A few years ago, we decided to try something new at our church. At the beginning of November, the Thanksgiving Holiday loomed ahead of us. So, we wondered: What would happen if we made Thanksgiving last for an entire month instead of just one day? 

Have you ever tried to be thankful to God for thirty days in a row? It is easy enough to get started–you can begin by thanking God that Halloween is over. But, for some of us, it starts to get challenging somewhere around the ninth day. It is easy to give up completely about halfway through the month–especially if your football team is not doing so well. 

Why would it be so challenging to spend a month thanking God each day? Probably due to a lot of reasons. My experience with children is that they are not always naturally thankful. As adults we spend a lot of energy reminding kids to be thankful with their words, faces, and body language. But it seems that when we grow up and become adults, we are often more into preaching gratitude than practicing it. Other reasons? Well, the busyness and noisiness of life can certainly distract us. Or, let’s admit it, some of us are more naturally like Eeyore than Tigger. Sometimes the anxieties of life can squeeze out any thankfulness that is in our hearts. 

Paul had enough life experience to understand these challenges of the human condition.  And, after reading about Saul of Taursus, I don’t think the Apostle Paul was naturally gifted with a sunny, cheerful disposition. (No offense, Paul!) However, Paul commanded fellow Christians in Philippians to practice something that he had learned to practice: “rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) 

Christ Jesus had trained the Apostle Paul not to be limited or controlled by his own personality, moods, or circumstances. Over time, and in the crucible of real life, the Holy Spirit taught Paul how to experience contentment and satisfaction in every situation of life. Therefore, Paul could claim from firsthand experience: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) How did the Spirit transform Saul of Tarsus into Paul? How did God take a hostile, legalistic Pharisee who despised the very name of Jesus and mold him into this always rejoicing Apostle? 

Jesus was the one who personally taught Paul how to:Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)At the end of the letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul shared these important truths with his fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. There is something more powerful than the circumstances of our lives. Our relationship with God is the only sure place of contentment and satisfaction. That relationship consists of many things, but at the center of the relationship is this: we can take all of our cares and anxieties and put them into God’s trustworthy, strong hands. And even better, we can do this with joy and thanksgiving towards the One who loves us–better than we love ourselves. If we practice these things–not just know these things–then the Holy Spirit will give us deep peace and will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:9).

 

This article was written by Grover Pinson. He is the pastor of Windsor Park Baptist Church in Corpus Christi and a core faculty member at SCS.