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Jamie Johnson
15 November 2012

Be Thankful

NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered to a group of residents at Kings Daughters Community Health & Rehabilitation Center on December 2, 2012.

I recently watched a video spoofing technology gurus making complaints about the iPhone 5. One says that Apple Maps is a total disaster and complains he had to use Google Maps. Another complained that the camera has a purple glare when pointed at the sun. Still another complains that the iPhone is too thin and too light. One asks in regards to the manufacturers, "What were they thinking?!" and is then shocked when he finds out three peasant laborers from China -- who helped manufacture the phones -- are there to answer that question. One laborer asks if Starbucks is taking you to Dunkin' Donuts and then sarcastically responds, "It must be so hard for you." Another laborer declares, "We sleep where we work." Another says that while some complain about waiting 6 hours in line for an iPhone, some in China wait 21 days for baby formula. And so on. The video is exaggerated and silly, but it makes a point: Do we have room to complain? We have a roof over our heads, shelter from the elements, internal plumbing with clean water, food, clothing, technology, freedom, ... We live like kings compared to most of the world! Yet, people complain because they do not know how to be truly thankful.

I remember about a year and a half ago, when my son seemed to find it difficult to enjoy and appreciate what he was given because he was always worried about what else he expected to receive instead of being thankful for what he had. He would often say, "What else?" I replied, "It's not about the what else; it's about the what. Be thankful for the what."

We often struggle with asking, "What else?" also. While it does seem that those who have more get more, we often think that we will catch our next big break when we get the next thing. Some are paralyzed by such thinking, not even working towards a goal, but waiting with thankless hearts for "the next thing." In "Oh the Places You'll Go," Dr. Seuss wrote about the ...

The Waiting Place...
...for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow
Everyone is just waiting

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance
Everyone is just waiting.

This waiting is not the same as patience, which is good. Rather, it is waiting on "the next thing" before taking any action. Sometimes, we fail to be grateful because we are waiting for the next thing. We deceive ourselves into thinking that if this happens or I get that, then all will be well and I will be thankful and happy and can act or proceed. Rather, we are to act and proceed in being holy and be thankful in the process regardless of the circumstances. Paul wrote, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Philippians 4:11, NASB).

Some may be physically restricted, but that does not mean they are stuck in "The Waiting Place." At a nursing home I visit, Alice is physically restricted, but she is grateful. She anticipates eternity with confidence. When I have stopped by her room, she is reading her Bible and growing in her faith. She is certainly not in "The Waiting Place." She isn't waiting for a specific time to get into the Bible, but is seizing the opportunity with gratitude. And while she is waiting for Jesus, she is not doing so idly as in "The Waiting Place." Rather, she is anticipating Him with thanksgiving! She, like Paul, is determined to "press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14, NASB).

The other year, I wrote Maxims and one of the maxims was "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." In that article, I mentioned how Dan Allender wrote in "Leading with a Limp" a story about a boy who nonchalantly rips open gifts and is thankless in the act. Then, the boy demands more gifts! Allender wrote, "If we expect a gift -- such as a birthday present -- then we may be pleasantly surprised, but we seldom experience awe [which is] other-centered" (p. 147). The boy failed to appreciate each gift individually and to acknowledge the giver of each gift. He failed to be focused on the giver more than himself. We do likewise when we fail to focus on the Giver and all that He gives us ... and be thankful.

We are to be thankful always according to Ephesians 1:15-17. Other verses encourage thankfulness and gratitude:

Ephesians 5:20 (NASB) speaks of "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God..."

Philippians 4:6 (NASB) states, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

Colossians 3:15-17 (NASB) echoes thanks multiple times: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father."

Colossians 4:2 (NASB) states, "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving..."

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NASB) says, "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Hebrews 13:15 (NASB) calls us to worship in saying, "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."

Do you have an attitude of gratitude? If not, ponder these things. And go and bless someone else or serve someone else. In doing so, you will get your focus off of yourself and onto another. And if you serve out of the love of Christ, your focus turns to the Giver of all you have. And from the overflow of that with which He has blessed you, you can go bless others. Be filled with Christ so that you overflow and minister to others.

The Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharisto (ευχαριστο). It comes from two Greek words: good (ευ) and grace (charis = χαρις). Yet there is deeper still the root of the word for grace (charis) and that is the Greek word for joy, which is chará (χαρα). You see, thanksgiving, grace and joy go hand-in-hand.

Don't worry about what is next, but be thankful for this moment. Don't worry about what else you want, but be thankful for what you have. Be thankful always. Be gracious always. Be joyful always.

How? Here's a start. Consider this: We are all sinners. In and of ourselves, we have no hope to be with a holy God. However, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to take the penalty for our sins -- past, present, future -- at the Cross. There He died and for those in Christ, the power of sin died. He was buried and rose again and by rising, offers new life to those who would receive Him by faith. Do you believe? If so, He will make your joy complete and by His grace, you can be thankful.

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