Since it’s Thanksgiving holiday this week (in the US), here’s a good message (video clip below) by Bill Johnson about the virtue of thankfulness. I want share some things from that clip and add my own thoughts about why we should be thankful in all situations.
Most people are thankful for the good things in their lives: family, friends, a good job, a roof over your head…but are we always thankful, even when things aren’t going so well? For we are told to always be thankful, even rejoice, in all situations which would necessarily include the bad things.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess.5:16-18 *)
Now, God probably wouldn’t have to tell us this if it came naturally! What’s more natural for us goes something like…Rejoice always? In everything give thanks? Is God kidding? What about when we’ve lost our job, even lost a loved one, what if there’s nothing to be joyful about or thankful for?
We don’t like hearing this but it’s the difficult times, even times of suffering, where we grow in strength and maturity the most. This is why we need a paradigm shift in how we see difficulties because being driven by our circumstances is a powerless and superficial way to live.
One problem is, we tend to confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is totally based on your circumstances. If things are going well, you’re happy…if not, you’re not. But joy comes from within. Joy is a sense of well-being in spite of your circumstances. Joy is possible when you’ve lost everything. Joy comes from God.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)
When we turn our focus from ourselves to God we begin to see things in a new light…from heavenly places with fullness of joy.
But unlike spiritual gifts, thankfulness cannot be imparted to us. As Johnson says, making good choices in the face of adversity is how we develop this virtue:
“The good choices we make in life are where the “muscle” of integrity and character is developed. Whenever the Lord brings something up, it’s never to shame, never to mock or condemn, it’s an invitation to come into Christ, come into a place of greater strength.” (Bill Johnson, “The Virtue of Thankfulness”)
I’m a powerful person when I choose joy because joy is always within reach. Joy is part of the Kingdom, so it’s always at hand (Rom.14:17).
James tells us the same thing:
2 My fellow believers, when it seems as though you are facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience the greatest joy that you can! 3 For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. 4 And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection [full maturity] into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking. (James 1:2-4 TPT *)
Thankfulness is a virtue that transforms our lives and helps us walk in all the fullness that God has intended for us.
Conversely, not being thankful leads to weak and darkened thinking.
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Rom.1:21 *)
This is why it’s critically important that we guard our heart because our outlook on things determines the course of our life (Prov.4:23).
Beloved, Jesus said in this world we will have troubles, but not to fear because He has overcome them (John 16:33). So I can navigate trials with thankfulness because I have His peace and joy while knowing the perfecting work it’s producing in me.
Thanksgiving is the gateway to God’s realm (Psalm 100:1-5). When we choose thankfulness, we begin to see things in His light, from His perspective, which sharpens our focus in the process.
So we should always be thankful, even in the face of bad news and suffering. We’re not thankful FOR problems or bad reports; we’re thankful because the outcome produces mature sons and daughters He can trust who’ve left the superficiality of circumstantially-driven lives and can now more effectively partner with Him on the earth.
I agree with Johnson when he says, “Difficulties are opportunities to monitor my heart, to give thanks in all things, rejoice in all things, pray in every situation in absolute dependency on Him. Why? This is what we were born for.”
To all in the US, have a blessed Thanksgiving holiday.