“We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
Name one thing you “always” find yourself doing, something that’s “constantly” part of your day. How often would giving thanks be an honest answer to that?
Perhaps you’d say you’re constantly talking on the telephone. Or constantly busy, constantly working. Maybe you feel as though you’re always thinking about the future, making plans for what you hope to see happen next, a mixture of both worry and optimism. You may always be glued to the news, or picking up after your kids, or stuck in traffic trying to get home. What are your own particular “always” things?
According to Scripture, one of the most important things to be always, constantly doing is being thankful. And not in a sappy-greeting-card, rose-colored denial of reality way. Not in a pretentious attempt to keep from admitting that life can be hard and upsetting ….
To be giving thanks “always” and “constantly” means simply maintaining an overall, ongoing attitude of thanksgiving all the time . . . because gratitude is the attitude that sets the altitude for living. It is often the difference between being overwhelmed by what just happened and being excited for what’s just ahead …..
You may counter, however, that this kind of heart and mind is practically impossible to keep up. You may be right to some degree; not everything is easy to be happy about. Not every week comes equipped with enough suitable “gratitude” material to work with ….
But one of the secrets found in Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and (more importantly) his example toward them is how he deliberately thanked God “always for all of you.” In order to stay constantly thankful, you should routinely be giving thanks for the people in your life ….. All the people in your life, and notice he did it deliberately …..
Not just your favorite people; the ones who are so much fun to be around; but also those whose names you don’t particularly enjoy seeing pop up on your phone. Not just your most encouraging leaders and coworkers, but also those who push you into doing more than seems reasonable, perhaps far beyond your comfort zone or capability. Not just people from your own generation and culture who are easier to relate to, but also those who are a little harder to get to know and understand. Not just your closest friends and family members, but also those who, for whatever reason, insist on being your enemies …..
Relationships sour when we focus on faults; yet, they flourish when we keep the thankfulness fire burning. Nothing comes much easier to us than first noticing, then rehashing, the parts of someone else’s comments or personality style that make them almost intolerable to deal with ….
But in order to be the kind of person that you yourself truly want to be, you must constantly stay reminded that God is sovereign over the universe, totally in control of everything. Nothing comes into your life that He doesn’t allow; nothing comes into your life that He won’t transform into something for your good. That’s why you can be thankful to Him for how He’s using your boss, your brother-in-law, your mom, or a former spouse — difficult and demanding though they may be; He uses them to shape you into the person you’d never become otherwise, without them ….
Few things dilute and drain our hope more quickly than ungratefulness. That’s why you can never miss a day. And never miss an opportunity. Let go of those negative things that drain you. Remember: you are not your ashes, you are the flame ….
In closing, think about one way God might be growing your heart through a difficult person or situation right now, simply in order for you to enter into a new year with a new mindset. Bring this perspective into your prayer time today and be thankful ….
Lord, You are good not to make life as easy as possible. You are good to bring difficult people and difficult circumstances across my path that will help strengthen my heart, deepen my trust, and prepare me for what You know is coming next. Please help me to remain humble through this current season and to beeven more humble in the next season to come, always growing in gratitude towards You and for the people sharing this journey with me. Show me how I can stay thankful always and honor You the most. In Jesus’ name, Amen and amen …..