By Terry Gardner
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” – Solomon.
We are surrounded by negativity. It is in our politics, our schools and in our churches. It is rampant in business, in the movies and television. Yet out of this darkness and negativity it has never been easier to shine forth the love of Christ like “a city set on a hill” so that others will glorify our Father in heaven.
However, it all begins with gratitude or what the Pilgrims’ called “Thanksgiving.” This was not a holiday devoted to non-stop, all day long football games. It was about praising God and giving Him thanks. Before the Second World War churches met on Thanksgiving Day to give God thanks and they usually did not stop with a single service. The country was poor, the great Depression was ongoing, antibiotics had not been invented, many did not even enjoy indoor plumbing and yet thanksgiving was offered to God.
Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will of you in Christ Jesus.” Thanksgiving is a command and something we do in all circumstances. This does not mean I am necessarily thankful for the circumstances … some things that happen to me are bad. However, every thing that happens (good or bad) can be used to accomplish God’s will. It was not a good circumstance when Paul’s liberty was taken away in Rome but he used that opportunity to preach the gospel to those in Caesar’s own household.
An attitude of gratitude helps me see things as God sees them. How much is there each of our lives for God to criticize? Yet God sent his son to die on our behalf when there was nothing good about us, indeed we were God’s enemies and helpless. Paul writes, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6).
On Thursday, December 5th, the Sound of Music was presented on live Television. Three hours of outstanding music and entertainment. Were you grateful for a respite from the violence, death and profanity usually found in that medium? Or did you become a professional critic of every aspect of the performance? Did you appreciate the courage it took the network and the stars to appear in such a production without the safety net of re-takes? Or did you think, as I did, Julie Andrews did it so much better! Would we like the standard applied to us that we applied to this production?
Teddy Roosevelt once wrote, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Gratitude makes me thankful for what I have. It gives me balance and helps me be far less critical of others. A few weeks ago I was told about one of our administration assistants in California whose cancer has come back. She is in her 40s. On Thanksgiving morning I sent her a brief card to let her know I was thinking about her and praying for her. I debated not writing the card, she hardly knows me and I’d have to go ten minutes out of my way to get it mailed and I had family and turkey to get to. But I sent the card. Her reaction dumbfounded me. She both wrote and called and told me what a difference my note had made, indeed that I had made her whole week. I found myself humbled and embarrassed. I remembered the proverb, “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes—until I met a man who had no feet.”
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your thoughts dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:9).