November 27, 2020
The Gratitude of Contentment
Philippians 4:12 - I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learned this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little.
Philippians 4:12 reminds us that as Christians that we are to learn the importance of contentment when he says that he is content no matter if he has much or little. Paul also instructs us along these same lines when he tells us in 1st Thessalonians 5:18 to “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God.” When we look at gratitude and contentment during this season that we celebrate as thanksgiving we can conclude that gratitude and contentment go together like turkey and dressing. Giving thanks and finding contentment both depend on our measure of faith. When we are content we are grateful because we remember how God has so richly blessed us. In our contentment we should be overwhelmed by the generosity that God extends to us by His grace and mercy every day. There is our salvation in His son Jesus for which I am eternally grateful. Since there is no way that I deserve God’s twin gifts of mercy and grace, I am grateful for the freedom from the penalty of sin and God’s forgiveness. I know that I have a sin nature and the fact that God’s perfect love is poured out on me, I am grateful for the ability to love and be loved. I am grateful for the transformed living that I have in Christ. I know that I am not perfect but I am so grateful that God continues this regeneration of my mind, heart and soul to become more like Him every day. I am that God is to be trusted always and that His promises will always come to pass.
All of this and more should make us know that Paul is telling us to not live for the stuff that is only temporary. So whether we have much or little in possessions, there is the wealth that we in God through Christ that is covered by the Holy Spirit and that is more than anything that our hearts and mind can imagine.
So the next time we find ourselves yearning for stuff, remember that a grateful heart will increase our contentment for the things of God. We may not have everything that we want, but in Christ we have all that is necessary. Take note of Proverbs 19:23 which says: “The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs reminds us to rest in Christ, trusting He is in control. Circumstances, good or bad, are an opportunity for God to show Himself faithful. So, once we go to God in gratitude, we can live life in contentment knowing Christ is in control. Contentment is not passive and uninformed, but rather it is engaged and educated. It is not anxious. It replaces worry with work, pity with prayer, pride with humility, and grumbling with gratitude. Our peace and stability is the fruit of contentment, which grows out of the ground of gratitude. When we sow the seeds of prayer in the soil of gratitude and contentment, God will make His abundance abound towards us. We will be able to give a knockout punch over adversity because God will be fighting our battles for us if we just remain steadfast in trusting that He is doing what is best in all of our circumstances.
Contentment comes when we rejoice in the Lord. Think about your life right now. Can you learn to love what you have instead of what you don’t have? What you have in Christ is far greater than anything that you don’t have in life. You have Jesus. Therefore, you have everything you need for now and eternity. And Jesus has you. Gratitude helps us to see that this makes all the difference in the world. Psalm 103:1 reminds us to “Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Gratitude and praise bless the Lord.
November 20, 2020
Establishing a Pattern of Intentional Gratitude
Colossians 2:6-7 NASV – “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude."
Paul was never unintentional when he wrote his Epistles to the early believers. He had a pattern of greeting his brothers and sisters in Christ with love, encouragement and also in admonition for the wayward practices that did keep them rooted in Christ. His letter to the Colossians was no different. Here in Colossians 2:6-7 Paul’s reminds the early church and us as well that we have all received Christ Jesus the Lord and that fact changes everything about our walk of faith in Him. Our calling is to walk in Him. We cannot walk in Christ if we do not daily read God’s Word and then carry it out to the best of our ability in the path that God has planned specifically for each of us. We know that each of us has a path and that some of us have more hardships and heartaches on our paths than others. But Paul let’s us know where God leads us He has equipped to walk boldly. Paul reminds us of this privilege that we have been given to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” I think that one of the things that sets us apart from the early believers is that we have the truth, instruction, and God’s revelation of Himself available in the Bible. The early believers did not have all of Scripture available to them. We have our bibles available on every smart device we own. If we don’t want to read we are blessed to be able to listen to audio versions of the Bible. To enhance our understanding, we have every version of the Bible available to us at our fingertips. With all of that, we should be moving toward Christ like no one has done before. Paul says that we have been given every opportunity to get close and personal to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Paul ends verse 7 of Colossians 2 by telling us that we should be overflowing with gratitude because you are in Christ!
This Biblical gratitude that Paul speaks about here is much more than quick list of “counting our blessings” like we do with a to-do list. No Paul tells us that as we grow in faith we overflow with gratitude. This gratitude will spill over not only to God but also for God in what we do for others.
