The Blessings of Choice

We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count. Neal A. Maxwell

We are and will be faced with all types of choices throughout our lives. Each choice we make or action we take carries some type of consequence. The consequence can be positive or negative. A consequence does not always have to be negative; I think we are conditioned to think of consequences as negative. Sometimes consequences appear to be both negative and positive, depending on your point of view.

Sometimes we make choices thinking we are doing good, only to have our good intentions and deeds backfire and make a bad situation worse. Sometimes we immediately regret a decision or choice. Sometimes regret comes later and with someone saying to us, “I told you so.” Other times we may say or do something that we later find out actually inspired or uplifted someone. Sometimes we choose not to make a choice and instead let nature or circumstances unfold as they will. This reminds me of several lines from one of my favorite songs by Rush called “Freewill”:

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill.
I will choose a path that’s clear;
I will choose freewill.

CHOOSING YOUR PATH

One of the great blessings we enjoy in this life is the blessing of choice—choosing the path our life will take and, maybe more important, the type of person we want to become.

We have a huge number of directions we can steer our lives in. You can allow others to steer for you and guide you on the path. There are plenty of people who will be more than happy to tell you what you should and should not do. They may even let you pay them for their advice. You can also decide to do whatever you fancy—it is your life, after all, and God has blessed you with agency. Or you can let life happen and just roll with the changes. Or maybe, best yet, you can be proactive and make the choices that best suit you and the direction you want your life to take.

Let me caution you that simply making certain decisions does not guarantee that you will end up exactly where you expect to be. The choice I am talking about is the type of person you want to be, regardless of where your life and vocation take you.

When I was in junior high and high school I was interested in several careers. The first and foremost was to play professional football. The second was to coach football and be a PE teacher. The third and most fleeting was to be a lead singer for an epic hard rock band.

The lead singer career was the first to fade as I realized three facts about myself: (1) I am not a good singer or screamer, (2) I really don’t enjoy being on stage in front of people, and (3) I wasn’t really ready for the superstar lifestyle and all that comes with it.

My poor singing ability was reconfirmed to me some years ago when my ward choir pleaded for male voices. They said any male voice was welcome. I decided to test how serious they were by sitting right behind the ward choir director during sacrament meeting and singing loud enough for her to hear me. This was my way of trying out for the choir. I did this for three straight weeks. The only response I got was a pained smile as the choir director turned to look and see who was making the strange sounds behind her. I received no personal invitation to join the choir.

I haven’t given up singing. I just limit the venues I perform in. My current singing venue is in my old Chevy pickup truck when I crank up the stereo, roll the windows down, and sing along with one of my favorite bands on what you would call the classic rock station.

What happened to my pro football dream? Well, I will be honest: I wasn’t really willing to put in the work and make the necessary sacrifices—plus, in reality, I probably wasn’t ever as good as I thought I was. I did try coaching and teaching PE, and I enjoyed it, but that wasn’t how I would make my living.

All of my vocational dreams fell apart before I left on my mission or soon after I returned from my mission. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my life was destined to lead me through several twists and turns before I found a vocation and a career that suited me.

I struggled to find a major that suited me and later a career that would allow me to be the person I wanted to be and still provide for my family. I am very aware of what it feels like to be unemployed, wondering why no one wants to hire you. I am also aware of how it feels to be underemployed, wondering, “Why is this the only place that wants me?” Was I afraid my life would never get any better than it was? Sure, at times I was.

I want to share with you some of what I believe blessed my life and helped me find my way in this world and continues to help me find my way. At the ripe old age of fifty-one I am still finding my way—mostly because I have not achieved perfection yet and don’t expect to anytime soon. I am just happy to know I am headed in the right direction.

THOSE WHO HAVE ENRICHED AND BLESSED MY LIFE

First, I must acknowledge my parents. Larry and Catherine were good parents and did their best to teach me all the things they thought I should know: how to share, love, work hard, be honest, love God and my Savior, treat others the way I want to be treated, endure hard things, be optimistic, look forward to marriage and a family of my own, stand up for the underdog, appreciate God’s creations, treat a woman, think for myself, serve, clean, cook, do laundry, drive, and not be wasteful—among many other things. My mom was always very good at helping me face consequences. She helped me understand the importance of repenting, apologizing, and asking for forgiveness. She accompanied me to several homes in our neighborhood, where I got to practice repenting.

