by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Key Question: Why it is important to have a heart of thankfulness?
The Apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6, 7 that we are not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING we are to present our requests to God. The result of this is that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
We should always be mindful that we are to approach God with a heart of thankfulness. Jesus is a great example of what it means to have a heart of thankfulness. Even though He was God in flesh, He still took the time to thank the Father:
“Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted” (John 6:11);
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard Me’” (John 11:41).
Unfortunately, so many times we become too preoccupied with our list of wants and needs that we forget to step back and thank God for all that He has done for us. Several weeks ago my father and I had a conversation about when my son Lucas was born. When my wife was pregnant with him she was diagnosed with group B strep. We were told it was not serious, but it would require her to receive an antibiotic a few hours before Lucas would be born. My wife was somewhat concerned because with her previous pregnancy she had our daughter within a few hours. So in light of this, she was worried about making sure she would get the antibiotic prior to delivering our son. To ease her anxiety the doctor told her she would induce her so that there would be no concern about getting the antibiotic. The day for her to be induced was about a week from her actual due date. Besides the issue of the antibiotic, my wife was progressing along with the pregnancy, so the doctor had no problem doing this a week early. Everything went well that day. My wife had the antibiotic and the labor, at least from my standpoint, moved along smoothly. As my son was coming out the doctor noticed that the cord was wrapped around his neck and she quickly removed it.
In the excitement of having another child, I never really thought too much at that moment about the fact that the cord was around his neck. It was not until after, and talking about this with my wife and my dad, that we all realized how we could have lost Lucas. I truly believe if my wife did not get induced a week early that my son might not be here today. I finally did what I should have done at the moment he was born, which was to get down on my knees to thank the Lord for His faithfulness. When my son was born, it was a rainy and overcast day. However, at the moment he was born, the doctor commented how the sun all of sudden came out and shone through the window. What a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness, as He blessed our lives with our son Lucas, which by the way means “light bearer.” His birth date also was a blessing to my father as it was the same date, July 5, that his little brother was killed by a car when he was seven-years-old.
Giving Thanks in Haiti
When I was in Haiti I encountered an amazing expression of a heart of thankfulness. The mission compound where we stayed took food and water to this remote village once a week. We were told that this village was extremely poor and the people had to walk miles to get any water. As we approached this tiny village I was struck by two images. One was of the extreme poverty and dire conditions the people lived in. Their village was situated along a dirt path with minimal vegetation. The huts the people lived in were made of dirt, straw, and what appeared to be old tin metal sheets. The children were running around with no clothes. Besides the image of extreme poverty I was struck by the faces of the people as we entered the village. They began to smile and wave at us as they ran towards their huts. They then came out with old, worn out clothes as they headed to the one room church that had been built by the mission compound. As we walked into the church they were singing a song. I asked our interpreter what they were singing and he said they were thanking God for all He had given them. As I looked around, I said to myself “what things?” These people had no cars, no houses, and barely any clothes and food. How can they be thankful? Then I realized that a heart of thankfulness is not focusing on what we lack, but being content and grateful with what we have. As the apostle Paul reminded the believers in Philippi,
“… for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
A thankful heart is something that should be more than a gesture on Thanksgiving Day. It should be a continual expression that we show toward the Lord. In fact, a thankful heart is the will of God,
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).