Day one – So much to be thankful for!

Samara Linehan, Communications Coordinator

“But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God… For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
– John 1: 12 & 16-17 (ESV).

Grace.

The undeserved favour of God. Favour we had no hope of earning ourselves. Redemption secured for us by the willing sacrifice of His only Son…

This alone should be enough to fuel our thankfulness for all eternity!

But how often do we let guilt over our own shortcomings steal this understanding of grace from our hearts and lives?

The truth of the matter is that there is nothing we could have done… and nothing we could ever do… to restore our relationship with God in our own strength: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Romans 3:23 (ESV). It’s the reason we need a Saviour.

We’ve heard it countless times before. It’s the bedrock of our Christian faith! So why can this truth be so difficult for our hearts to hold onto?

The first time I had a living, God-given revelation of the meaning of grace, I felt… relieved. Relieved to finally understand, in my heart, that it was impossible for me “work” for my salvation.

I’m right with God not because of anything I’ve done to fix my failings or atone for my sin. And yet, when God looks at me He doesn’t see my failings… he doesn’t see my sin. He sees only the righteousness of Jesus.

Having grown up a Christian, this was something I had known in my head for years. But the day that it dropped into my heart I felt transformed. It was as if I’d been released to be love in this world, truly and freely, without any lingering sense of obligation or ritual, a reflection of His perfect love. And I was certain that it was a truth that could never be forgotten.

But “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” – John 10:10 (ESV).

How many of you have had a living, God-given revelation of the meaning of grace stolen from your heart by creeping doubt?

For me, holding onto the truth about grace all these years has felt something like a battle… a conscious choice made every day to be informed by this life-changing truth, rather than by the lies of the enemy. And every time I make that choice, I am once again reminded of how incredibly thankful I am for the sacrifice of my Saviour. And of how grateful I am to be loved so radically by my God, that He would give His only Son to spend eternity with me.

 


 

Day two – Tell God why you’re thankful.

Mark Purser, State Representative (VIC)

“On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
– Luke 17: 11 – 21 (ESV).

Imagine being one of these ten lepers.

You’ve been infected with a horrendous disease and you’re desperate. Because of your condition, you’re socially challenged as much as physically challenged; your disease means isolation from the rest of the community. You’re frowned upon. You’ve been discarded by your family and friends. And you have no sense of hope of going forward.

I don’t know about you, but in this situation, I’m sure I would find it very hard to be thankful for anything!

These were 10 people who desperately longed for their circumstance to change and for healing to come to their bodies. And what do people do in desperate times? They call out for help!

The 10 lepers in this passage obviously knew enough about Jesus to know that He was worth crying out to. And Jesus responds to them with His usual compassion and mercy: He heals them and their leprosy disappears as they make their way to the priests.

Incredible! What a miracle! But what I find more incredible is that only one man came back to say, “Thank you.”

Now, I have no doubt that all 10 lepers were thankful to have been healed of their ailment, but only one of the 10 thought to reconnect to the source of his healing and, in all humility, fall to the ground and wholeheartedly give thanks to Jesus. The bonus for this man was that spiritual healing came to him as well, whereas the other 9 missed out on the eternal blessing at hand.

This story carries so much truth for what we see in humanity today. We willingly and gladly receiving the blessing of God’s provisions, but sometimes we neglect to be thankful, or forget to connect deeply to the giver of the gift.

We live in a blessed country. I live in Melbourne, a city that was recently voted the most liveable in the world! But how easy it is to spend time complaining about the traffic, weather, restaurant service, church service music, and extra homework. And never stop to consider that others around the world would be celebrating if they had the transport, rain, plentiful food, freedom to worship God, and educational resources we enjoy.

Perhaps it is time to start each day on my knees, at the feet of Jesus, thanking Him for the many and varied blessings I have received (and will receive) living here in Australia. And to go a step further… not just thanking Him, and connecting to the eternal source of goodness, but extending myself in generosity by sharing my blessings with others.

When I am generous, I shine the compassionate light of Jesus. And I give others the opportunity to experience Jesus in all His fullness, to connect with Him, personally, because they have a reason to be thankful.

Be prayerful: God I pause just for a moment and recall all the things I am thankful for.

Thank you, Jesus, for [tell Him what you’re, personally, thankful for].

Forgive me when I have taken these blessings for granted. And forgive me, Jesus, where I have allowed my self-centeredness get in the way of my devotion to You.

I commit to a season of thankfulness and an intentional week of being generous towards those I see in need.

Just like You did for the 10 lepers, my prayer is that You will bring healing and a compassionate touch to the broken, through me.

Lead me and guide me in Your will.

I pray this in Your name, Amen.

 


 

Day three – Be thankful… it’s good for you!

Andy Coller – outgoing State Representative (QLD)

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
– Colossians 3: 15 – 17 (NIV)

It’s hard to read Paul’s letters and not notice that he wants us to be thankful. Each of the three verses from this passage in Colossians implores us to be thankful. And we know Paul practiced what he preached, because after being whipped in Philippi, he writes about his thankfulness from prison!

