Christians, we are people of thanksgiving— not just for a day, but in everyday living.
When we gather at our tables this week, for the nationally recognized day of Thanksgiving, here is our charge: no matter the food on the table, the amount in our bank accounts, or the ease in our circumstances— to be people marked by gratitude.
As Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
Do these words describe us?
Content in all circumstances
Whether in plenty or in want
Whether in joy or in sorrow
Giving thanks in all circumstances
This is learned contentment. This is Thanksliving.
Thanksliving is dependent upon our gaining a biblical perspective on the concept of blessing— a perspective that does not change with the shifting circumstances, or the context of my life.
Thanksliving acknowledges that God is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow; that God’s got the whole world in His hands and the full scope of history fully in view.
Thanksliving trusts God and His Word even when, like Job, the empirical evidence tempts us to believe what is contrary to what the Bible claims about God.
Thanksliving includes the concept of the peace that passes understanding that grows out of the joyful knowledge of my salvation and it supersedes the variant and variable highs and lows of human life.
Thanksliving bears witness to the goodness and greatness of God’s blessing even from the foot of a bloody cross.
If Thanksliving is challenging or a foreign idea to you, here are four ways to start learning contentment and gratitude as a way of life— not just a day.
1. We may count our blessings this holiday, but let us not forget what Jesus called “blessed.”
Jesus tells us what it means to be truly blessed in the The Beatitudes:
“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:Matthew 5:2-10
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
For these reasons— not wealth, comfort, success or fame— Jesus says we should “rejoice and be glad,” because our reward is in heaven.
The first step in Thanksliving is to shift our perspective on what it really means to be blessed.
2. Recognize that all we have is from God.
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Not a few of the blessings, not some of the blessings, but all of them. Every blessing flows from God. Each and every one.
James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good and perfect gift flows from above.”
Nothing in our lives worth having comes from us. Every good and perfect gift comes from God.
Not a few, some or even most of them, but all of them. Every good gift comes from God.
Each and every one.
3. God does not have a limited supply of blessings. He blesses us out of the fullness of his grace.
“From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John 1:16
How much is that? How much is the fullness of God’s grace? We have all received one blessing after another— like a constant stream that cannot be contained in the vessel of one life, God’s blessings abound to us over and over again.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Every. Spiritual. Blessing. He never holds out on us and gives generously. The passage goes on to recount the adoption we have as sons, redemption through His blood, forgiveness of sins— all lavished upon us.
4. The final, most important act of Thanksliving is to acknowledge how little we are without God and how much we are with God.
Join me in this reflection, in seeking to understand my rightful place— lowly and loved— before a holy and gracious God:
What am I without God?
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
I am a solitary speck upon the vast canvas of a history going nowhere.
Lonely, lustful, limited, laden, loathsome, lame, lowly, lackluster, left out, lost – lordless but for Lucifer himself.
But with every spiritual blessing in Christ, no matter the status of my worldly blessings, no matter my generational blessings or lack thereof, no matter my physical state or my social status, with every spiritual blessing in Christ, I am Loved and I am lovely.
A luminescent lamp, a luxurious lamb, a legitimized leper, a liaison of the Lord
Laughing, learning, living, loving.
I may still be last in all the things of the world, but I am first in the things that eternally matter.
I have received every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ.
The life I live is not my own –
He is my life-saver, lifeguard, life line, life preserver, life insurance, and my life’s blood.
He determines my life expectancy, my life’s work, and my life’s worth.
He lightens my load, lights my path, links me up, leads me my whole life long and lifts me up at this life’s end.
He is my Lord but does not lord it over me. I am His.
The secret to contentment and Thanksliving is above all— humility. Having a heart that prays, “All I am and all I have are His to use according to His will and for His purpose.”
A heart like that, open, accepting and humble before a good and gracious and gift-giving God, cannot help but be filled with gratitude. A heart that sings, and believes:
Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.
O what a foretaste of glory divine.
Photo by Virginia Simionato on Unsplash