by Sarah Lee Bryant
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
It was the night before Thanksgiving—one of my favorite holidays.
The house was filled with an array of delicious aromas—smells of the feast we would all enjoy as a family tomorrow. It’s a time I always look forward to each year.
However, that night my heart was heavy. I wasn’t feeling thankful…in fact, to be completely honest, I probably could have come up with a list of things I was not thankful for faster than the things I was grateful for.
As I climbed into bed, I told the Lord how I felt. I poured out my struggle and burden to Him. I know I should be counting my blessings—of all times of the year!—but I just don’t feel like I can do that, Lord! I am overwhelmed. Show me what is wrong…I want to have the right attitude!
I reached for a book sitting by my nightstand, entitled Choosing Gratitude. Of all topics, this was certainly the one I needed to read about. As I read, I felt the Lord convicting my heart of my ingratitude. I opened His Word and began to soak in His truth…in the reality of what I have received through the finished work of Christ…taking my eyes off my perceived difficulties and burdens…focusing on His goodness.
That night—on Thanksgiving eve—the Lord reminded me of three very important (and yet basic!) keys to maintaining a grateful attitude. An attitude which will really transform our lives.
1. What’s inside will come out.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
I’ve read this passage so many times, and yet the truth contained therein is absolutely life changing. That’s because our outlook on life (attitude) is directly related to what is taking place in our heart. That night, I was struggling with an ungrateful attitude because I had allowed myself to focus on the wrong things. I was looking at the trials, not the blessings…I had expectations, instead of a surrendered spirit…I was focusing on myself, instead of others. And as I found, wrong thoughts lead to a wrong attitude: ingratitude and selfishness.
Guarding our thoughts is a constant battle. Whether it’s envy, complaining, selfishness, jealousy, or any other nasty sin—it all starts in our mind…and grows from there. Sisters, we simply must immediately cast down these sorts of thoughts from taking place in our mind!
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Corinthians 10:5)
As we choose to meditate on what is true, pure, and lovely, our heart will overflow with gratitude and praise! I’ve really found this to be true. It’s the best way to live!
2. We are commanded to count our blessings.
“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in
Christ Jesus concerning you.” (I Thessalonians 5:18)
Being thankful is a choice. It’s also a command—it is God’s will for us. As we choose to meditate on what is true and good, we’ll inevitably notice how abundantly our loving heavenly Father has poured out His goodness upon our lives. Going through the day thanking the Lord, focusing on His blessings at every turn, is a sure way to develop a more grateful attitude! Lord, thank You for the cheerful birds singing this morning! Thank you for ___ which You have provided! And on and on we can go!
Of course, we all face situations and circumstances that may not be pleasant at times—yet even then, we are to give thanks. (And really…it all goes back to our focus. Am I magnifying my troubles, or magnifying God’s goodness? Are my “hardships” really as serious as I perceive them to be? I’m finding that there are always others going through much much greater trials than anything I can imagine facing. Young widows struggling to make ends meet. A family with a member killed in an accident. Persecuted Christians suffering and sacrificing dearly for their faith.) No matter what we are facing, God’s Word tells us to give thanks.
And isn’t it truly a most beautiful thing to see one who radiates thankfulness and joy, even in the midst of hardships or sorrow? An indomitable grateful heart is precious to God and to others!
3. We need to serve others.
“The King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. We live in a world of hurting people. People without Jesus, people who have suffered much loss. The way to point others to Jesus through the holiday season—and all year long—is to see and meet the needs of others in whatever ways we are able…big or small. It may be something as simple as smiling at everyone we walk past in the grocery store or helping that elderly lady reach the item on the top shelf or praying with that little girl at church or taking a fresh batch of homemade bread to the sick neighbor. In a world that is fast-paced and “too busy” to care, as daughters of the King, may we be others-focused, shining brightly for the Lord Jesus.
Serving others sometimes actually helps ourselves more than it does the receiver, though. The path to true gratefulness and joy in Christ is through serving, sacrificing, giving—focusing on others. As we give (as an offering of our thankfulness for what God has done for us), Jesus is poured out through us.
“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)
How can you serve someone today? Is there something you could do to help your mom with her responsibilities? How does she want to make the holidays special for your family, and how can you help her in that? Look for needs around you, and you will find how blessed it is to give!
These three things will change our attitude.
That night, the Lord convicted me of my ingratitude. I thought of the ten lepers (Luke 17) who Jesus healed. How many came back to thank Jesus for their miraculous healing? Only one. No doubt, the other nine also enjoyed the benefits of returning to a normal healthy life…but only one was truly grateful for what Christ had done! He returned and thanked the Lord for his restoration: and reaped the extra spiritual blessings of that gratitude.
And as I thought of all that Jesus has done for me in redeeming me by His own blood, I was humbled. I have been given so much! I asked the Lord to forgive me for my ingratitude and to help me guard my heart against “joy robbers,” to count my blessings, and to look for ways to serve others.
And guess what?—my attitude was completely transformed! I had a most wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving…because my focus was where it should be.
Dear friend, this holiday season, will you join me in looking to the Lord in gratitude? Let’s lay aside our expectations and focus on the Lord’s goodness, and let that gratefulness flow out in loving service to others. It’ll not only change our own life—but it will also impact everyone around us!
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
P.S. What are some ways that we can serve others or bless others this Christmas season? We’d love to hear: leave a comment with your ideas!
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