Please think about this for a moment. You go to school for 12 years to earn a high school degree. Then you (or your parents) spend thousands of dollars to send you to college. You find a prestigious job and start climbing the ladder of success. You reach a point where your salary allows you to live a comfortable lifestyle, which in turn allows you to purchase a nice big house in the suburbs. Your kids attend a nice school, are on every sports team in existence and regularly are on the honor roll. You sit back in your family room, with ribs grilling out on the deck and think; “I am living the American Dream, I am prosperous, I am rich, I am well known and respected, I have it all and am so thankful”.
This scenario provides the definition of “the more abundant life”for most people. I personally know many people who fit this description perfectly. They sit down on Thanksgiving and enjoy a day of fellowship with family and friends, watch some football and eat way too much. They enjoy the fruits of THEIR labor and all THEY have through all THEIR hard work. Somehow in THEIR self gratitude, they feebly offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God before they carve the turkey.
Now let us allow this story to take a dark twist. Just after the meal, when everyone is sitting around in the state of gluttony induced intoxification; the host suddenly drops dead of a heart attack. What happened to the picture perfect Thanksgiving celebration? Suddenly, instead of “thanksgiving” there are wild accusations flying as to that unfair god in heaven who took someone at the wrong time and a general sense of panic and doom. See, true thanksgiving cannot be dependent on outward circumstances, for they may change in an instant.
Here is an immutable principle which is as true as God Himself: If you want to live in a state of perpetual thanksgiving, you must abide in humility. Humility is the state of mind wherein pride, ego and haughty self-sufficiency have been crucified with Christ. Humility is found in the profound realization that you are nothing but a walking pile of dust without the life of God flowing through you. Humility is taking all the great things YOU accomplished in this life and burning them up in a great bonfire. Humility is the understanding that without God, His Son Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit; YOU ARE NOTHING.
I do not believe it is possible to walk in a state of genuine thanksgiving without being in a state of absolute humility. Without humility, what is called thankfulness is merely gratitude. Genuine thankfulness comes from the depths of the heart and soul. Gratitude is simply an outward expression acknowledging the receipt of something. It is equivalent to saying “thank you”. There is a huge difference between saying “thank you” and walking in a state of genuine thanksgiving.
When looking at the men Jesus called to be his disciples, one of the common denominators among them was that in order to follow him, they had to forsake all. James and John were partners with Simon Peter in a commercial fishing business. Luke 5:11 says that; “they forsook all, and followed him”. These men simply dropped what they were doing, which was their livelihood, and started following Jesus. Can you imagine the scorn and ridicule these men faced by family and friends? “Irresponsible, selfish, and deplorable”; this is what these men heard as they forsook their nets to become “fishers of men”.
Jesus demanded the forsaking of all this world deems important to follow him. There was no negotiation and there were no exceptions. Jesus demanded the men who were to become his apostles be “humiliated” according to the world’s view, in order to be exalted by him and His Father. That’s right; each one of Jesus disciples had to turn his back on his education, family, profession and accomplishments if they were to follow him. When reading Philippians chapter 3, you see that the last disciple Jesus personally called, Paul, had to do the same thing. Humility is an absolute prerequisite for discipleship, service and ultimately; thanksgiving in this life and rewards for eternity.
Some might think this an odd time to bring up the subject of humility, but to me, it is the very best time. While those in and of this world pause to express gratitude for all their accomplishments, we who are children of God and servants of Jesus Christ should stop and give thanks, not so much for what we have, but for who we are.
Romans 10:9 demanded the utmost of humility. We had to acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. When we bent our knees in humble adoration and confessed with our tongues that God made the same Jesus who was humiliated and crucified both Lord and Christ; we received the miracle of the new birth. At that moment we got “born again” we received sonship into the family of God. We became heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ. We received the gift of eternal life. These are the things to be thankful for, not just at Thanksgiving, but every moment of our lives. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, but He has made us alive with Christ and seated us in the heavenly places with Him.
Through our humility, and the agreement to “follow him”, we received the awesome opportunity to be a doulos, a bonded and branded slave for our Master, our Lord Jesus Christ. If service is viewed as a privilege and honor, than there is no greater honor than being “sold out” to Jesus Christ as his “dog soldier”, staked to Him and His cause. With this awesome honor, comes thankfulness to be so chosen. Truly we are blessed beyond measure through the grace of God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
We should be thankful for the unbelievable privilege we have to “forsake all and follow Jesus”. It truly is the height of irony to be thankful for losing things instead of gaining them. The true heart of thanksgiving is manifested in the humility of self-sacrifice. The willingness to “surrender all” is not something to dread but something to be extremely thankful for. I know of nothing that brings my heart more joy than to stand in God’s presence, having thrown off all my dirty rags, and allow Him to bathe my soul with His light, love and glory.
As Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13:
“Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”
Our thankfulness is not in “things”, but in Christ who enables us to be content regardless of our material state. I leave you with Paul’s words to Timothy in 1Timothy 6:6-8:
“But godliness with contentment is great gain.
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content”.
God richly bless you and stay thankful.