Thankful Living

I really do long to live in a perpetual state of gratitude. Something within my soul stirs me toward being a thankful person, toward purposefully living in thankfulness. After all, I have been blessed beyond measure; I know this fully well. I am aware of the sacrifice that was made on my behalf. I know that Jesus gave His life for mine, that He died a horrible death on the cross in my place, that He suffered and bled and died that I might live. I know that I don’t deserve anything good. I know that I am a wretched sinner saved by grace. I know that my sinfulness is my own fault and that I am without excuse before a perfect, holy God. I know that I deserve judgment, death, and hell because I am a selfish, wayward usurper of the throne of God. Daily, I seek to depose God from His sovereign position and put myself in His place. I arrogantly consider my ways, my ideas, my choices to be better than His. 

But still from deep down inside myself, I am stirred to live in gratitude as I remember how much grace I have been given. I am thankful that I do not get what I deserve. Anything good in my life is purely and completely a gift from a loving Father who patiently watches and endures, choosing to bless me rather than to curse me. 

But something continues to get in the way. Despite my yearnings, despite my best tries, I quickly succumb to the same temptations. No matter how hard I try to remember the grace I have been given, I continually get sucked back into the same delusions – that somehow I have been slighted, that God owes me something more, something better. 

Selfishness stealthily creeps in without warning. I get angry because I have to do the thing that I don’t think I should have to do. I get my feelings hurt because someone did something that didn’t accommodate my mood. I notice others, seemingly less-deserving people, who have it made. Other people’s lives seem so easy, so luxurious, so indulgent, so blessed…and I feel like I’m barely scraping by. 

This is no way to live. Jesus came to bring us abundant life, not a life that is tethered by comparison and jealousy, not a life of offense or judgment. 

The cornucopia, otherwise known as a horn of plenty, is a common symbol of this season—or maybe I should say that it was a symbol of this season. I can’t say that I see them much anymore. Maybe we should bring them back. Maybe we need the visible reminder that a horn of plenty brings: the image of an oddly shaped basket stuffed to overflowing with an abundance of good things (typically, fruits and vegetables). 

I’m not sure who came up with the idea for a horn of plenty or who decided it should be filled with fruits and vegetables. If I were designing one today, I would include Kit Kats and Twix bars, maybe some of my wife’s lasagna, or some ice cream. We seem to have lots of car trouble at our house… so maybe my horn of plenty would include a new Jeep, a luxury SUV, and maybe a Corvette (hey, don’t judge, this is my cornucopia!).

Once again, I get lost in all the things that I have on my wish list. Things I want, or even dare to delusionally think I deserve. I really do want to be satisfied with my old Honda Pilot that runs low on oil weekly. I really do want to be satisfied with my un-fun, gluten-free, dairy-free diet. I really do want to be satisfied with my home that needs a new roof and new flooring. I mean—I have a car, I have a home, I have perfectly good food that I can eat. 

I long to live a truly thankful life. I want to be the guy who is fully, wholly, and completely satisfied in Jesus. I want to rest completely in His saving grace, His providential love and care. I don’t want to be whiny or discontent. 

I tend to think that, deep down, most of us who call ourselves believers feel the same way. As the psalmist says, “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls” (Psalm 42:7). The Holy Spirit living within us, the enduring gift of God’s presence upon our salvation, expresses utter joy and contentment from inside us. We are easily overwhelmed by the rushing waves of life, of jealousy, of self-pity. But still that voice echoes within. If we would just listen to the Holy Spirit, calling out from the unsearchable depths of God’s love, then I believe we would find what we need to live the kind of thankful and contented lives for which we long. 

This Thanksgiving, may we who are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, live in harmony with the Spirit of God by calling out from the depths of our humanity to the depths of God’s love. May we truly trust His sovereignty over us and His faithful provision. May we turn from the jealousy, self-pity, and arrogance that push us deep down into ourselves and instead model a life of gratitude to our children, to our church, to our neighbors, and to our world.

Ephesians 5:15-20

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Author: Jerry Welch, Family Discipleship Pastor, Colonial Heights Baptist Church