The first law of spiritual success is to worship. Be a worshipper before everything else.
The second law of spiritual success is to give thanks. Maintain at all times an attitude of gratitude.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – ‘Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.’
Sir John Marks Templeton, the British-American financier who died four years ago, was a wealthy man who devoted his life to making money so that he could give it away. He gave away over one billion American dollars.
He had a habit every morning of thinking of ways in which he had been blessed. He cultivated an attitude of gratitude. What do you do first in the morning? Do you check the news and take in adverts that tell you that you’ll only be happy if you buy this or that product. Maybe you would find greater benefit in thinking of new things for which you can be grateful.
Focus on your blessings. People who make the effort to focus on the good things are healthier than those who don’t. It is a law of life.
Maybe you think you have so much wrong in your life, so many problems surround you, that it is impossible to see anything for which you can be grateful. There are troubles to the right of you and difficulties to the left. Everywhere you cast your gaze there is but darkness, and not one thing for which you can give thanks.
It is all a matter of perspective, however. For example, you can give thanks that you can see the troubles that surround you because you are not blind. You can give thanks that you are not in a concentration camp.
1 Chronicles 16:34 – Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Cry out, “Save us, O God of our salvation! Gather and rescue us from among the nations, so we can thank your holy name and rejoice and praise you.”
Corrie ten Boom was sent to a Nazi concentration camp, where she was put in a hut infested with fleas. She confessed to her sister that although she knew the Bible told her to give thanks for all things, she couldn’t thank God for fleas.
Much later Corrie learned that the reason she and her sister were not molested by the brutal guards was that the camp guards also detested the fleas, and so they wouldn’t enter her hut. Corrie then began to thank God for fleas, and to thank God that he had placed them in the hut to protect her.
Life takes on a whole new meaning when we strive to identify the hand of God at work around us instead of focusing on the bad things, the works of Satan. Because then we start to grow in the knowledge that God is good and he is victorious. God can never be overcome by Satan.
The great London preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “It is a delightful and profitable thing to mark the hand of God in the lives of his saints and to observe his goodness in delivering them, his mercy in providing for them, and his faithfulness in keeping his promise to them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable to notice the hand of God in our own lives?”
It not only pleases people when we show our appreciation for them, it pleases God.
Psalm 107:31 – Let them praise the Lord for his great love and for the wonderful things he has done for them. Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation and before the leaders of the nation.
We should be grateful to the people who share God’s blessings with us and give thanks to them even as we give thanks to God for his blessings. We do not want to be like King Hiram in 1 Kings 9, who complained when King Solomon gave him 20 towns as a gift.
Why spend your energy looking for the things you don’t have when there are so many things you do have?
If you are struggling to find the good things in your life, go back to this morning’s Bible reading and spend some time thinking about Psalm 103.
Praise is a volitional thing. It is an act of will. It is not an emotional event. Look at that Psalm. It opens with the words “Let all that I am praise the Lord.” Not just my feelings but my mind and my will and my intellect. That is how and why we can praise God even when life is in the pits. And why it is not hypocrisy to give thanks when bad things are happening all around us.
The psalmist finds eight reasons to give thanks. Eight reasons to praise God. Divine benefits, forgiveness, healing, redemption, love, compassion, satisfaction, and renewal.
His mind goes to work to identify the benefits, and then his feelings line up behind in a row like little ducks following their mother.
Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
We lose so much when we lose sight of God in the midst of struggle.
For some reason we forget the good things that God has done, and then when new dangers come we find ourselves afraid. Like the disciples who were in a boat with Jesus just after he had performed all these amazing miracles and healed people. The weather got a bit rough, water started coming in the boat, Jesus was confidently silent in the back, sound asleep. What did they do? They forgot all that had just happened and they panicked. Jesus was not happy when they woke him up. He did not praise them for their quick thinking. He chastised them for their lack of faith.
What they should have done perhaps was to say to each other, how wonderful, how marvellous, how lucky we are to have Jesus in the boat with us during a storm. We know nothing bad will happen with him in the boat. Praise God. Thank you for Jesus.
Philippians 4:8 – And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
There is a branch of psychology called Rational Emotive Therapy. It is based on the truth that how we think affects how we feel. Change your thinking and your feelings will change, change your feelings and your behaviour will change. For us that means as we fix our thoughts on all the good things of God, we start to change.
All the good things we have such as air, water, food, energy, sight, hearing are not of our own creation. The beauty of the creation itself, sunsets and night skies.
2 Corinthians 9:15 – Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!
Think of all our spiritual blessings. Love, truth, angels, Holy Spirit, Jesus.
Jesus is a great example in this. He was always giving thanks. For bread. For healing.
But where we are going here is on a training course that leads us to give thanks for the things that most people cannot give thanks for. As we get better at gratitude we will become grateful for the hard lessons and see them as blessings. We shall be able like Corrie ten Boom to thank God for the fleas in our concentration camp. And even for the evil that other people conspire to inflict on us.
Because God turns it all to good. So we can give thanks for all things.
Romans 8:28 – We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Jesus is always in your boat. Jesus can take the worst thing that ever happened to you and make it into the best thing. Jesus can take death by torture on a cross and turn it into victory over all powers of evil, rising to life again.
Make this your prayer: “Lord thank you for letting this happen to me. I can’t wait to see how you turn it to good.” Even if you see it only from the next life, you will see it turned to good. And that is our second law: give thanks.