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I recently wrote a short article that was published in a community book project. It was on the subject of gratitude. The thesis of my piece was that there is always something to be thankful for even if you are going through tough stuff.  And we all go through tough stuff. 

There is a man in the Bible named Paul, and he said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

It's a recommendation with a promise. He says, "Follow my example, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul didn’t have an easy life either. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) He had been imprisoned, tortured, stoned, shipwrecked and left adrift on the open sea. He had faced all manner of danger and discomfort, and he had been struck blind. And yet, somehow, he had learned how to be content in any circumstance. (Philippians 4:11) So when he gives us the advice to focus on the positive, I’d say it’s worth a try.

If you would like to read the rest of my article and over 100 more, you can get The Community Book Project: A Gift of Gratitude on Amazon Kindle. It is free until Friday.

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How often have you said this to someone? If a friend has helped you out in multiple ways, you may, instead of listing each kindness, say, “Thanks for everything!” You appreciate all of the goodness. In the United States, tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s a day to pause and be thankful for the abundance of blessings we have in our lives. (Although I’m Canadian, and we celebrate Thanksgiving in October, many of my readers and some of my friends are American. So this post is in honour of their holiday.)

It’s fairly easy to be thankful for the good things in life. Dealing with the less pleasant things is a little harder. Did you know that the Apostle Paul, in his letter to the people of Thessalonica, instructed them to be thankful in everything? (I Thessalonians 5:18) Notice that it doesn’t say to be thankful for everything, but to be thankful in everything. Things may not always go well. In fact, we know that they will often not go well. (John 16:33) But we must always have an attitude of thankfulness to God. This won’t necessarily be how we feel, but we are instructed to choose to be thankful—thankful to God for His power, His goodness, His love, His sacrifice through Jesus on the cross, His gift of salvation to us, and perhaps most importantly during times of trial on this Earth, the promise of an eternity free of hardship and pain. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

This verse is actually only part of the sentence (I Thessalonians 5:16-18) which is part of the final instructions in the concluding paragraphs of Paul’s letter. (I Thessalonians 5:12-22) In these final instructions, Paul encourages his readers to respect their leaders, to live peacefully with each other and to help their brothers and sisters to live in a way that reflects Christ. The exhortations in verses 16-18 are more individual. They involve our personal relationship with God. No matter what our circumstance, we are to always rejoice. Even when we face trials of many kinds, good can come from the struggle. (James 1:2-4) We are to pray constantly. That doesn’t mean that we need to be on our knees with our head bowed and our eyes closed, although there are times when that kind of concentration in prayer is appropriate and beneficial. However, no matter what we are doing throughout our day, we can have an attitude of communion with God. We can consider Him in all of our decisions; we can pray while we are going about our daily tasks. If we consider and trust Him in all aspects of our lives, it will be much easier to be joyful and to be thankful.

Last night as I was pondering all my problems--instead of sleeping--the old hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness came to mind. It was inspired by Jeremiah's words in Lamentations 3:22-24 and the author's own circumstances. Thomas Obadiah Chisholm experienced God's faithfulness in the everyday provision of his needs during times when he was too ill to work. Interestingly, both the Bible passage and the hymn say that God's mercies are new every morning. That doesn't mean that our needs will be met weeks or months in advance. That wouldn't require a lot of trust, would it? I have concluded that I need to spend more time focusing on all the things I have to be thankful for, and trust God to meet my needs for everything else. Of course, I might need to be reminded of that now and then!

Please take a few minutes to listen to this hymn.

'Tis the season of cookie exchanges, and I'm listening to Christmas carols as I get ready for one. I have a lot of Christmas CDs, but this year I have a new one--The Heart of Christmas by Matthew West. There are some traditional Christmas songs on it, but also some that he has written. One of them is called "One Last Christmas" which is a sad story about the loss of a child. The parents however have turned it into a story of hope for others who are facing similar situations by raising money for the hospital that treated their son. We celebrate so many blessings at this time of year, whether consciously or unconsciously, that we really need to consider giving to those who are hurting or are less fortunate. Acts 20:35 reminds us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Please listen to Matthew West's song and consider giving to St. Jude's or a hospital in your area or any other charity that helps people in need. You can purchase his CD at his website or, particularly if you are in Canada, by giving a donation to another worthy cause at FullCircleTV.com

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Fair Disclosure: I receive no payment of any kind for this recommendation.

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Stress. There are so many circumstances in life to cause us worry or anxiety, from everyday annoyances, like getting the kids to school on time or not burning dinner, to huge tragedies. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan come to mind. So does the Chretien family. (Missing – Al and Rita Chretien) Is there really a way to be stress-free? The Apostle Paul tells us how.

In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul echoes Jesus' words (Matthew 6:25-34) when he tells us not to be anxious about anything. Nothing. But then he tells us what to do instead: In every situation, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. One simple sentence is the cure to all our anxiety; let’s look at it closely.

(a) In every situation. Every situation. That means the small, everyday annoyances as well as the devastating tragedies; God cares about every single detail of your life. (Luke 12:6-7) There is nothing too big or too small to bring to God, for He desires that we trust Him and rely on Him for everything. Nothing will catch Him by surprise, and He invites us to come to Him boldly with any request we have. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

(b) Through prayer and petition. Some versions translate this as “by prayer and supplication”. What are the differences between these three terms? I believe that prayer is a more general term and encompasses all of our conversations with God. As followers of Jesus, we should have an attitude of prayer, or some would say live in an atmosphere of prayer, such that we feel God’s presence with us constantly and we are always in communion with Him. When we petition or supplicate, we are asking more earnestly for our needs to be met. Supplication gives more of a sense of pleading, but both terms include the idea of humility. When we are told not to be anxious, it is not that God expects us to stop caring about the situations in our lives. What He wants is for us to bring our cares to Him, and especially to lay at His feet the responsibility of all those things that are out of our control.

(c) With thanksgiving. I think when we have a lot going on that concerns us, we sometimes forget to be thankful. We focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have. God has given us so many blessings, and many of them we take for granted. In I Timothy 6:8, Paul said that he would be content just to have food and shelter. I’m sure that if you are reading this on a computer, you have so much more than that. We need to take time to thank God for our blessings, but we also need to thank Him for all the things we see as hardship as well. Ann Voskamp, author of one thousand gifts, has said, “If I can take everything in my life and see it as grace, a good gift from God’s hand, and give thanks for it, there is joy in this. That joy really is a function of gratitude. And gratitude is a function of perspective. Can I see the things to be grateful for? If I can see the things to be grateful for, I can find joy.”

So, can we be stress-free? Yes. In fact we are commanded to be stress-free, but it is a command with a promise. If we will take all of our cares to God, and if we will be thankful, we will have peace that is beyond our comprehension, peace that comes from knowing that God loves us and has all things in His control. A peace unlike any earthly peace. (John 14:27) This peace will protect our hearts and minds the same way that a sentinel stands on guard to protect the garrison—a way that will keep us free from anxiety.

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one thousand gifts is available from Dayspring. If you are interested click the photo, click on Book Club, then Past Bloom Selections. The link for one thousand gifts will take you to the store.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. I will be spending it with family, and probably eating far too much of a meal that I don't have to cook. I have so much to be thankful for, and I pray that you will all be similarly blessed.

To honour the occasion I am sharing with you Linus' Thanksgiving Prayer.