(With Julie Busteed and Alice Huntzicker)
(Mary) We’re beginning Thanksgiving week and I was just thinking how glad I am that our country has a day that is dedicated to giving thanks for our blessings—aren’t you?
(Alice) Yes, I am. You know, not every country does this. In fact, few celebrate it as a day to give thanks to God.
(Julie) I’m also thankful Thanksgiving is still on our calendars. It gives us an opportunity as Christ-followers to talk about God’s goodness to us.
(Mary) It certainly should give us a unique opportunity to talk about God, but the focus of giving thanks often gets lost in the shuffle, even among those of us who are Christ-followers, who above all people should have grateful hearts, full of thanksgiving.
(Alice) True, and don’t you think that the real issue is we so easily forget all our blessings and we go through too many days without ever giving thanks. We just take our blessings for granted.
(Julie) True enough and I confess to being guilty of that at times—to thinking too much about the meal I’m going to cook instead of the reason for that meal.
(Mary) What I’ve discovered is that I must intentionally and regularly remember to give thanks—to have an attitude that is full of thankfulness at all times. So, I thought we could talk about today: How we can maintain an attitude of gratitude every day of the year, not just at Thanksgiving time.
In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote: “All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15). I remember reading that verse some time ago and asking myself what my life would be like if I overflowed with thanksgiving every day. I certainly have every reason to overflow every day, but I don’t always do it.
What would you say are some of the obstacles that can keep us from overflowing with thanksgiving?
(Alice) Don’t you think one reason is because we just are so focused on the problems in our lives, or the problems in the world, that we allow our hearts and minds to be filled with worry or frustration, and it just doesn’t leave room for being thankful!
(Julie) For sure that happens, and what we’re going through this year has truly caused us to be focused on the troubles we hear and see all around us. Just about everything that’s happening in our world today is troublesome, isn’t it? Don’t you think that is a major reason we forget to be thankful?
(Mary) Yes, and because there is much to be concerned about, we have to be even more determined to develop and maintain a real attitude of gratitude—a true heart-filled wonder at God’s goodness so that we are focusing on the good things instead of being swallowed up by the troubles and difficulties of this life. Don’t you know that the enemy of our soul would love to keep us from being thankful people? If we stay mired in worry and complaining and negative attitudes, then we’re not much of a witness for our Lord.
But a person who develops a real, genuine attitude of gratitude is the kind of person you love to be with, the kind who exudes the joy of the Lord. It is a testimony that cannot be missed when we as Christ-followers keep a thankful heart, especially in today’s world.
Well, since Thanksgiving is around the corner, let’s talk about some specific things we can do to develop an attitude of gratitude. Remember that this attitude is a matter of what we think about—what we put into our minds and what we refuse to think about.
Here’s my first suggestion: Make it a habit to regularly remember and talk about the wonder of all that God has done for you. It is that childlike wonder that we so often and so easily lose in our walk with the Lord. We lose it and we lose that attitude of gratefulness.
(Alice) Wasn’t it the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2 that had lost the wonder? They did all kinds of good things, but it was written about them that they had forsaken their first love. That’s another way of saying they lost the wonder.
(Mary) Good example. You can do everything right and still lose the wonder of all God has done for you through Jesus. And when you lose the wonder, you lose the attitude of gratitude. So, ask yourself: Have you lost the wonder? What are some of these “wonders” that we need to continually recall?
(Julie) Well, I think first would be the wonder of our salvation. Maybe it’s been awhile since you became a new creation in Christ by placing your trust in Jesus, and you’ve just forgotten what life was like before Jesus.
(Mary) The three of us have been Christ-followers for many years. Have we lost the wonder of what it means to be a child of God? When was the last time you shared your story of the time when you became a child of God? When was the last time you prayed: “Lord, thank you so much that I’m born from above and I know that I’ll spend eternity with you”?
(Alice) Nothing could be more wonderful than our salvation, and if we remembered it intentionally—regularly, even just remembering to thank God in our daily prayers for our salvation, it would make us more grateful people, don’t you think?
(Mary) That’s a good suggestion, just meditate on the fact that you’ve been born from above by grace through faith—do it daily, thank God daily. Think about where you would be if you were not saved. Think of the pit from which God picked you up. I often pray this passage from Psalm 40:2-3a: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
Oh, the wonder of salvation. Recover the wonder. Next time you’re with some Christian friends, instead of small talk or some equally unedifying conversation, why not have everyone share their salvation testimony. It’s a great way to spend an evening, and believe me, it will help you recover the wonder of your salvation.
