The key to finding an abundant and meaningful life is in the grasp of every man. Jesus plainly promised, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). The first step in finding that kind of life is to recognize God and be thankful.
The Gentile world rejected the simplicity and power of God’s plan for one that required a greater “knowledge,” and a greater effort, only to find that it resulted in terrible pain and anguish. They looked at the obvious evidence for the existence of God and chose not to “glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.” Their new “world view” caused them to become “futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:20-21). Later, in their modern “guilt-free” lifestyle, they found their lives descending into misery as they “received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion” (Rom 1:27 NIV).
The Gentile world was not alone in such a path. The Jews, even though they outwardly acknowledged God and even mouthed words of thankfulness, had failed to truly be thankful in their hearts. What was the result? ”Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom 2:4-5).
Why is Thankfulness Difficult?
In order to be thankful you must first get “out of yourself” and recognize the unseen God. Many angrily refuse to do that. Why? Because they rightly know that acknowledging God also means acknowledging His moral standard, and they simply refuse to do that. ”And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn 3:19-21).
For the same reason it is difficult for the “religious” man as well. Hypocrisy results when one refuses God’s moral standard while, at the same time, seeks a religious reputation so he can have the praise of men. This unthankful man must live in a world where he hides from his sin but pretends to be happy. In every case of dishonesty, both with the religious man and with the worldly man, the end result is a darkened and hardened heart. There is no joy in this kind of life.
Consider the Powerful Blessings Thankfulness Unlocks
There is a great comfort and joy in acknowledging God’s unmerited and personal gifts in each of our lives. Every man can come to see the God who gives to all men and wishes to be known by His giving. When one yields his life to God in thanksgiving, he will have an abundance that can never be taken away. “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk 12:32-34).
When we are thankful we become aware of the presence of God. We can look back and see how He has worked in our lives. We can look up and know His daily care for us and we can be confident that He sees and knows every event in our lives (Mt 6:25-26).
Rest assured that this is not a mindless thankfulness based upon pretense and wishful thinking, but it is firmly based upon the God revealed through His written word. We can do as Jesus did when hung upon the cross and look back with assurance knowing that our God is “Enthroned in the praises of Israel” (Ps 22:3). Throughout history and throughout the Bible, we know that our God always answered prayers and provided for His people. Therefore I know that He never will forsake us! This thankfulness will turn into a strong confidence that the Bible calls hope. The Hebrew writer proclaims “…it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.” (Heb 6:18-19).
Thankfulness in Suffering
Often through suffering we find the greatest blessing of thankfulness. In weakness and pain it is easy to see ourselves as we truly are, helpless creatures completely dependent upon God. We would do well to have this kind of humility in the midst of our abundance, but it is extraordinarily hard to do so. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given as a gift of God lest he be “exalted above measure”. Paul went on to explain “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:8-10).
Helen Keller, a woman born blind and deaf in a time where little hope was given to such a person, could look back on her life and acknowledge God. She said: “I thank God for my handicaps; for, through them, I have found myself, my work, and my God.” Also she proclaimed: “For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song“.
In Order to go Forward, We Must Look Back
As you take time to make plans in your life, be sure to first look back and acknowledge God’s work in your life. From your New Years resolutions to your ordinary daily plans, acknowledge God. “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them. The Lord preserves all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, And all flesh shall bless His holy name Forever and ever” (Psa 145:17-21).
What has the God of heaven done for you? Give thanksgiving to
Him! Larry Rouse