Friday, November 20, 2009

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

It is not always easy to give thanks, but this is the very thing we must do in order to see God’s will accomplished in our lives.  This is how we move into higher realms of faith for ourselves, for our city, and for our nations.

Thanksgiving breaks the power of the enemy.
Whenever you give thanks to God, despite the most difficult circumstances, the enemy loses a big battle in your life.  When you give thanks in the midst of difficulty, you bring pleasure to God's heart and breakthrough begins.   He is looking for Christians who live in a realm of praise and thanksgiving where the enemy no longer has an ability to hold or manipulate a person.  Satan is defeated when we have a thankful heart because thankfulness during difficulty is a sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Are you thankful?

Are you thankful for your present circumstances?

Are you thankful for your salvation, your friendships, and your job?

Thankfulness is a key to a victorious prayer life.  We enter His courts with praise.  It is the key that turns your situation around because it changes you, your outlook, and your attitude.  There is power in a thankful heart.  Thanksgiving brings contentment.  An attitude of thanksgiving accepts and embraces God’s will.

Begin to thank God for all the blessings he has given instead of dwelling on the negative.  Discontent dries up the soul.  Look at what Elizabeth Elliott - who lost her husband on the mission field and has faced multitudes of hardships - says about loving God's will and being content.  In her book, Secure in the Everlasting Arms, she says:

"To love God is to love His will.  It is to wait quietly for life to be measured by one who knows us through and through.  It is to be content with His timing and His wise apportionment.  It is to follow in the steps of the Master, as did Paul, who was able to say that he had learned contentment no matter what the circumstances.  His circumstances when he wrote that?  Prison.  No easy lesson, but great gain which is the sum of godliness plus contentment (1 Timothy 6:6)."

Look at the example of Jesus.  He followed the will of His Father to the very end. He obeyed without complaint.  In Philippians 2:5-8 Paul says that we should have that same attitude.  Jesus made himself nothing and took on the very nature of a servant.  He humbled Himself and became obedient to death.  We also are to have this same attitude with a humble and thankful acceptance of God’s will for our lives.  Elizabeth emphasizes the fact that Jesus embraced hardship without a complaint:

"Jesus loved the will of His Father.  He embraced the limitations, the necessities, the conditions, the very chains of His humanity as He walked and worked here on earth, fulfilling moment by moment His divine commission and the stern demands of His incarnation.  Never was there a word or even a look of complaint."

The Duke of Wellington was the Great British military leader who regretted that he had not learned the secret of praise during his lifetime.  He had many great accomplishments and even defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.  He was a brilliant and demanding man and when he was older, he realized that there were areas in his life that needed to change.  In his old age a women asked him this question,

“What would you do differently if you had your life to live over?"

He thought carefully and said, “I would give more praise.”  

This is a lesson for all of us.  That we would learn to be people of praise and thanksgiving to God all the days of our lives would be a great accomplishment.  William Law, who wrote the book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, stresses the greatness and the happiness of thanksgiving.  He says:

“Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world?  It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it… Could you therefore work miracles, you could not do more for yourself than by this thankful spirit, for it… Turns all that it touches into happiness.”

David writes in Psalm 116:17, "I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Did you know that thanking God for a difficulty is actually an offering that He highly values?  You are bringing a gift of thanks to Him.  It makes Him smile.  It’s so easy to complain and point the finger and find fault.  But to come in the opposite attitude and gives thanks brings breakthrough and joyful contentment.   Let each of us seek to have an attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving during this Thanksgiving season, and rise to a new level of holiness. Here are some ways to practice this attitude in everyday life:

  • Thank and praise God for everything in your life - Thank Him for even the difficulties.  It is a sacrifice to do this, but He can turn troubles to triumph.  “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
  • Don’t allow yourself to complain about anything - During the difficult times, be very careful to watch your tongue.  Instead of complaining, think of ways you can verbally offer God the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 1:14-15).
  • Don’t compare yourself with others - Don’t wish your life were different.  God knows what is best for you.  The Bible says having a thankful heart is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  When we begin to thank God for what we have rather than comparing ourselves with others, it opens the door for God’s blessings.  “Each one should test his own actions.  Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else” (Galatians 6:4).
The Apostle Paul was a wonderful example of one who practiced thanksgiving in prayer.  He didn’t complain about anything even when facing imprisonment.  He didn’t fall into self-pity or compare himself with others. That would be hard for most of us.  Instead, Paul thanked God in every circumstance, even the difficult ones.  He was thankful in his prayers for others even when they were having trouble spiritually.  See 1 Corinthians 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3, Colossians 1:3, 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 2 Timothy 1:3, and Philemon 4.    

Most of us are in need of breakthroughs in prayer.  The enemy is fighting hard with fiery darts of discouragement and lies.  The way we will begin to deal with the lies in our lives and the vicious ways he tries to destroy our joy is through cultivating a thankful heart.

As we cultivate a lifestyle of worship and praise, we will be able to break through the strategies of the enemy.  A worshipful and thankful life permeates the atmosphere with the presence of God because worship is the atmosphere where God’s truth dwells. Thanksgiving turns all that it touches into happiness.

A Prayer for a Thankful Heart

“Lord, teach me to offer you a heart of thanksgiving in all my daily experiences of life.  Teach me to be joyful always, to pray continually, and to give thanks in all my circumstances.  I accept them as Your will for my life (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).  I long to bring pleasure to Your heart. Break the power of the enemy in my life.  Defeat Him through my sacrifice of praise.  Change my outlook and attitude into one of joyful contentment with my present circumstance.  Help me not to dwell on the negatives because discontent dries up my soul.  I thank You for… (Name a difficult circumstance in your life presently and thank God for it).  I offer this to You as my thank offering (Psalm 116:17).

 Jesus, I want to be like You who obeyed the Father without complaint.  You embraced the chains of humanity when you walked this earth.  Convict me whenever I complain or compare myself with others.  Give me Your attitude of humility and thankful acceptance.  I want to be like the Apostle Paul who learned contentment in every circumstance.  I choose to continually offer you a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that give praise to Your name (Hebrews 13:15).  I want to give You enjoyment through a life of thanksgiving.  I long to bring a smile to Your face.  Teach me the power of a thankful heart.  I know that Your truth dwells in a thankful heart.  In Jesus’ name, amen.”

This teaching is adapted from a new book I just finished writing called Breakthrough Prayer: Praying God’s Truth - Overcoming Enemy Lies. Please pray for the editing, publishing, translations, and distribution of this book plus 4 others on prayer!

"God smiles when we praise and thank Him continually.  Few things feel better than receiving heartfelt praise and appreciation from someone else. God loves it, too… An amazing thing happens when we offer praise and thanksgiving to God.  When we give God enjoyment, our own hearts are filled with joy."  William Law  

By Debbie Przybylski
Intercessors Arise

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