We’re glad your back and thankful for your presence today. Hoping you have a sister to talk with and a journal and pen to keep those thoughts you might not be ready to say out loud.
Lord, we are so thankful today for Your presence with us. Your Word and Your grace. Prepare our hearts to hear from You.
We were sitting there in the bank, the sister and I, when I said, “Ugh, I don’t like all this stuff.” I paused a moment and then smiled, “I just complained didn’t I?” We talked a bit more about complaining and decided to see what Webster’s says the meaning of the word is.
Complain means to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something: to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness). She went on to read the synonyms of the word, but I didn’t need it to clarify whether my statement was a complaint or not. It was.
I’m just not a paperwork, finance handling, sign your name on the dotted line kind of girl. But the heart of the matter or the matter of my heart in the moment was really about my lack of gratitude. I could have chosen to be thankful for the opportunity there in the bank, for the investment made, and the friend continuing the crazy ministry journey supported by the business.
Every single moment is an opportunity to choose to allow thanksgiving to have its complete work in us. Complaining reveals to me when I’m missing the opportunity for giving thanks.
The past week’s spiritual discipline was to be mindful of when you found yourself complaining. What did you learn about yourself? Did you notice your thoughts too? Do you think complaining reveals the places of ingratitude in our hearts?
The spiritual discipline this week just ate my lunch!
Especially after trying to justify myself like the Pharisee who asked Jesus: Who is my neighbor? by going to Webster’s asking: What is complaining?
I’ve had to face the truth about myself: I am one big complaint. From thought life to words. And really? if you had asked me, I would’ve said I don’t complain much. What a lie. I’ve just learned to deceive myself.
I don’t often lose my temper or rant and rave with my complaints, but I can’t even count the number of times I say to myself in a day: Well, that doesn’t make me happy. I’ve whitewashed most of my complaints with a demure attitude, but it makes them no less complaints.
Read Philippians 2:14-15
What does God say about grumbling and complaining? How does receiving everything without complaint make us different in the world?
To do everything without complaint makes us lights in a dark world.
We looked at our complaints this week as a sign of ingratitude. Believers accept God’s sovereignty in the world — nothing happens unless He has commanded it (Lamentations 3:37) — and we believe He only allows what He intends for our good and His glory. So, when we complain we are unfaithful. Acting like every other unbeliever who is a part of this crooked and twisted generation.
There was a teacher I really appreciate. His name is Michael Wells and he founded Abiding Life Ministries. His teaching regularly challenges me with truth.
One of his teachings is on dealing with difficulties and difficult people. He taught: Just say, “Amen!” He says whatever happens in your life receive as from God with a hearty Amen!
Amen means to “let it be so” or “let it be true.” So instead of complaining, at least for me, the next step toward thanksgiving, is to agree with God and say Amen! to whatever He has allowed in my life.
There are benefits to wholly accepting what God brings into our life. Facing them with thanksgiving can change our perspective and attitude. In 2014 Forbes.com published an article on the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. Take a look at the seven benefits listed in the article:
- Gratitude opens the door for more relationships.
- It improves physical health.
- It improves psychological health.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- It increases mental strength.
We love when science proves what God intended all along. He knew the benefits of thanksgiving long before science could prove it. This is the reason God commands us to give thanks. Thanksgiving is so much more than a Thursday full of food, family, and football. It is an integral part of our prayer lives and boosts our faith.
Do you find it easy to give thanks? What about in the middle of a tough circumstance? Have you ever attempted gratitude even when you didn’t feel like it? What results did you notice?
It was a busy day at work and the family was home all day. I walked in the door to find the kitchen a disaster. Dishes overflowing in the sink, grease spattered around, and the family busy with opening weekend of deer hunting preparations. I put my stuff down… sighed and started the cleanup.
My thoughts began stirring. “Breakfast was this morning. Someone surely had time to clean this up. I’ve worked all day to come home to this!” I emptied the dishwasher and began to load it again when it came. The question brought my thoughts to a quick halt. “Why not give thanks for a house full of kids creating breakfast mess in the kitchen?”
