First, it is God’s will for us. People want to know God’s will for their lives, and when people ask about God’s will, they’re typically thinking about what they should do next in a particular area of their lives. But God’s will is, first and foremost, that we learn to give thanks, regardless of the circumstances. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess 5:18)
Second, because a grateful heart honors God & honors people. Anytime we thank someone we are honoring them.
Third, because gratitude creates fellowship and always builds deeper relationships between you and other people. Do you want to rebuild your relationship with a friend, with a parent, with a spouse, with people at work, even with people whose path you cross during the week? Whoever you want to feel more connected to, express gratitude to them. Just tell people how grateful you are. A grateful heart brings us all closer together.
Fourth, gratitude develops our faith. Can you thank God when life stinks? That’s the test of whether you’re a shallow Christian or a deep one. Can you thank God even when life stinks? When everything is going wrong? If you’re going through tough times, don’t look at what’s lost. Look at what’s left. No matter how bad things are in my life, there is always, always, the fact that I can be thankful to God just for being God.
God has promised to see me through life’s most difficult situations; to help me out, to strengthen me, to care for me, to do miracles, to answer prayer. He’s always promised that even when things don’t go my way, he can work it out for good in my life. So ultimately, his plan is in action, and it takes a growing faith to recognize that.
Fifth, gratitude serves and raises the value of others. Radical gratitude actually serves others. It becomes a ministry. We’re saved to serve others, and you can have a ministry of appreciation.
If you’ve ever bought a car you know the meaning of the word “depreciation”. The moment you drive that vehicle off the lot it’s worth less than you paid for it. Even if it’s brand new, if you take it back, it’s worth less. Depreciation means to decrease in value.
To appreciate means to “raise the value”. And this is a ministry. When you appreciate your husband, you raise his value. When you appreciate your wife, you raise her value. When you appreciate your kids, you raise their value. When you appreciate your co-workers, you raise their value to you and to the company. When you appreciate your boss, you raise his/her value.
Everybody in our life needs massive doses of encouragement. We all have a need to be affirmed, to be loved, to be appreciated. And so, does everybody else. If you want to be used by God here’s a little secret: affirm everybody. Appreciate everybody. Show gratitude to everybody.
What a great world it would be if we all just oozed gratitude from a full and overflowing grateful heart.
My last blog post asked “Who are you thankful for”?, and challenged you to take a few minutes to intentionally express your heartfelt gratitude.
In this post I want to ask you a similar question; What are you thankful for this year? Scripture says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6). 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.
Some people seem to look for reason to complain. 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. 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. We should 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 effect 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 far more over-whelming circumstances.
So, let me ask you that question again. What are you thankful for this year? Maybe you should take a few moments to get your head and heart right in the area of gratitude by focusing on all you have rather than on all that frustrates you. Being grateful, choosing to walk through life with a grateful heart and mindset really will change your entire outlook on life.
Who are you thankful for, and how often do you say, “thank you”? We all know that it is polite to say “thank you” after someone says or does something kind for us. But I am I talking more about a proactive “Thank you” where we say thank you intentionally and proactively to someone for the routine role they play in your life.
For example, saying thank you to your children’s school teacher, or volunteer coach, or to the check-out clerk who always has a smile for you, or to a volunteer fireman, or to a solider home on leave, or someone who volunteers at the local food pantry, or your wife preparing supper for the family, and so on.
There are so many things that happen every day that we have a tendency to take for granted. Little things. Routine things. But things that are necessary and appreciated. Many times, we just don’t think about it, other times we think about but fail to follow through. Saying “thank you”, writing a quick thank you note, or in our day and age, sending a thank you email, or text message really does not take much time.
It doesn’t take long to say a heartfelt “Thank you!” and show your gratitude. PLUS it is much healthier for you than complaining.
Maybe you should take a few moments this week to communicate your gratitude by intentionally speaking or writing words of gratitude and kindness.
The following two passages of Scripture communicate much the same thing; Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
It is a pretty simple strategy for how to live our lives isn’t it? Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.
Both passages begin exhorting us to be joyful. If you are a follower of Christ, you can choose joy because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace…” (Gal 5:22-23). Joy is the evidence of the Holy Spirit, not the result of our circumstances. Happiness is the result of our circumstances. But joy is a fruit of the Spirit that we either allow to flow or we grieve (Eph 4;30) and quench (1 Thess 5:19) it.
