A people known for their…gratitude?

gratitude

Do you think that Christians are a people that are known for their spirit of gratitude?

I confess that if they are, I’m not one of the spokespeople! 😦

However, perhaps for the first time, I genuinely want to be.

Recently, I met with a woman from my church who mentors me. She made a point of spending some time outdoors at our local beach and offering up thanks to the Lord for what He is doing and what He has done. There was such a spirit of gratitude, trust, and humility in her. I have a deep respect for her because I know that although her life is certainly blessed, it hasn’t been easy. Still, her inclination is to have hope and to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

About a week later, I came across a new book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss called Choosing Gratitude. Gulp. Oh, Lord…I murmured inwardly…I see a theme coming, but you know better than anyone that gratitude is a great deficiency in my life. Sure, I’m ok at pleasantries…telling folks thank you and writing thank you notes…but actually having a heart of gratitude…er…think again.

When I hear remarks about how I should be grateful for such and such, I get this horrible lump in my throat. I can’t quite choke past the ‘should.’ This overwhelming sense that if I was really a good Christian, I would will myself to be grateful under all circumstances. It sounds like this burdensome chore to me that I’m supposed to grin and bear and act like I love it and yet somehow not appear to be pretending.

There’s good news. Well meaning Christians might make comments like this, but God doesn’t heap tasks on us that we ‘should’ do and then put the burden on us to make it happen and make Him look good while we’re doing it. For that, I can say…I’m grateful! 🙂 There’s hope of becoming a grateful person because as we submit ourselves to Him and His work, He takes the burden and He transforms us into people with His heart. So, when I go to Him and say, wow, I blow it in this area over and over and…(you get the point)…in His time, He can refine me no matter how far off I am from where He intends me to be.

This week, I want to elaborate a bit about gratitude, what scripture teaches about gratitude, and how we can practice gratitude in the midst of all kinds of circumstances. I welcome you to join me in these posts and, feel free to share your own recommendations, too!

Wisdom can wait

Today brings me to the last two excerpts from Nancy’s reflections on wisdom.

“Wisdom is connecting the dots between cause and effect in our lives.”

“It’s making choices– before I speak, before I act, before I choose– not just based on what I feel like doing at the moment, but instead, it is making choices based on the long-term outcome.”

Wisdom can say no to immediate gratification or reward. Wisdom can stand up under prolonged trial and keep working diligently when your effort might appear to go unnoticed. Wisdom can wait for God’s reward, His blessing, even if the wait is long and even if the blessing does not come until we meet Him after this lifetime.

I think we need to be lifting one another up and exhorting one another to walk in His wisdom because there will be times when it is so tough to keep on in His ways when the long-term outcome seems too far away or we can’t really picture what God’s good for us would amount to. The body of Christ can urge one another on.

By God’s grace, even in times when I didn’t actively seek to be wise, God often protected me from opportunities to be lured far from Him. Ever since I graduated from college, I have thought time and again about how much the decisions I made, the lifestyle I forged in my teens and early twenties, has shaped the path I am on now and how much that is true for other friends and acquaintances that I know, who are either on the paths of wisdom or the road to folly.

We are a testimony to a watching world when we choose God’s wisdom. We are also a reminder of God’s faithfulness, His light, and His life for the people who walked in His way for a time and have now turned from Him to follow after something or someone else.

It is my prayer that if there are deep desires of my heart that God, in His wisdom, decides never to fulfill, that He would still use that then as a testimony for people in my life who don’t know Him or who have chosen another god. I don’t want all of that struggle and surrender to be wasted. I long for it to be purposeful and I do think that if God says no to the things I’ve been waiting for that there is some glory to be gained for Him in a life that submits to His leading in a world where people often allow the desires of their hearts to run their lives into the paths of destruction.

Wisdom leads to worshiping God

“Wisdom is orienting and ordering every area of my life around God, around His ways, and around His Word. It’s aligning everything in my life, my thoughts, my speech, my relationships,  my work, my worship, and my play. Everything I do must be ordered around God. Wisdom is living a godly life so that every part of my life is aligned around God and His Word.”

“Wisdom is always asking the question: ‘What pleases God?‘ It’s always checking with God. Living life in the constant air and atmosphere of what God thinks.”

