Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cultivating a Heart of Thanksgiving

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
- 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
- Colossians 3:15

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
- Philippians 1:3-5

“I have now said repeatedly that he is treated with the honor he deserves when he is recognized as the author of all good things. It follows that our receiving them all from his hand should be attended with continual thanksgiving.”
– John Calvin, quoted by B. A. Gerrish in Grace and Gratitude

“He who would have a double heaven must begin below to rejoice like those above.”
- Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 33:1

Next week we’ll celebrate a national holiday. I have to admit that this holiday somewhat of an enigma to me. I enjoy it because typically this holiday has escaped all commercialism. It seems to be a time that many family and friends are able to gather, and indeed, some of my fondest memories are of Thanksgivings past. Often it was a wonderful day spent with family and friends with an unmistakable highlight of being the most delicious meal of the year. I think Thanksgiving is enigmatic in that it was intended as a special day for giving thanks. A special day to give thanks? I need a life of giving thanks. So often in my everyday life, thanksgiving, as the posture of my heart, evades me. And I am not thankful because I am not content. I find murmuring and complaining is often my attitude. Rather than seeing everything as coming from God’s gracious hand I grouse about even the minutest details.

Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs preached a series of sermons to help unthankful and discontent people like me. The sermons have been compiled into a little book entitled, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. Burroughs’ own life could have been the seedbed of ingratitude. He was born in 1599 and died in 1646 at only 47 years old. His ministry was filled with difficulty as he found himself in the middle of several large-scale controversies within the church. He was a conscience-bound and Scripture-bound Puritan during the Acts of Uniformity in England in the 1600’s. He was ejected from his first pastorate for non-conformance and his heart was broken over divisions within the church. These sermons were published in book form, posthumously, two years after his death. And now this collection still serves the church over 350 years after his death. Imagine yourself as a persecuted parishioner in an Independent church during the enforcement of the Acts of Uniformity. Likely as a non-conforming parishioner you are experiencing severe suffering. Listen in as Pastor Burroughs exhorts his congregation using these words,

“A gracious heart can indeed tell how to enjoy God as all in all to him. That is the happiness of heaven to have God be all in all.” (p. 67)

“Certainly our contentment does not consist in getting the thing we desire, but in God’s fashioning our spirits to our conditions.” (p. 130)

Contentment is a sweet, inward heart-thing. It is a work of the Spirit indoors.” (p. 20)

In the middle of conflict-ridden England Burroughs was able to bring a God-ward perspective. My prayer is that both you and I will live in the good of the gospel to the extent that it affects our degree of contentment and thankfulness, and not only on one special day. I think if we could but glimpse the breadth of God’s manifold kindness to us in the work of redemption contentment and thankfulness would be an inseparable part of us. It would change us from the inside out.

May God give us a renewed vision of all He’s done for us in Christ. And may this Thanksgiving be the beginning of a lifetime of thanksgiving.

Desiring to be more content and more thankful, Dan

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