Next, I have to thank and acknowledge my wife. Even though I was taught how to behave, it has been my wife—my soul mate, if you will—who has helped refine me the most. It is through our relationship and her patience and support that I have begun to understand what it means to love someone. I was in love when we first got married—no doubt about that—but now it is so much more. True love and friendship have blossomed through all the struggles we have been through together. I hate to think about where we would be had we quit on each other. When I think of my woman I like to think of a song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, “Here Comes My Girl”:

And then she looks me in the eye, says, “We gonna last forever.”
And man, you know I can’t begin to doubt it,
No, because this feels so good and so free and so right.
I know we ain’t never goin’ change our minds about it.

Her patience and faith in me have been a great blessing. Having a wife who knows the value of sacrificing wants for what is really important has been key to our family’s well-being.

We were blessed to be able to be involved with our kids through church, school, and sports. My wife had this habit of signing me up to coach when she went to the recreation center to sign the kids up for one of the many sports they played. She signed me up to coach every season, even though I had announced my official retirement from coaching the previous season. She knew better, and now our children are all grown up and I have all these great memories of the extra time I got to spend with my sons and daughters and their friends. I still have young adults stop me occasionally and ask me if I remember them from one of the teams I was able to coach.

I also have to acknowledge my faith and my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love being a Mormon. I have learned so much through my association with this faith. It has helped refine me and guide me and has helped me find a purpose bigger than myself that is eternal in nature. It has taught me to endure to the end and that to love God is to love my fellow beings, that salvation is through the Savior, and that salvation is possible. The plan of salvation, or great plan of happiness, brings me great comfort. I think of all those who have gone on before and who wait on the other side. I love the eternal nature of families. It all comes down to the importance of family. I love my family. They are my greatest inspiration and motivation. I also love how my church has taught me to find strength in the midst of trials and to draw spiritual strength from the trials of our ancestors.

There are many people and experiences that have enriched and blessed my life. Ever since I can remember I have wanted to have an eternal family. I have always instinctively known that the plan of salvation is true doctrine. It is my belief that most people, whether LDS or not, believe they will see their loved ones again after this life. It is my faith and belief in God’s plan of salvation that has helped guide me and will continue to guide my life and the choices I make.

LEARNING FROM LIFE’S DIFFICULT EXPERIENCES

I would like to share a few experiences from my early life that helped me develop my testimony and character. When I was about nine years old I suffered from the extreme fear of nothingness. The nothingness I feared was that there is nothing after and outside of this life. I had been taught to pray, so I put prayer into practice. We were living in Crow Agency, Montana, at the time, and it seemed I spent a large part of my time in the back of our family’s Chrysler station wagon (Larry was a Chrysler/Dodge man and loved the big engines in those wagons). In rural Montana, a short trip was anywhere between ten and 100 miles. Needless to say, I had lots of time to ponder the great mysteries of life while facing backward in the back seat of the old Safari classic station wagon.

On one particularly dark and ominous night, the fear of nothingness got so bad that I felt sick inside. I prayed a silent prayer just to know that God was there and that life after death is real. I felt an almost instant feeling of warmth and assurance that God is there and that His plan of salvation is real. It is hard to describe even now how good I felt then and how good I feel now when I remember that experience.

I grew up on the Crow Indian Reservation and attended a small branch off the reservation in Hardin, Montana. I had always looked forward to becoming a deacon; passing the sacrament seemed like a big deal and a worthy goal. I made it to age twelve and passed off the Articles of Faith, which someone had led me to believe I had to do or I would be stuck in Primary until I did.

I then needed the outfit of a deacon—the white shirt, tie, slacks, and shiny shoes. My parents, especially my mother, were very frugal, and I was growing at rates they found hard to gauge. Often I was outfitted in clothes they predicted I would grow into. So my first Sunday as a deacon I was outfitted in a white shirt with one of my dad’s clip-on ties—Larry loved the convenience of clip-on ties and hadn’t yet had time to teach me to tie a real tie—black shiny shoes, and a pair of black slacks about four sizes too big. I found a belt and strapped those big pants on nice and high, well above my waist, so the cuffs didn’t drag in the snow and ice.

