This month on the blog, we are joined by Dakota Brian Hill, Camp Pastor for the WinShape Camps For Communities Red Team this past summer.
Keep reading as Dakota maps out what it looks like for us to practice gratitude in ALL situations we may encounter.
The holidays can be funny sometimes. For some people the holidays are a time of happiness and joy, but for others it can be a time that if full of sadness or grief. No matter what circumstances surround us during the holidays, we ALL have so much to be thankful for.
Take a look with me at the story of someone who you might remember from this summer. This person had every reason to be bitter and sad in the season he was in — but he wasn’t.
This person had been taken away from his friends, blamed for things he shouldn’t have been blamed for, and his only bed was a hard stone floor in a cold and cramped jail cell.
On top of all of this, he had to deal with the pain of iron chains around his ankles and wrists. If there was ever a person who had the right to complain or be upset, it was this guy.
Now, you may know the person that I am describing, but in case you don’t, this person also taught us something very important this summer:
The man we are talking about is none other than Paul the Apostle himself!
This time, however, we are going to look at a different letter that Paul wrote: His letter to the Ephesians. Just as Paul was in jail when he wrote Philippians, he was also in jail while writing Ephesians.
We can learn a few lessons from Paul — one of them being that even in the times where circumstances can get the best of us, we still have so much to be thankful for!
Even though he was in jail, Paul chose to sing words and songs of Thanksgiving to God!
Take a second to read that passage again.
Think about it with me: Give thanks for everything, no matter what circumstances may come our way!
For Paul, Thanksgiving wasn’t just a once a year kind of thing, but rather, it was something that he celebrated every day. It made him a joyful person in every circumstance.
Thanksgiving is just what it sounds like —the giving of thanks.
Billy Graham once said that thanksgiving should be one of the most distinctive marks of someone who believes in Jesus, and that we should not let a spirit of ungratefulness harden our heart and put an unwanted wall up in our relationship with God and with others.
Nothing turns us into dissatisfied people more than an ungrateful heart.
At the same time, however, nothing will bring us more happiness and joy in our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.
From one cover of the Bible to the other, God commands us to be thankful. The psalmist in Psalm 147 says, “Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving” (Psalm 147:7 NIV) and Paul tells us in Colossians 3 that we should give thanks to God for everything (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
But why should we be thankful? The answer is simple. Despite whatever circumstances may come our way, God has blessed us with more than we can comprehend — and we should be thankful for it ALL.
Give thanks for the earthly things that God has given you.
Sometimes we catch ourselves never being satisfied with what we have, whether we are rich or poor. But imagine what it would look like if we took a step back and just realized that everything that we have has been given to us by our Heavenly Father!
My great-grandparents were the prime example of the saying “Happiness is appreciating the simple things in life.” I remember every single time we would drive to Decatur, Alabama to see them. They never had an abundance of things or the newest things. But they didn’t need them because they were content and thankful for what God had given them.
They taught me that life isn’t about having the biggest house, the most money, or even the newest oven to cook your biscuits — it’s about the being thankful for what God has given you, no matter how much or how little.
A thankful heart and spirit makes all the difference. Are we worried about having more? Or have we learned to thank God for what we do have?
Give thanks for the people that God has placed in our lives.
It can be so easy to take people for granted or become bitter because they don’t live up to the expectations that we have created. Instead, however, we need to be thankful for those that God has placed around us — our family, our friends, our co-workers, and those who encourage us or help us in some way.
Do you let the people around you know that you are thankful for them and that you appreciate them?
Paul began his first letter to the church in Corinth by saying “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV), despite the fact that they were far from perfect. We should thank God for the people that He has placed in our life, they were placed in our lives for a reason- even if we don’t know it.
Give thanks to God for Salvation in Jesus, and His constant presence.
God has given us the greatest gift of all — His son Jesus Christ, who died on Calvary and rose again so that we can spend eternity with Him.
The Bible tells us that because of our sins, we are separated from God — but that isn’t all it tells us. We are also shown how God loves us.
He loves you, He loves me, and He wants us to be part of His family forever. He loves us so much that He sent Christ to die as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we have to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord.
When we come to Christ it is the beginning of a whole new life! He is always with us and He wants to help us follow Him and grow in His word. We learn in Joshua 1:9 that we have no reason to be discouraged because God is always with us, no matter the circumstance or the situation.
In many countries, including our own, a special day is set aside each year for Thanksgiving. But for Christians every day can be a day of Thanksgiving, just as it was for Paul.
-Dakota Brian Hill
WinShape Camps for Communities, Red Team Camp Pastor