Heartfelt Gratitude is Rare

We can find reasons to complain every day of our lives. After all, we live in a broken, messed up world, and life doesn’t seem unfold like we wish it would many times. People, including family and friends will wrong you, good health will elude us, authority will exploit you, flat tires tend to happen when we are running late, there never seems to be enough money, well, and then we can talk about politics, taxes, healthcare, scandals, etc. 

Some folks seem to just like having something that gives them reason to complain. Simply listen to the conversations around you; there’s a lot of complaining going on.

But I would say there is far more to be grateful about if we pause for a few minutes to count our blessings. There is a difference in saying “Thank you” and truly being thankful. Heartfelt thanksgiving should flow from a general heart of gratitude. Anyone can focus on the frustrations of life, but gratitude is a choice. People who really understand the heart of God realize we have so much to be grateful. 

For example, aren’t you grateful for your next breath? Even on our really tough days, we have so much to be thankful for compared to the majority of the world’s population. Maybe we should spend more time being grateful than complaining. Maybe we should spend more time presenting our requests to God immersed in a thankful heart instead of being anxious and stressed out. (Phil 4:4-7) 

Maybe, just maybe God REALLY meant it when He inspired Paul to write Phil 2:14-16, “Do EVERYTHING without grumbling or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” THEN you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. 

If we all focused on all the reasons we have to be grateful and allow a thankful heart to dominate our thinking, our lives would have much less stress and anxiety. I think it is important to be consciously aware of how blessed we truly are; being grateful affects our entire outlook on life.

Being grateful refocuses your minds and hearts on God’s faithfulness and blessings. It stabilizes our thoughts and emotions in a positive place instead of the slippery slope of negativity. Being consciously aware of all we have to be grateful for makes us more understanding, sensitive, kind, and patient. It also has an on-going deepening affect on our personal relationship with Christ and our spiritual development journey.    

Sometimes we say to ourselves, “I’d be more thankful if…” Have you ever had that kind of thought float through your mind? It would be so much easier to be grateful if my circumstances were better or if my health was better, or if finances were better, or of my relationships were better. 

It is so easy to allow our gratitude to be governed by our circumstances and emotions or by what we are unhappy with rather than by all of our blessings. Pick the topic; health, relationships, business, finances, etc. No matter how tough it is for you, there are others enduring much more over-whelming circumstances.

So let me ask that question again.  What are you thankful for, even now, in the chaos that is 2020?  Maybe you should take a few moments and to “count your many blessings, name them one by one, and you’ll be surprised what the Lord hath done”.

Faith Needs to be Fueled by a Grateful Heart

The only truly lasting motivation for Christ-follower to continue following Christ is because we want to please Jesus Christ out of a deep heart of gratitude for all He has done for you.

Fear of hell is not a lasting motivator. People who choose to “follow” Christ because they don’t want to go to hell are usually not very good at actually following Him in obedience, surrender, humility, etc. Only those with deeply felt gratitude consistently will lay down their agendas, opinions, etc to follow Christ wherever He leads them.

Now, I don’t deserve to be saved, much less be in ministry. All that God does in us and for us and through us is by grace through faith. So out of a deep, abiding, heartfelt gratitude for the fact that I have a personal relationship with Christ, I want to actually give my life to Jesus Christ, and I want to serve Him in any way possible. Surrender is made easier when there is deeply felt gratitude.

I know that your heart is like my heart, and my life goal is to one day stand before Jesus Christ and have Him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” At that point He says that it will be worth it all. You won’t be in heaven five seconds and you’ll say, “Why didn’t I serve more? Why didn’t I give more? Why didn’t I love more? Why didn’t I obey more?”

Hebrews 11 is the classic chapter on faith. Verse 6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”  If I’m not walking in faith, I’m not pleasing God. The Bible is even more specific when it says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” If I’m not walking in faith, I am walking in sin. That’s strong stuff!

Faith is visualizing the future in advance. It is seeing the future in the present. Every great achievement began when somebody saw it in advance. We didn’t put a man on the moon until one day JFK stood up and said, “Let’s put a man on the moon.” When he said that, the technology had not even been invented.

Faith is believing when I don’t see it. Some things have to be believed before they can be seen. The world says, “Seeing is believing.” God says, “Believing is seeing.” You have to see it in advance.

Faith is obeying when you don’t understand it. Abraham is a classic example of obeying when he didn’t understand. He was about 75 years old, and God asked him to give up all his security. God said, I want you to leave. Pick up everything and get ready for the greatest adventure of your life.

The scary part of it is God gave Abraham no details. Abraham says, “Where are we going?” God says, You’ve never heard of it. “How long is it going to take?” You’ll find out. “How will I know when I get there?” I’ll let you know.

Sometimes God will tell you to do something and you’ll think, “There’s no way this is going to work!” Yet, God says, Do it! And guess what? It works!

Life is like the Morning Fog

Scripture says, “The plans of man are many, but his steps are ordered by the Lord”. We are a people who are constantly making plans. We plan in good faith, as if we have some certainty about the future. We discuss details and made plans, yet none of us know for sure what tomorrow holds.

We presume upon that which belongs to God. We are not in control of tomorrow. We only have right now, today, without any assurance of another sunrise. We are so sure of tomorrow that we begin early to teach our young folks to plan for things they only hope they will see. There is nothing wrong with planning; as a matter of fact it is a necessity. I believe in long-range strategic planning, but at the same time we must remember only God truly knows tomorrow.

There once was a man named Herb, who proudly showed his wife some very special lures he had just purchased. These very special lures were going to help him to catch big fish in a Canadian province. He had a brochure of where he was going and took special care to describe how the trip was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to fish for Musky in Canada. The very next day, Herb had been found dead after working in a neighbor’s woodshed.

We have all heard those type stories; the seemingly healthy 55-year-old man retires early to enjoy is hobby, then dies unexpectedly of a heart attack, or the victim of a freak accident, or the disease that comes out of no where who reek havoc on someone’s life. Based on our life experiences, we all know we have no guarantee of tomorrow. We might live in denial of that fact, but we all know it to be true.            

Life is very uncertain. There are no guarantees. Life is just a vapor; here one minute and gone the next.  Scripture says, “Look here, you people who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit. How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog; it’s here a little while, and then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that. Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil.” (James 4:13-16)

I would encourage you to resolve the unresolved or tying up any loose ends while you can. “I’m fixin’ to” or “I’m about to” never got anything accomplished in the history of mankind. Easy thing or hard thing, bad thing or good thing, relationship thing or health thing, financial thing or spiritual thing; resolve it or start resolving it today.       

Is there something you need to say to someone or something you need to do?  Is there a habit you need to start or stop?  Do it today, because just with Herb, or the stories of people you know, we have no guarantee of tomorrow.