Paul’s gratitude for the grace he received from God most assuredly fueled his fire and drive for his service to God and to others. When Paul proclaims that we are to overflow with gratitude that’s how he saw the Christians expression of thanks for all that God has done for us. The love of Christ so overwhelmed him that he could no longer live for himself but only for Christ. We too should be so deeply conscious of whom we are becoming because of the grace of God.
Let’s not only thank God for what he gives. Let’s also thank him for who he is. These are two distinct acts. We should be intentional about daily thanking him for both his character and his provisions for us. As we make this part of our mind-set, it will become second nature. What is starting to look like a lost art in our culture today will reveal that we are grateful children of the Most High God.
This attitude of gratitude towards our great God will spill over into our encounters with others — both believers and unbelievers. Remember, we are to abound in gratitude, so it’s not a small part of who we are. Model and teach those whom God has placed under your influence how you work hard to express gratitude for matters big and small. Realize that your simple expression of thanks accompanied by eye contact and a quick nod behind of our masked faces may be the bright spot of the day for so many who feel overworked and underappreciated. This is truer now than it has ever been before. I have never thanked anyone who said in return, “Please, stop. I am always hearing words like that, and it’s really unnecessary.” So let’s be intentional and show our gratitude by the way that we walk for Christ!
November 13, 2020
Grace is Certainly Worth our Gratitude!
2nd Corinthians 4:14-15 (NIV) – “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Theses verses from 2 Corinthians 4:14-15 come in a chapter where Paul is describing his ministry to the believers in the Corinthian Church. Paul explains to the church here at Corinth of the challenges that come from working in ministry and he is explaining here that in spite of those difficulties the reason that he keeps doing it: “because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself.” (2nd Cor. 4:4)
Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth and us that his primary motivation for continuing to endure so much hardship is so that he can continue to spread the truth and the light of Christ to more and more people. Paul says that all of us have been raised up with Christ and will be presented to God the Father with Jesus.
How many times do we have that nagging little thought (sometimes big and frustrating) that if God really loves us as He says He does, then why are we not shielded from so much pain and suffering? Shouldn't God prevent all of His trusted servants from experiencing so much pain? Paul's says that God does not spare those who serve Him from suffering, but that God provides for them through their suffering. Paul declares that this service to the Corinthians is worth it, in part, because as more people believe in Jesus, more people will receive God's grace. The more people who receive God's grace, the more people who will give thanks to God. More and more glory will be brought to God. Paul is willing to endure anything, enabled by God's power, to achieve this outcome. So we should be ready to overflow abundantly in thanksgiving and faithfulness to God.
Let’s take a moment to think about thanksgiving in terms of our level of gratitude. A heart that is grateful understands the message that Paul writes about here. We want to always the child of God who can find God’s grace in the midst of the storm. These are the people that know that God’s grace was with them when they could hold the hand of a loved one when they took their last breath. They see that God’s grace turned unemployment into making income from sewing masks. These are God’s children that are still rejoicing that they can tune all of their smart devices to a live streamed worship service. Paul says show someone the grace that God has bestowed on you. Let’s apply ourselves to producing thanksgiving in other people by freely giving out the grace we’ve received from God through Christ. There is a blessing for us in every storm when we are using the lens of God’s grace.
So as we move deeper into our Thanksgiving season, let these verses today push us a step further than we usually go as we think about giving thanks. Let it give us a uniquely Christian approach to thanksgiving and point us to the highest expression of gratitude toward the God of grace.
November 6, 2020
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT) – No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
I will admit that I have been guilty of not appreciating the instruction that Paul gives here in 1st Thessalonians 5:18. After a less than stellar day, I far from the ‘always be thankful’ that Paul’s says that as a believer I should be. So I decided that there is more than meets the eye here in looking at an attitude of gratitude this month. It’s worth noting that Paul doesn’t instruct us to give thanks to God for every circumstance. Instead, he urges us to give thanks to God in every circumstance.
Paul’s words remind all of us that gratitude isn’t rooted in the ease of our days but it is anchored in the intimate relationship that we have with Christ. The more we get to know God, the more reasons we have to thank Him.
Let’s face it gratitude is not be our first response when our circumstances are challenging or disappointing. But when we focus on who God is rather than on what He is doing, we discover that we can give thanks even from the middle of our mess.
