FIRST-PERSON: A thankful spirit
EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) -- Have you thanked God for your pancreas today? That question comes courtesy of James Gills, a Florida ophthalmologist, who performs cataract surgery.
Dr. Gills has noticed that the worst part of surgery occurs the week before the actual procedure when patients develop an anxious spirit about the operation. Since attitudes can affect the outcome of surgeries, Dr. Gills often talks to his patients about thankfulness.
"I often ask my patients if they have thanked God for their pancreas today," he says. "Probably not, but it has been working 24/7 for them since their birth. And there is much more God is doing for them and will do for them. Yet their mindset of anxious worry shows a lack of trust in the Lord. It does not reflect a thankful spirit or appreciation of the Creator and all of His wisdom."(1)
When we're sick -- let's say we have a persistent cough -- we can still thank God for the parts of our body that are working well and for the diseases we do not have. When we face a setback, we can thank Him for all the areas of life that are in good shape. When there are dark clouds, we can thank Him for silver linings. To paraphrase the late English writer G.K. Chesterton, we take many things for granted when we should take them with gratitude.
A truly grateful attitude is only possible for those who take the Bible seriously, submit themselves to Christ's lordship, commit themselves to the will of God and walk in the light of His promises. Only then are we certain of fulfilling 1 Thessalonians 5:18: "In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
The phrase "in everything give thanks" has two parts. The first is: "In everything." Notice it doesn't say for everything. Some things are evil, hurtful, harmful and tragic. I don't think it's necessary to thank God for those things, but we can thank Him for His blessings in the midst of those things. First Corinthians 3:23 says: "... you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, "I thank my God ... that you were enriched in everything by Him" (1 Corinthians 1:4-5). He told them to "abound in everything -- in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us" (2 Corinthians 8:7). He told the Philippians: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
Those who abide in Christ are enriched in everything, abounding in everything and prayerful in everything. All things work together for good as we love Him and fulfill His purposes. Therefore we can be thankful in everything, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for us. I wonder how our attitudes would change if we looked up every biblical reference to thanksgiving and gratitude and took them seriously. Why not start with 1 Thessalonians 5:18 and practice it today, in everything.
In any given situation, we can either collapse in discouragement or we can turn around in a 360-degree circle and spot a few things for which to be thankful. Henry Ward Beecher wrote: "The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings."(2)
We live in a world of uncertainty, but the Lord promises: "I will certainly be with you" (Exodus 3:12). With God's presence to accompany us, His Word to instruct us, His providence to work all things for our good, and His future prepared for us, we should certainly accentuate the positive. Beginning today, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in all things give thanks, because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1) James P. Gills, Rx for Worry: A Thankful Heart (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 2007), xi-xii.
(2) http://christian-quotes.ochristian.com/Thankfulness-Quotes/, accessed November 30, 2012.