It may seem strange, but my favorite thing about blogging is that you are not required to read this. Sure, there are several other aspects I enjoy. I like to write even if it is a painstaking process for me, and I desperately need an editor. I also find blogging therapeutic, or putting it in more biblical terms; it is a chance for me to be still and know that he is God. Most of my posts come from some stirring within me; some distress in my soul listening to hear the calmer of the storm say, “peace be still,” or some thirst meditating on the word of God seeking to be refreshed by a drink of living water. With all that said, though, I love that you can walk away whenever you choose, and here is why.
I do not like to waste people’s time, and several of my writings are just that. This post may fall into that category, or you may find something in it that is useful. It may encourage you to look at writing in a new way. It may even be the catalyst for you to start one of the most uncool things on the planet, a blog. Rarely does anyone gain any social credibility by walking into a party and telling people, “I have a blog,” however, that does not mean you should not do it. But I digress.
Writing a blog post is like pulling up a chair in someone’s home and starting a conversation. Somewhere along the way a piece of my heart will be exposed as a few of the fires within me struggle to find expression, but if my company is unsatisfactory, I can vanish from your presence simply by you looking away. You can do it now if you want. I will not even notice, so you do not have to worry about hurting my feelings, but the longer you keep reading, the more you allow the conversation to continue, and the more your hospitality endears me.
I teach a lot of classes, and one thing I know is that there are always people there who do not want to be. Whether it is my lack of teaching ability, the topic itself, or a desire or need of theirs that is pulling them away, I feel like I am imposing myself on them. I know that can be good in some situations, but not in most.
The inability to get up and walk out without causing a scene is one of the reasons we need to go to church regularly and sit under the Word of God. It is one of the reasons virtual church will never be as beneficial as actual church attendance. Our hearts are prone to wander, and physically sitting under the preaching of a man of God is a check on our restless souls. Even when they want to wander, they cannot. We must sit and listen even if we do not like the preacher’s manner of communication or his subject matter. It is the grace of God that he often convicts and nourishes us as we desire to escape, but that is church. Being imposed upon there is a good thing, but this is a blog, and I am not your pastor. At best, if you are a Christian, I am your brother in Christ, but that does not mean out of the millions of other things you could read online, you should be reading posts here.
What is the point of all this? The people I most enjoy hearing my thoughts are the ones who want to hear them. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, most of my writing comes from a stirring within me, and today, I simply wanted you to know that I do not take you for granted. Our time together may be as long or short as you wish, and your attention, however much of it you decide to give, is a gift to me. So, if you are still reading this, thank you. It means a lot, and knowing you took the time when you did not have to is what I love most about blogging.
“O, Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever!” -1 Chronicles 16:34
The annual Thanksgiving Day in America, has grown to be a national festival. It is a day of rejoicing. It summons all the people to gratitude. It is fitting that a people who have received untold blessings, should set apart one day on which all should recall their mercies, think of God as the Giver of all and express their grateful feelings in words of praise.
But it is not intended that the other three hundred and sixty four days shall be empty of thanksgiving, because one is named as an especial day of rejoicing. We cannot crowd into any one day—all the thanks of a year. Indeed, on no one day can we be grateful for another day. No one person can give thanks for a whole company of people. So no one day can give thanks for any but itself. All the days should be thanksgiving days. Any that is not, lacks something, and stands as imperfect days in the calendar. We are told that we may count that day lost in which we do no kindness to anyone. In like manner may be set down as a lost day that one in which no songs of gratitude rises from our hearts and lips to God.
Anybody can be thankful on one day of the year. At least it ought to be possible for even the most gloomy and pessimistic person to rouse up to grateful feeling, on the high tide of an annual Thanksgiving day. No doubt it is something to pipe even one little song in a whole year of discontent and complaining—the kind of living with which some people fill their years. God must be pleased to have some people grateful even for a few moments in a long period of time, and to hear them sing even once in a year. But that is not the way He would have us live. The ideal life is one that is always thankful, not only for a little moment on a particularly fine day. “Praise is lovely,” that is, beautiful—beautiful to God. The life which pleases Him is the one which always rejoices.
Nowhere in the Bible can we find either ingratitude or joylessness commanded or commended. All ungrateful feelings and dispositions are condemned. A great deal is said in disapproval of murmuring, discontent, worrying, and all forms of ingratitude. Again and again we are taught that joy is the keynote of a true life. It is not enough to rejoice when the sun shines, when all things are going well with us, when we are in the midst of prosperity; we are to rejoice as well when clouds hide the blue sky, when our circumstances seem to be adverse, or when we are passing through sufferings.
In one of the Psalms, the writer says: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” He had learned to sing in the hours of pain—as well as in the times of gladness. That is the way the Christian should live—nothing should hush his song or choke the voice of thanksgiving and praise.
The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.