We serve a good God. And the guidance He gives in His word is always for our benefit… so, why is practising thankfulness so important?

Being thankful is good for our physical health.

Not only is expressing our gratitude important for healthy relationships and our mental health, but evidence has been found which shows that it leads to healthy bodies too!

Robert A. Emmons, a professor of psychology at UCDavis, says, “Clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life. It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep.”

Being thankful is good for our spiritual health.

When we are thankful, it puts a song in our hearts and allows us to experience the peace of Christ. What an incredible benefit!

One of the keys to experiencing this peace is to allow the truth of God’s Word to dwell in your heart. Meditate on what God has done for you, and be thankful!

Being thankful is good for our witness.

If we take verse 17 of this passage seriously, and treat all aspects of our lives as service to Jesus, then our lives will be a good witness… if we live them out of thanks.

After all, what is more curious than someone who exudes Christ’s peace during the storm? Or someone who remains soft-hearted and thankful through terrible adversity?

Thankfulness doesn’t always come easily. But on those days when it feels harder, I encourage you, take time to pause and reflect on everything you have to be thankful for… because it will likely impact more than you know!

Be Prayerful: Lord Jesus, I don’t always feel like being thankful. Sometimes I prefer to moan… but I know that isn’t good for me or my witness.

Today, Lord, please put a song in my heart and remind me of all I have to be thankful for. And help me to pray this same prayer tomorrow.

I pray this in Your name, Amen.

#AThankfulHeart

 


 

Day four – Practising thankfulness… in every situation.

Cameron Eccleston – State Representative Manager

In Philippians, Paul writes the following words:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4: 4 -7 (NIV)

If you have grown up attending church, you’re probably familiar with this passage. You may have even sung a song encouraging one another to, “Rejoice in the Lord always. And, again I say; ‘Rejoice!’”

To rejoice in the Lord is easy when things are going well, but do we give thanks in tough times?

In this passage of scripture, the apostle Paul is calling us to rejoice and give thanks in every circumstance. This is particularly amazing when we reflect on Paul’s own circumstance.

When Paul wrote these words, he was a prisoner, totally alone and dependent on his Christian brothers and sisters for his survival. He would also have been contemplating the possibility of losing his life because of his ministry. Yet, out of all that darkness, he calls us to, “Rejoice!”

I recently had the opportunity to visit Nepal and spend time with some of our Christian partners in the field. While we were there, we heard amazing stories of transformation and met some very inspiring people. But there is one meeting, one story, that continues to stay with me.

I was travelling with several Baptist pastors and our group was introduced to fellow pastor who shared with us the miraculous story of his salvation. He came to Christ when his brother was healed (through prayer) from a disease that was considered untreatable. He received training as a pastor and began preaching to all who would listen!

Unhappy with the transformation of faith that had taken place in their district, a group of Nepali Maoists kidnapped the pastor and took him to a remote part of the jungle where, for two hours, they demanded he denounce Jesus and promise to stop preaching.

The pastor refused, responding, “You should kill me now because I will not stop preaching. When I die, I know where I am going. Do you?”

It was evident to all of us who heard his story that the pastor had a deep joy in his heart and a great thankfulness towards God for his brother’s healing. And it was the pastor’s joy and honest thankfulness that brought a peace to him which transcended any circumstance, including the moment when threats were made against his life!

The pastor was certain of his salvation and certain of the love of God… and for him that was cause to rejoice.

The challenge for me when I heard this story was two-fold:

  1. How would I react if it was my life (or the lives of my family) at stake? Would I live with such joy and certainty?
  2. And given I am safer in Australia, and that my life is so much more comfortable than the pastor’s life in Nepal, how is it that I sometimes fail to rejoice and give thanks to God through every circumstance that I experience?

I am thankful to have heard this man’s story… and for the conviction it has placed on my heart to always rejoice in the Lord.

#AThankfulHeart

 


 

Day five – Checking my thankfulness.

Brent van Mourik – State Representative (QLD)

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
– Hebrews 12: 28 – 29 (NIV)

Hebrews 12: 28 challenges me every time I read it, because it offers us a very simple, yet convicting, causal clause.

A causal clause is one that operates with the following logic: since thing A is true, so, also, should thing B stand true.

The clause in Hebrews 12: 28 suggests that “since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken”, we also ought to “be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

The reason I find this passage of scripture so challenging, is that this particular causal clause causes me to ask (I feel a bit like Dr Seuss!): “Am I worshipping God acceptably? Am I worshipping Him with reverence and awe? And is this worship springing from a heart of gratitude, which is inspired by the gift and promise of a kingdom that cannot be shaken?”

My wife and I have recently moved cities and God did some truly miraculous things for us throughout the course of this process. But other things didn’t happen as conveniently as we would have liked.

