I will choose to be thankful.
No two people who have ever lived have experienced an identical life journey. There may be some general similarities, but the intricate details are always unique. Because of original sin, our lives in a fallen world are often characterized by struggle. The struggle may be as a result of the consequences of our own choices, or a result of circumstances beyond our control.
In broad terms, depending on where we were born or the details of our environments, we may have enjoyed a life of relative peace, never having known civil war or what it was like to flee as a refugee to a strange country with only the clothes on our backs. We may have grown up in economic security, never being concerned about where our next meal would come from, where we would sleep, or if we could afford to keep the heat and lights on in our homes. We may not have had to contend with cyclical, devastating weather patterns that continually threatened our very way of life, and from which we could never escape by simply moving to a safer place. All of us at one time or another will face the loss of a loved one, illness, family strife, or the distressing results of the choices of another human being who is still captive to his or her sinful nature, unchanged by God’s grace.
As Christ-followers, the struggle goes even deeper—we don’t just face earthly challenges and obstacles, but literal forces of evil seeking to demolish our faith in God’s goodness (Ephesians 6:12) and our confidence that He sees us, and hears and answers prayer (Hebrews 11:6). It can be hard to see any good in our situation. But the Bible encourages us to be thankful at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude journals have become popular in both Christian and non-Christian circles, but our motivation for maintaining an attitude of gratitude should go deeper than merely trying to feel better about what may be happening at any given moment. Why? Because there is a danger in allowing earthly troubles to crowd out the good seed that has been planted in our lives (Matthew 13:22). Our prayers will begin to lack fervour and expectancy. And we lose the strength we can gain by remembering that God is working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). Jesus warns us that after a while we can be so overcome by worry and disappointment that we forget the grace shown to us by His death on the cross and stop following Him completely.
As we move through life, there is always a much bigger and more beautiful picture taking shape than our earthly eyes can see. Whether you see the result in this life or have to wait until the next, the Bible urges us to place our confidence in what is unseen, since it is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:18). We need God’s grace to remain thankful both for what He has already done and for what He is about to do, now and throughout eternity. This is a counter-cultural posture that we can only take consistently with the help of the Holy Spirit. Not only will we be encouraged as we walk through difficulty, but those in despair, needing hope, can be encouraged by the faith and gratitude we display in the midst of any of our challenges.
Ask and it will be granted…
- That our eyes will continually be opened to God’s handiwork in our lives and circumstances.
- That the Holy Spirit will help us to remain thankful and full of praise in all seasons.
- That the Holy Spirit will help us to be faithful in bringing our requests to the Father, with thanksgiving, so that we may have the peace He promises.
- How would you describe your current level of gratitude for God’s work in your life?
- How would others describe your faith during this season? Can they tell that you are thankful, joyful or hopeful? Why or why not?
- In what ways can you increase your level of gratitude if you have felt more frustrated than thankful lately?
1 Thessalonians 5:17-19 (NLT)
“Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 4:18 (NLT)
“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:28 (NLT)
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
Next month’s “I Will” statement: “I will give of myself even though it costs me something.”
November 2019 prayer emphasis: Men’s Night of Prayer
A note from Richard Swiatek, director of Men of Honor Ministry (click here).
You can also look out for the emphasis on prayer for the Persecuted Church in November.
To sign up for weekly, general PAOC prayer updates, click here.