“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
There is a legend of a man recounted in the classic devotional Springs in the Valley who found the barn where Satan kept his seeds ready to be sown in the human heart, and on finding the seeds of discouragement more numerous than others, learned that those seeds could be made to grow almost anywhere. When Satan was questioned he reluctantly admitted that there was one place he could never get them to thrive. “And where is that? asked the man. Satan replied sadly, “In the heart of a grateful man. GK Chesterton once said, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. Yet gratitude is the rare emotion that is seldom found in the human heart, because at the bottom line men and women really believe they are owed, never that they are absolutely broke, totally empty of deserving anything, bereft of every single right: their sin has left them deserving nothing but death. Even when men and women read these words in Romans 3, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become WORTHLESS; there is no one who does good, not even one, they don’t fully believe it or act as though God is right in his assessment. “After all, I have been saved by God’s grace; doesn’t that count for something? forgetting (Ephesians 2) that grace is not something in which to boast, but something for which you can only be profoundly grateful, in every circumstance in life.
We continually cling to words and thoughts in our minds like fair, right, deserving, and, “why is this injustice happening to me? As Paul writes in Philippians, we think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think! And if this is so, gratitude will never thrive in such an environment of false pretension. In fact, it cannot even get started. We need to understand from what gratitude springs, and what it is that kills it before it gets started. Our very nature as sinful human beings is fertilizer to grievances, offenses, chips on the shoulder, record sheets of what we believe we are owed. If we have been “done to, you can be sure we are going to exact our revenge to the very last penny. Gratitude in America has stumbled in the streets; it barely even exists.
As racial tensions have been pushed by various factions to a boiling point in our land, I am convinced that the genuine emotion of gratitude is what must thrive if we are to live together in harmony. Benjamin Banneker, an African America, son of ex-slaves, and a truly influential and great early American, a friend to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and a self-educated scientist, astronomer, and author said, “I am of the African race, and in the colour which is natural to them of the deepest dye; and it is under a sense of the most profound gratitude to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.
If such gratitude to God does not thrive in both non-Black and Black communities, racial harmony will never be achieved. To understand that as White or Black, Latino, or Asian, you are deserving of nothing in and of yourself, and that you are to live, if you would live righteously, in gratitude to Almighty God, who created you to be the color and race you are, all of one human blood, knowing that God is not a discriminator of persons; living with no pretension of deserving or grievance or anger from being “done to, but in the humility of acknowledging that you have life from but one source to whom you owe everything. The concept of “white privilege being bantered around currently is antithetical to the biblical concept of gratitude, every bit as much as “black grievance for racial treatment, real or imagined, which can never be “repaid to anyone’s satisfaction prior to the Day of Judgment before the Great and Universal Judge of all. And those who look down on their Black brothers thinking the lighter color of their own skin has advanced them to a privileged status in God’s world, are living in great disillusion without any sense of the fact they deserve nothing, but express gratitude to God in the way they live with their neighbors, loving them as they do themselves. This is gratitude being lived!
If you would live christianly, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you would see God first, and through the lens of His Holy character see yourself, sinful and truly deserving of nada. Genuine gratitude springs from this alone. Whatever God chooses to give you or wherever He places you deserves your thanks, not your grousing! As Paul well said, “In whatever circumstance I find myself I have learned to be content. Begin with living yourself as a grateful-to-God-in-all-things Christian; then your living example will spread to others, because God ingests power where and when His words are obeyed. Live gratefully.
“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings; it is the Lord who rises with healing in His wings: when comforts are declining, he grants the soul again a season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.
“In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue the theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new; set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say, “Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.
(1st and 2nd verses of William Cowper’s hymn, “Sometimes a Light Surprises, 1779)
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