As I was marching up to take my place on the bench in front of the sacrament table, several different members of the branch made jokes about my attire, especially the size of my slacks. By the time I reached the deacon bench, I had lost most of my self-confidence and desire to pass the sacrament. I soldiered up anyway and self-consciously did my deacon duty and passed the sacrament. After sacrament meeting, I had just about decided to quit and not come back the next Sunday. What happened next is not miraculous. (And I eventually grew into the pants.) I decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t let what other people think and say about me keep me from doing what is right for me. I also learned I needed to be a little less sensitive. I know the jokesters who had made fun of me and my big, oversized pants probably thought they were funny and did not mean any harm and would have felt bad had they known how their comments affected me. Now when there is something I know I should do or want to do, I think of that kid in the oversized pants, and I hike my pants up and move ahead.

I probably spent more time as an undergraduate student than I needed to. My wife was very patient with my academic endeavors. I changed my major at least twice before I found something I truly excelled at. I remember that as I was closing in on graduation I was informed that if I wanted to graduate that coming April, I needed to complete a basic math class that was worth zero credits. I had avoided math as much as possible and had thought I was done with it. But I signed up for the class my final semester as an undergraduate at BYU.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I picked up the textbook at the Bookstore. This class turned out to be one of the most academically challenging experiences I have ever had. I spent many hours in the math lab trying to learn algebra. I wore out one poor tutor. She must have thought there was something seriously wrong with my memory. I faithfully worked with her every week up until the final exam. She was very kind and patient.

I remember leaving the math lab for the last time and heading to the testing center before I lost the knowledge I had gained that day. Amazingly, I did pass the final test and the class. I had such a feeling of relief and jubilation erupt in me that I could hardly stand it. I was going to graduate! I was so grateful I did not have to go home and disappoint my wife. Instead, we got to celebrate this achievement together. My grade in the class was not good, but I am probably as proud of that grade as I am of any I have ever earned because I truly earned it.

These experiences are far from the most difficult of my life; however, from these experiences I have learned whom I can trust and lean on when I have difficult situations to endure. I know I can always rely on my Heavenly Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the influence of the Comforter. I have learned that if you work hard and have faith, God puts people in your life (like a math tutor) to help you accomplish what may seem improbable. I also have learned that it is important to forgive and be grateful and that when things are tough, I can hike up my pants and move forward, whether I look good doing it or not.

DECIDING WHO YOU WILL BE

I began my remarks talking about choices. As important as choices are—such as what to major in, what career path to take, where to live, and where to send the kids to school—the choices you make regarding the type of person you want to be are, in my opinion, more important and will help you make those very important decisions regarding the direction you choose for your life and your family. As you stay close to the Lord, it may at times seem that as much as you want one path, you will feel inspired and guided—pushed—in another direction.

If you would like, you can take some time and think about the type of person you want to be from now through eternity. Deciding what kind of person you want to be does not eliminate difficult decisions or make you perfect, but I believe it will help you to make better choices and find peace of mind. What characteristics and attributes are important to you? Personal integrity, honesty, time with family, kindness, patience, perseverance, work ethic, frugality, service, respect for others, charity?

Anything good or worthwhile takes time, practice, and perseverance. The temptation to be less than you know you can be is always lurking and ready to present itself to you as an opportunity for personal gain or pleasure. Walking away from temptation—even when no one would know—and being true to yourself and God is a test passed. You and I will continue to take on many tests of our character and resolve. Often the pressure to be less will come from unexpected sources, such as desperate friends and family unwilling to accept consequences. Failing a test is not the end of the world. Failing to learn from that test could be.

When I am dealing with things that are physical, mentally, or spiritually hard, I like to recite scriptures in my mind to help remind me that God is mindful of me. Here are three of my favorite scriptures that I like to recite during difficult or challenging times:

And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God. [D&C 14:7]

Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. [Mosiah 26:30]

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. [Philippians 4:13]

Our ability to endure and continue to repent and improve is a blessing that is within each of our abilities and our grasp. We have so many great promises from God in the scriptures—promises we can count on if we are willing to reach out to God. I hope we can all be happy with who we are and who we are becoming. I like “me,” and I hope to like myself even better as I become a better version of me.