If you remember the words of James 3:17 9(NIV) where we read that: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” In our difficult times, the wisdom that God sends helps us to know that even in the middles of our mess we understand that God’s motives toward us are to prosper us and give us a hope and a future. When we have an attitude of gratitude, we can thank Him for His wisdom even when we don’t see the reason for His ways. We can thank Him for His faithfulness even when our faith is faltering. We can thank Him for His peace even when our doubts are raging.
As we become familiar with keeping our hearts bent toward God's heart, we learn to trust the work of His hands, even before His work is finished. What is your attitude? Is it one of gratitude? We are told when we stop to count our blessings they seem to rapidly increase. The flip side of this is that if we look at all the things we don’t have, it will appear that we never have enough.
Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.
Thanksgiving, the giving of thanks to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinguishing marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and detract from the intimate relationship we need to have with God and with others in His service.
Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people quicker than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore our contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.
I am learning that not all days will be filled with good things, but as I keep an attitude of gratitude, praise, and worship, I can change my mindset from focusing on me and whatever is bothering me to focusing on the One, True God who has promised to provide for ALL my needs according to His riches in Glory. So fix your gaze on God’s faithfulness, and continue to seek His heart. I’m certain of this: God is with you. And He is for you. And He’s doing more than your eyes can see.
Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) – The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
So far this month we have looked at a few of God promises to hear and answer our prayers. We also saw the blessings that God promised to us in Jeremiah where we read that God rejoices in doing good for those who live for Him.(Jeremiah 34:4-41) Then we had the promise from Jesus in the Beatitudes that promised us that know that we are spiritually bankrupt, that God has reserved a place for us in His kingdom. (Matthew 5:3)
Today we find our promised blessing from God in the Old Testament Book of Numbers (6:24-26) where God tells Moses: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”
Here we find that the people of Israel had been camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai for almost a year since their ‘Exodus” from Egypt. Moses has received and presented God’s 10 commandments and God’s law. The Ark of the Covenant has been built according to God’s precise instructions. Now, as the people of God prepare to move forward to take possession of the Promised Land with God as their guide, their protector and their provider, God commanded the high priest Aaron to pronounce this blessing over His people. These verses show us the desire of God’s heart for His people. What more do we need? If the God of the universe, the Creator of all things is favorable toward us then we need nothing more. God only wants the best for His children. His desire is to bless us in spite of us. Because we hear these words recited so often in our Benediction, we can lose the awe that God promised to bless His people and us so extravagantly.
Let’s take this opportunity today to look at the ways that God promises to bless us so richly. Numbers 6:24-26 (NKJV) is a spoken blessing demonstrating God’s will for our lives. First God says that He is the source of every blessing. He did not say some but all blessings. He will give us favor which includes increased prosperity and protection from harm. God has promised to take everything that we encounter (the good, the bad and the ugly) and turn it in our favor. God has been blessing us since He created mankind (Genesis 1:28. The first thing that God did for Adam and Eve was to bless them. God has proclaimed and commanded this blessing for us.
Then we know that God says that He will make His face to shine on us. The word you here is use six times in these three verses and is used in its singular form. God blesses us personally. In all the millions of believers in the world, God has chosen to bless us individually. God sees us in the sea of all believers everywhere. These words from this song by the Miami Mass choir sum it up: “What God has for me it is for me.” Nobody and nothing can stop what God has for you!
God is gracious to us. Because God is gracious to us, we have received His pardon. He blesses us by releasing us from the punishment that we should receive and instead in all of His graciousness has provided for us a substitute, His unblemished Son, who took our suffering unto Himself and freed us to live fully in Him.
God blesses as a father would bless to his child. He lifts His countenance up to us. These words paint a picture first of a father lifting his child in his arms: then of a father lifting up his child above him to beam into their face. Just as that father lifts up his beaming face to that child, God shines His full pleasure, His full goodwill, and His full joy over us as His child. God takes great pleasure in His children.
As a final part of
this promise of blessing, God promises us peace. All of us want peace in our mind. God’s peace is so much more than the absence
of strife. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, stems from the word which means restoration back to the
original state. God’s peace means not just harmony, but completeness and
wholeness, rest and welfare, soundness and safety. This is the blessing that God sends to bless
us. God’s blessing on us is that his face will be turned in our direction so
that we will know peace with him.
We must remember that these are not wishes but blessings. In other words, they are
true for us because of Christ. In Jesus Christ, we are kept, forgiven, and
restored to peace with God.
Receive and believe God for His blessings today!
-Rev. Rita Bowman