As I placed the plates in the cabinet I gave thanks and my attitude changed there while I put the forks away. I finished the task without frustration or anger. I finished with joy in my heart.
On the second day of our study this week we looked at the Greek word for thanksgiving: eucharisteo. There in the middle of the Greek word we find the root word charis which means grace and chara… joy.
Have you heard a form of the word eucharisteo before? What did it pertain to?
Eucharist is another word for Holy Communion. Celebrating the Lord’s Supper is an act of thanksgiving.
Read Luke 22:7-19
What did Jesus do as He took the cup… broke the bread?
He gave thanks.
The disciples were the first to celebrate the sacrament of Communion, but the first celebration was before the crucifixion. They still didn’t realize the magnitude of what they were celebrating.
Read Luke 23:26-46
We live on this side of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. Do you find it difficult to offer thanks for a body bleeding and broken on the cross?
When we kneel at the altar and accept His body, drink His blood we remember His sacrifice… a horrible execution becomes a beautiful picture of grace.
The second day’s reading of the first communion, Jesus’s last supper, left me with a new understanding of what He is calling us to do and the attitude of thanksgiving we are to have toward this call.
And he took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
—Luke 22:19 ESV
What I heard in these words for the first time was this: Do THIS in remembrance of Me. Do what I’m doing: be thankful for your life, be broken, give your life for His use so others might live.
It’s the heart of all His teaching: take up your cross and follow me; lose your life for the sake of the gospel; lay down your life for a friend. I no longer see just a sacrament of bread and wine to remember what He’s done for me. It’s now His call to me, to be thankful, be broken, be willing to give my life so others can live. Do THIS in remembrance of Me. And be thankful for the opportunity of being used and poured out by Him for others.
A call to be thankful in the sacrificing of our lives for others and the building of His Kingdom.
These scriptures point us to an important truth about thanksgiving. This week’s memory verse speaks to it as well.
Recite Psalm 50:23:
He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way that I may show him the salvation of God.
The Common English Version says it like this:
The sacrifice that honors me is a thankful heart. Obey me and I, your God, will show my power to save.
What do you learn about thanksgiving in these verses?
Thanksgiving is a sacrifice.
What does it mean to sacrifice something? What does it take to make a sacrifice?
Sacrifice is the destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else; something given up or lost (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.).
Remember the one leper who returned to thank Jesus for His healing? What did he sacrifice?
The leper’s thanksgiving took time and energy. It took him surrendering his own plan. He was a Samaritan who just experienced healing from a Jew. He let go of his own prejudice and cultural tradition to give thanks.
The sacrifice of thanksgiving takes time, energy, and humility. It drives us to surrender those things we hold dear. The leper was willing to make the sacrifice and he received something in return.
Read Luke 17:19
What was Jesus’ response to the leper?
Jesus responded to the leper, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” The word for well in this sentence means whole or complete.
Look at our memory verse once more.
He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God. —Psalm 50:23
Thanksgiving prepares the way for salvation.
When Jesus gave thanks for the breaking of His body… the shedding of blood it prepared the way for salvation for the entire world. Our faith is made complete through the sacrifice of thanksgiving and it gives us holy perspective.
I work with a dear friend, once my math teacher, who often calls me “Pollyanna.” She thinks I have this optimistic attitude about life. I’ve often thought about it. Is this just some accidental genetic code… some result of good parenting?
Good parenting… Yes. Genetic make-up… No. I am reluctant to call it optimism. I wasn’t born this way, none of us are. Gratitude is a choice, and at times the hardest one.
It is much easier to look at what’s lacking in my life. Easier to groan and moan about the “not enough” I see. When I find myself in this place, I choose to give thanks. It changes my focus, redirects my thoughts. Thanksgiving reminds me of how much God can do with my “not enough.”
