6 Actions to Move You
From grateful moments to a lifestyle of thanksgiving
Evan Carlson, President & CEO
What does it look like when you choose to make thanksgiving a lifestyle?
We all have things to be thankful for. I’m thankful when my kids actually listened to me the very first time I asked them to do something. I am thankful to have health, and that I have a car that takes me where I need to go.
Let’s get real. I’m thankful I remembered to put my ChapStick in my pocket because I’m addicted to it. I don’t understand why, but I need my ChapStick on me at all times.
But how do you deal with situations in life?
- When everything isn’t great?
- When the car runs out of gas?
- When you get the wrong diagnosis?
- When you have issues in your relationships?
How do we go from being grateful in moments to choosing thanksgiving as a lifestyle? That’s a really hard thing to do for most of us. We live in a culture that really fights against that. We have everything at our disposal. Why should we be grateful all the time, while living in a society where it’s easy for us not to be thankful?
Paul penned the words, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT).
It’s easy to think Paul wrote this from a hot tub at the Hilton of Israel, but he sat in prison, shackled to a wall, not doing very well at all. You might think Paul would be the very last person who would be saying we need to be thankful in all circumstances because of his own situation.
- Identify the issue.
The first issue we must overcome before we can talk about the solution in our journey to move from grateful moments to a lifetime of thankfulness is to identify the issue. And if we’re honest, it comes down to selfishness. And I’m pointing a whole lot of fingers back at myself when I say that.
We often focus on what we don’t have rather than being thankful for what God has provided.
I’m content until I hop on Amazon and see something really cool thatI want. I’m content until I drive my car into the auto dealership, and that new model looks pretty sweet. I look at the house and think, We could get new flooring.
2. Become nearsighted.
We take things that God blesses us with for granted. Instead of being thankful, we can become even more selfish.
We have to stop being farsighted and become nearsighted. We look out to compare our lives to other people and to other search circumstances or situations. Someone is always going to have more than us.
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”
- The power goes out for a minute, and you realize you’ve been taking electricity for granted.
- How about the garbage? Do you start planning how you’ll handle the pile up when trash day lands on a holiday?
- We have someone close to us who has gone through health issues, and we’ve lost them. Did we take that relationship for granted?
3. Choose to be thankful.
The battle we continue to struggle with is pride, determining who’s at the center of our lives. As humans, we want to put ourselves on the throne, at the very center of our lives.
It makes me think of the story of a little boy and a stranger gives him an orange. So, what do you think the little boy is going to say to the man who just gave him a gift? We’d think he’d say, “Thank you,” but instead, he holds the orange up to the man and says, “Peel it.” Instead of being thankful for what he was given, he gives a command that basically says, “This is nice, but I need you to do more for me.”
4. Choose contentment.
We can become so focused on what we want, we lose sight of what God wants for us. He wants His very best for us. And so often we struggle with the ability to allow Him to provide that blessing in our lives and to be content with that.
The book of Exodus is the story of Moses and the Israelites exiting Egypt, arriving at the Promised Land, and then they wander around. They can’t go into the land God promised because they disobeyed Him.
God uses the word stiff or stiff-necked to describe the Israelites. It’s not a very flattering word. If we’re honest, it’s a word that often applies to us as well. And if you’re willing, ask:
- How might I be stiff-necked?
- How am I trying to continually put myself at the center?
- What makes me think I have all the answers?
The Israelites knew where they wanted to go. They wanted to continue to drive the agenda. And it’s the same thing for us today.
We need to push back pride and ask God to help us overcome selfishness.
5. Receive God’s blessings in humility.
He has so many blessings He wants to provide for us daily, and we often miss them. We’re so busy just living, doing and thinking about the things that make us happy.
So how do we overcome this? Where do we start?
We must have a posture of humility.
Go to God in prayer and ask Him for an attitude of thankfulness. We have to start there because we can’t try it in our own strength. God, please help me each day to be as thankful as I possibly can.
When the Israelites got out of Egypt, and they started to hit some rough road, the first thing they wanted to do was to go back to Egypt, instead of trying to forge ahead with the blessings that were promised for them in the future.
How often do we hit hard times and want to go back, even if we know in our minds going back is actually worse. Whatever back is, we say, “Going forward is hard work, and I’m not sure I want to do that.” But God has tremendous blessing for you on the other side, if you stay faithful to following through.
When you see the word thanksgiving, what comes to your mind?
If I were to survey the average American, I believe they would say “food, family and football.” We’re getting together with family, celebrating around some food and cheering on our team.
As you’re doing all that this year, please be mindful that each one of those things is a blessing.
- Food is a blessing. We should be thankful for that. How easy is it for us to take food for granted?
- Family — we can and should be thankful for our family as we continue to spend time with them and build relationships on that day.
- Football – yes, that sounds funny, but it is true. Think about the blessing of having a TV. It happens to be under a roof with electricity, which is yet another blessing.
How can we, as believers, continue to keep God at the center of everything? How do we make sure we remember, every single day, that the food, family, football, health and all the we have is a part of the blessings God provided?
While we may not eat steak and lobster every week, live in a mansion or wear name brand clothes with every single outfit that we wear, God provides it all and it’s a blessing.
6. Keep God at the center.
We must be intentional about continuing to come back to the root of it all and be grateful to God. The most important blessing in a believer’s life is your salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s your faith. It’s the blessing to live each day knowing you have all of eternity with Him.
Imagine yourself in a courtroom. The judge is presiding over his own daughter’s trial, and she has fully admitted her guilt. She said, “I am guilty. I am the one that did it.”
And her father says, “You owe a hundred dollars,” but then the judge comes out from behind the podium, takes off his robe and goes down to his daughter. He put his arm around her and says, “I’m going to pay your debt.” And he pulls one hundred dollars out of his wallet and pays the debt on her behalf.
Never take His gift of salvation for granted.
That’s what the Heavenly Father did for us through His Son, Jesus. So, in the blessings that He provided for us, we have the tangible things to be thankful for, but we can’t take His gift of salvation for granted. And I am pointing my finger right back at myself as someone who grew up in a church, it’s easy to just take it for granted.
We’ve all been given a chance to enter His house because of Jesus. The gift of eternal life with Him is greater than all the other blessings combined.
I hope you will take this opportunity right now to pray and ask God to help you have a lifestyle of thanksgiving, not just moments of thankfulness.
Check out Christina’s story – No Longer a Slave to Her Dream.