Embracing Grace: The Undervalued Art of Being Thankful

A 365 Day Devotional Journal

Day 25

Scripture: Ephesians 5:1-6, 17-21; Philippians 4:4-7.

Photo credit: Anna Cervova; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net

Thankfulness is an art most fine, a much underrated commodity.

Being thankful is important. We all say we are thankful to God and our loved ones or friends from time to time. I wonder, though, how many times do I make the conscious decision to be thankful each day? Surely I do sometimes. If not daily, then do I express thankfulness each week? Okay, if not weekly, then ouch, do I at least express thankfulness on a monthly basis?

Let’s be honest here. When I say “thanksgiving,” what is the first thing that pops in your mind? Is it turkey with dressing, or an attitude of the heart? A push in recent years toward actively expressing thankfulness toward God, family and friends over Thanksgiving is making strides in some circles. This has been extended to sharing our blessing with others not so fortunate. The growing awareness of those around us who are in need, not just during the holiday season but year round has also increased and is needful. Did not Jesus say the poor we will always have with us? What could possibly be better than reaching out to those in need?

There is one thing.

Hear me out before you send nasty emails. But first, answer this question: when are you the happiest? Is it when something good happens to you, or perhaps, to a good friend? When you feel this happiness, have you ever thought that it really is thankfulness you are feeling?

I do. Think about it for a minute.

When I am delighted to receive an A on an exam, what I am feeling? Am I just happy, or is this an outward expression of an underlying inner thankfulness for being happy? For instance, is it in fact thankfulness for having succeeded, thankfulness over understanding the material, thankfulness that I actually studied this time so that I could get an A?

Happiness is an external expression of the internal condition of thankfulness.

In other words, my delight is the result of being thankful.

What about when I feel exuberance over losing five pounds? Is it ebullience I feel, or is the joy I feel an expression of my thankfulness that my pants fit looser, thankfulness that I ate right, thankfulness that I denied my hunger long enough to achieve the loss in the first place?

Joy is an outward expression of the internal condition of thankfulness.

Joy is the result of being thankful.

Even in Roget’s Thesaurus, thankfulness is considered synonymous with cheerfulness, gladness and contentedness.1

Thankfulness is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit, yet it is inexorably tied together with being filled with the Spirit. Since the fruit of the Spirit is a result of being filled with the Spirit, then it stands to reason that thankfulness is woven in there somewhere. Take a look at Ephesians 5:17-21:

“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.2

I will take this one step further and say that not only do we need to be thankful while being filled with the Spirit (which is required to produce the fruit of the Spirit), but thankfulness is a necessary element of walking in faith toward God.

Look back at Ephesians 5:1-6. Paul says for us to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love,” just as Christ did, as His love and sacrificial offering for us went up to God as an offering and “sweet-smelling aroma.” He immediately then says these things – fornication, uncleanness, covetousness/idolatry, filthiness, foolish talking, coarse jesting – are not to be even named among us,

“…but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”3

Now, I may not be the smartest apple in the crate here, but only four items of instruction were given in this passage to the follower of Christ:

  1. Be imitators of God.
  2. Walk in love.
  3. Be known by Giving of Thanks.
  4. Submit to one another in the Fear of God.

When Paul writes of the negative (sinful) attributes, however, he compares them all to just the one thingthe giving of thanks. In my book, this warrants closer inspection. Why do you think being known by our giving of thanks was compared to being known as having one of the negative attributes? Is it perhaps because the attribute of giving thanks is incompatible with the others?

When we imitate God, we walk like Jesus walked. We talk like Jesus talked. We have faith like Jesus exercised faith. When we imitate God, we walk in love, we become known by our giving thanks, and we submit, or humble ourselves to each other in the Holy awe, or fear, of God.

It puts a different spin on things when thankfulness is elevated to such an important level as to the imitating of God in our behavior.

In my own life, I find the answers to prayer arrive more quickly when I actively express thankfulness by stepping out in faith and thanking God for the answer before I see it.

Case in point, when our eldest child was little, we drove only one car. It was an aging Buick. We were believing God for finances for a second car. One of the quirky things about this vehicle was that the gas gauge broke fairly early on in its life. The repair for this was over $400, because the gauge was located inside the gas tank. We decided to keep a mileage book instead of repairing it, so we would have a good idea when it was time to gas up.

