Daily we can be thankful for God's sovereignty, providence, forgiveness, and protection, but in times of trial or in bouts with selfishness, we can forget to be thankful. Is there an ultimate gift from God on which we can focus that will help us remain thankful in all things and at all times?
You may recall being a little child, specifically remembering a neighbor, a grandparent, or an uncle who, when you went and knocked on their front door, or when you visited their house, or when they came over for a visit, they had gifts or treats at the ready to share with you.
Can we envision how a little child who has never met their uncle who comes to visit the house bearing gifts for the children, may be hiding behind mommy at first, but seeing the gift cautiously toddles up to the uncle to receive the gift and becomes focused on that gift, too young to know to say, “Thank you,” but everyone can see the curiosity and joy awakened in the child? So, if we can envision that, we probably know what happens the next time the uncle visits, right? That same child may be looking out the window waiting to see that face and anxiously anticipating receiving another gift.
Though as time goes by, the child will be taught to show appreciation and thanks with words, the uncle does not provide the gifts so that he can be thanked. He provides the gifts for the sheer joy of giving.
When Jesus taught the disciples to pray to our great Father, you won’t find a single word of thanks in the prayer, but what you will find is the proper acknowledgment of who our Provider is. Obviously, the focus of the prayer from God’s perspective was that we understand and acknowledge our Father who is Holy and Sovereign, and who is our sole Provider, Forgiver, and Protector.
Mat 6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Mat 6:10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
Mat 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Mat 6:12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
Mat 6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
In recalling, again, this child who receives gifts from his uncle, we also know that as the child matures, he learns how to express his appreciation for gifts by giving thanks, and as he matures further, he learns the joy of giving to others, just as the uncle enjoyed giving to his nephew.
That’s all nice and good, but as we heard last Sabbath, gratitude can be more difficult if we are in the middle of a struggle or foresee trials ahead, this besides the fact that we still must overcome selfishness and greed to one extent or another. So, last Sabbath we also learned of some great tools for developing and establishing an ongoing attitude of gratitude.
But what if I told you there is a tried and true way to develop an ongoing attitude of gratefulness or thankfulness? What if there is a way to more easily remember the grace and gifts we receive daily? What if there is a way to stay focused on thankfulness, even when we face serious trials? After all, how useful is God’s provision of food if we have no appetite due to illness or stress? Is it as exciting to the little child who receives from his uncle a toy he already has three of stored in his closet? And, yet, is the gift any less given?
Our greatest enemy in life is death (1Co 15:26), and this is why it might cross people’s minds who see death on the horizon such a thought as, “If I could just see my grandchild graduate high school, then I would be satisfied,” or, “If I can just make it to my 60th anniversary, or my 90th birthday, then I would have no complaints.” Interestingly, in taking on such a state of mind, guess what can happen when you actually reach such a milestone. You might just create a new one, and living for the wonderful milestones, you might lose focus on the long-term or even be tempted to compromise eternal promises for short-term gains.
So, what if I also told you, besides being equipped for thanksgiving through trials, you can remain focused and become immune to deadly compromise?
1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
1Co 15:51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—
1Co 15:52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1Co 15:53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
1Co 15:54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY."
1Co 15:55 "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HADES, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY?"
1Co 15:56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. (continuing…)
1Co 15:57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1Co 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Paul, after describing the trials, even facing death, that he and other preachers of the Gospel had to face…
2Co 4:12 So then death is working in us, but life in you.
2Co 4:13 And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED AND THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe and therefore speak,
2Co 4:14 knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you.
2Co 4:15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
Paul in remembering the faith and love of the brethren in Colossi, writes…
Col 1:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
Col 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Col 1:11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
Col 1:12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Col 1:13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Col 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
Col 2:7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
Believed by many to have also been written by Paul, the same kind of admonition is made in Hebrews…
Heb 13:12 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate.
Heb 13:13 Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. (continuing…)
Heb 13:14 For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.
Heb 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.
When we are little children, we are inclined to see what is right in front of us. We may recognize sources for our joy, like an uncle who visits bearing gifts. But as we grow, we learn that we need the provision of God, and, hopefully, we develop a blessed attitude of thanksgiving for that provision. Maturity in understanding God’s ultimate provision to cover our sins through the blood of Christ to then someday raise us up, incorruptible, is the greatest tool for us to learn the wholeness of thankfulness. Let us be thinking of God and godliness and thanking God for this Spirit that converts us into a new creation.