Likewise, one who has been full of miserable discontents, utterly lacking in gratitude, gets a new Divine impulse, and one day is really grateful for a few moments. The impulse comes again, and again he let his life flow toward gratitude. Persisting in the disposition, his heart returns again and again to its gladness, until by and by it has been lured altogether away from the old beaten paths of discontent, discouragement, and unhappiness, and runs always in the ways of thanksgiving.
If we find that we have been leaving thanksgiving out of our lives, if we have been allowing ourselves to grumble instead of praise, if we have indulged in unhappiness instead of in gladness—we should instantly set about the breaking of a new path, a thanksgiving path. It will not be easy at first, for gloomy dispositions when long indulged persist in staying in our lives. But they can be conquered, and we should not pause in our effort until we have trained ourselves entirely away from everything that is cheerless and ungrateful, into the ways of joy and song.
There are many encouragements to a life of thanksgiving. For one thing, it makes life much happier. The person who indulges in fretting and complaining—is missing much that is loveliest, both in character and in experience. The tendency of such a life is toward gloom and depression, and these qualities in the heart soon show themselves on the face and in the manner. Light is the emblem of a beautiful life—but ingratitude is darkness rather than light. If we would be happy—we must train ourselves to be grateful. Ingratitude makes life dreary for us.
Another reason for cultivating the thanksgiving spirit, is because of its influence on others. Nobody loves a sullen person. We are exhorted to think of “whatever things are lovely,” and cheerlessness is not lovely. If we would have people like us, if we would attract them to us and have good influence over them—we must cultivate happiness in all our expressions. There are many people who have formed the habit of unhappiness. They may be good and honest—but they have not learned the lesson of gladness. And they are not helpful people. They are not diffusers of joy.
We are as responsible for our faces—as we are for our dispositions. If we go about with gloom on our countenances, we will cast shadows over others and make life harder for them. No one can be a real blessing to others, until he has mastered his gloom and has attained the thanksgiving face. No one can be of very much help to others, if he carries discontent and anxiety on his countenance. We owe it to our friends, therefore, as well as to ourselves, to form the habit of thanksgiving.
There are those who have learned this lesson so well, that wherever they go they make happiness. Their lives are blessings.
It ought not to be hard to train one’s self to be grateful. There would seem to be reason enough in every life, for continual thanksgiving. True, there are days when things may seem to go wrong—but it is only in the seeming. There is not doubt that all our circumstances bring blessings, which we may have if we will. The hardest experience of any day, enfolds in it, a gift from God—if only we receive it in faith and love. We think of the sunny days as being good days, and we call unpleasant weather bad. But if we understood it, we would know that God sends to the earth just as rich blessings in His clouds—as He does in His sunshine. The clouds bring rain, and after the rain all nature appears clothed in fresh beauty. A simple, childlike faith sees God in everything, and is ready always to give cheerful thanks, even when the reason for the thanksgiving may not be apparent.
Indeed, we shall some day see that many of the richest and best blessings of our lives, have come to us through experiences and circumstances which to us seemed adverse, and from which we shrank. There is an old promise which says that to those who love God—all things work together for their good. All we have to make sure of—is that we keep ourselves in the love of God. If we do this, everything which comes to us will bring its enriching in some way, and out of the painful things—our lives we will gather the best blessings and the deepest joys.
We shall not have many miles at the most—of the rough, steep road. In a few years we shall have gone over it all, and shall have come out into a place where there shall be nothing to vex or disturb us. And such gladness waits for us, such blessing, that one hour there—will make us forget all the sorrow and pain and toil of the way!
“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” – Henry Ward Beecher
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” – A.W. Tozer
“Thankfulness to God is a recognition that God in His goodness and faithfulness has provided for us and cared for us, both physically and spiritually. It is a recognition that we are totally dependent upon Him; that all that we are and have comes from God.” – Jerry Bridges
“Ingratitude is the sepulcher of love.” -Unknown
“A thankful heart is one of the primary identifying characteristics of a believer. It stands in stark contrast to pride, selfishness, and worry. And it helps fortify the believer’s trust in the Lord and reliance of His provision, even in the toughest times. No matter how choppy the seas become, a believer’s heart is buoyed by constant praise and gratefulness to the Lord ” – John MacArthur
Gratitude to God makes even a temporal blessing a taste of heaven. -Unknown
“An evidence that our will has been broken is that we begin to thank God for that which once seemed so bitter, knowing that His will is good and that, in His time and in His way, He is able to make the most bitter waters sweet.” – Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“When thou has truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent. But little time will then remain for murmur or lament.” -Hannah More
“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” – Henry Ward
“Lord, I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” -Matthew Henry (when he was robbed)
Ingratitude is never comely. The life that is always thankful is winsome, ever a joy to all who know it. -J.R. Miller
God is in control and therefore in everything I can give thanks. -Kay Arthur
“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life. -Robert Louis Stevenson
“See that you do not forget what you were before, lest you take for granted that grace and mercy you received from God and forget to express your gratitude each day.” -Martin Luther
To increase in happiness in Christ’s service, labor every year to be more thankful. -J.C Ryle
“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays the most or fasts the most, it is not he who lives the most, but it is he who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.” – William Law
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. -Psalm 107:8-9
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! Psalm 106:1
What happens to our souls when we are not thankful? We get a glimpse of this in Psalm 106. The Psalm begins by calling the people of God to praise and thanksgiving. The following 12 verses continue by reminding them of God’s great and merciful works. How He showed His power and set them free from the slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, and covered their enemies with water. As they remember God’s goodness toward them, we see thanksgiving flowing from grateful hearts as they recognize the Lord and His mighty works. Then, a few verses later, we find a drastic change as they soon forgot His works and did not seek His counsel.
