Remember the Stream

Some days if we are all being honest we will admit that it’s difficult to feel grateful. Yet other times, we’re so moved filled with gratitude we can’t help but feel joy and optimism. These two very different emotions are usually based on circumstances.

But what if we intentionally choose to be grateful in spite of our circumstance?

Researchers describe gratitude as a personality strength: the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen and never take them for granted. It’s been shown that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier and more energetic. Grateful people report fewer symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and they spend more time being active. Also, the more a person is inclined to feel grateful, the less likely they are to feel lonely, stressed, anxious and depressed.

All of that sounds great! But… easier said than done. Have you noticed that most things in life worth doing are not done easily? Teddy Roosevelt once said,

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. . . . I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

It’s not easy to get a college degree. It’s not easy to develop and maintain a healthy marriage and friendships. It’s not easy to raise children. It’s not easy to keep that job and give your best day in and day out. It’s not always easy to be grateful.

Gratitude is a choice we all have the ability to make. Love is an act of the will. Joy is an act of the will. Peace is an act of the will. Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all choices we make in spite of the world around us and the feelings inside us. We see that all these choices are good and are choices we ought to make. Galatians 5:22-23 says,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

We must choose to believe, even when doubts flood our soul. We must choose to give thanks, even when our heart doesn’t feel grateful. We must choose to worship, even when our voice doesn’t want to sing. We must choose to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we would prefer to serve ourselves.

Joshua 24:15 says,

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

How about today, we choose to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:18,

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Regardless of what you face right now, choose to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done. Give thanks for His love that surpasses any and every circumstance. Psalm 106:1 says,

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Gratitude unlocks the door to a heart of contentment, for contentment is never found in abundance alone. Contentment flows from the abundance of Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11,

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

There’s an old Chinese Proverb that says,

When you drink from the stream, remember the spring.

We live in a country abounding in resources, prosperity, and freedom. And yet we also experience political divisiveness, violence, a slumbering church, and natural disasters such as the horrific fires in California leaving a wake of death and destruction.

What causes us to rise above the chaos and celebrate the blessings is to “remember the spring” from which we drink. Lets remember the spring of Christ’s love, sacrifice, and honor that granted us freedom from sin. Galatians 5:1 says,

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

John 4:14 says,

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.

If you drink the water of life, remember the spring of His love that never runs dry. As has been said many times, “Freedom is never free.” Our national freedom came at the cost of many lives. Our spiritual freedom came at the cost of the life of One.

Colossians 2:13-15,

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

What are you grateful for today? Let us be grateful for the freedom we have in Christ. And if we drink from the stream of freedom, let us remember the spring from which that freedom flows.

The Wellspring of Thanksgiving

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
Come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

PSALM 100

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! A day dedicated to giving thanks… and eating WAY too much. Every dinner table will have its own traditions, decorations, characters, and portion sizes. But I would venture to say most of us actively celebrating Thanksgiving in any “thankful” fashion will have at least a brief moment of… giving thanks. Some of us will have that moment at the dinner table where each member of the family has to say something he or she is thankful for, and in a lot of cases, we’ll hear the warm-fuzzy comments about family, friends, country, and of course the food on the table. At my Grandmas house it will look like a bunch of hoodlums lingering around the spread of food only to be told to stand in a circle, hold hands, and share what we are thankful for before praying to bless the food.

But as a Believer I wonder where true thanksgiving comes from. Not just the holiday… but the idea of being thankful. Where does that wellspring of thanks find its source? The kind of sincere, heartfelt thanks-giving that I think deep down most of us wish we felt all the time.

Psalm 100 is a Psalm written with the sole purpose of giving thanks, and in it the psalmist gives us several things for which we can be truly thankful. Near the end he writes, “For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.” Did you catch that? For us this means that we can give thanks because the LORD is good and His love endures forever, and because He is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow… His faithfulness continues through all generations!

We’ve all heard the overused question or sermon point, “What if you woke up with tomorrow what you thanked the Lord for today?” Sure… it’s a good thought and a good reminder to be ever thankful and to express that gratitude in worship, praise, and obedience to the Lord, but I am thankful because that is not the case! We serve and love a God who blesses beyond measure and without reason! Our lack of acknowledgement doesn’t tie His hands or hold Him back! I am truly thankful because “the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

Notice verse 3, “Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” Christian… God has made you His own! Bought you with a hefty price! We see throughout the Old Testament the narrative of God making the Israelites His own special, chosen people, but we too can read this Psalm and mean every word of it! Newflash… if you have been saved and are a Christian, this Psalm is for you! You are one of God’s own, special and chosen people. This is cause for giving thanks because it means God has made a covenant with you, and I, as well. Our source of thanksgiving comes in the sealing of that covenant, which Jesus Christ did on the cross. Erasing our sins. Giving us access to God. Guaranteeing for us a future that will not end. I am thankful because, “It is he who made us; and we are his.”

I am His. I belong to Him.

For many, these round table one liner “thanks” are the extent of their Thanksgiving. A one-time, get-it-out-of-the-way holiday that reminds them to reflect on how blessed they are. Too often and too quickly, people resort back to being ingrates. But God wills us to be thankful all the time, in all things. That’s the point of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 where Paul says,

In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So if you’re saved, Spirit-filled, sanctified, submissive, and suffering, you have one thing left to do in order to follow God’s will… be giving and expressing thanks.

If you have trouble coming up with things to be thankful for tomorrow at the dinner table, think for a few moments on what the Lord has done for you in the Gospel. It’s at the foot of the cross, at the entrance to the empty tomb where we will find a never-ending fountain of thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving.