Read: Colossians 3:12–25
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
In my state in the US, the winters can be brutal, with sub-zero temperatures and never-ending snow. One bitterly cold day, as I shoveled snow for what seemed like the thousandth time, our postman paused in his rounds to ask how I was doing. I told him that I disliked winter and was weary of all the heavy snow. I then commented that his job must be pretty rough during these extreme weather conditions. He responded, “Yeah, but at least I have a job. A lot of people don’t. I’m thankful to be working.”
I have to admit that I felt quite convicted by his attitude of gratitude. How easily we can lose sight of everything we have to be thankful for when the circumstances of life become unpleasant.
Paul told the followers of Christ at Colossae, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). He wrote to the Thessalonians, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Even in our times of genuine struggle and pain, we can know God’s peace and permit it to rule our hearts. And in that peace, we’ll find reminders of all that we’ve been given in Christ. In that, we can truly be thankful.
What do you need to stop complaining about? What do you have to thank God for today?
God, how often I complain about things that are mere inconveniences. Help me never to lose sight of Your goodness. Give me a heart full of gratitude.
Read: John 10:7–15
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
The year was 1918, near the end of World War I, and photographer Eric Enstrom was putting together a portfolio of his work. He wanted to include one that communicated a sense of fullness in a time that felt quite empty to so many people. In his now much-loved photo, a bearded old man sits at a table with his head bowed and his hands clasped in prayer. On the surface before him there is only a book, spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread, and a knife. Nothing more, but also nothing less.
Some might say the photograph reveals scarcity. But Enstrom’s point was quite the opposite: Here is a full life, one lived in gratitude, one you and I can experience as well regardless of our circumstances. Jesus announces the good news in John 10: “life . . . to the full” (v. 10). We do a grave disservice to such good news when we equate full with many things. The fullness Jesus speaks of isn’t measured in worldly categories like riches or real estate, but rather a heart, mind, soul, and strength brimming in gratitude that the Good Shepherd gave “his life for the sheep” (v. 11), and cares for us and our daily needs. This is a full life—enjoying relationship with God—that’s possible for every one of us.
Would you say that right now you’re living “life to the full”? Have you had a tendency to equate full with many things?
Good Shepherd, thank You for laying down Your life for me, one of the sheep. And thank You for Your promise to provide nothing less than the daily bread I need, both literally and figuratively.
Read: Deuteronomy 6:4–12
Be careful that you do not forget the Lord.
It was just before Christmas, and her kids were having a difficult time with gratitude. She knew how easy it was to slip into that kind of thinking, but she also knew she wanted something better for the hearts of her children. So she went through the house and placed red bows on light switches, the pantry and refrigerator doors, the washing machine and dryer, and the water faucets. With each bow there was a handwritten note: “Some of the gifts God gives us are easy to overlook, so I’ve put a bow on them. He is so good to our family. Let’s not forget where the gifts come from.”
In Deuteronomy 6, we see that the future of the nation of Israel involved the conquest of existing places. So they would move into large flourishing cities they did not build (v. 10), occupy houses filled with good things they didn’t provide, and benefit from wells and vineyards and olive groves they didn’t dig or plant (v. 11). All these blessings could be easily traced back to a single source—“the Lord your God” (v. 10). And while God lovingly provided these things and more, Moses wanted to make sure the people were careful not to forget (v. 12).
During certain seasons of life it’s easy to forget. But let’s not lose sight of God’s goodness, the source of all our blessings.
Name five blessings in your life. Why are you grateful for them? How will you thank God for them today?
Loving Father, You are the source of every blessing in our lives. In our pride we often imagine otherwise, but we know better. We do. Thank You for all Your gifts.
Read: Ezekiel 37:1–3,7–10,14
I will put breath in you.
When Tee Unn came down with a rare autoimmune disease that weakened all his muscles and nearly killed him, he realized that being able to breathe was a gift. For more than a week, a machine had to pump air into his lungs every few seconds, which was a painful part of his treatment.
Tee Unn made a miraculous recovery, and today he reminds himself not to complain about life’s challenges. “I’ll just take a deep breath,” he says, “and thank God I can.”
How easy it is to focus on things we need or want, and forget that sometimes the smallest things in life can be the greatest miracles. In Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 37:1–14), God showed the prophet that only He could give life to dry bones. Even after tendons, flesh, and skin had appeared, “there was no breath in them” (v. 8). It was only when God gave them breath that they could live again (v. 10).
This vision illustrated God’s promise to restore Israel from devastation. It also reminds me that anything I have, big or small, is useless unless God gives me breath.
How about thanking God for the simplest blessings in life today? Amid the daily struggle, let’s stop occasionally to take a deep breath, and “let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).
What will you thank God for right now? How can you remind yourself to thank Him more often today?
Thank You, God, for every breath You’ve given me. Thank You for the smallest things in life and the greatest miracles of life.
Read: Isaiah 12
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.
In the seventeenth century, Martin Rinkart served as a clergyman in Saxony, Germany, for more than thirty years during times of war and plague. One year he conducted more than 4,000 funerals, including his wife’s, and at times food was so scarce that his family went hungry. Although he could have despaired, his faith in God remained strong and he gave thanks continually. In fact, he poured his gratitude into “Nun danket alle Gott,” the song that became the well-loved English hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.”
Rinkart followed the example of the prophet Isaiah, who instructed God’s people to give thanks at all times, including when they’d disappointed God (Isaiah 12:1) or when enemies oppressed them. Even then they were to exalt God’s name, making “known among the nations what he has done” (v. 4).
We might give thanks easily during harvest celebrations such as Thanksgiving, when we’re enjoying an abundant feast with friends and family. But can we express our gratitude to God in difficult times, such as when we’re missing someone from our table or when we’re struggling with our finances or when we’re locked in conflict with one close to us?
Let’s echo Pastor Rinkart, joining hearts and voices as we give praise and thanks to “the eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore.” We can “sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things” (v. 5).
-Amy Boucher Pye
In times of hardship, how do you turn to thanksgiving and praise? What role does God through His Holy Spirit play in this?
Father God, I thank You for Your amazing work in my life. You love me unendingly, more than I can even express.