I don't get into the Facebook fads like sharing ten things about yourself no one else knows, or the one which surfaces each year around Thanksgiving season when everyone tries to focus on what they are thankful for everyday. It isn't that there aren't things you don't know about me, or that I am not a thankful individual. In fact, as today is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., I just wanted to take a moment or two to just focus our attention on what it is we are truly grateful for. The most profound post I saw this month about thanksgiving read: "If material things are what you are talking about when you say 'I am blessed', you have no idea about blessings." If we stop long enough to chew on this one, we might just have to agree with the person writing this post. What we choose to focus on, make the object of our affection and attention, will often become the thing or individual we learn to count among our greatest treasures.
Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (I Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG)
Four things are outlined in this passage: Rejoicing at all times; Being joyful in all things; Praying without ceasing; and Giving thanks regardless of the "things". We have a tendency to complain when "things" don't fulfill our wants or wishes, prayer seems to be taking too long to see any answers we might expect, sadness seems to invade space where we'd rather have joy reside, or when it is almost impossible to be thankful for what we see as not so wonderful of a "blessing" in our lives. If you stop long enough to consider this, you might just realize "Promised Land" possibilities are not a result of "Present Circumstance" complaining! If we are given toward complaining when the slightest thing doesn't go our way, or our expectations are not completely met, we will be miserable - because it just doesn't ALWAYS go our way!
Complaining actually keeps us from realizing the possibilities God has for us in the moment. Complaining is usually because we have formed some unrealistic expectations anyway - just getting our priorities a little mixed up. If we'd just stop to consider the power of our words, and the revelation our words provide us to actually explore the intention of our hearts, we might just pay a little closer attention to them! Our words reveal the direction our hearts have taken - they are like the rudder on a boat, directed by the course of our heart. The scriptures clearly point out the words of our mouth as a source of many of our worries and conflicts - but those words come from a deeper source - the heart. This is why God reflects on the four principles we outlined from our passage - for each of these is what he is wants to see realized in our hearts rather than all the complaining.
Rejoicing is a choice - we determine the level of satisfaction or gratitude we will attach to or associate with events and individuals in our lives. Once we make this determination, we can either choose to rejoice or bemoan our fate. The choice to rejoice is much more rewarding, for it is then we learn to regard even the tiniest of blessings as worth a price far greater than gold! When we learn to rejoice from a heart focused not on the 'size' of the blessing, but rather on the fact we are truly blessed, it is a whole lot easier to be joyful, prayer comes a little more freely, and we just don't forget the small stuff when we consider what it is we are grateful for.
There is something powerful in thanksgiving - it creates a connection between the potential for and the provision of. We all have potential, but provision is a result of our focus. Focus on the correct connection and potential becomes provision. Thanksgiving trains the mind's eye to look beyond what isn't there to seeing what is. "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1 NLT) Faith, trust, and thanksgiving all go hand-in-hand. Most of us don't have a problem RECEIVING the good things in life, but do we stop long enough to consider the PERSON behind those good things? Even the very faith to believe for the possibilities is a result of the provision of our God. We don't possess faith on our own, we don't see the possibilities because of our own inner conviction, and we don't act on our faith because we have the inner strength to see things through to completion. We get all these at the feet of Jesus.
If you haven't stopped to consider the connection between relationship and thanksgiving, it is time to do so. All thanksgiving is best understood and appreciated because we stopped long enough to consider the giver of all good things in our lives. We acknowledge each other often, but do we stop to acknowledge the one who actually provided that other person? Thanksgiving provides foundation for praise and promise - you enter with a grateful heart and upon that gratefulness, foundational truths are built into your spirit. Those truths guide your heart and in turn focus your attention on the one who blesses instead of all the blessings. As we stop today to "consider", maybe it is time we turn our attention away from the blessings and toward the one who blessed us with all things - God himself. Just sayin!