perfect plan that God has for each of us... the way that God wants us to live. In everything, in all circumstances, in every situation, in everything that happens we give thanks. Not when we feel like it, or when we're having a good day, or things are going our way, or when we are feeling blessed.... but at all times!
When Jesus was asked how we should pray, He gave an example which makes a pretty good template, if you aren't sure what to pray right then. In that prayer, He gave thanks for "our daily bread".
When Loretta and I are ready to go to sleep, we always have a prayer first. Almost every time, we thank our Heavenly Father for something. I typically either thank Him "for giving us a great day", or "for getting us through the day." One of those applies almost every day. We usually have other things to thank Him for, too. We usually lead with thanks, just like Jesus did in His prayer. It helps us get the right mindset before asking for what we or our family need or want.
Aunt Ruth's Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 stick butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk
Stir all ingredients together and pour into a 9x13 pan.
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Melt butter; add all ingredients of topping together and mix well. Add topping evenly to top of the casserole.
Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.
My nephew's wife recently planned a gratitude prayer experience at their church. There were different areas set up and the people would go from one designated area to another and have a time of reflection and prayer. While there they were asked to write down various things that they were grateful for, that corresponded with that particular area. For instance, there was one area that said, "I'm thankful for my church, because...." They were to spend time praying for their church and then writing down something about it that they were thankful for. Another area said, "Thank you, Jesus, for....." "Big things I'm grateful for...." "Little things I'm grateful for...." Then there was a place to write down prayer request and/or testimonies of praise. They were to spend time in each section remembering God's blessings, praying for their church, and considering all the things that they are thankful for. The purpose was to lead them to a place of having a grateful heart and giving thanks to God.
Perhaps none of us will have the opportunity to attend a gratitude prayer experience at a church, but each of us can have a gratitude prayer experience in our own home. I encourage each of us to do this very thing! We don't have to have a guideline to go by or copy what someone else did, but we can create or have our very own gratitude prayer experience with our Father.
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving,
turn routine jobs into joy,
and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. - Willian Arthur Ward
We love you!
Loretta & Jon