“Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” James 1:17
An attitude of thankfulness and gratitude begins in the heart. It is not something to be acknowledged and recognized merely because a holiday on the calendar reminds us of our need for it. Thanksgiving should be a year-long celebration, a lifelong pursuit. Often, I think we have it backwards. We feel thankful for our blessings in any given moment and we are struck afresh with a grateful heart. Perhaps, we need to readjust our thinking and let our thoughts guide our feelings rather than wait to feel thankful. Intentional thanksgiving. As I was walking my dogs the other day, I was overwhelmed by the beauty in nature surrounding us. My view was of the mountains, gloriously sprinkled with the colors of red, orange, yellow, and all things autumn. I was amazed anew by the artwork of the divine Creator. To behold such beauty. To behold such a beautiful Creator. I was wonderstruck by the intricate design of God’s creation. God is the Master Artist, the Original Artist. He made the colors. He made the trees. He made the mountains. He was present at their creation. Throughout Scripture we see that the heavens declare the glory of God. Psalm 148 calls for all of creation to praise the Lord. See what it says below:
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise Him in the heights.
2 Praise Him, all His angels;
praise Him, all His hosts.
3 Praise Him, sun and moon;
praise Him, all you shining stars.
4 Praise Him, highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens.
5 Let them praise the name of Yahweh,
for He commanded, and they were created.
6 He set them in position forever and ever;
He gave an order that will never pass away.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
all sea monsters and ocean depths,
8 lightning and hail, snow and cloud,
powerful wind that executes His command,
9 mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
creatures that crawl and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all judges of the earth,
12 young men as well as young women,
old and young together.
13 Let them praise the name of Yahweh,
for His name alone is exalted.
His majesty covers heaven and earth.
14 He has raised up a horn for His people,
resulting in praise to all His godly ones,
to the Israelites, the people close to Him.
We, too, are God’s creation. We, too, should offer Him our praise, and not merely circumstantial praise. The fact that so great a God is so intimately involved in our lives and has loved us so very much is cause enough for praise. I Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to: “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We are not told to pick and choose when to be thankful or to wait for feelings of gratitude before we are thankful. Paul told the Thessalonians to give thanks in everything. As a believer of many years, I have heard various interpretations of this verse. Some say, we are not told be thankful for everything, especially the bad and painful things. They say we are to be thankful in those circumstances–highlighting the preposition used in the verse. Corrie ten Boom, however, followed the example of her sister by giving thanks for all things–even the fleas that infested them. Whether it is in all circumstances or for all circumstances is not really what matters most. What matters most is the One to whom our thanks is focused. We are giving thanks to Almighty God in all things, for all things, and He is our Sustainer. When He becomes the focus of our gratitude and thankfulness, the color of our circumstances fade in light of Him, in light of His grace. When we remember to give thanks, we must remember that our thankfulness is not about our gifts or our circumstances or our blessings or even our pain. Our thankfulness is about Jesus Christ. It’s not about us.
As I was pondering these things on that same day walking the dogs, God brought to mind the story of the ten lepers found in Luke 17:11-19. Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem when He encountered ten men struck with leprosy, and they were crying out for Jesus to have mercy on them. As was His way–and still is–He had mercy on them and sent them on their way, instructing them to show themselves to the priests. It was only while they were running to the priests did they receive healing. Yet only one realized that healing had occurred, and he returned to Jesus. “He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him” (v.16). Only one returned to give thanks. Ten were healed. One returned. Only one remembered from whom the healing came. During my reflections on this story, I was convicted. Yes, I am working with Jesus to cultivate a thankful heart. I am intentionally counting my blessings, but how frequently do I, do we forget to say thank you to Jesus, the Giver of all the blessings? More often than not, we are like the other nine guys. We pray. We ask God for the needs of our heart, but when He answers and blesses us, we are quick to forget Him in the midst of it all. James, Jesus’ brother, wrote that every generous act and every good gift is from the Father of lights. God Himself bestows us with abundant goodness, abundant grace, abundant forgiveness, abundant life, and abundant blessing, as is His way. Even in the midst of the most fiery trials, Jesus stands with us, beside us, and never leaves us to face it alone. His Presence is our gift. I love the words of Asaph in Psalm 73:28: “But as for me, God’s presence is my good.” Do we live in such a way that our lives and our hearts and our thanks reflect that God’s presence is our good? Let it be so of me, Lord Jesus. The challenge before us is to be the one who returns with thanksgiving on our lips as we fall on our faces in the Presence of the Giver of all good gifts. Like His magnificent creation, we, too, should praise Him. Let us give thanks in all circumstances or for all circumstances, regardless of what they are. When we give thanks, let us acknowledge the One to whom is the praise given. May we never become so distracted by listing the blessings that we ignore the One who bestowed them. May our focus be on Jesus and that is reason enough to give thanks in everything, for everything, and through everything.
Friends, be blessed. Be the one to return, giving thanks, eyes on Jesus!