Anyone who knows us also knows Jim is the laid back one. I routinely filled the car every ten days or so, whether it needed it or not, so I would not run out of gas.

You know where this is headed. My husband did not fill up the car soon enough. We were driving home on St. Andrews Highway when the car ran out of gas. To make matters worse, it was a brutally hot, West Texas day. Jim had just enough fumes to turn off the main street, coast half a block, turn left into a subdivision, and pull up under the only street tree big enough to cast some shade.

For reasons I still today cannot explain, my spirit immediately leapt into praise and thanksgiving, and I began to thank God for His abundant provision out loud, to thank Him for giving us the car that we did have, for providing a means for us to get home. And I’m telling you, with God as my witness, our Holy God invaded the front seat that day in a tangible way.

God responds when we enter His gates with thanksgiving.

The car had not completely come to a stop when a man stepped out of his open garage and sauntered down his driveway toward us, swinging a red gas can from one arm. As he approached, he called out, “Did you run out of gas? Here, I have a couple of gallons you can have.” Jim offered to pay him, but he shook his head, saying, “I know when I have a need, God will meet it.”

Do you think it was an accident that we just happened to run out of gas in the vicinity of a godly man who wanted to see his needs met by meeting another’s? Absolutely not.

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was to us. We were both reminded of God’s faithfulness in another instance with this same car, one I’m not so proud of…

We were returning home from San Angelo with our eldest, who then was but eleven months old. She had become seriously dehydrated as a result of a virulent form of flu virus. We rushed her to the doctor then spent the day in the San Angelo clinic trying to get her rehydrated. We were told that if we could not get fluids to stay down, she would have to be hospitalized. We sat there, waiting, fully aware we were supposed to fly out the next morning for Thanksgiving with family in Illinois.

We were able after several hours to get her to retain enough fluids and were sent home, a two hour drive into the desert of West Texas. Somewhere about half way home – you guessed it – we ran out of gas. In all the stress of getting a very sick child to the doctor, also a two hour drive, then returning home to pack, Jim had forgotten to gas up the car.

It was pitch black when the car coasted to a stop at the side of the highway in the middle of nowhere, no street lights, no nothing. Just us in a car out of gasoline. I wasn’t so thankful that time. In fact, I was livid. We sat there for close to an hour, and the longer we sat, the angrier I became.

After nearly an hour, we saw headlights in our rear view mirror. It was a tiny VW bug driven by a Mexican man. He pulled over and offered us a ride then graciously took Jim back with a gas can to get the Buick home so we could then leave for Midland’s airport in the morning.

God in His mercy provided for us, even if only to deliver Jim from my fuming.

As I look back on it today, I can’t help but wonder, had I begun to thank God immediately, if He would have impressed on that kind hearted man to head down that deserted highway an hour earlier, or if He would have brought someone else as our deliverer.

God is faithful.

I will forever be thankful that God allowed these experiences to bring home the importance of entering into His presence with thankfulness before we make our requests known. He already knows our needs, anyway. Thankfulness is not for Him. It is for our benefit, for it brings peace.

Philippians 4:4-7 says it all:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”3

Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness. I suspect he was thankful, too.

Isaac does mean laughter.

Read: Ephesians 5:1-6, 17-21; Philippians 4:4-7. Journal your private thoughts.

Father God, thank you for this day! Thank you for teaching me the importance of thanksgiving. Thank you that when I  enter Your Presence with thanksgiving, you are pleased to respond, but even more, that in Your love for me You bring answers to unasked prayers from an unthankful heart. Forgive me the sin of unthankfulness and help me to be truly thankful in all things. Make my life a reflection of You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

_____________________

1“thankful.” Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Philip Lief Group 2009. 01 Mar. 2011. <Thesaurus.com http://thesaurus.com/browse/thankful?__utma=1.1252761321.1299015262.1299015262.1299027101.2&__utmb=1.6.9.1299027101118&__utmc=1&__utmx=-&__utmz=1.1299015262.1.1.utmcsr=(direct)|utmccn=(direct)|utmcmd=(none)&__utmv=-&__utmk=80531607>.
2Ephesians 5:17-21. Bold mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
3Ephesians 5:1-6. Bold mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com
4Philippians 4:4-7. Bold mine. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.nelsonbibles.com

Copyright © 2011, Érin Elise

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