These next two quotes point out how God-centered wisdom must become. There is a measure of discernment needed to keep examining where we are, who we are, and what we are doing to sort out whether our wisdom is man-centered or God-centered. It’s beginning to trouble me how much ‘wisdom’ is out there that seems good to man, but actually leads to our destruction. This is a good time to remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Acknowledging who He is in all things and recognizing that He is worthy of our worship and our allegiance helps us to separate His wisdom from the world’s wisdom.

I really appreciated Nancy’s insight that wisdom asks, “What pleases God?” I haven’t thought of it quite in that way before now, but it is a really helpful question for checking in with God and seeing where our hearts are at. It is also a very positive way of thinking about some of the difficult or costly things we may be asked to do or become. In those times, we need the reminder that following Him is a sacrifice of praise, a fragrant offering, and pleasing to Him.

Wisdom takes faith

Let’s take this first quote I mentioned yesterday and mull it over a bit.

“Wisdom is seeing every season, circumstance, and situation of life as God sees it. We have to ask God for wisdom because we can’t see what He sees or know what He knows, so we have to ask Him to help us see life as He sees it.”

That first sentence really caught hold of my attention and reminded me that sometimes I still struggle with sorting out the difference between worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom. It can be so subtle at times. I have had some seasons, circumstances, and situations for which I wring my hands and cry out to Him because I am stuck seeing them from my point of view.

Wisdom that comes from the Lord is not something we attain apart from Him and it can take time and training. I know this is straightforward enough, but then look around you at how others are responding to their lives or even consider some portions of your own life. Friends, we aren’t naturally bent towards God’s wisdom.

It takes faith. Believing in Him for what we cannot see (past). He’s pressing me on this lately and showing me that as much as I strive to think about how my actions and attitudes will influence the future and seek to honor Him in that, there are holes in my armor where other aspects of wisdom are concerned, like seeing where I am positioned and who I am from His perspective.

I suppose I’m being confronted more and more with how integral our Christianity must become with our thinking and living. That runs contrary to my inclination to gather information and then think I can proceed a certain distance on my journey independently. What I am trying to say is that I believe that there are occasions where, even as I seek counsel, pray, read scripture and attempt to walk in wisdom, I somehow still end up trying to do it in my own strength or defaulting to my understanding when the going gets tough.

I’m finding that I will need to surrender my strength and understanding, placing them under His full authority, if I want to truly gain wisdom and have faith.

Gaining wisdom

I’ve been listening to a radio series by Nancy Leigh DeMoss on wisdom and I wanted to pull out a few quotes regarding wisdom that we need to be reminded of over and over as we seek to prioritize the Lord over the other things that compete for our time and attention.

“Wisdom is seeing every season, circumstance, and situation of life as God sees it. We have to ask God for wisdom because we can’t see what He sees or know what He knows, so we have to ask Him to help us see life as He sees it.”

“Wisdom is orienting and ordering every area of my life around God, around His ways, and around His Word. It’s aligning everything in my life, my thoughts, my speech, my relationships, my work, my worship, and my play. Everything I do must be ordered around God. Wisdom is living a godly life so that every part of my life is aligned around God and His Word.”

“Wisdom is always asking the question: “What pleases God?” It’s always checking with God.”

“Wisdom is connecting the dots between cause and effect in our lives. We make certain choices and those choices have certain effects. Wisdom helps us to connect those dots to see the relationship between certain behaviors and certain outcomes.”

“You reap what you sow (Proverbs 22:8, paraphrased). It’s making choices—before I speak, before I act, before I choose—not just based on what I feel like doing at the moment, but instead, it is making choices based on the long-term outcome. What can I expect long-term to come out of this behavior?”

Since there is so much rich content here, I hope to spend a couple of posts this week teasing out these quotes and reflecting on how they apply to our lives.

Oh, Lord, in a world where we can find ourselves quickly turned about with all of the conflicting messages we see and hear, may we invest ourselves in relationship with You and in reading Your Word so that we can grow in wisdom about how to handle the people, resources, talents, circumstances, blessings, and challenges You have sovereignly placed in our care. To God be the glory!