Life is a journey, and I hope you enjoy it. May God bless you in all you do. God does live, and He is mindful of each of us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

This article was written and delivered by James L. Slaughter. James L. Slaughter was BYU chaplain and assistant dean of students when this devotional address was given on 1 July 2014. This article is shared from the following website: https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/james-l-slaughter_blessings-choice/

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Taking Personal Responsibility for Your Happiness

If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month Theodore RooseveltPersonal Responsibility is Crucial for Happiness-Maximization

As those who have embarked on the quest for happiness know quite well, a crucial milestone on the path involves taking personal responsibility. Taking personal responsibility means not blaming others for your unhappiness. It means figuring out ways in which you can be happy despite others’ (negative) behaviors and despite the external circumstances. A person who has taken personal responsibility recognizes an all-important truth about happiness: your happiness depends much more on your attitude than it does on objective, external circumstances.

Does this mean that one can be happy no matter what the external circumstances? Can one be happy despite intense physical or psychological pain?

This is the question many of my students ask when I talk of taking personal responsibility for happiness.

Theoretically, it is possible to be happy no matter what the external circumstance. How? Because one’s emotional state is a function of how one interprets events, rather than what actually happened, as reflected in Milton’s famous saying, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Findings from cognitive theories of affect support Milton’s saying. Generally speaking, our happiness–in fact, any emotional state, including a negative one–is generated by interpretations of events, as I elaborated in another post. When we interpret our negative boss as an obstacle, for example, we feel angry and frustrated; if, in contrast, we view our boss as “exactly what we need in order to become a better person,” we experience a sense of calmness, perhaps even gratitude.

Of course, most of us do not believe that we can be happy no matter what the external circumstance. When confronted with the idea that happiness is ultimately in the mind, many of us immediately entertain extreme examples that falsify the theory: could we be happy even if we break a bone or lose our job?

To me, those are the wrong questions to ask. The right question to ask is whether we can be happy given the types of negative events that routinely occur in our lives. In other words, rather than ask yourself if you can be happy even in extremely negative circumstances, ask yourself whether you can be happy in the more moderate circumstances in which you find yourself on a day-to-day basis. Can you, for example, entertain the possibility of being happy despite the fact that it’s raining outside? Can you be happy if a meeting with your client did not go as well as you would have liked?

Why is asking yourself whether you can be happy in extremely (vs. moderately) negative circumstances the wrong question? Because, by asking such a question, you undermine the confidence you need to develop the ability to be happy under all circumstances. Just as a child cannot imagine being as physically strong as an adult, those of us who haven’t developed the ability to interpret moderately negative events in a happiness-enhancing fashion cannot imagine being happy in extremely negative circumstances.

It is useful to think of the ability to control your emotional responses to events as a muscle; just as your biceps become stronger only when you exercise them using the appropriate weights–weights that are neither too light nor too heavy–, your ability to control your emotional response to events gains strength only when you take on challenges that are commensurate with your current ability. If you are currently someone who lets relatively minor events–like an encounter with a rude waitress–spoil your mood, how can you expect to maintain your happiness when a more extreme event–like a week long visit from a unpleasant relative–unfolds?

The point is: just because you currently lack the ability to maintain emotional positivity in the face of extremely negative events doesn’t mean that the theory–that the key to your happiness ultimately lies in your hands–is false. Rather, what it means is that you don’t, at present, possess sufficient control over your mind to feel happy regardless of the circumstances. You may ultimately desire to be like Gandhi or Jesus–who were remarkable in their ability to maintain good cheer even in the face of extreme adversity–but you can’t get there by biting off more than you can chew right now.

This brings me to an interesting irony about taking personal responsibility. Seeking mental control, it might appear at first blush, is similar to seeking control over others or over the circumstances. Quite the contrary! If anything, your ability to control your own mind is diminished by seeking to control others and the circumstances. Indeed, a critical element in developing mental control is a willingness to accept whatever outcomes you are dealt. If you cannot fully accept your outcomes–including, for example, the presence of a toxic boss, or poor health–you will not be able to interpret these outcomes in a positive light, and hence, you cannot be happy.