As they were in the wilderness, forgetful of God’s goodness, they began to lust for the pots of meat they had in Egypt and began to test God in the desert. They started to demand meat, as if the Lord had failed to give them something they deserved. It is at this point we find this in verse 15: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” (NKJV)
The Lord had granted them their fleshly desires, which was meat in the form of quail, but the meat did not satisfy them. Instead, it made them sick. The more they ate, the more empty it left them, for the Lord had sent it with a wasting disease. Ingratitude works much the same way. When we think that we need something more than what God has already given us or has promised to provide, when we get it, we tend to find that our longings had deceived us. The reason for this is because we should be feasting upon God, through His word, in remembrance of all He has done on our behalf. When we forget God, and ingratitude begins to set in, it doesn’t matter what we receive; we will still want more and be spiritually sick. If God and His great mercy are not enough to fill our hearts with thanksgiving, nothing will.
Gratitude flows freely from a heart that is full of God, mindful
of His great works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful
creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been
filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh
situation that this life has to offer and still have hearts that rejoice and are
full. On the contrary, the person who forgets God’s great works toward them and
begins to think they deserve more can be in the most pleasant of all earthy
positions and still live with lean souls.
The same gospel that saves us from our wretched condition is the same Gospel that will fill our souls with joy for all eternity. We are never to forget how great His love is for us that we should be called sons and daughters of God. To live our lives without this truth at the center will bring leanness to our souls that will never be satisfied with anything this world has to offer.
This Thanksgiving, if your heart has been forgetful of God’s
great love and mercy toward you, or if you find yourself unsatisfied with what
the Lord had done for you, it is time to seek His face and remember His
goodness. Do not let one more day go by without spending time in His word and
calling out to Him in prayer. The most beautiful holiday meals will not cure
the leanness of soul which accompanies ingratitude toward God, but if you have
remembered your God and your heart is full of Him, then any lack you experience
this holiday will not be able to empty the joy and gratitude which fills your
soul. Godliness with contentment is great gain.
May all our hearts burst forth with gratitude toward our great
God this holiday season!
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. – Psalm 100
How is it possible for any of us to live without a heart full of gratitude when everything short of hell is mercy? If we are not facing the the wrath of everlasting punishment at this moment, we are not getting what we deserve. That is true for every Christian and non-Christian alive right now.
We have a tendency to look at the way things are and assume that is the way it should be. We look at the life of an average person and think we deserve that at least. That misleading assumption is spewed forth by the father of lies and exists for the soul purpose of making our hearts cold toward the Lord of Mercy.
Our ingratitude, alone, is sin enough to condemn us for all eternity, yet here we sit, surrounded by so many pleasures of life and taking them for granted. To help us keep things in perspective, here are a few things that are better than what we deserve.
Loss of Loved Ones
Conflict at work
Catching a cold
Loss of a Presidential election
A long line at the grocery store
Being on hold with the internet company for 20 minutes
An online delivery being delayed
Going to work tired
Someone saying something upsetting on social media
A sermon being a little dry
The worship leader singing a song we do not like
It is amazing how much time we can spend complaining about the items at the bottom of the list, especially in light of the items at the top of the list. Yet, the entire list is mercy compared to hell.
For those who reject Christ, everything on this list will soon come to an end. When the mercy ends, the list above will seem like heaven compared to what they will be facing for all eternity. They will go from mercy to justice.
For those who come to Jesus in faith, all of this will soon come to an end for them as well. Christian, your pain and frustrations are only temporary. You will soon enter into the presence of the king where there will be no more tears or sorrow. You will go from mercy to mercy. Hold on for just a little longer.
No matter what we are facing, we have every reason to rejoice in the Lord at this moment. Meditate on this truth, and let it flood your heart with gratitude, especially as we move into the Thanksgiving holiday. He is a good and gracious King.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. – Philippians 4:4