He began by stating that “Thanksgiving is the heart posture of every follower of Jesus Christ that’s necessary for us to combat fear and to combat stress in a lack of relational peace in our hearts… [it’s] that posture that we must have to enter into right relationship with God and right relationships with others.”
Jeff went on to point out that 2017 has been a crazy year, personally, nationally, and globally. With so many unsettling things going on, it’s easy for us to focus on the things that are broken. However, when we spend our time dwelling on what’s not right, that leaves no room in our hearts to think on those things that are good, right, and true.
“Thankfulness fuels our lives; our relationship Jesus and with others,” Jeff said. “It is an activity of the heart that is indispensable.”
Thankfulness is indispensable because it fights that tendency in our mind to dwell on stress on brokenness. While our culture may consider Thanksgiving a forgettable holiday, the simple act of giving thanks can “alleviate stress, reduce fatigue, and clear our minds,” and in the mind is where the battle lies. Taking time to still our thoughts and give thanks is a “declaration on the mind that our default to ingratitude has a challenger… Where Jesus is, ingratitude cannot reign.”
Jeff then took us to Philippians 4:5-8. “The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Jeff reminds us that we are called to live in a love relationship with God and to think on things that matter eternally. Our battle begins in the mind; what are we choosing to think about, or what are we choosing not to think about because of the culture of trivia and entertainment in which we live? If we spend time dwelling on things that are true and eternally significant, we will be drawn into an attitude of prayerfulness.
We then looked at Hebrews 12:28-29. “Therefore, let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”
We see that we are called to gratefulness, and Jeff then took us back to the beginning of the chapter to see what the “therefore” is there for.
- In verse 1-3, we see Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross…” Our example is Jesus. When we struggle with dwelling on brokenness, we look back to Jesus.
- Verses 4-17 impress upon us the importance of endurance, in the face of what the culture throws at us, and in spite of any circumstance, we endure, looking at Jesus as our example.
- Verses 18-27, paraphrased by Jeff, is “it’s glorious, y’all.” These verses go on to describe Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, the heavenly Jerusalem, innumerable angels in festal gathering, and the spirits of the righteous made perfect. When we look to Jesus, and when we set our minds on eternal things, a thankfuel heart is the result.
Jeff pointed out that when presented with the picture of the holy place, we may feel that we don’t belong. He drew our attention to several verses that confirm that we are indeed made for this.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through the flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” – Hebrews 10:19-22
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15-16
Through all of these scriptures, we’re shown that the source of our thanksgiving is Jesus and what He’s done for us. With a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what He’s done, thanksgiving becomes a more natural response.
With this in mind, Jeff took us to Luke chapter 17, beginning in verse 11. This is the story of ten lepers who cry out to Jesus for healing. Jesus instructs them to show themselves to the priest and the story tells us that “as they went they were cleansed.” Out of the ten men healed of leprosy, only one man turned back to praise and thank Jesus for what he had done.
Jeff pointed out that it’s easy for us to become so focused on what it is we want that we forget to turn back and thank God for providing. While all ten lepers received the healing that they wanted, nine of them missed Jesus. As Jeff put it, “they were so consumed with getting their great need in life that they missed the giver, the provider, the creator, the Lord.”
It’s easy for us to do the same. We all need to pause and turn back and really consider what we have to be thankful for.
Jeff encouraged us not to let GNIL (Great Ned In Life) become our god. GNIL is an idol which will prevent you from turning back. When God provides our GNIL, we have to be careful that we’re not so enthusiastic about the provision that we forget the source.
“Where Jesus is ingratitude cannot reign.”
Jeff left us with some homework in order to help us focus on cultivating a thankfuel heart:
- Make a list of 30 things for which you’re grateful. Take one each day and spend time thanking God for it.
- Parents, find a creative way to foster and model gratitude for your kids.
- Ask your friends, family, or spouse if you tend to be thankless.
- Do a search for all the instances of “thank” or “thanks” in scripture. Pick one to be your 2017 Thanksgiving memory verse.
- Every time you have a meal, turn back.
- Set a goal for Northstar’s Holiday Missions Offering.
- Consider creating for yourself a Thanksgiving chair–a chair you can set aside–when you sit in it you practice thankfulness.
Spend some time thanking Jesus this week!