The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
We have probably all heard those verses many times before. I know I definitely have; but as we approach the holiday season, two words stand out to me. The verses would flow together without the phrase, and so grammatically, it is not necessary to insert the phrase with thanksgiving; but if we really stop to think about it, the promise of peace found at the end would probably not be true without giving thanks.
The word thanks is found some 72 times throughout Scripture, not to mention variations like thankful, thankfulness, thanksgiving, and more. The sheer volume of times it is mentioned ought to give us an indication of the importance of being thankful.
Human nature is to always desire more, and, while tempered correctly, it can be a good thing, in the context of these verses, it is decidedly not. Striving to do more, to be better, to reach one’s full potential, within the confines of godly behavior, is far better than stagnation to be sure, but thankfulness becomes key in maintaining the right attitude, and a right heart before God.
I am reminded of a story I once read, in which one of the characters was struggling to achieve a level of study that was beyond his abilities. When it was mentioned repeatedly by another that he still had far to go, his response was profound, and true: “Please stop poisoning what I have already achieved by throwing up before me what may be forever beyond my grasp.” Though not a biblical story, the concept is quite true. Lack of thankfulness, because of a desire to have more, do better, or be recognized, can and will poison our hearts toward that which we do have.
When we look at the Philippians passage, it tells us to present our requests to God. Note that it does not say “needs” but “requests. “ There is nothing wrong with asking for the desires of our heart, provided, of course, that what we desire is not something which He could not, as a loving and responsible Father, give us in the first place. Thankfulness for what we do have will keep us from becoming bitter if His answer is “no.” Remember, we are coming before the One who knows our needs and promises to provide for us.
Psalm 100 verses 4 and 5 read, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.”
If we stop to consider all the blessings that He has provided for us, we have to stop in awe. He has given me salvation, a relationship with Him (and that on a far more personal and intimate basis than a servant has any right to hope for from his King), my wife, our kids, and so much more. I have been blessed with His truth, a barometer that does not change, and so I am able to chart my way through a world that is far too difficult to navigate on my own.
We have been granted access to His very throne, that our needs, pleas for mercy and grace, and petitions might reach the One who has everything, and can do anything, and He says to come boldly.
So as we approach Thanksgiving, take the time, personally, and even as a family, to sit down and actually list out the things that God has provided for you, done for you, and blessed you with, and as you do so, see how your hearts settle before Him. What is the biggest gift of all? He has given us…Himself.