And a second suggestion that will help us overflow with thankfulness is just to let God’s creation inspire and amaze you. Don’t lose the wonder of God’s creation.
(Julie) I agree—I walk my dog each morning, and it’s just a good time for me to enjoy God’s creation. It’s always beautiful no matter what time of year it is. The beauty of each season shows God’s extravagance in the world he created. I think we overlook and take for granted God’s handiwork. If we did that more often, don’t you think we’d be more grateful?
(Alice) I think you’re right. We need more balance in our life when it comes to enjoying God’s creation, and we miss a great deal when we ignore the wonder of creation. I think of the Psalms and how David never lost the wonder of God. For example, he wrote:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4).
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Psalm 19:1).
(Mary) Yes, David is a good example of how meditating and appreciating the wonder of God’s creation makes a huge difference in our gratitude attitude. Sometimes I just sit and think about how God spoke the worlds into being. He created this unfathomable universe where we live. Our galaxy has over 100 billion stars and he knows every one of them by name.
They tell us that if we were any closer to the sun we would burn to a crisp. If we were further away our planet would turn to ice. But God keeps our earth exactly the right distance from the sun. The oceans and tides are controlled by him—he keeps them in bounds.
In the midst of this pandemic and this upside-down world, don’t lose the wonder of God’s creation. Take some time to look around at the beauty of the world. Whether it’s walks in the woods or putting some flowers on your table, find ways to recover the wonder of the creation of God.
(Julie) And another thing we easily forget—another amazing wonder—is how God created us. I love how David put it in Psalm 139:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).
When I think about the wonder of how God created me, that he knew me before I was born and cares about me personally—it really causes me to be so grateful.
(Mary) I’m glad you mentioned that because it is totally biblical to be awestruck at the wonder of God’s creativity in you. That’s not pride, that’s appreciating God’s amazing work.
For example, it would help you appreciate your own creation if you just took time to list out loud the things about you that are unique. You may be a wonderful listener; or perhaps you are a great encourager; Maybe you’re a gifted writer or speaker; you may have the gift of joy that you bring to others. Are you a helper—someone who is there for others in their times of need? That’s wonderful! Say so. Thank God for who you are.
(Alice) I find that when I start comparing myself to others or wishing I was different than I am, that’s when I lose the wonder of how God created me. That can make me discouraged and depressed instead of grateful.
(Julie) Yes, why is it we often get caught in that trap of comparing ourselves to others? It just shows that we don’t really appreciate how God created us.
(Mary) It’s one of the enemy’s traps to steal our joy and keep us self-focused. As I’ve often said, one of the most miserable places to be is to be self-absorbed.
And, of course, the best way to keep a thankful attitude—to overflow with thankfulness—is to keep your heart and mind focused on Jesus. That just never fails. In Mark 9:15 we read: “As soon as the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.” Overwhelmed with wonder when they saw Jesus! That should be our daily attitude, don’t you think? Just to think of all he did for us and all he’s doing for us now should take us out of any despair or discouragement and fill us with gratitude.
I think of a song we often sing: “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you.” That’s a good song to start your day with—asking God to open the eyes of your heart so you can see Jesus. So that your mind can stay fixed on Jesus.
The writer to the Hebrews put it this way: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1b). Keeping the eyes of our heart fixed on Jesus is the key to running the race marked out for us, and it will definitely go a long way to filling us with thanksgiving.
I am more and more convinced that being intentional about being thankful every day is one of the most important disciplines of a growing and impactful faith walk. It is a key to rejoicing in the Lord always, as Paul admonishes us, and we know that the joy of the Lord is our strength. So, it’s the key to having the strength and courage and motivation to persevere—to run with perseverance the race God has marked out for each of us.
I call it a discipline because it’s not something that always comes naturally for us, is it? It is a habit—a discipline—a training method to help us remember to be thankful.
To summarize—as we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you to make this a daily pursuit—to overflow with thankfulness every day. Make it a habit to thank God regularly for rescuing you from the penalty of your sin and giving you his redemption, to revel in God’s amazing creation, to never forget to thank God for his creativity in you, and most importantly, to stay focused on Jesus. He will never fail you.