Take an honest look at your thought life for a moment. On a scale from 1 to 10, where would you place yourself
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Is it possible offering thanksgiving might move you toward the optimistic end of the scale? Why?
My friend’s nickname for me, Polyanna, is always used in an admiring way, but there are times others have viewed my outlook as unrealistic. “Look at the facts, Stacy. You’re not living in the real world!”
I want to respond. “I know the facts. I see the world’s reality. But the sacrifice of thanksgiving I make to God each day shows me another way. The circumstance may not change because I give thanks, but my heart does.
The “real” world teaches us to deal in the known facts. Predictions are made every day based on what the world says. When we take the world at face value… it’s a pretty gloomy outlook.
Consider the disciples’ response to Jesus when He tells them to feed the thousands.
Read John 6:5-9
What does the disciples’ response reveal about their focus?
They only saw how little they had to face the problem.
Let’s look at Martha’s response when Jesus tells them to take away the stone from her brother’s tomb.
Read John 11:39
The disciples could only see a small amount of food in the face of feeding thousands, and Martha’s thoughts drove her to think only of death’s stench when Jesus ordered the tomb opened.
Jesus revealed another way to us as He prayed in both of these circumstances. He didn’t deny the facts or ignore the impossible. He offered a sacrifice of thanks and faithfully focused on God. Though He had no need to thank Himself, He displayed to us the wonderful power of thanksgiving and perspective.
From a very early age we teach our children to say thank you. It is a time honored tradition to acknowledge when someone does something nice or gives you a gift. We use the two words when others offer help or hold the door open. It is a measure of politeness and some are often offended when others forget or refuse to show their appreciation.
How often do you say these words without a second thought? a response you give because it is expected?
Is this the same attitude of politeness we should use with God?
While it is important to be polite and say thanks, prayers of thanksgiving are much more. Consider the prayers Jesus prayed. His thanksgiving often comes before the blessing or miracle.
Jesus gave thanks before feeding the multitudes, and we offer thanks before we eat our meals.
Read John 11:38-44
At what point in the story did Jesus give thanks?
He gave thanks after the stone was removed, but before He called out Lazarus.
Does it seem backwards to you? When you pray do you give thanks for things done and neglect to consider things God will do? Why?
Sisters, giving thanks precedes the miracle, the changed heart, the mended relationship. To pray like Jesus is to recognize our thanks-giving is a confession of our faith. Faith in a God who moves on our behalf even before we make the request.
Read Philippians 4:6-7
How are we to bring our requests to God?
What happens when we bring our requests with a thankful heart?
God’s peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus as we wait for Him to respond to our prayers. Giving our heartfelt needs and desires to God with an attitude of thanksgiving, bolsters our faith as we feel the peace of His presence in the situation and the waiting.
For several years now I have chosen a word to focus on throughout the year. The very first year as I prayed and considered my choice I was drawn to the word Presence. My prayer was to live fully in God’s presence every moment of every day.
This is the year I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts for the first time. The year I determined to make my own list of 1000 reasons to give thanks. I thought it would be an easy task. There are tons of reasons to be thankful right?
I learned quickly I had to look for those things throughout the day. If I rushed from one moment to the next always thinking of where I was going I would arrive at the end of the day with nothing on my list.
The greatest lesson I learned is this—looking for reasons for thanksgiving kept me in His presence. This was big for me. Being in God’s presence only happens in the moment we are in right now… not yesterday… not tomorrow. When I am offering thanks I am living fully in His presence.
Hearts full of gratitude usher us into God’s presence without fail. In thankfulness we find ourselves able to live each moment without regret about the past or worry for the future. It is one of those supernatural blessings we experience in the midst of giving thanks.
This is the heart of why we encourage you to create a gratitude list each week.
How has making a list helped you live fully in His presence?
We’ve completed three of our four discussions on the faithful act of prayer: praise, confession, thanksgiving. Next week we’ll finish up with intercession.
Have a wonderful week!
Click the link for the PDF of the study sheet for Intercession: Week 10 – Going Deeper