Imagine Christmas morning. You've spent the last few months shopping and picking out unique gifts for each of your family members that show your intimate knowledge of their interests and desires. You have spared no expense to get gifts of the highest quality that will be both enjoyable and beneficial to each person. BUT when your family comes to the Christmas tree, one person completely ignores the presents. Another person opens your gift, but starts using it for something other than what it was made for. Still another just holds the gift, and refuses to unwrap it. And to make the matters worse, none of them even acknowledge that their gifts are from you.
Sadly, this is how many Christians respond to God's gifts, particularly the gifts of the Spirit. So many people fail to receive what the Lord has offered them because they don't understand what the gifts are or how to use them. They say ridiculous things like, "Well, tongues is the least of the gifts, so I don't need to pursue it." If my children said this about one of the presents I had put under the tree for them, I'd be very upset. I'd say, "This is yours! I don't care how small you think it is. I bought it with you in mind, and I don't give cheap gifts. If you'll just open it, I'll show you what it is and how to use it." Such a rejection of gifts is absolute arrogance.
Thankfulness carries an attitude of humility. Thanksgiving is the ONLY proper way to receive what God has given us because it honours our relationship with Him by expressing trust in His goodness, even if we don't understand what we've received. God gives us "every good and perfect gift" for TWO primary reasons. He gives to make us prosper so we can succeed in life, and He gives to demostrate His love as an invitation to relationship. When we practice thanksgiving as a LIFESTYLE, we recognize that the gifts we have received from the Lord came with these purposes. Thanksgiving sets us on course to know God in relationship and discover the reasons for which He made us.
THE GREAT PRICE OF LITTLE THANKS
When God tells us to give Him thanks, He's not insinuating that He gives in order to get something from us. He doesn't manipulate us with His gifts. He wants us to thank Him because thankfulness acknowledges the truth about our lives. And when we agree with the truth, then truth sets us free to see and manifest the greatness that He has put in us as the ones He has made in His image.When we withhold thanks from God, we actually cut ourselves off from who we are. This is what Paul explains in Romans 1:18-21.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who supress the truth in unrighteousness ... so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God they did not glorify Him as God,nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Futiles means purposeless. When we fail to sustain the response of thanksgiving for EVERYTHING in our lives, our thinking is cut off from our purpose in God. When we lose sight of our purpose, we will inevitably make choices that are outside of God's intentions for our lives, and this can only be destructive because it works against His design for us. A dark heart is a heart that is unable to perceive spiritual reality. It is unmoved by the desires and affections of the Lord, and therefore cannot respond to His invitation to relationship, which is the source of life.
THE PURIFYING NATURE OF THANKSGIVING
Since thanksgiving keeps us sane and alive by connecting us to the source of our life and purpose, it makes sense that Paul instructs us to give thanks "in everything."
Thanksgiving Keeps Us Sane And Alive
But there is a specific dimension of thanksgiving that s particularly powerful in times of difficulty and adversity. We find this principle in Paul's first letter to Timothy.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons...commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the words of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:1-5)
When Paul says that thanksgiving sanctifies unclean food, he is saying that it sets it apart for God and His purposes. Thanksgiving actually changes the very nature of the food into something holy. This truth extends beyond unclean food. It extends to EVERY SITUATION in your life in which you find other powers at work besides the power of God. It is vital to remember that NOT EVERYTHING happens in life is His will. He didn't cause the crisis a nation or individual may be facing. He actually can't give things that are not good because He doesn't have them. God only give good good gifts, because He is good, and has only good gifts to give. So giving thanks IN EVERYTHING does not mean saying that the adversity came from God. But giving thanks in the midst of an adverse situation, a difficulty intended to undermine your faith and destroy you, enables you to take hold of that situation and set it apart to God and His purposes. When you give thanks, the weapon the enemy meant to use to dislodge you from your divine purpose is put into your hands and becomes the very thing that brings you more fully into that purpose. Jesus declared that He sends us out with the same assigment the Father gave to Him - to destroy the works of the devil (see 1 John 3:8). Thanksgiving accomplishes the divine of the Kingdom, where the enemy is destroyed by the very thing he intended to use for our destruction. Just knowing that we can participate in destroying the enemy's purposes should alone move us to give thanks!
One of the clearest examples of divine justice in Scripture is found in the Book of Esther: the story of Haman, who was hung on the very gallows he built to destroy Mordecai. Later, this justice was made even more complete when Modecai assumed Haman's position in the king's court. The wonderful thing about this story is that Mordecai didn't have to bring justice himself. He simply kept his focus on his duty to the heathen king and to his people. This is the nature of warfare in the Kingdom. We don't battle by focusing on the devil. We keep our focus on the King and His Kingdom, and the devil cannot help but be unseated by God's ever-increasing government released through our lives, which illustrates another reason why thanksgiving is powerful in times of adversity. Psalm 100:4 says that we"enter His gates with thankgiving." Thanksgiving brings us into the manifest presence of God and connects us with what He is doing and saying in the midst of our circumstances. Thanksgiving helps to establish our focus on Him so that our awareness SHIFTS from earthly reality to heavenly reality - which we must do in order to release the strength of Heaven into our circumstances.
KEEPING MY AWARENESS OF GOD
When I stay close to the presence of God through thanksgiving, I not only become aware of His absolute ability to invade the impossible, I sense His radical love and delight in me! As I give thanks for the good gifts He's put in my life, I present convincing evidence that He is my Father, He is for me, and His opinion pretty much cancels out all the others. The wonderful thing is that we simply begin to give thanks, even when it seems difficult to remember one answered prayer, it isn't too long before our focus on the good in our lives creates an opening for the Lord's joy. And It 's the joy of the Lord that is our strength. I believe that James was talking about giving thanks when he said to COUNT IT ALL JOY in trial, because giving thanks usually includes taking an inventory of God's gifts in your life. Do the math! If you want to discover the ability of thanksfulness to bring you strength in difficulty, you need to keep COUNTING these things UNTIL you come to the conclusion - IT's TIME TO REJOICE! It becomes really hard to stay depressed about your circumstances when you're filled with the awareness of the love and goodness of God that surrounds and infuse your life.
There is a level of life we can reach where we practice THANKSGIVING AS A LIFESTYLE - a place where we remember our answered prayers. When difficulty comes along, we have a huge inventory of blessings instantly accessible to bring us into His presence as well as the joy and delight He has over us. That is far greater than any accusation, crisis, or conflict that could come our way. When we learn to live in THIS REALM, NOTHING can deflect us from our purpose. We even make the enemy help us get it done. From Heaven's perspective, it is reasonable to give thanks "IN EVERYTHING"!
An extract from the book - Strengthen Yourself In The Lord by Bill Johnson