(Four if You Don’t Count Thanklessness)
I should caution the reader that what you are about to read will mess with you. You won’t be able to un-read it and, when you least want to think about it, there it will be like a full-length mirror at a buffet or Dave Ramsey on a shopping spree.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There are aspects of my faith that I have found to be depthless. Humility, thankfulness, generosity and kindness seem so containable and domesticated. But what begins as a sweet campfire or a cute little teddy bear quickly grows into a raging forest fire and a she bear after a cub and whatever I thought I was playing with is now a consuming force. Niave to what I would unearth, I began to dig at thankfulness.
Things of God aren’t like a mine of earth that yields finite gems of dust-made-jewels. God’s Word yields more as it is mined. It isn’t just that the more one digs, the more one finds. Not just that. The more one digs, them more there is to be found. There is more to be found because at some point the boundary between looking into His Word and looking into yourself disolves like a veil torn back and you see that there is no end to the motherlode as long as you still have the courage to dig.
|Physical Mining||Spiritual Mining||Verse|
|Some mines are worthless||There is no fruitless search||2Tim 3:16-17|
|Finite amount of jewels||Infinite amount of jewels||Rom 11:33|
|Mining gets harder||Mining gets easier||Proverbs 9:9|
|Yields less as it is mined||Yields more as it is mined||1 Peter 1:24-15aa: Isaiah 40:6-8, 3-5|
There is still time to turn back.
Stage 1: Thanklessness
Being thankful for some things some of the time does not a thankful person make. I sew a little. I dabble around with quilting and crafting but I have never really thought of myself as a quilter. I am one who quilts but neither my dedication nor my ability are sufficient to justify a title. I wasn’t thankful even though I was occasionally, selectively and earnestly willing to give thanks–neither my dedication nor my ability were sufficient to justify the title of thankful. Actually, on the contrary, Paul said thanklessness was plaguing our household. I guess I had step one taken care of. Moving on.
Rom 1:21-22 “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
Stage Two: Not Being Thankless
Somewhere between armed robber and redeemed motivational speaker there is a time where the guy just isn’t a bank robber any more. It isn’t just that you have to crawl before you can walk, you have to stop sitting there like a lump before you can crawl. Repentance–shuwb in Hebrew– means simply to turn. Turn back. Turn away. Turn to. Turn against. You have to stop doing the thing you are sorry about before you can start doing something else. You start the stopping by turning. If you want to be thankful, stop being thankless. James had it right. That little tongue in your sweet mouth is the rudder on your soul ship and it can turn it wither it will.
Thanklessness is a sneaky little weed. Those of us who have been churchified a bit can usually say completely depraved and ungrateful things without sounding like it:
“I want a bigger house for the kids so they can have their own rooms.”
“I just want my Husband’s boss to realize how much he is worth and pay him more to make him feel good about himself.”
“Well we have to have __________________” Fill in the blank with something that you think you have to have that most of the world, (much less people throughout history) have never and will never have.
I’m rather adept at combining thanklessenss with immasculation, by emplying her cousin, comparison:
“Maybe you can have Sandy’s husband, Arnold, come over and he can show you how to fix that wiring. Their house is always so nice. It might be nice for you to have some fellowship time with him anyway.”
See how I made it like I was really just interested in his needs for fellowship. I am so selfless. Honestly, I should probably just follow up comments like by stabbing my husband in the eye with a knitting needle to distract from the emotional pain I cause by nagging.
Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. James 3:4
2 Tim 3:1-5 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
Stage Three: Eyes to See
Thankfulness can’t exist without a subject and an object. Gratitude without a gift is more accurately described as contentment or happiness. Gratitude without a giver is appreciation or enjoyment. “Gosh, I really appreciate the way roses smell.” or “I am enjoying the nice weather.” You can’t be thankful for the fragrance of flowers or the sunshine on your face without God. Gratitude is inseparable from the giver and the gift. Disciplining ourselves to see the blessings around us in terms of gratitude constantly points us back to the Father.
Disciplining yourself to give thanks starts with recognizing two things:
- There is something for which I should be thankful.
- There is someone to whom I should be thankful.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. James 1:16-17
When we pray for eyes to see the gifts of God, we will naturally respond the way we do to people for things. We all give thanks all of the time. Now we just need to continue to do what this is easy stuff once we purpose in our hearts to see gifts all around us. This isn’t learning a whole new way to walk; this is just walking in a different direction.