Both passages follow the of exhortation of choosing joy with telling us to pray and bring our requests to God. Prayer is simply two-way communication with God. The phasing in 1 Thess 5:18 is to “pray continually” or “pray without ceasing”. How is that possible? How can we be continually engaged with God? We have to sleep, work, etc., right? Well, remember prayer is simply communication with God. Prayer does not require speaking, closing your eyes, etc. “Pray continually” is a challenge to maintain a constant, open line of communication with God. A prayer can be launched in a thought. Prayer is also listening, waiting, and processing something God is stirring in you.
Finally, both passages exhort us to come to God with a grateful heart. Having a grateful heart is different than just saying “thank you” to someone. Having a grateful heart allows us to see life through a lens of gratitude. 1 Thess 5:18 says we are to “give thanks in every circumstance”. Being grateful is gateway to the provision and protection of God. Choosing to have a grateful heart refocuses us on the things that matter, and takes our focus off the petty, trivial things that rob us of our joy.
Life is far too short, and God is way too good for us to waste one more minute caught up in the negativity, unkindness around us, and being ungrateful. Is that really how you want to spend your next breath? Even Mr. Grumpypants, Negative Nancy, and Debbie Downer, don’t like themselves. Don’t be like them. Choose gratitude, overwhelming, relentless, gratitude.
Don’t over-complicate life, especially during this holiday season. Instead, let me encourage you to embrace a simple strategy for your life; Choose joy. Engage God. Be grateful.
This past Sunday I used a picture entitled “Who Cares?” as an illustration. This picture was created by artist Mauricio Palacio as an illustration of General William Booth’s vision depicting the Church’s apparent lack of concern over the fate of lost souls.
This picture, which hangs in my office today, has challenged me and helped me stay focus in the mission since I first saw it in the early-mid 1990’s.
Please spend a few minutes looking at this picture. It is clearly dated with mullets, style of cell phone, and a boombox, hahahahahaha but even if your do not take time to read the long article below of William Booth’s vision that inspired the picture, I’m guessing that just processing the picture will open the door for the Holy Spirit to stir you toward the mission.
William Booth (1829-1912) and his wife Catherine founded The Salvation Army in 1865 in their home country, England. His passion for the lost, especially those who were considered “irredeemable” by the established church, was legendary. His whole life can be summed up in his own words, “Go for souls – and go for the worst!”
Following is a written version of William Booth’s vision that inspired this picture.
Who Cares? by General William Booth
“On one of my recent journeys, as I gazed from the coach window, I was led into a train of thought concerning the conditions of the multitudes around me. They were living carelessly in the most open and shameless rebellion against God, without a thought for their eternal welfare. As I looked out the window, I seemed to see them all – millions of people all around me – given up to their drink and their pleasure, their dancing and their music, their business and their anxieties, their politics and their troubles. Ignorant – willfully ignorant in many cases – and in other instances knowing all about the truth and not caring at all. But all of them, the whole mass of them, sweeping on and up in their blasphemies and devilries to the throne of God. While my mind was thus engaged, I had a vision.
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightning flashed, and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower and break again.
In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed, they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.
And I saw out of this dark, angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up with its summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. And all around the base of this rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those, who were already safe on the platform, were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the place of safety.
On looking more closely, I found a number of those who had been rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes, boats, and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of this sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of all the consequences, in their passion to “rescue the perishing.” And I hardly know which gladdened me most – the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks, reaching the place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole beings were wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different “sets” or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the people out of the sea.
But what puzzled me most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have for gotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any care – that is, any agonizing care – about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes… many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and even their own children.
Now this astonishing unconcern could not have been the result of ignorance or lack of knowledge, because they lived right there in full sight of it all and even talked about it sometimes. Many even went regularly to hear lectures and sermons in which the awful state of these poor drowning creatures was described.
I have already said that the occupants of this platform were engaged in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed night and day in trading and business in order to make gain, storing up their savings in boxes, safes, and the like.
Many spent their time in amusing themselves with growing flowers on the side of the rock, others in painting pieces of cloth, or in playing music, or in dressing themselves up in different styles and walking about to be admired. Some occupied themselves chiefly in eating and drinking, others were taken up with arguing about the poor drowning creatures that had already been rescued.
