Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Seek first his Kingdom: a Posture of Thankfulness

It’s fun to see all the facebook postings of “thankfulness messages” this week.  This is the season we are reminded to stop and give thanks for the blessings we experience in life.  It’s good to have this season, but I wonder, what would the world be if everyone of us followed Paul’s admonition to live a life of thanksgiving.? How does a posture of thanksgiving for all things change us, and the atmosphere around us?

1st Thessalonians 5:16: “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Three short phrases. Simple, really:

            Be joyful.
        Pray continually

        Give thanks for everything.
I memorized this Scripture as a child, so I’ve known it for a long time. But, I am only recently learning to live it out.  I am discovering knowing how to recite it and walking it out in daily life are two very different realities! 

The first phrase “be joyfulcan only be done in relationship with our Heavenly Father.
Joy is something we can’t manufacture.  We can create happiness through our circumstances, but joy comes from the inner place of our spirit when all is right with the world.  Do you ever have those moments when you just know that joy is present? I had one a couple of days ago when I was editing my book. As I listened to moving music and  anticipated how God would use the book, I felt my heart burst with joy over the privilege of participating with God in conveying his message of “good news” to his people about our true identity.

The second phrase “pray continually” is a posture of how we live our days.
I used to get so hung up on this thinking “there’s no way I can pray all the time.”  I am realizing, however, it’s more about how we live our days.  Are we relying on ourselves and our own abilities to get things done?  Or, are we committing what we are doing at this moment to the Lord and inviting him into it?  I started to get overwhelmed when I started writing today, and when I realized it, I stopped and invited Jesus into the process.  Once I did this, he joined me and my writing became much more joyful and fulfilling.  It’s no longer something to rush through in order to finish my list on this short work week, it’s a journey with my friend who is delighted with the message

The final phrase “give thanks for everything” ends with a qualifier “for this is God’s will for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
A couple of things here:  the first is I used to think that everything that happens to us is the “God’s will for us”….but that thought doesn’t line up with tragedy, destruction, illness, war, poverty, those things that definitely aren’t found in heaven, so it’s not God’s will for earth. 

What I now understand is the “God’s will for us”  is to live in the posture of thankfulness, which leads us to continual prayer, and results in joy! 
Thankfulness brings us freedom. 

I wrote earlier about the challenges we hit regarding the purchase of our new home.  Despite the impossibility of the situation, when I started thanking God for them, I was freed up emotionally and able to pray in faith, which resulted in God’s tangible presence which brought me joy.  I will never forget the power of that day. When everything fell apart around us, we were given peace and joy.  Romans 14:17 tells us “the kingdom of God is not eating or drinking, but righteousness, peace and joy.”
The eating and drinking represent our earthly needs….paradoxically when we look heavenward, we find peace and joy despite what is taking place around us on earth!

I want to conclude with a story I heard Mike Breen (www.weare3dm.co) tell at a Learning Community.  On a trip to Africa, he found himself very ill in a small village far away from any hospitals.  Mike was so sick the doctor told him he was going to die.  As he laid on a cot two feet too short for him, far away from any family, he heard the Lord tell him to “thank him.”  Mike asked him what to thank God for in his situation.  He heard God say, “Start with the nurse taking care of you.” 
So, Mike began to thank God for the nurse, for the hut, for the short bed, for the village, for anything he could think of in his very sick state.  After about an hour of thanking God, he realized his fever had broken. Within a few hours, they were able to feed him some broth.  Within 24 hours, he was completely well. 

One day he was dying all alone in an African village.  The next day he was totally healed.
How did this happen? 

It came about through the posture of thankfulness, which caused him to pray continually, which brought not just his spirit joy, but his body health.
How about you? 

What are you thankful for? 
It’s a good time to get started in living a posture of thankfulness as we see it all around us.  My next door neighbor, Nancy, is celebrating her birthday with a month of 50 random acts of kindness.  She is learning the posture of thankfulness, which leads to peace and joy!  She is also inspiring those around her to learn the joy of a life shared freely with others.

Take some time this week to make a list of everything you can think of as you thank your loving Heavenly Father.  Repeat the list out loud.  Do it again the following day.  I encourage you to do this for 40 days throughout the entire holiday season.
At the end, ask yourself, “Was I able to live this holiday season with greater joy, peace and connection with my Father?” My guess is that the answer is yes because when we align with the way we were created to live, the outcome is God’s supernatural gifts of peace, joy, hope and love!

I think I will start now….
1. I am thankful for you.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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