Yesterday I read from Ann Voskamp (quoting Chesterton) that “thanks is the highest form of thought”. She asserts that the great thinkers are grateful thinkers.
Initially I thought this is taking it a bit far, placing gratitude on a pedestal and elevating into a dangerously idolatrous position.
However, when I give thanks for stuff I am not giving thanks to gratitude, I am giving thanks to God. If I were just cultivating ‘an attitude of gratitude’ in an attempt to make myself happier it would be idolatry, worship of myself. In contrast, by continually giving thanks (and praise) to God I am living prayerfully, as Paul exhorts (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Colossians 3:17).
If I cannot be bothered glorifying God for all He gives then I edge ever closer to a precipice of idolatry, foolishness and a darkened heart:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)
Escape from idolatry
Each day we encounter events, situations and interactions which occur under God’s sovereign supervision. If the weather upsets my plans to do something I can get grouchy because my day has been messed up, or I can look beyond myself to ask what there may be to thank God for in this? Perhaps I am better to be doing something other than what I had planned. Maybe this weather is a blessing to others and those of us who don’t like it will get the sort of weather we do like on another day. Or it is so terrible that nobody is blessed and many suffer – in this case it is a chance to put aside my selfishness and help somehow.
I don’t thank God for what is evil, but I do look for the other blessings God gives despite evil occurring. Without this there remains only despair. Purposely looking for what I can genuinely thank God for refocuses my attention beyond the veil of evil and corruption cloaking the world and onto the perfection of Christ who remains Lord over all.
A society of fools
What happens when millions of people refuse to thank God for what He gives or to give Him glory? That society becomes darkened and foolish, chasing after delusions. As the church of Christ we are called to be light in the world. One way in which the world around us will see the light of Christ is when we remain thankful to God in situations that leave most people moaning and grumpy.
The joy of the Lord may be our strength, but how do we get it? We grow in joy as we grow in knowledge of God. God is spirit, we cannot see Him. What we can see is God’s acts in our lives – if we look. This is what I’m doing when I list eucharisteo, I am looking for the works of God in my life. And His touches are everywhere.
If the church of Christ spent more time thanking and praising God for what we have been blessed with instead of moaning about what we want the world would notice big time. Why then are so few leaders of families and churches and ministries promoting thanksgiving? Why are so few men praising God for His blessings?
Get with the game guys!
Listen up guys, it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Praising God for what He gives is not the sole domain of Christian women, yet they seem to be the only people talking about in the blogosphere.
You don’t have to be a soccer Mom, homeschool your kids, bake your own bread and knit your own socks to give thanks in all things. In fact, Paul’s exhortations to give thanks in Ephesians and Colossians are both closely followed by direct commands to both wives and husbands.
Theoretically you can do this silently in your head while going about your work. A bit like your praying hey? You know, where you decide to pray silently and start of well, discovering minutes later that you are actually wondering if it is OK to ask God for a new car like the one you’re following now.
I’d encourage you to record what you thank God for. It needn’t be on a blog. It could be in a notebook. Or let the gadget freak in you go wild – try the iPhone app, or Evernote, Tweet your thanks, photograph it, podcast it, make a Youtube video – whatever, go nuts. By making a point of recording what you are thanking God for you force it back to the forefront of your thinking and remain aware of the need to keep at it.
C’mon men, the women are whipping your ass in giving glory to God! Perhaps we need a more hairy and testosterone laden version of the ‘gratitude community’?
Gifts I have noticed today:
827) My 19 year old expresso maker – broken, welded back together, broken again – but it still works!
828) A book I wanted to read conveniently placed in my hands.
829) A quiet day at home alone.
830) The simple lunch I am enjoying.
831) Beginning to enjoy my jogging.
832) Daughters excited to start a new school year.
833) God promises to supply all I need (Philippians 4:19)
834) Reinstatement of our child disability allowance.
835) My wife’s persistence in dealing with bureauracracy.
836) Cheap 2nd hand stereo.
837) Lots of cheap plants to go where the hedge used to be.
838) Finishing my run despite being stung on the ankle by a bee.
839) Renewed sympathy for the kids when they get bee stings!
840) Starting a prayer journal for my daughter as we pray together.
Image of runners: iStock