Excitement and anticipation feels the air along with the scents of deliciousness. Kids squirm in their chairs as they try to curb their appetite. With solemnity, the adults gather around the table; the last of the feast is added, and the women sit down. Now comes the time to say thanks–not only for the food, but for the happenings over the course of the last year. Each family member shares one thing, and when the final person has spoken, a prayer is uttered. Everyone digs in and begins eating.
Two or three hours later, after sufficient treats and food to suffice for multiple meals, it’s time to go home. Grumblings and complaints come from the kids as the sugar in their system not collides with the tiredness. Dad has to get up in the morning for work, and mom dreads dealing with the kids the next day. Thankfulness already is replaced with frustration.
This fictional scene has been played out in homes across the nation and the world. From one moment being grateful to the next grumbling and complaining. It’s not even a new phenomenon. It’s an age-old problem that is seen in the Old Testament and warned about in the New Testament. How can we live life with thanksgiving?
As our Sunday School class has discussed for the past three years, and off and on for many years previously, this ties in with remembering. God warned the Israelites over and over again to not forget that it was He who gave them their wealth, health, and homes. This same sentiment is repeated by Paul in Ephesians. He says, “Therefore, remember, that you . . . were at that time separate from Christ.” The amazing thing on this verse is that Paul just spent ten verses explicitly explaining who they were before Christ.
To keep a thankful heart, we must remember what has happened in the past to keep our perspective in line. If we forget the past, we’ll soon fall into grumblings.
2. Rely on God.
Being thankful isn’t easy. Our default button is set to grumble and complain; so we need God’s help. However, we tend to rely on ourselves and then totally forget that God has anything to do with our lives. This lack of reliance pushes us into focusing on ourselves and our problems instead of on our blessings.
3. Be filled with the Spirit.
Again, this is easier to say than to do or even understand. Believers have a way of expressing things in terminology that no one else gets. So, our teacher this morning asked us to put this in words we all could understand. Being filled with the Spirit means that I allow God’s Holy Spirit to help me have love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. Not a single one of those is easy to do, but with God’s help, you can.
4. Put others’ needs ahead of your own.
Ugh! Another one of those easier to say than to do. It’s so much easier to be selfish than to think of others. Yet, it’s so much easier to be thankful when we realize we’re not the only ones with needs in the world.
5. Give up your rights.
What? Don’t stone me, or throw me into the crazy bin. To be able to put others’ needs ahead of my own, I really have to say that my rights aren’t the utmost importance here. I have to realize that my family, friends, and neighbors have rights too. When I set my rights on the shelf, I’m not saying that I allow people to walk all over me or abuse me. It’s a matter of saying that I don’t always have to have my own way, or that I can allow things to slide. It’s okay if my husband and kids have all the pie, or choose the music; those aren’t rights I have to fight for.
6. Realize God doesn’t make mistakes.
This theme has shown up in other blog posts, and it’s key to living a life of faith, because that’s what it is–Faith. Faith that God is sovereign and knows what He’s doing. It’s the faith of a child in Daddy.
I was under four years old when I experienced my first tornado. I don’t remember much of it, because of that, but what I do remember is the flurry of autumn leaves scurrying across the street, the hurry of our family to get next door to a cellar, and the feeling of absolute peace. Peace? Yep, because I was safe in my daddy’s arms. He was not going to let me down.
This is the same peace we can have in God. We can relax in His loving arms, knowing He’ll take care of us.
7. Be honest with God.
So, despite knowing God doesn’t make mistakes, there’ll be times when we seriously question His plan. That’s when you can talk to Him openly and honestly. Express your hurt, frustration, anger, and mixed-up emotions. He’ll understand.
8. Keep an eternal perspective.
I’ve been memorizing Ephesians, again. Yes, if I’m not constantly working on a passage I lose it. One thing that has hit me in the face this year from the first three chapters is how much we have to be thankful for. Before coming to Christ, we were dead. Not physically, but our spiritual side was lying dead on the ground unresponsive to anything, but God came along and raised us up.
I love what a young man said today in the sermon. He was reading from Ephesians 2 and verse 3. “But God being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions in sins, made us alive together with him–by grace you are saved.”
But–pauses and looks at all the death, slavery, and sin
God–looks at what God did for us.
But God–the gospel in two words!
God’s acted and done away with our slavery, because of His mercy and grace. We were dead on the ground unable to earn this. It’s all about who God is.
That will put a smile on your face and thanksgiving in your heart!
9. Realize it’s a life-long process that starts small and grows.
No one said being thankful and remembering what God has done for us is easy. It’ll be a constant battle, and maybe that’s why God gives us so many reminders to remember Him. Taking the little steps each day to remember will help you along the way.
As you get ready to celebrate the holiday season, remember to be thankful. Remember, God has a plan for you, and He loves you. Will thankfulness morph into grumbling, or will you choose to remember and thank God for all He’s done in your life. I’d love to hear what you have to be thankful for. Share it in the comments.