Giving Thanks In All Things

You’ve surely heard the Biblical instruction “give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God for you.” It is Verse 18 of I Thessalonians 5. You certainly heard it if you were in a Christian church on Thanksgiving Sunday. Most people who point to this verse emphasize that we are instructed to give thanks IN all things, not FOR all things, indicating a prevailing attitude of trust and gratitude that we should maintain no matter what is going on in our lives.

But I would like to point out something else that I don’t usually hear mentioned. This verse is one of three exhortations in one sentence. They are verses 16, 17, and 18 from I Thessalonians 5, and together they form a single sentence. It reads: “(16) Rejoice always, (17) pray constantly, (18) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s how the NIV puts it. The International Standard Version reads, “(16) Always be joyful, (17) continually be prayerful, (18) in everything be thankful, because this is God’s will in Christ Jesus for you.”

If all you read was the International Standard Version, you might think that only the third part, giving thanks in all things, is God’s will for you, but if you see the NIV, you can’t miss that semicolon—which brings both of the earlier two parts under the same umbrella. All three are God’s will for you.

The Message makes that last point especially clear. Set off in a paragraph by themselves are verses 16–18: “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

Happy Thanksgiving, joyfully, prayerfully.

           

First Things First

One of the best things you can do to keep your life on an even keel is to keep first things first. Of course, we learn this (again) every time we take a webinar or read a book related to effective living. But there is no substitute for actually putting the concept into practice.

You might think there can be only one “first thing” in a day, but I have three. If you think about it, you may find that you have more than one also.

The initial “first” is the first thing in my head when I wake up. Over many years of spiritual practice, my mind has been trained to start the day with a thanksgiving prayer. This particular “first thing” sets the tone for the day, and I am grateful to start each day with this attitude.

The second “first thing” occurs when I sit down at my desk to work. My spiritual practice is to open the workday with a short devotional time. Sometimes it is a few Bible verses; sometimes the workday begins with the day’s reading from Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence. This is a resource I highly recommend.

The third “first thing” is the first work task for the day. Like everyone else, my work tasks might number anywhere from five to ten in a day, but there is always one that is the most important to my long-range future. That is the one I start with, even when others on the list appear more urgent. And I never put email or Facebook ahead of that one most important task. An excellent book that can help anyone stay focused on this approach to work is Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog! The book is structured into 21 chapters on how to stay focused on completing important projects and get more done in less time.

Everyday Spirituality means living close to God every day, living close to whatever you most value, and putting first things first.

 

           

“Thank You” as Sufficient Prayer

The renowned 13th century theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart is credited with the statement: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

On Thanksgiving and the other 364 days in the year, remember to give thanks. It’s the only prayer you need pray.

Happy Thanksgiving!

           

Gratitude and Faith

Among the possible hallmarks for a life, the guiding principles that will at the same time distinguish you and shape your future, there may not be any that can surpass gratitude and faith.

We’re coming into the season in the USA in which people give more thought than usual to being thankful, and it’s an excellent thing that we devote one day a year to giving thanks. But gratitude is more of a 365-days-a-year kind of thing, more of an ongoing attitude of recognizing that all that comes to us has the potential to be a gift that warrants our thanks. And the more we purposely express gratitude, the more we will find to give thanks for. The very attitude by itself is enough to scour negativity out of our minds and out of our hearts.

Faith acts on us in a similar fashion. As long as we have faith – in the work we are doing, in the God we worship, in the integrity of our relationships, in the lives we are building – we can maintain the trust, conviction, and hope to carry forward until we accomplish what we have set out to do. Faith, in this sense, is the opposite of the cynicism that leads to despair.

Every day or so, I receive a “daily insight” in my email box from the folks at AsAManThinketh.net. Here is one from a day or two ago, suggesting that Maya Angelou has a similar outlook on gratitude and faith:

Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.                                                                                                                   ~Maya Angelou