Does Forced Thanksgiving Count?

I’ve set out on a quest to become a thankful man.

Now, that sounds spiritual, but I have to admit that it’s a bit selfish. I’ve noticed that I do better in life when I’m thankful. When I’m mad at someone or feel like they owe me something I’m entitled to, I don’t do well.

So, how do I get to be a man marked by a thankful attitude? I’m not 100% sure how to do it. But I know what will not work.

You remember how it was when you were six and your grandmother would give you a pair of socks for Christmas? You’d be standing there asking yourself, “What was that woman thinking? Socks! I wanted a model airplane.”

Your mama might say, “Tell Grandma thank you.”

And you would just stand there with your bottom lip stuck out. “Thank you? For a pair of socks? C’mon. Get real!”

Mamas are very persuasive, though, and suddenly you might feel a “whap!” landing on the back of your head.

“I said, ‘say thank you,’” your sweet mama might encourage you.

Your face would screw itself into a scowl as you tried to rub the pain out of the spot where Mad Mama had struck you. But between clinched teeth you managed to mutter, “Thank you for the socks.”

You did that because you were thankful, didn’t you? No, you did it because you imagined her hand poised behind your head, itching to deliver another blow.

That’s not thankfulness, that’s self-preservation.

So, let me tell you why you should be thankful.

Paul wrote the Colossians and in four little chapters of his letter, he speaks six times about thankfulness. If he used that much space in the Bible to encourage us to be thankful people, there must have been a reason. Listen:

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2, NLT)

“And always be thankful.” (Col. 3:15, NLT)

“Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. “ (Col. 3:16)

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” ( Col. 3:17)

“Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (2:7)

“We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1:3.

This thanksgiving stuff seems to be an obsession with Paul.

“That’s easy for him,” we say. “He’s Paul the apostle, but you don’t know my situation.” (This last phrase is uttered with our bottom lip stuck out, getting ready to duck, just in case God hears us).

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter! Yet, he was thankful.

How? Why?

1. –He realized how important it is to say, “thank you,” to God. It seems to me it’s life or death.

In Romans 1, we read a list of sins and they go from bad to worse. We all have our favorite sin to preach against (someone else’s). But, God spoke to me once and said, “Look and see which sin opened the door to all these other sins.”

It must have been a nasty one to set in motion all these horrible things. So, what was it?

“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused.” (Romans 1:21, NLT)

Ouch! You mean an unthankful heart exposes us to do all these other sins of Romans 1:21? Yep, read it and weep.

2. –Paul went past “glad” to “Who.” We love being glad when something positive happens in our life. We should enjoy it. But, thanksgiving goes beyond glad to see where the blessing came from. Ten lepers were healed, one came back to say, “Thank you.” He went beyond “glad,” to humble gratefulness to the one who made him well.

That’s the beauty of a thankful heart. It takes us into God’s presence.

Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter with the password: “Thank you!” Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him.”

Thankful people are welcomed into His presence. I like that place, don’t you?

3. –He didn’t feel that he was entitled. We figure we’re entitled to justice in this world. We think that because of hard work, or our place of birth, or a thousand other things God should only let good things happen to us. And when something hard hits us, we get really mad at God.

“I didn’t deserve that!” we want to shout, (always a bit worried that “mama’s” hand might be poised behind our head, read to slap us if we get too mouthy).

Thanksgiving comes from a truly humble heart that realizes that every good thing I have or every success that comes my way, ultimately comes from Him. That calms my ego and sets me up for even greater blessings, while helping me avoid falling flat on my nose.

Pride really does lead the parade towards a fall but listen:

“’God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

And sometimes, things happen that I sure don’t like. But, I’m the beneficiary of a thousand graces. Yeah, I’ve had hard times but there are so many good things in my life.

Paul could say, “Thank you Jesus,” from that prison cell.

God, give me a thankful spirit when things are going good, just like I like them. And give me a thankful spirit when things aren’t going like I like them. You’re still good.

Gratitude takes us down from our high horse. We have to humble ourselves. But, when we get down, we look up and see where our blessings really come from. Then the big old hand of God reaches down, picks us up and dusts us off.

And we say, “Thank You.”

And mama doesn’t even have to swat us!

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