An Appreciative Heart :: by Don McGee

In the last several decades, Christian writers have addressed just about every aspect of the growing apostasy that one can imagine. Immorality to the emergent church heresy have all been addressed, and that is a good thing. Those are issues that must be kept before us so that the dangers they represent can be recounted often. When it comes to exposing false teaching, vigilance is not an option.

But, there is another area that should be addressed, and that is our seemingly ingrained lack of appreciation for most things. Unfortunately, this careless attitude about God’s blessings seems to be growing. It is not just about our not being thankful for specific things, but about our overall way of living that is void of a genuine sense of gratitude.

Saying “thank you” for something specific is not uncommon, but what is missing is our living day-by-day with a constant attitude of appreciation. Splitting hairs? I don’t think so. The former is simply good manners; the latter is a spiritual condition.

God smiles upon a grateful heart because it is connected to an aspect of His own nature. It is very difficult to fit gratitude into our human-inspired idea of God, because in our own way of thinking—gratitude has to do with a person with a great need that is graciously satisfied by someone else, and we all know God has no “needs” as we have.

However, God does have desires, as evidenced in Scripture (1 Timothy 2:4), and part of that desire is that His people would be a grateful people. If the lepers in Luke 17:11 are any indication of things, then 90% of people who are specifically blessed are ungrateful. That is not a good thing.

Why is this lack of appreciation so widespread? Take a look at just a few reasons.

Since November is the time of Thanksgiving consider how we use the term, Turkey Day. Though the use of that term to describe “Thanksgiving Day” is probably not meant to be, so it is annoying at the least and can even be offensive to some of us. We Christians do not need yet another seemingly benign issue to add to our list of disagreements, but that term does betray what might be an underlying vein of ungratefulness among us.

Things were not this way almost 400 years ago when our Christian forbearers expressed their appreciation to God for His blessings. The historical revisionists tell public school students that the Pilgrims were thankful to the Indians for sharing food with them, but that is a lie. The reason for this skewed history of Thanksgiving is the growing effort to rid America’s history of God, and it has been quite successful.

With some exceptions, most middle school students now believe it was all about the Pilgrims thanking the Indians instead of thanking God. And since the story is seldom discussed before eating our traditional Thanksgiving dinners, kids grow into adults never knowing the truth. And never really caring much about it, either.

In spite of the anti-God propaganda, the truth remains. Edward Winslow, a signer of The Mayflower Compact, and a leader in Plymouth Colony, wrote the following letter to a friend in England on December 12, 1621. Although copied in modern English it is a little confusing, but you can get the point:

Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruits of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl, as with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time amongst other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others. And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.

The fact that the Pilgrims were thankful to God cannot be doubted. Further, and to what must be absolute horror to the anti-2nd Amendment-items it seems the Pilgrims might have engaged in a little friendly firearms competition!

There is more evidence that we have little appreciation of God’s blessings, and it has to do with our opinion of ourselves. We think we can handle most every challenge that comes down the pike. Indeed, we have been successful in many things that have revved up our comfort levels and increased our longevity, and though these might not be inherently bad they have caused us to lose sight of some very important facts about life.

One fact is about who is in control. Though we think we are in control of things, the truth is we are not really in control of anything except our choices. To emphasize this point, one sage once said we do not even know all the questions much less all the answers. He was right.

Even common sense says we should be thankful that we do not have to know a lot, or have a lot of control over life’s events in order to be joyful and happy. Those people who believe that happiness is inextricably tied to their own ability to micro-manage their lives often become miserable when their plans go awry. The truth is their little world is a straw man that cannot handle life. And regarding the next life, they don’t even think about it. How can such a heart express appreciation to anyone for anything?

A person who refuses to believe he must relinquish control of everything to God in order to be at peace and to be appreciative at the same time, is unstable. That does not mean he is crazy, but that he is unsteady and unsure as he leans upon his own understanding. He is his own god and when he cannot manipulate critical circumstances he retreats within himself and becomes even more self-directed.

