Rick White, Senior Pastor, People’s Church, Franklin, Tennessee
Summary: When we carry a spirit of thanksgiving it permeates our entire being. Our attitude becomes infectious as others witness our spiritual growth and joy in Christ.
Optimism or Pessimism? A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the television was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom-and-gloom pessimist. Just to see what would happen, on the twins’ birthday, their father loaded the pessimist’s room with every imaginable toy and game. He loaded the optimist’s room with hay. That night when the father passed by the pessimist’s room, he found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly. “Why are you crying” Father asked.
“Because my friends will be jealous. I’ll have to read all of these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff. I’ll need batteries all the time, and my toys will get broken,” answered the pessimistic twin.
Passing the optimist twin’s room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of hay. “What are you so happy about” he asked. To which his optimist twin replied, “There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”
This story illustrates a truth. We are either the master or the victim of our attitudes. It is a matter of choice. Who we are today is the result of choices made yesterday. Tomorrow we will become what we choose today. To change means to choose to change.
In the Canadian northlands there are just two seasons: Winter and July. When the back roads begin to thaw, they become muddy. Vehicles going into the backwoods country leave deep ruts that freeze with the cold weather. Upon entering this primitive area during the winter there is a sign which reads, “Driver, please choose carefully which rut you drive in, because you’ll be in it for the next twenty miles.”
Gratitude expressed. We are instructed to “give thanks.” This is excellent advice, because a grateful person will be a happier, healthier, and holier person. But it is more than just good advice. It is a command “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God? (2Ti 3:1-2, NASB). “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus? (1Th 5:18, NASB).
Gratitude is expansive. Give thanks “in everything.” Those two words are the words that make this verse so very difficult. If we were instructed to thank God in “most things? we could live with it. If we were told to thank God in “good things? we would find the verse a lot easier to accept and abide by. But Paul says we are to thank God in “everything.”
Interestingly, there is no Scripture that commands us to feel grateful. Feelings come and go. They can be affected by the weather, by our physical condition, or by how much rest we got the night before. Thanksgiving has nothing to do with feelings. Whether things are good or bad, we are to be grateful.
You may say to yourself, “That’s easy for Paul to say!” No, it wasn’t. Paul had to flee Thessalonica for fear of losing his life. He had been beaten, whipped, imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, and left for dead. Yet he said, “In everything give thanks.”
Still singing. In Acts 16 Paul and Silas are beaten with rods, whipped, scourged, and then thrown into prison. But instead of sighing, they began to sing praises to God. What does giving thanks in “everything? mean for daily living? Let’s looks at two areas.
1. We are to be grateful for the blessings of life. “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it? (Pr 10:22). According to this verse, if you are His, you have been blessed by God. And if you have been blessed by God—you are rich.
Do you thank God for the blessings of life—just the simple everyday blessings? Take food. Do you know that two-thirds of the world goes to bed hungry every night? One-third of the world is underfed and one-third is starving. Thirty people starve to death every minute!
Do you ever thank God for water? Did you know that only three percent of the world’s water is fit to drink? Only one-third of one percent of the world’s water is available to drink? And over one-half of the world has no access to pure drinking water? How grateful we ought to be for the blessings of God!
2. We are to be grateful for the burdens of life. “In everything we are to give thanks.” Notice it is in everything, not necessarily for everything. Though we are not to be thankful for trouble, we are to be thankful in the midst of trouble. Indeed, one of the purposes of the trials and tribulations that come to us in life is to move us to thanksgiving.
“For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God? (2 Cor 4:15, NASB).
Everything that happens to you also happens for you. That is why you are to give thanks in every situation. Regardless of how bad it may seem to you, God wants to use it in your life to move you to thanksgiving.
The famous Bible teacher, Matthew Henry, was accosted by thieves who stole all of his money. He wrote these words in his diary: “I am so very thankful. First, because I have never been robbed before. Second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life. Third, because although they took everything I had, it wasn’t very much. And fourth, it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
The mark of a growing Christian. Gratitude is a real test of character. For example, a baby is ungrateful. You can take an infant with colic and walk the floor with him for seven hours, and then when you put that little baby down, he won’t look up at you and say, “Thank you so much!” He may even yell a little louder. But we don’t blame him, because he’s just a baby.
What about a little child? A young child needs to be taught to be appreciative or grateful. Gratitude is not something that comes naturally but something you have to learn. You have probably experienced how difficult it is for a child to say “thank you.” A lack of gratitude in the heart indicates where we are spiritually.
The mark of a glowing Christian. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Ps 92:1). Having an attitude of gratitude will change your life. It will shield you from cynicism. It will keep you from criticism. It will protect you from pessimism. It will draw you close to God. In, A Finishing Touch: Pettiness, by Chuck Swindoll, he writes:
“‘Pettiness,’ writes George Will ‘is the tendency of people without large purposes.’ Petty people are worse than stubborn; they are negative and rigidly inflexible. While we work overtime to come up with some soaring idea, they’ve already thought up eight reasons why it won’t ‘fly....’ ”
In one of his more serious moments, Mike Yaconelli, editor of The Wittenburg Door, addressed the issue of pettiness:
“‘Petty people’ are people who have lost their vision. They are people who have turned their eyes away from what matters and focus, instead, on what doesn’t matter. The result is that the rest of us are immobilized by their obsession with the insignificant.
It is time to rid the church of pettiness. It is time the church refused to be victimized by petty people. It is time the church stopped ignoring pettiness. It is time the church quit pretending that pettiness doesn’t matter...” (The Wittenburg Door, Dec 1984-Jan 1985).
The mark of a giving Christian. Everything you have is a gift from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights.” If you are a grateful Christian, you will be a giving Christian.
Someone has said it well: “Thanks-giving, to be truly thanksgiving, is first thanks, then giving.” You can give with-out being thankful, but you cannot be thankful without giving. When you give, you not only are acknowledging that everything you have is a gift from God, but you are expressing your gratitude to Him.”