I recently caught myself in a bout of grumbling and complaining about a variety of things in my life that were not meeting my expectations. I even through a small pity party; number of guests invited: one! Perhaps you have thrown such a party yourself. As I was beginning a particularly busy day with lots of hard physical work and running around on the agenda, and being tired already, words bubbled up in my spirit.
“Never miss a chance to give thanks.”
It was these words that brought conviction and repentance to replace a vague sense that I needed to adjust my attitude. It was these words that began the transformation of my attitude. It was these words, echoing in my heart, that would be tested by the events of the following weeks and keep me in peace in the midst of challenges.
Thankfulness is hard to find in our culture; ingratitude is everywhere. I believe this flows from a sense of entitlement (and I am not just talking about social programs). If a person believes that they deserve to have everything go their way all the time, and that hardship is injustice, then they have a sense of entitlement. It’s hard to be thankful when you are simply getting what you believe you deserve.
In Acts 16, we find Paul and Silas in Philippi being followed by a woman with a demon problem. Now, this woman’s employers were profiting from her problem, so they were thoroughly upset when Paul cast the demon out of the woman. (Pay attention, friends; doing the will of God will make someone angry!) As a reward for their good deed, Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten with rods until many great welts striped their flesh, and imprisoned in the maximum security section of the local prison. They had good reason to be bitter. Their response to all this injustice? About midnight they were singing hymns and praising God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.
Ingratitude leads to corruption.
Years later, Paul would write to the church in Philippi. In Philippans 2:14-16 he writes, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” Do things without complaining and disputing and become blameless and harmless! This implies that if you spend your time complaining and arguing, there will be blame and harm.
Jude in verse 16 of his epistle, speaking of people who cause trouble in the church, says, “These are grumblers complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words.”
Paul describes the progressive degradation of human society in Romans 1:21-32. “Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him, nor were thankful. . . . For this reason, God gave them up. . . .” All the undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful, unforgiving behavior had its foundation in unthankfulness.
On the other hand, thankfulness paves the way for the Presence of God.
“Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:14-15). The idea here is that thanks are being offered as a sacrifice, even though the circumstances do not appear to warrant thanks. No matter how bad things look, there is reason to give thanks!
Think about this: somewhere out there is the unluckiest person in the world. Statistically speaking, you are probably not that person. Somewhere out there is the unhealthiest person in the world, the ugliest person in the world, and the poorest person in the world. Again, statistically speaking, the odds are in your favor that you are not that person! Be thankful! (My point is this: no matter how bad things appear for you, they could be worse.)
God’s response to this sacrificial offering of thanks is to answer you!
“Whoever offers praise (thanks) glorifies Me; and to him who orders his conversation aright I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23) Get a mouth full of thanksgiving and expect a heart full of revelation.
Psalm 100 tells us to, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving. . . be thankful to Him and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His faithfulness endures from generation to generation.”
This brings us back to Paul and Silas, beaten, chained and singing hymns and thanking God. They were not singing, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” They were singing praises, possibly even the words of Psalm 100. They didn’t miss their chance to give thanks and paved the way for the manifestation of God’s presence. The result was that the prison was shaken, the doors fell open, and the chains fell off!
Do you need to be unshackled from a bad attitude? Do you need doors of opportunity opened to you? Get thankful where you are and see what the Lord will do!