When the end comes he curses what he considers to be his bad luck, or maybe he blames the God he might not even believe in. Either way, he ends this life in misery and begins the next in horror. The only ultimate control such a man has demonstrated in his life is his choice to not submit to God.
Job is the biblical opposite of that man. Some might wonder if Job was appreciative toward God even though he lost everything. There can be no doubt that he was. For only a man whose heart is filled with appreciation to God, not necessarily for adversity, but for His presence and providential care, can say in the middle of all that adversity that he will hope in God alone though he would die in the process.

Job came to fully understand that he had no control of anything except his choice to serve God. In the eyes of his friends and those who might have been envious of his wealth, he was “the man.” But, early in the story of Job’s life we see that there were things going on in a dimension far beyond his sight, much less his control. Terrible things that resulted in the loss of all his possessions and all his children. I think no other biblical book so clearly demonstrates the priceless relationship between thankfulness and unconditional surrender to God.
At times the Christian life can seem to be contradictory. When we find ourselves in those situations we would do well to remember Job. Actually, it is not Job we should remember, but God.

And what about our stewardship? An honest evaluation of how we use what God has given us will show just how appreciative we are for everything that comes our way. Of course if a person thinks that his own abilities are responsible for what he has then he will have no sense of being thankful for them at all. It is true that there is some truth to the idea, “I worked for it so it is mine to use as I please.”

Our system of capitalism and free enterprise is built upon private ownership of tools and the expeditious use of opportunities, and contrary to what some believe, this is the biblical standard as seen in Matthew 20:1-16. Christianity is not even close to socialism. But, the problem is not with capitalism. The problem is in understanding the source of our abilities, of our talents, of our opportunities and of an advantageous environment to use all of the above. God allowed us to be born in a society of free enterprise.

Some people are blessed with mental abilities above, or advantageously different from those of many other people. Maybe some were born into families that encouraged their God-given talents, or were raised in a certain town or rural community where certain opportunities exist. Those kinds of things can be self-exploited, but they cannot be self-caused. That demands of us good stewardship and appreciation, not self-adulation.

Consider a person who is exceptionally smart. The truth is that is a gift from God, and that person is responsible for how he uses it. That is not to say we should not benefit from such ability and the work it takes to put it to profitable use, for that, too, is biblical. But, it is to say that at the start of the day God should chair the board meeting.

There is one more thing to consider regarding being appreciative for what we have, and quite simply, that thing is hope. Of all the temporal blessings we have none is greater than the Blessed Hope. It means Jesus is returning for the church, His Bride, to take her out of this world and usher her into that realm of His special creation; a realm that defies description and even human imagination (1 Corinthians 2:9).

No matter where a Christian might be; in a palace or in a dungeon, even if a Christian’s body is on the deepest ocean’s floor or in the deepest regions of outer space, His summons for resurrection will be heard. At that moment every living Christian will immediately leave whatever they might be doing and will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
Never again will there be loss, pain, heart-ache, fear, sorrow or death. We will live in a very real world, in very real bodies and we will be doing those things that bring us more joy than we can imagine. If such a gift could be bought, what would people be willing to pay?

As you know it can’t be bought because its price is above anything anyone could be or could possess. Because of that impossibility, Jesus paid it all on our behalf. This is ours for the asking. Yet many Christians live day in and day out and seldom ever mutter a “thank you” for it.

The world offers no hope, and even the most naive among us understands that. The great effort some nations and groups are going to in order to ensure peace and safety is to no avail. It is like trying to bale water out of a sinking ship using a coffee cup. The best thing to do is to head for the life boats. Our hope is not in any single thing this world has to offer, for it is all cursed and temporal.

Thus we should thank God for the Blessed Hope—our only option.

In addition to being grateful to the Lord, we would do well to take some time and express our appreciation to those people in our lives who have made the difference. You know who they are.

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