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Give thanks

Pastor Darryl Miller       

Sand Lake & South Ensley United Methodist Churches 

616-636-5659

 

1 Thessalonians 5:18: Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (Common English Bible).

Having just gone through the Thanksgiving holiday, and now diving headlong into the Christmas season, I was wondering the other day how many of us get so wound up in these busy times that the true meanings of the celebrations have been set aside.

When I was a child we had big family gatherings around the holidays and there was always the dreaded “lets all share what we are thankful for” announcement from one of the aunts. This usually meant that at least a half hour would be used up as there was usually a huge gathering of relatives. And it also usually meant that someone miscalculated the cooking time on something and that they were trying to delay so that everything could finish cooking without us noticing how late dinner was being served. But even after we shared together as a group, I had one aunt that called all the kids to her after dinner and asked them individually what they were thankful for. I remember the first time she asked, I apparently said the wrong things because she told me she was disappointed in me. So I was coached by my cousins. There were three things we had to say that we were thankful for: family, our Savior, and for a bonus point, her. So I grew up thinking that when I thought of what I was thankful for I had to say what whoever was asking wanted to hear. This made my childhood much simpler but it took a long time to understand the problem with this.

Today I am happy to say that I still worry about what someone else thinks about what I am thankful for. But now it’s God. However, here’s the twist—my aunt heard what she wanted and accepted it; but God can see into our hearts so there is no just saying what we think he wants to hear. We must be truly thankful if we tell God that we are. And lets face it—sometimes it can be hard. In mid October, I spent eight days in the hospital, mostly because of a medication I must take after a kidney transplant that hid the symptoms of a serious infection in my gall bladder. They couldn’t find what was wrong. Was I thankful? Well, sort of. When I think of Paul being thankful for being in prison because he was able to create a new ministry, my reasons seem to fall short, but God thinks differently from the world. The truth is that I was bored out of my mind. But I began to meditate and pray throughout the day and I found myself growing closer to God. I was able to see how I had allowed myself to be drawn into a crazy busy schedule and how that had pushed God aside, despite believing that I was doing God’s work. And I was thankful that I was drawn closer to God and the pain was relieved. So it was actually a good thing. Would I have preferred that God used a different way? Absolutely. But then again I probably wouldn’t have listened.

So what is it that you are thankful for? Even the hard times are a time of learning and drawing closer to God. That is why we need to be thankful for them as well as the good. Have a wonderful Christmas and if you have any questions, visit a church near you, we would love to see you!

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