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Spiritual matters

Think of Jesus when giving thanks is hard

December 01, 2010 - There's a paradox about being thankful. On the one hand we know we should be grateful, but on the other hand ingratitude seems to be where we so naturally find ourselves.

The Bible expresses this paradox throughout its pages.

"O give thanks to the Lord, for He is good" the Bible tells us (Ps.107:1). "In everything give thanks," it says (1 Thess.5:18).

Yet, despite these exhortations we find plenty of grumbling (Ex.16:7), forgetfulness of God's mercy (Dt.8:12), and refusals to honor Him or give thanks (Rom.1:21).

God calls us to thankfulness, but gratitude is rare.

This is something we can identify with all too well when our own busyness, self-sufficiency, and preoccupation with our own plans keeps us from giving thanks when it's due.

So, how does one get and keep a grateful heart? The answer is to look beyond ourselves and our circumstances to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.

If our state of gratitude is only linked to our immediate circumstances, we'll constantly be vulnerable to ingratitude because we'll always be tempted to focus on what's wrong with our present situation. This is true whether you find yourself in good times or bad.

Yet, when our focus is on Jesus as the supreme ruler over all, a thankful heart can be the norm for us as we recognize that what we might experience at any given time is all incidental to knowing and walking with Him.

The Apostle Paul has more to say about being thankful than anyone in the Bible. This is remarkable because he spent so much of His life facing persecution and hardship.

So, how was it that thankfulness became such a big theme in his life and ministry? Because the supremacy of Christ was preeminent in his thinking.

Paul knew that Jesus is the head over all things, and that in Him all things hold together.

And he knew that He has transferred all believers from the domain of darkness to Christ's everlasting kingdom. He knew further that in Him was forgiveness and an eternal inheritance (Col.1)

The response for Paul in light of such glorious truths was obvious. Not only did it mean we should walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, bearing fruit in every good work.

It meant that we are to be a people who joyously give thanks because of Christ because in Him all the incidentals of life pale in significance.

For Paul, to live was Christ (Phil.1:21). Today, it should be for us as well. And when it is, thanksgiving comes naturally.

The hard circumstances that many face today should never be diminished. But no matter what those circumstances may be, there is reason to give thanks.

And it's because of Jesus.

Because through His death, burial, and resurrection, He is bringing about a new creation, in your life and in the whole world.

Feeling ungrateful? Turn to Jesus, and give thanks for the life that is in Him.

The Rev. David Bostrom is pastor of Seeds for the Harvest ministry.

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