Isn’t it amazing how hard it becomes to remember the big picture when things don’t go as we plan?

The “big picture” of our intercity move was that God was in control. He’d already proven that by working miracles that enabled us to move from one city, and one chapter of our lives, to the next. But here’s what else I discovered: it’s very easy to lose sight of that “big picture” when, instead, you choose to wallow in the little, irritating circumstances that happen along the way. Because when you’re consumed with a single roadblock, you’ll never be able to understand the significant nature of your whole, God-led, journey!

And that’s why the causal clause in Hebrews 12: 28 is so challenging for me. It reminds me that instead of being thankful for the exceptional gift God has given me (acceptance into His eternal kingdom) I am often too busy being distracted by things of far less significance, like worldly health, and worldly comfort, and worldly possessions.

In yesterday’s reflection of thanks, Cameron used a phrase that describes what I am trying to say. He talked about a peace to transcend any present circumstance. And transcendence, I think, is what the writer of Hebrews is talking about verse 28.

He is saying that the gift of the everlasting kingdom of God should so transcend all other things in such a way that – regardless of whether we have little or plenty, regardless of whether we are healthy or ailed, regardless of any present circumstance – we should be thankful.

And, so, this passage of scripture also causes me to ask: “Do I truly understand the gift of the kingdom of God that I have been given?” Because, if I do, a revelation of its majesty should transcend anything else that I might come up against. And that knowledge should cause me to be truly thankful… and inspire my worship and awe.

Be prayerful: Lord, we are a fickle people. We say with our mouths that we understand the gift You have given us: the kingdom of God; eternal life. And, yet, with the next breath we cry out and complain about things that shouldn’t matter for kingdom minded people.

Remind us afresh, Lord, that the gift of Your kingdom transcends all earthly things. Let this truth inspire us to be thankful, and worship You acceptably with the reverence and awe that You deserve.

I pray this in Your name, Amen.

#AThankfulHeart

 


 

Day Six – Grateful praise.

Samara Linehan – Communications Coordinator

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing! Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name! For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.”
– Psalm 100 (ESV)

Overwhelming, joyous gratitude.

This is what I think of when I read Psalm 100. The feeling inspired by my understanding of grace, which causes a response of thankfulness to overflow in my life… and a response of grateful praise to God to come surging, almost reflexively, out of me.

The Lord is good! His steadfast love endures forever!

But as Andy and Cameron and Brent have all said before me: there are times when grateful praise comes easily, and there are times when practising grateful praise will cost us something.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” – Hebrews 13: 15 (NIV).

I am blessed to live in a country where I can worship God freely and express my faith in God without consequence. As such, my grateful praise has never significantly cost me in the grand scheme of things. But my personal revelation has been that God will still use our humble offerings of sacrificial praise to do mighty things.

I serve on the creative team at my church. And there are some Sunday mornings when (I’ll be honest) my flesh would rather stay asleep and in bed. But my creative pastor regularly challenges our team to be leaders of our church family in grateful praise – no matter our role or whether we’re rostered on.

He encourages us with the story of Paul and Silas in prison, which you can read in Acts 16.

Paul and Silas were praying together and singing praise to God. The other prisoners were simply listening. Then, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.” – Acts 16: 26 (NIV).

Although the other prisoners were not practising grateful praise themselves, the sacrifice of praise brought by Paul and Silas was enough to create an atmosphere that loosed everyone from their chains. And even led the prison guard to be saved!

So, on those Sunday mornings where all I want to do is sleep, I turn to this story and my spirit is challenged. Joining my church family for a time of grateful praise might cost me a morning in bed… but who knows what breakthrough it could lead to?

God will use my small sacrifice of praise to do mighty things, but I need to offer it to Him first.

#AThankfulHeart

 


 

Day Seven – It’s not about me.

Samara Linehan – Communications Coordinator

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 4:15 (ESV).

I once heard it said that the good news of the gospel is all about you, up until the moment you get saved… when it suddenly becomes all about others!

I find this an incredibly challenging thought.

Years ago, I was (unintentionally) hurt by the actions of my church family. I left that church and lived through a season of bitterness, which served to do nothing but harm my own relationship with God. This season continued for more years than I’d like to admit. Until, finally, my heart was soft enough to hear what God had been trying to tell me all along: Samara, it’s not about you.

I know it sounds silly, but that little piece of information was a massive revelation to me… because I had fallen into the trap of acting as though being part of a church family was solely about me being “fed”.

Of course, if we are going to continue to grow and enrich our personal relationships with God, being part of a loving community with wise leadership should, most definitely, be a part of that. But I am also convinced that the call to know God more is part of a far greater commission… for how are we to truly reflect His perfect love to others if we, ourselves, do not know Him intimately?

As Christians, our thankfulness to God for the incredible gift of grace and blessing in our lives is not meant to be stored up for our own benefit. Rather, it’s something that should be poured out, passed on, and shared liberally… for His eternal glory.

#AThankfulHeart