Last time we discovered we have a lot to be thankful for. We also found that being thankful is good for us – in our walk in faith and in our daily lives. Thankfulness grows our hearts so we can be filled with more love. When you have an expanded heart, you can experience more joy, which is also our strength (Neh. 8:10). This requires waiting, and pause for reflection.
I had meant the next article to be on being grateful beyond thankful. However, I discovered there was far more involved in the area of growing in thanks. I found that this is a very deep area of our faith. It’s the underpinning of so many areas in which we grow closer to God.
Thankfulness is part of our healing: both inner (emotional) and physical. Just think of the one leper who returned to give thanks to Jesus after he was healed! (Read Luke 17: 11-19)
Thankfulness is also part of our first step of faith. Many of you came to faith in Jesus Christ through praying the “sinner’s prayer” of repentance. One simple form of that prayer is featured in Nicky Gumbel’s “Why Jesus” pamphlet that we use in the Alpha Course. Nicky highlights this prayer “can be summarized by three very simple words: Sorry. Thank you. Please.” (Sometimes when I’m on the mission field or with people asking about faith, this summary is what comes to mind).
Some of you reading this article may not have faith in Jesus Christ yet, even though you have a desire to grow deeper in God. If you pray this prayer with me, and mean what you’re praying, you are now a Christian.
Sorry! “You have to ask God to forgive you for all the things you have done wrong and turn from everything which you know is wrong in your life. This is what the Bible means by ‘repentance.'”
Thank you! “We believe that Jesus died for us on the cross. You need to thank him for dying for you and for the offer of his free gift of forgiveness, freedom, and his Spirit.”
Please! God needs you to invite him into your life, he’s been waiting for your ‘yes.’ “You need to accept his gift and invite him to come and live within you by his Spirit.”
Here is a simple prayer that incorporates sorry, thank you, please (you may find it helpful if your mind goes blank on how to start):
“Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life (take a few moments to ask his forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience). Please forgive me. I now turn from everything that I know is wrong. Thank you that you died on the cross for me, so that I could be forgiven and set free. Thank you that you offer me forgiveness and the gift of your Spirit. I now receive that gift. Please come into my life by your Holy Spirit to be with me forever. Thank you Lord Jesus, Amen.” (Nicky Gumbel, “Why Jesus?” (Alpha North America, 2008) p21
If you prayed that prayer for the first time, welcome to the family of Christ! You are now my brother or sister. Make sure you seek out a church, and small group of Christian believers who can encourage you in your faith, pray with you, and study the Bible along with you. The Christian faith is not meant to be lived in isolation on your own, but with each other. However, if you are living in an area where Christians are persecuted, then ask God for wisdom on when to share and with whom. He will keep you close to nurture your faith, heal your heart wounds and fill you with love. He can also bring you to people who can grow with you in faith. Yet most important, God will never fail you, for he is very definitely faithful.
And so, salvation is the foundation of things to be thankful for as we focus on and worship the Lord. The Apostle Paul encourages us to pause and remember all good things, which cause us to be thankful.
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8 (Message version)
We can also combine thankfulness with soaking prayer. If you’re new to the idea of soaking prayer, I write about it in my article from March 2013 (Slow down and let God’s love fill you). When you are filled with God’s love, you become more thankful, and consequently open to receive even more of his love. Pause and let his love fill you! And always be thankful.
We stop again to think on the word Selah, which often appears in the Psalms (71 times as well as 3 in Habakkuk). Some writers believe it refers to a musical interlude between sections of reading Psalms. Others see it as a pause, or liturgical meditation on what the listeners have heard in the recited Psalms. For this article, we will borrow the concept of Selah as a pause and reflection. Sometimes it is necessary to stop and remember all we are thankful for before we continue on our journey. Funerals are like that – although we are sad at the loss of our loved one, we also celebrate their life and are thankful that they were with us for the time we had them. These people were part of our life stories.
Let’s continue with the idea that our lives are like stories. When we walk through difficulties and joys, these impact us and become part of our stories; part of who we are. Sometimes circumstances and pain may cause us to become stuck in grief. It is good to grieve, but it is not good to become stuck in the same emotions in an endless loop. It also is not good to become stuck from painful memories that cause us to be locked in a prison of unforgiveness. When we forgive those who hurt us, we can choose to react in a positive way. We take charge over our own story, with God’s help. We aren’t accountable for what has been done to us, but rather, for how we react. When we choose to react positively, and make a lifestyle of thankfulness, the fruit we show is sweet.
We can re-story our own lives by ‘psalming.’ King David and other Psalm writers did this in the book of Psalms. Some of those Psalms start out rather angry (Read Psalm 69) but end up with praise. David cries out to the Lord with everything in his heart. He trusts that God is hearing where his heart is at; and then he turns his lament into praise and thanksgiving. Yes, he said some pretty nasty things about his enemies, but how better it is to confess that to God, then let it fester in his heart! I personally believe that God likes it when we are honest with him. He knows what is in our hearts, and is waiting for our invitation to set us free. You can write your own psalm before the Lord. It doesn’t have to be fancy. But it does need to be honest, and allow you to trust God more for the great ending.
Being thankful also helps us in transition from one stage of your life to another (being phases of your physical life, or seasons of your spiritual life). We don’t always know where we are going in the midst of moving from one place to another. Sometimes we feel lost in the desert. Other times we just need a rest stop on the highway. We may feel like we’re in the middle of a storm and can’t see much beyond our circumstances. This is the time to pause and remember God. This is the time to remember all we are thankful for! Thankfulness helps keep our eyes on what God is doing. Thankfulness keeps us from keeping our eyes inward on our own circumstances. Even if you don’t hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit right now, you will. You are still being carried towards your next destination. He is growing in you a deeper trust as you grow your heart deeper through prayers of thanks.
So, while I am continuing to think of the deep connection between thankfulness and gratitude (which is to come soon), remember to pause and give thanks to God. You can fill out your thanks items on a piece of paper, on your computer, or even on your phone (I use the “Remember” application on my phone). You may be surprised what the Holy Spirit reminds you of!
Have you given thanks today? Next time we will grow in gratitude as we share in the cup of Thanksgiving.
Yours in Christ,