But the thing to me that seemed the most amazing was that those on the platform to whom He called, who heard His voice and felt they ought to obey it – at least they said they did – those who confessed to love Him much and were in full sympathy with Him in the task He had undertaken – who worshipped Him or who professed to do so – were so taken up with their trades and professions, their money saving and pleasures, their families and circles, their religions and arguments about it, and their preparation for going to the mainland, that they did not listen to the cry that came to them from this Wonderful Being who had Himself gone down into the sea. Anyway, if they heard it, they did not heed it. They did not care. And so the multitude went on right before them struggling and shrieking and drowning in the darkness.
And then I saw something that seemed to me even more strange than anything that had gone on before in this strange vision. I saw that some of these people on the platform whom this Wonderful Being had called to, wanting them to come and help Him in His difficult task of saving these perishing creatures, were always praying and crying out to Him to come to them!
Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, and spend His time and strength in making them happier. Others wanted Him to come and take away various doubts and misgivings they had concerning the truth of some letters He had written them. Some wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock – so secure that they would be quite sure that they should never slip off again into the ocean. Numbers of others wanted Him to make them feel quite certain that they would really get off the rock and onto the mainland someday; because as a matter of fact, it was well known that some had walked so carelessly as to lose their footing and had fallen back again into the stormy waters.
So these people used to meet and get up as high on the rock as they could, and looking toward the mainland (where they thought the Great Being was) they would cry out, “Come to us! Come, help us!” And all the while He was down (by His Spirit) among the poor struggling, drowning creatures in the angry deep, with His arms around them trying to drag them out, and looking up oh! so longingly, but all in vain to those on the rock, crying to them with His voice all hoarse from calling, “Come to Me! Come and help Me!”
And then I understood it all. It was plain enough. That sea was the ocean of life – the sea of real, actual human existence. That lightning was the gleaming of piercing truth coming from Jehovah’s throne. That thunder was the distant echoing of the wrath of God. Those multitudes of people shrieking, struggling, and agonizing in the stormy sea were the thousands and thousands of poor harlots and harlot-makers, of drunkards and drunkard-makers, of thieves, liars, blasphemers, and ungodly people of every kindred, tongue, and nation.
Oh, what a black sea it was! And oh, what multitudes of rich and poor, ignorant and educated were there. They were all so unalike in their outward circumstances and conditions, yet all alike in one thing – all sinners before God – all held by, and holding onto, some iniquity, fascinated by some idol, the slaves of some devilish lust, and ruled by the foul fiend from the bottomless pit!
“All alike in one thing?” No, all alike in two things. Not only the same in their wickedness, but unless rescued, the same in their sinning, sinking… down, down, down… to the same terrible doom. That great sheltering rock represented Calvary, the place where Jesus had died for them. And the people on it were those who had been rescued. The way they used their energies, gifts, and time represented the occupations and amusements of those who professed to be saved from sin and hell – followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The handful of fierce, determined ones, who were risking their own lives in saving the perishing, were true soldiers of the cross of Jesus. That Mighty Being who was calling to them from the midst of the angry waters was the Son of God, “the same yesterday, today, and forever,” who is still struggling and interceding to save the dying multitudes about us from this terrible doom of damnation, and whose voice can be heard above the music, machinery, and noise of life, calling on the rescued to come and help Him save the world.
My friends in Christ, you are rescued from the waters. You are on the rock. He is in the dark sea calling on you to come to Him and help Him. Will you go? Look for yourselves. The surging sea of life crowded with perishing multitudes rolls up to the very spot on which you stand. Leaving the vision, I now come to speak of the fact – a fact that is as real as the Bible, as real as the Christ who hung upon the cross, as real as the judgment day will be, and as real as the heaven and hell that will follow it.
Look! Don’t be deceived by appearances – men and things are not what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea! Look at them from the standpoint of the great white throne, and what a sight you have! Jesus Christ, the Son of God is, through His Spirit, in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. And He is calling on you to jump into the sea – to go right away to His side and help Him in the holy strife. Will you jump? That is, will you go to His feet and place yourself absolutely at His disposal?
A young Christian once came to me and told me that for some time she had been giving the Lord her profession and prayers and money, but now she wanted to give Him her life. She wanted to go right into the fight. In other words, she wanted to go to His assistance in the sea. As when a man from the shore, seeing another struggling in the water, takes off those outer garments that would hinder his efforts and leaps to the rescue, so will you who still linger on the bank, thinking and singing and praying about the poor perishing souls, lay aside your shame, your pride, your cares about other people’s opinions, your love of ease, and all the selfish loves that have kept you back for so long, and rush to the rescue of this multitude of dying men and women?
Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who beckons you from the sea, however, knows what it will mean – and knowing, He still calls to you and bids you come.
You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises – very much of heaven on earth.
Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.
You must do it. With the light that has now broken in upon your mind, and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.”
Elections are always very important. There is much at stake. But in truth, elections are always advertised as the most important election in human history that will change the trajectory of all things for eternity.
Here are some simple truths that strengthen me; God is still sitting on His throne. He never caught off-guard. He is not surprised or perplexed. He ALWAYS has a plan. And whoever becomes president, Jesus is still King.
As I am writing this article, the election is tomorrow. Obviously, I have no idea who will win the election. The 2016 election season was ugly, and the ugliness seems to only have increased ever since. 2020 has been a year to forget, that is for sure. By “ugly”, I’m not just talking about the political process, the political parties or the presidential candidates, I am actually referring to people in general, especially people who consider themselves followers of Christ. Social media has only amplified the ugliness and unkindness.
Political parties and candidates (all of them) will distort, manipulate, cajole, emotionalize, tug and whatever other tactics to sway our votes. Personally, I normally vote for/against issues and people, not necessarily by a political party. I follow Christ, not a political party. I’m an independent I suppose, but its more than just being independent to me. I try to be informed, be prayerful, be intellectually and emotionally honest, and then to vote my convictions. For me, Scripture is the basis of my convictions, as well as the basis of how I engage the political process.
Regardless of the outcome of this election, let me encourage us to respect our friend’s points of view, as they seek to live out and vote their convictions and conscience. I hate it when people make comments like, “How can you as a Christian vote for …” “If you were a true Christian, you would vote for …” There is no reason to demonize people who disagree with you. No political party or candidate has the corner on truth, good decisions, morality, or spirituality. There are scandals, poor decision-making, and fakes on all sides, and all political parties.
You can actually be friends and maintain a relationship with someone who disagrees with you. For those of us who are Christians, we need to agree the most significant aspects of our relationship are not our politics, our political views or our political affiliations but that we are connected together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Politics has its role, but Christ living in and through us should have the most significant role.
Our primary mission is to love God & love people, so do not allow your love for politics, ideology, philosophy or even theology to ever supersede your love for God and your neighbor, including neighbors who don’t share your politics. Biblically speaking, we are to be followers of Christ before we areRepublicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or any other political party.
Regardless of the outcome of the election process, it is likely going to continue being mean, dark and ugly for a while. Is this level of divisiveness, meanness, personal attacks, and violence our “new normal”? I sure hope not, but it just magnifies the fact that evil is rampant. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
Amidst all the chaos, let me remind us again to not forget God is still God, He is still on His throne, and Jesus is still the King of kings. For the person who does not believe in Christ that won’t make sense, and doesn’t seem to matter, but for the person who claims to have believed in their heart that Jesus is Lord, it should make complete sense, and it should be comforting too.
In a world of chaos and uncertainty, we know the One who holds the world in His hands. “He changes the times and seasons; he removes kings and establishes kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” (Daniel 2:21) “…for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.” (Rom 13:1)
Just because you love Jesus does not mean your preferred candidate will win the election. People who are followers of Christ will vote for different candidates. If your preferred candidate wins or loses, at the end of the day, God is still on His throne, and as followers of Christ, we are still expected to be good reflections of Jesus.
We should grieve and be broken-hearted over all the stupid stuff people do and say. The political condition of America is direct reflection of the spiritual condition of America. All followers of Christ should be broken-hearted over the spiritual condition of our nation. We need a spiritual awakening. We need humble ourselves before God. No candidate can heal our land. The healing we need, the restoration, and reconciliation we need can only be done by the Spirit of God.
Someone is going to become President. We need to commit to lift our president in prayer. Pray for strength, conviction and courage. We need to pray for humility, patience, healing, wisdom, and God’s intervention in their lives.
My closing encouragement for all of us as we move forward; Be kind. Be humble. Be grateful. Avoid the drama and find things and people that make you smile. Place your trust in God regardless of who wins this election. And remember, God ALWAYS has a plan.