Practical Application of the Word of God
We live in an ungrateful world. Much of humanity’s ingratitude comes from an attitude of entitlement that has been created and fed by an abundance of stuff and the relatively-easy means (whether actual income or easy credit) to acquire that stuff.
Because at this time in history, acquiring things is not the labor-intensive, back-breaking, self-sacrificing, long-term saving proposition that it was just a couple of generations back from this one, we simply take everything we have for granted.
Yet the paradox is that no matter how much we have in material terms, it is never enough. We always want more and, as a result, are often unthankful for the things we already have.
We as Christians are as guilty of this as anyone else, even though we have even more to be thankful for. Too often, though, we lose sight of our mission statement and we forget the debt of gratitude we continually owe to both God and Jesus Christ.
We, like the rest of the world, seem to get so caught up in acquiring material possessions and showing off our physical prosperity and wealth (a fleeting glance at social media sites on any given day will give us a lot of insights into what this looks like), that we forget the incredible spiritual blessings that God has given us and how that should be changing us both in relationship to God and Jesus Christ and to both our brothers and sisters within the spiritual family of God and to our brothers and sisters in all of humanity.
Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Since my parents’ deaths, this particular day is bittersweet, from a physical perspective, for me because it was a time of year we were usually together and now I’m alone without family.
But the bigger picture of this day is even more bittersweet for me.
One reason is because of the idea that we’re only thankful one day of the year. It is disheartening to see so many people who never regularly express gratitude for anything and/or anyone (in fact, they are usually quite critical, sometimes profane, and generally denigrating in their everyday lives) suddenly talk about thankfulness.
Temporarily. Because, perhaps even tonight, they will return to their usual behavior, unchanged and unfazed, clearly just giving lip-service to thankfulness and gratitude, but not really experiencing it and being changed by it.
The other reason is that many of us who claim to be Christians are among these people.
Seldom, if ever, it seems do even we Christians recognize and understand, as David did in I Chronicles 29, that it is God who provides everything (including the sun rising on the evil and the good and the rain falling on both the just and the unjust) for us and it is to Him that we should be humbly thankful and give our praises (instead of, as we so often do, ourselves: our own efforts, our own talents, our own abilities, which also come from God):
10 Therefore David blessed the Lord before all the assembly; and David said:
“Blessed are You, Lord God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O Lord,
And You are exalted as head over all.
12 Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all.
In Your hand is power and might;
In Your hand it is to make great
And to give strength to all.
13 “Now therefore, our God,
We thank You
And praise Your glorious name.
14 But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.
15 For we are aliens and pilgrims before You,
As were all our fathers;
Our days on earth are as a shadow,
And without hope.
16 “O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. 17 I know also, my God, that You test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things; and now with joy I have seen Your people, who are present here to offer willingly to You. 18 O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our fathers, keep this forever in the intent of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and fix their heart toward You. 19 And give my son Solomon a loyal heart to keep Your commandments and Your testimonies and Your statutes, to do all these things, and to build the temple for which I have made provision.”
20 Then David said to all the assembly, “Now bless the Lord your God.” So all the assembly blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before the Lord and the king.
As Christians, though, we have so much more to be thankful to God for, in addition to the physical provision He gives us, as He has called us, given us His spirit, and adopted us into His family – a plan He has for all humanity in His time, but which He has executed for each us now – to build an intimate and personal parent-child relationship with each of us.
We should be thanking God continually for His graciousness, His mercy, His love, and the opportunity He has given us right now to experience what all humanity at some point will have the opportunity to experience.
We should be continuously grateful that God’s plan of salvation includes every human being who has ever existed and who will ever exist.
We should be constantly expressing gratitude to God for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ to remove our sins and extend God’s forgiveness to us, for His goodness that leads us to repentance and building His holy, righteous character, for the spiritual wisdom He liberally gives us to show us how to emulate Him and Jesus Christ, the spiritual understanding of His word to apply and live by, and the spiritual discernment He provides between truth and everything else.
And, yet, it seems that often the more we as Christians acquire and have physically, the less aware and grateful we are for the both the physical and spiritual blessings God pours out upon us, forgetting that the physical stuff, including our own lives, are temporary and finite, while the spiritual blessings we receive from God are eternal and are the only things that enable us, with God’s help, to become more like God, from the inside out, and less like our human, carnal selves.
Do we have to lose everything physically to appreciate all the blessings God gives us? I wonder.
It seems those who have little to nothing physically are often more continuously thankful to God for everything, physically and spiritually, in every minute part of their lives (this is because of, I believe, the constantly-aware realization and recognition that we truly depend and rely only on God for every single bit of everything in our lives and we realize and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we can do absolutely nothing without Jesus Christ).
There is an intimacy with God and Jesus Christ that grows when physical blessings are slim to none. There is also an acute and deeper recognition of the needs of others, both within the body of Christ and without, and an incredibly strong desire to be able to address and fill those needs as we are able (if the physical blessings ever come back, the perspective on them and how to serve others with them is God’s perspective, not the natural human perspective).
This is the heart of gratitude, it seems, and it’s a place that all of us whom God has called and chosen must eventually come to, recognize, and practice continually.
One of my constant prayers for my spiritual brothers and sisters is that we, without major or total life catastrophes (whether of our making or not) to force the issue with us, come to this recognition and understanding of continuous and real gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation to God and Jesus Christ for all our spiritual and physical blessings and the responses that God and Jesus Christ expect from us as a result of this.
If we’re enjoying bounty today, we must remember that it comes from, belongs to, and can be taken away in an instant by God.
And if we realize that we are not continually thanking God, giving Him all the credit for all His blessings, and responding to His generosity as He expects and teaches us, let’s change that for good starting from this moment forward.
We can never give God and Jesus Christ all the thanks, the gratitude, the praise, the honor and the glory they deserve and are owed.
It’s beyond even what we understand as humans.
But we should always give them everything we’ve got as we’re able, continuously remembering that without them, we would not exist nor would we have anything.