If there is something you want to get better at then you have to practice. If you want to run faster, you have to practice the mechanics of running. If you want to be a better salesman, you have to practice techniques of sales. Anything which needs developed will remain undeveloped until we begin a practice routine.
Practice develops skill and reflex. Thanks to practice, a person deepens their skills and when a situation arises which requires that skill, my first reflex will be the skills I’ve invested the most time into. I find people practice the art of being critical more than being thankful. If you disagree, just think about how many times you complained this week, especially about inconsequential issues as opposed to being thankful or even expressing thanks. That would tell me I practice the skill of being critical far more than the skills which lead to thanksgiving. So, if I’m going to be thankful I have to learn what to practice in order to develop and maintain a thankful life. Philippians 4:4-9 will help to guide us.
Do Rejoice! (vs. 4-5)
Have you ever noticed how much of what you do in life is conditional? If certain conditions are met, then you respond one way, but if they aren’t met, then you will respond another way. If someone is nice to you, then you are nice back, but if someone is harsh towards you, rather than be nice to them also, you probably react in the same manner towards them. See? Conditional.
I have to learn to stop thanking God, or being thankful in general, only when certain conditions are met. Conditions like….everything working out as I want, my happiness, my idea being accepted and so on. Paul and Silas show us the power in rejoicing as they were jailed in Philippi unjustly, but chose to pray and sing hymns to God. As they chose to practice a thankful principle of rejoicing God sent an earthquake which opened all the jail cells. The guard and his family are saved, baptized in water, he washes their wounds and feeds them, and they are released the next day. Let’s not miss this was all made possible due to their reflex and skill to be thankful in all situations regardless of the conditions.
If I allow conditions to dictate my mood or state of mind then I will find it difficult, or even impossible, to live the thankful life.
Do Pray! (vs. 5-6)
Prayer guarantees my trust in God and guards me from anxiety. Anxiety is paralyzing, debilitating, and keeps me from thankfulness. When Jesus said there was enough trouble to deal with today and to stop worrying about tomorrow, He mentions that pagans (unbelievers) run after the needs of what they will eat, drink, or wear. Jesus couldn’t be clearer how the believer shouldn’t be chasing after what unbelievers seek because they should know better…..God is in control. Maybe they don’t, but that would be due to a lack of prayer.
It’s difficult to remain thankful if you fail to have open communication with God. Anxiety will keep me from acting in prayer because I will start to think prayer doesn’t make a difference, but it does. Prayer keeps me close to God, so I don’t lose contact with Him. Prayer keeps me focused on God, so I don’t forget He’s in control. If I am aware and confident in His control then I won’t feel like my life is out of control! Thank God for stability.
Do Whatever! (vs. 8-9)
Don’t you just love this word? If you were to ask someone where they wanted to go eat, and they said, “Whatever,” you’d think they didn’t care. We generally feel like whatever is a nondescript word, lacking meaning, and expressing a lack of interest. It can be, but it isn’t always.
Paul uses this word to bring definition to the life of the believer. Verse 7 speaks about the peace of God, and people do want peace. There’s not one person you know who wouldn’t like to have more peace in their lives. The only issue is this…..the peace Paul speaks about is of God and is for those who are from God. If you’re a believer, His peace is for you. Let’s be clear, though, you have to live the right life…..the whatever life.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
If I want God’s peace, then I have to live in line with whatever is according to God’s character. What God views as right, pure, lovely, etc.., is how I must live and be or His peace cannot be mine. This is why when you lie peace is evasive because lying isn’t noble. You won’t find genuine peace in lust, hate, or anger because it’s not what God defines as lovely.
I think many Believers want to be thankful, but you have to start rejoicing, praying, and doing whatever is according to God’s character and desire. Then you will have God’s peace, but live a thankful life!
Live it out….
I will practice the principles of thanksgiving and live a thankful life.