So, taking personal responsibility for your happiness involves, ultimately, adopting a “surrender mindset”–which refers to the willingness to fully and unquestioningly accept the outcomes you are dealt in life.

But how does one develop the surrender mindset?

Before answering this question, let me briefly discuss a commonly held misconception about the surrender mindset. Surrendering isn’t the same as capitulating. In other words, a person with a surrender mindset is not a weak, rudderless individual who has “checked out” from this world; rather, he is someone who, like the rest of us, has desires and goals and pursues them. However, whereas the rest of us cling to our desires with feverish desperation, a person with the surrender mindset does not. Thus, a person with the surrender mindset may dream of breaking the world record in the 100-meter dash, but if he were to discover a physical condition that prevents him from achieving this dream, he will be able to discard his dream, and move on to other goals without hesitation.

In other words, a person with the surrender mindset is like the rest of us in many ways, but only until the moment the outcomes unfold. Whereas the rest of us ruminate and moan when our favored outcomes don’t unfold, the person with a surrender mindset is able to move on, emotionally unscathed.

Let me now return to the question I had raised earlier: How does one develop the surrender mindset?

The most effective way to develop the mindset is one that those with a scientific orientation will likely find unappealing: it involves faith in a larger intelligence or force. Specifically, those who believe that there is force larger than oneself, and that this force is benign, will find it easier to surrender. The reason for this is straightforward: if you believe that the Universe is shaped by a force more powerful than you, and that this force has your best interests at heart, then you will find it much easier to make peace with the outcomes you are dealt. Even if you are unable to see how an outcome is beneficial for you in the moment, you will at least be willing to look for ways in which it opens new doors and opportunities. In contrast, if you are convinced that the outcome you have been dealt is bad for you, you are more likely to ruminate about the past than to move forward.

Ultimately then, surrendering has to do with trust. Just as trusting the people with whom you interact on a day-to-day basis is indispensable for being happy, so it seems that trusting that the Universe is taking care of you is crucial for being happy too.

This may be one reason why findings repeatedly show that religious people are, on average, significantly happier. Developing the surrender mindset, however, doesn’t mean you need to become religious. One can entertain the belief in a benign (rather than malign or indifferent) Universe without subscribing to any other religious tenet.

So, the logical thing to do, if you want to take personal responsibility for your own happiness, is to do something that might sound illogical: to have faith and adopt the surrender mindset.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Today’s article was written by Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D. and is shared from the following website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sapient-nature/201112/taking-personal-responsibility-your-happiness

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5 Ways to Spot the Miracles in Your Life

Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people 1 Chronicles 16:34

Miracles can brighten your day, comfort your soul and strengthen your faith. Learn how to see them everywhere.

I have been thinking a lot about miracles lately. Miracles are big, some are small and I think most might even go unnoticed. Miracles can brighten your day, comfort your soul and strengthen your faith. The best part is there are already miracles in your life. Here’s how to spot them. Slow down

You are busy. I am busy. Everyone is busy. Some people bask in the glorification of busy. Technology, work, activities, competition—all these things can overwhelm your life. Stop. If even for a moment, just stop. Two words that pierce my soul every time I hear or read them are: Be still. I have these two words plastered around my workspace, my home, and even my phone. Be present. Surround yourself with your family. Surround yourself with the moments miracles are made of.

Spot tender mercies

David Bednar said, “Tender mercies of the Lord are real and … do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence.” What is a tender mercy? Bednar describes them as personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support and spiritual gifts. Knowing these tender mercies are sent to us personally is a miracle in itself. See how many tender mercies you can recognize today.

Believe to see

I was recently watching a classic movie, Charlotte’s Web, with my daughter, and one part really stood out to me. Fern’s mother asks the question, “Do you understand how there could be writing in a spider’s web?” And the doctor simply replies, “Oh no, I don’t understand it. But for that matter, I don’t understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.”

How many miracles are already present in our lives, every day? Miracles aren’t just events like the parting of the Red Sea. They include simple moments like a baby’s first smile or the beauty of the earth. Miracles should inspire not only awe but also gratitude.

