In yesterday’s post, the Holy Spirit laid one particular verse on my heart: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Col. 3:15) Yesterday, I wrote about making a decision to meet others’ needs and live in love. But the last three words are what has been laid upon my heart: “And be thankful”.
The truth is that in my sinful nature, I am not naturally thankful or grateful. I believe what I’ve been studying and writing about the last week or so has led me to this place: in search of cultivating a grateful heart. In my thinking about this, I’ve read several articles and Scripture.
One article I read said, “We need to realize that genuine thankfulness is inextricably bound up with trust. We will never truly thank God until we first truly trust Him. We will not be grateful to God for all that we have until we first recognize that we’re dependent on Him for all that we have.” Do I need to come to the end of myself and my abilities in order to truly trust God and become totally dependent on Him? I don’t think I do, but I do need to change my mindset and thought patterns. I found the excerpts below in another article, 7 Daily Steps to Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart.
- Don’t Depend on You: Most of us have faced disappointments, which have taught us that we can only depend upon ourselves. But living the life God has called us to means unlearning that lesson. Instead, we’re meant to rest in God’s understanding. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” (Prov 3:5) But sometimes trusting Him completely like that can be tough. So, each day we must consciously lay aside our own plans and expectations—and surrender to His plans. Surrendering to God begins with our lips and our thoughts. We need more than a commitment to depend on Him; we need to cry out to Him to show that dependence. “in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:6)
- Cry Out to God: When we pray, we need to acknowledge that His ways are higher than ours. We show that we’re leaving our troubles and burdens and dreams in His capable hands. In fact, the Bible promises that when we reach out to Him in prayer, He hears us: “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice.” (Ps. 55:17)
- Run From Evil: Our blessings can easily become our stumbling blocks when we think of them as what we deserve or what we need to be happy. “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16) Life works best when we remember the true source of our blessings—God—and focus on the things that please Him: “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (Prov. 3:7)
- Put God First In Your Life: It’s easiest to put ourselves first. When something good happens, we want to congratulate ourselves with a reward. When something bad happens, we want to console ourselves or find someone to blame. In other words, we often have a “me-centric” starting place. And when it comes to money, the struggle is even harder. But Solomon, who had quite a bit of wealth himself, knew that his money didn’t belong to him: “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.” (Proverbs 3:9–10) If we can trust God with the first of our wealth, we’re truly showing how much we depend on Him. Handing over the first part of our paycheck takes a huge amount of faith, after all. But doing so means being God-centric.
- Check Yourself By God’s Word: Let’s be honest. We aren’t so good at evaluating ourselves. We will go to great lengths to excuse our behavior, our actions, and our sins. Who needs a defense attorney when we can pretty much find a reason for any bad thing we do? The prophet Jeremiah captures this very well: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) If we’re ever going to truly trust in God and flee evil, we have to know exactly where we stand. We have to find an objective measure that tells us the truth. And that truth comes from God and His Word. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll always like what we see or how we see it: “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke” (Proverbs 3:11) That’s right. Sometimes it takes something bad happening or seeing ourselves in a bad light before we finally admit that we need to change. And the more we’re in the Bible, the more likely this is to happen. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11) When we have Scripture planted firmly in our hearts, God will often use that to deal with us (Note: that’s why today’s post is coming out).
- Listen to the Holy Spirit: When Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the church, He told His disciples that this Counselor would be their spiritual compass or GPS: “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) As we go through our day, this same Holy Spirit guides us, too. That means we don’t have to go it alone or hope we’re getting it right. No, the Holy Spirit leads us into all truth and protects us: “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:14) After all, the gift of the Holy Spirit to us believers reminds us that we can truly…
- Rest in God’s Love: When we face a difficult world each day, we can sometimes wonder if God even cares. Why do bad things happen? Where is God when I need Him? Solomon reminds us that God never takes a break or leaves us to fend for ourselves: “because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Proverbs 3:12) Even in the midst of turmoil, God sticks with us and uses those challenges to shape us. When we understand that, our perspective completely flips. No longer do we see our setbacks as failures; we see them as moments when God, as our loving Father, works on us. And that’s exactly why we can trust in the Lord with all our hearts. He cares for us each and every day. He gives us what we need to thrive. He pours blessing after blessing upon us.
Of course, following each of these daily steps isn’t easy. That’s why Jesus said we have to deny ourselves and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). Trusting God takes a whole-hearted commitment from dawn till dusk. But we’re never alone in it: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
Thinking about a verse we studied in With What Will I Fill My Heart last week, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) As everything we have came from God (except sin), when we think upon the good things, list them, read them, think about them – our hearts will become thankful.