African Game Drive
One of my favorite things to do is going on a game drive through the African bush.
It really helps if you have someone with you who is a good spotter. :). It can be tricky to catch a glimpse of rare animals that are camouflaged well in the bush. A special treat would be to spot the Big Five in one day! That is almost impossible, but it can happen.
During the lockdown here in SA, our elders at Grace-Toti have given daily devotionals that have been so encouraging. David records his challenges right in our dining area.
He shared one that was very apropos for th(i)nkful:
“Today, I want us to ponder … thanking God for what is happening. The verse I want us to look at is 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
You want to know God’s will for you? Give thanks in all circumstances.
The word thanks, thankful, thanksgiving is mentioned thousands of times in Scripture, so it’s one of the largest themes in the Bible.
Now listen closely: Thankfulness is a both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline.
Thankfulness is a natural response to something good coming from outside yourself – someone gives you a thoughtful gift, does something to help you, makes your life easier or brighter, speaks an encouraging word to you. You feel an inner sense of joy …and for a selfish person it stops right there – joy at the wonderful thing someone did or said. Maybe they go on and talk about themselves some more!
Whole cultures can be selfish like this – Romans 1:21 is one of the saddest verses in all the Bible:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile – empty, aimless – in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
In a selfish culture, if things move from average to negative, they demand that God fix that. But if things move from average to positive … they won’t call for days of celebration thanking God for His blessings, but they will talk about the great advances their scientists or industries have made.
Now, many hundreds of years ago in the Anglo-Germanic languages, the words think and thank came from the same root. So … a THANKFUL person will feel that inner sense of joy … and then think … and attach that joy to that other person. They will assign credit to that person … and give value to what they’ve done. “They were so kind; that was so thoughtful of them.”
But this is all inside the head and heart. Now, what do you do with that?
The first mistake I mentioned was selfishly feeling good … but not feeling thankful.
Our second mistake is feeling thankful … but not expressing our thankfulness to that other person or group of people.
I mentioned at the beginning that thankfulness is a both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline. For those who struggle to speak up, to express their thanks, perhaps due to being shy or an introvert, this is where the unnatural discipline kicks in. The command is not just feel thankful, but GIVE thanks.
Colossians 3 mentions thankfulness three times in three verses – verses 15-17. Take a look at it if you wish:
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ [the message about who Jesus is and what He’s done] dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There are three phrases: be thankful, thankfulness in your hearts, and giving thanks. Let’s look at them:
Firstly, God says “be thankful.” The Greek verb is in the prolonged sense, so be continually becoming thankful. Being thankful is a routine practice of spotting and highlighting the good that God or others have done.
Most of us love going on game drives. Sometimes you can go with rangers in the open trucks, and way up front on the front grill, there is a seat for the spotter. Some spotters are amazing in the way they can pick out little details that the average person would miss. The swishing tail in the tall grass, the way those birds are behaving.
When God says very simply “Be thankful.” He is saying “my child, you are the spotter.
I am at work all around your world. The earth is filled with my glory. You benefit from the common grace that I shower upon mankind every moment of every day. As the Most High, I rule in the kingdoms of humanity; I establish the times and seasons of nations, but I am also orchestrating every detail of your life; I am sending my Son back soon and am making things ready. YOU ARE THE SPOTTER!
Look for my fingerprints, and point others to me! Others may see nothing but dead grass, nothing but panic and pandemic, shriveling economies and withering hopes. Even some of my own children feel this way. But you must be thankful. You must search and spot and speak up about the things for which people can be thankful.”
Verse 16 – with thankfulness in your hearts – “Thankfulness” is a heart attitude that creates an impulse to express gratitude to God and to others. The attitude of gratitude. Your heart is your wanter. Whatever you really want, that’s what’s in your heart.
So being thankful is the routine practice of spotting things to be thankful for. But thankfulness in the heart is the energy to express it.
Verse 17 – Whatever you say or do, do it as the representative of Christ, “giving thanks” to the Father – here is the command again that we saw in 1 Thessalonians 5. Give thanks; that is, speak out your list of things to be thankful for. You must move your mouth … or maybe your pen or keyboard. Don’t hold it inside – don’t just feel thankful.
You can thank God for His amazing character – His love, patience, mercy and compassion, His sovereign control of all of my circumstances for my good and His glory. You can thank God for giving us His Word – our record of who God is, what He has done, His plan for the ages. You can thank God for the beauty, power and complexity of the creation.
You can thank Him for your needs being met, for friends and family, for body parts that still work, and a heart that beats automatically while you sleep. These things are just common for us … but take your eyesight away. What if you only had tomorrow what you thanked God for today?
In this pandemic, you can thank Him that the virus isn’t even more deadly; thank Him for hard working healthcare professionals, for governments trying to do the right thing, for crime that has dropped way off due to the lockdown and no alcohol sales. Many of our hospitals are reporting that there is nothing to do – with isolation and no alcohol, the ER is quiet.
All of these are thanking him IN the trial – the trial dominates the scene, but you are the spotter and you draw attention to things around the trial to be thankful for. But the deep blue hero zone is where you thank God FOR the trial.
Father, thank you for the coronavirus, because … we’ve had time together as family, more time in your Word and in prayer, that we are being refined and made godlier as we learn to trust and not fret; that you are speaking to people and to nations; that our church has reached thousands with God’s Truth over the internet during lockdown. We can thank Him FOR the trial.
Thankfulness is both a natural response … and an unnatural discipline. In times of suffering and anxiety, thankfulness is a discipline. The dread of the valley of dark shadows grabs our attention; the wind and waves of Peter’s walk on the sea challenge our ability to focus.
We need to press through and be “thinkful”, a word my Karin coined. Being th(i)nkful is choosing to download God’s strength to think thanks about every circumstance in my life and to express that thanks orally or in written form.
Virtually every sin that we commit is a result of a lack of thankfulness. So let’s obey this command from God’s Word this morning. Let’s become the spotters, highlighting the myriad things for which we can express our thankfulness.”
Be th(i)nkful! Be the spotter!