Be grateful and prayerful

Speaking of gratitude, I believe this is an essential attribute to recognizing miracles. Practicing thankfulness, paired with prayer, makes it almost impossible to not see the miracles that bless your life. Say a prayer of gratitude. You might be surprised at the miracles already there, ones you just may not have noticed. A prayer of gratitude is often the answer you need.

Write it down

Many people have a gratitude journal or something of the like. Mine is called a tender mercy journal. I don’t write in it every day. But when I’m feeling disconnected or in extra need of God’s love, I’ll commit to writing down every tender mercy I see in a day, a week or so on. I find that when I’m purposely looking for them, they are more easily found. And when they are written down, they are not easily forgotten.

Everyone experiences miracles. They are already happening in your life. You just need to know how and where to look. Instead of trying to over-analyze everything, try recognizing things as miracles. Big or small, each one is significant and meant just for you.

This article was written by Becky Squire. Becky is a wife and mother of 4. She enjoys music, running, and baking. Becky blogs at Make Mine Happy.

Website: http://makeminehappy.com

This article was shared from the following website: https://www.famifi.com/22794/5-ways-to-spot-the-miracles-in-your-life

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10 Gratitude Principles to Live By

When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears Tony Robbins

About five years ago now, my financial security was threatened by circumstances in my life over which I had absolutely no control.

As a single parent, I had spent years scrimping and saving and just getting by. While I had managed to build a small financial cushion, the idea of dipping into my savings to get by each month terrified me. When I allowed myself to turn towards the dark alley of fear that seemed ever present, I’d feel overwhelmed worrying about what might happen when the cushion was gone.

As the months went by and my savings diminished, little mantras that revolved around gratitude began popping into my head. I recorded these gratitude principles in the front cover of my 2007 journal. I am not quite sure where these principles came from as I had definitely grown up in a family that emphasized and fretted over the half-empty glass. I had never learned how to foster a positive attitude, much less how to express gratitude. Yet from somewhere came the guidance to foster gratitude instead of fear.

As I look back on that year, I am amazed by the amount of peace that I felt in spite of my difficult circumstances. It was a year that taught me so much about trusting my path; about the absolute futility of worry; and about the amazing power of gratitude.

The “Gratitude Principles” that kept me afloat during that difficult year were as follows:

1. Gratitude is awareness that, as things come to you, they are exactly what you need – be it people, circumstance, or challenges.

2. Worry is the opposite of gratitude; it is the failure to understand that you have been and will continue to be provided for each day.

3. Whenever fear over your future encroaches, stop to observe a tree. Consider how the tree continues to stand tall and grow throughout the various cycles and seasons of its life span.

4. Worry is an action. Gratitude is an action. Both are optional. By choosing gratitude you drive out the space and time for worry.

5. It isn’t hard to do; gratitude is simply noticing the good stuff in your life.

6. What you pay attention to, or notice, tends to expand and grow.

7. Each day brings a multitude of opportunities to feel gratitude and appreciation.

8. When you neglect the action of appreciating, you limit your potential for joy and contentment in the present moment.

9. Worry does not prevent bad things from happening; it only prevents you from accessing joy in this moment.

10. The present moment is the only place where joy and contentment can exist.

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How to Be Thankful in All Things

Give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever. 1 Chronicles 16:34

Are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you have lost your job recently, as the economy has continued to struggle. Or you may have lost your health, or a loved one. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. Look with me at the story of a man who had every right to be bitter—but wasn’t.

The next footsteps in the corridor, he knew, might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.

Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated—if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!

The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving, even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, “Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20, NIV).

Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation.

Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.

Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing: To be healed.

One day 10 lepers approached Jesus outside a village, loudly pleading with Him to heal them. In an instant He restored them all to perfect health—but only one came back and thanked Him. All the rest left without a word of thanks, their minds preoccupied only with themselves, gripped with a spirit of ingratitude.

Today, too, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. Children forget to thank their parents for all that they do. Common courtesy is scorned. We take for granted the ways that others help us. Above all, we fail to thank God for His blessings.

Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned by the Bible. One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that “although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21, NIV). An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent to His mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything.

From one end of the Bible to the other, we are commanded to be thankful. In fact, thankfulness is the natural outflowing of a heart that is attuned to God. The psalmist declared, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving” (Psalm 147:7, NIV). Paul wrote, “Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15, NIV). A spirit of thanksgiving is always the mark of a joyous Christian.

