This past weekend during the message, I spoke about the power of gratitude. I likened gratitude to the oil in the engines of our cars. That oil doesn’t make the engine run, but it surely keeps it running. If your car runs out of engine oil, it will eventually cause the engine to overheat, seize up and quit working. A lack of gratitude has a similar impact on our lives. We become easily frustrated and discouraged. We see the worst in situations and people. Eventually, we become cynical and unable even to see blessings that are right in front of us.
That is why Paul tells us that giving thanks in all circumstances is God’s will for us! You read that correctly. Giving thanks in all situations is God’s will for us! “Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) That doesn’t mean it is easy, but it is essential. In fact, if we to think back the car engine example above, it is ESSENTIAL … and hard!
Gratitude changes things … it changes us! It opens up our hearts and minds to allow us to realize that we are being blessed … even in the hard and disappointing times. A dear friend of mine used to say, “Whenever God says, ‘No.’ to a prayer that my wife and I have been bringing to Him, we get excited. We know that He is not saying, ‘No.” because He doesn’t love us or care for us. He is saying, “No.” because He has something even better in mind for us. That fits perfectly with Scripture. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1a)
God LOVES us and is passionate about our needs AND our prayers just like any loving father would be. Only He loves and cares perfectly. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) In fact, I love the way Paul puts it in his beautiful prayer for all believers in Ephesians 3.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
Knowing all of that gives us the same confidence as my friend. God is working for us and not against us. What He has in store for us is beyond what we can imagine.
In fact, God’s WORD even promises that the difficult and painful times are being worked together by our loving, Heavenly Father for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) When we trust that, it helps put things in perspective. God is still in control, NO MATTER WHAT. Better yet, it isn’t just God, it is the Almighty Father who loves and adores us. You and I can live (and give thanks) with the confidence of a little child who knows that his/her parents will always love and care for them.
So I have a suggestion. I mentioned it in the message last Sunday, and you may already be doing it. My thought is to practice gratitude. Make it a focal point of your daily life. Put it on your “to do list.” Over and over and over, stop and give thanks. When the negative thoughts come into your mind, stop and start making a list of the reasons you are grateful. When you feel anxious, pause and give thanks. And when something doesn’t happen the way you were praying for it to happen, get excited! God has something even better in mind for you, His precious child!