Stage Four: Giving Thanks
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! Matthew 7:11
Consider how stridently we teach our own children how to say “Thank you.” I have held literally thousands of graham crackers and crayons hostage while a determined toddler reaches for them and refuses just to give in and say “Thank you.” Gratitude is a learned behavior. It becomes a habit when it is practiced. As a parent, I have withheld from my little toddlers when they are not practicing gratitude. Thankfully, God isn’t like that.
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.
Wait! That isn’t fair! I thank God every day that He is not fair. Were He fair, I would not be able to call myself His child. Before you consider what unfairness has cheated you out of, consider what unfairness has blessed you with.
Justice: Getting what we deserve.
Mercy: Not getting what we deserve.
Grace: Getting what we don’t deserve.
In deference to my daughter Sunny, I need to qualify my statements here a little bit. She rightly pointed out to me that once Jesus paid our debt on the cross and our sins were blotted out, it did become fair for us to receive God’s mercy. The price had been paid. We no longer deserved condemnation. God’s grace is an outpouring of His character which is always loving and good. And that is not something that is ours as a matter of right or fairness. It is ours as a matter of His love and goodness alone.
A psychologist gave a seminar on happiness with a few hundred people in attendance. At the beginning, she asked for all of those people who just know that they would be happy if they had better finances to stand up. After they sat down she asked all of the people whose finances are great but who are still not happy to stand up. She went on—losing weight, a better marriage, children, better job—. The point is, it is up to us to decide whether we have anything to be grateful for or not. Is your glass half empty or half full? It doesn’t matter what I think. It matters what you think. Focusing on what you don’t have will never foster joy.
Stage Five: Being Thankful = Thankfullness
Gratitude sees the world in terms of blessing and accepts gifts from God with thanksgiving.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Thankfulness is what it sounds like: being full of thanks. Once we have eyes to see that our lives are full of gifts and benefits and our hearts are full of appreciation of the Giver of all good things, we become full of thanks. When the focus is on God and the abundance of blessing around us a number of things happen in our minds and our hearts.
It is easy to find out what someone is full of, just squeeze them a bit and see what comes out. We have an old house that has been undergoing a renovation for the better part of a decade. The original architect of our 95 year old house didn’t seem to think that anyone would ever need more than one light bulb and a single outlet in any given room. Forget about a dishwasher, microwave, toaster and crockpot. At least twice or three times per day, the circuit breaker flips off and my kitchen goes dark. Do you have any idea how infuriating—literally causing me to engage in fury—it is to me to have to walk 10 feet over to the power panel, find the right switch and flip it back? You would think that I just woke up from surgery and found out that they had amputated the wrong leg. When you squeeze me, impatience, covetousness, dissatisfaction, self-righteousness and indignation comes right on out.
I figure I am about half-full of gratitude these days because about half the time I when the power flips off I take the opportunity to thank God for electricity, for my high amp draw shiny new appliances, for my wonderful husband who installed them, for my electric bill that is paid, for the blessing of living in a 1st world country and, most of all, for an opportunity to choose not to be a downer. When the power goes off and I don’t turn into a dragon lady on the war path, it blesses my family.
When Jesus was squeezed in the Garden of Gethsemane—Hebrew for the place of the Olive Press—what came out was what He was full of.
“Abba, Father,” he said, “Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36
- Relationship with Father God.
- Recognition of God’s power.
- Desire to seek God for intervention in His life.
- Submission to God’s will.
- A desire for His Disciples to be obedient to Him (Mark 14:37-39)
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[c] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
If we are in Christ, we are already full of the Holy Spirit and possess those very attributes in abundance. Our purpose should be to build up our spirits to the point that when the flesh is squeezed, it is spirit that comes out. Thankfulness is simply the recognition of the goodness of God.
Walking It Out
You’ve heard the message. You know how important it is to God for you to be thankful. You know how un-godly it is to be unthankful. This is a message that demands a response. Our God is a God who requires a response from us. We start by turning away from Thanklessness. We renounce and repent ever harboring a spirit of ingratitude and ask God to cleanse us of that. Now we proceed to walk in thankfulness every moment, every hour, every day.
- Recognize the gift
- Name it
- Thank the Giver
- Speak it
- Remember the Gift
- Write it down
Challenge yourself to document at least 1 gift from God each day this month. Keep it real, not abstractions. Think Julie Andrews and brown paper packages tied up with strings. Tune into your spirit. When something makes you happy, own it. Thank Him. Record it.