Why should we be thankful? Because God has blessed us, and we should be thankful for each blessing.

Thank God for the Material Blessings That He Gives You

We seem never to be satisfied with what we have—rich or poor, healthy or sick. But what a difference it makes when we realize that everything we have has been given to us by God! King David prayed, “Wealth and honor come from you … We give you thanks, and praise your glorious name … Everything comes from you” (1 Chronicles 29:12-14, NIV).

Some years ago I visited a man who was wealthy and successful. He was the envy of all his friends and business associates. But as we talked, he broke down in tears, confessing that he was miserable inside. Wealth had not been able to fill the empty place in his heart.

A few hours later I visited another man only a short distance away. His cottage was humble, and he had almost nothing in the way of this world’s possessions. And yet his face was radiant as he told me about the work he was doing for Christ and how Christ had filled his life with meaning and purpose. I am convinced that the second man was really the rich man. Although he didn’t have much, he had learned to be thankful for everything that God had given him. Paul declared, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12, NIV). A spirit of thankfulness makes all the difference.

Are you constantly preoccupied with what you do not have? Or have you learned to thank God for what you do have?

Thank God for the People in Your Life

It is so easy to take people for granted, or even to complain and become angry because they do not meet our every wish. But we need to give thanks for those around us—our spouses, our children, our relatives, our friends and others who help us in some way.

I once received a letter from a woman who began by telling me how fortunate she was to have a kind, considerate husband. She then used four pages to list all his faults! How many marriages and other relationships grow cold and eventually are shattered because of the sin of ingratitude?

Do you let others know that you appreciate them and are thankful for them? The Christians in Corinth were far from perfect, but Paul began his first letter to them by saying, “I always thank God for you” (1 Corinthians 1:4, NIV). When a group of believers (whom Paul had never met) came out to greet him as he approached Rome, we read that “at the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged” (Acts 28:15, NIV). Thank God for those who touch your life.

Thank God in the Midst of Trials and Even Persecution

We draw back from difficulties, yet not one of us is exempt from some kind of trouble. In many parts of the world it is dangerous even to be a Christian because of persecution.

And yet in the midst of those trials we can thank God, because we know that He has promised to be with us and that He will help us. We know that He can use times of suffering to draw us closer to Himself: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2-3, NIV).

When the prophet Daniel learned that evil men were plotting against him to destroy him, “he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (Daniel 6:10, NIV). The Bible commands, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Paul declared, “You will even be able to thank God in the midst of pain and distress because you are privileged to share the lot of those who are living in the light” (Colossians 1:12, Phillips).

I don’t know what trials you may be facing right now, but God does, and He loves you and is with you by His Holy Spirit. Cultivate a spirit of thankfulness even in the midst of trials and heartaches.

“God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven.”

Thank God Especially for His Salvation in Jesus Christ

God has given us the greatest Gift of all—His Son, who died on the cross and rose again so that we can know Him personally and spend eternity with Him in heaven: “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15, NIV).

The Bible tells us that we are separated from God because we have sinned. But 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 His only Son into the world to die as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. All we need to do is reach out in faith and accept Christ as our Savior and Lord: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

Have you opened your heart to Jesus Christ? If not, turn to Him with a simple prayer of repentance and faith, and thank Him for what He has done for you. And if you do know Christ, how long has it been since you thanked God for your salvation? We should not let a day go by without thanking God for His mercy and His grace to us in Jesus Christ.

Thank God for His Continued Presence and Power in Your Life

When we come to Christ, it is not the end but the beginning of a whole new life! He is with us, and He wants to help us follow Him and His Word.

In ourselves we do not have the strength that we need to live the way God wants us to live. But when we turn to Him, we discover that “it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, NIV). Jesus promised His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18, 20, NIV).

In many countries a special day is set aside each year for thanksgiving. But for the Christian every day can be a day of thanksgiving, as we are “always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV).

Do you know the joy of a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ? If you’ll turn to God, He can take away your bitterness and give you the spirit of true thankfulness.

Today’s post was written by the wonderful Billy Graham and is shared from his website: https://billygraham.org/story/how-to-be-thankful-in-all-things/

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