Thankfulness: An Attitude & An Opportunity
Most likely, if you are honest, you tend to think about thankfulness somewhat like I do: Thankfulness is a “nice” idea but the word seems a bit “touchy feely” and “warm-and-fuzzy.”
I am increasingly convinced, though, that thankfulness is one of the single most powerful choices we can make as human beings. This is true, I believe, both in our relationship with God and in our relationships with one another.
Of course, if God is in a real relationship with us at all, then God appreciates being thanked for all of the many gifts that God showers upon us daily. This isn’t an anthropomorphic idea imposed on a passionless and untouchable God. This is rather at the very center of the biblical view of God as genuinely involved in a real and caring way with us humans.
Although I think our thankfulness does move God, today I want to focus on a more easily demonstrable truth: Being thankful changes us and makes more room for God in our lives. I could quote dozens of passages from the Bible, but will note only two today, and maybe some others over the next weeks. And I will remind you I do not so much think that they are “true because they are in the Bible,” but rather that they are “in the Bible because they are true.” So, give them a try and see what you think.
Psalm 50:23— “When you sacrifice thank offerings, you honor me, and you prepare the way so that I may show you the salvation of God.”
What if it is really true that you can experience more of God’s gift of wholeness/healing/rescue/salvation day by day, by taking time to genuinely be thankful for God’s presence, purpose, and gifts? Sound too simple? Then maybe you haven’t tried focusing on being a thankful person in this highly unthankful, critical, negative, and self-indulgent culture we live in. Try it and see what happens!
Ephesians 5:18-21— “.…Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your (pl.) heart to the Lord, at all times giving thanks to God the Father in all situations, in the name of our Lord Jesus the Messiah….”
Many of us say we would like to be more empowered by the spirit of Christ, and many of us try almost everything other than taking the time and energy to be thankful for who God is and for what God has already done and promised. In this “practical actions” part of the letter to the Ephesians, the author gives four ways to open ourselves to being filled with more of the spirit of God. The fourth (5:21f) demands a different study – “Submit yourselves to one another;” but the other three ways all involve heartfelt praise and thanksgiving as we gather together before God.
Many of us think the “music” part of a worship service is mainly about most of us being an audience while a few sisters and brothers who are gifted “perform.” I for one am a poor singer and a worse musician, so this approach to worship means I mainly would critique the “performance” based on my likes and dislikes. UGH! Who wants to spend an hour every Sunday morning doing that?!?
Instead, I am called out by this challenge to be one of a gathered extended family, all of whom place ourselves thankfully before the good Creator of the universe who wants to parent us. Whatever this does for God, we are promised that it will open us to being more filled with the empowering spirit of God. Give it a try. And if you think it is easy to really be there before God in worship, it’s possible you haven’t tried it yet. It demands a grace-empowered choice to resist the spinning mind and the critiquing spirit of our busy culture, and instead to focus on all there is to be thankful for, with the help of songs and scripture, singers, players and planners.
So BE THANKFUL! God help us all!