Thankful Unselfishness

We’ve just enjoyed our Thanksgiving holiday…the annual American nod to thankfulness that launches ‘Christmas’ consumerism into overdrive.  Thanks-living is a heart attitude we need to give much more time to!  In fact, it ought to be the perpetual norm for we who claim the name of Christ.  It is the very character of our Savior, who gave everything up to save us–His enemies!

Heartbreakingly, our actions show an attitude that is quite unlike our Savior.  For most of us there’s always something new or more we crave.  All that wanting erodes our thankfulness.  Christ never evidenced that trait. Examining His example helps us aim higher!  Consider what thankful unselfishness looked like in the life of Jesus Christ:

  • The One who always was willingly left heaven—and all its glories to be born in a barn to an unwed teen…
  • The One whose family had to flee for his life…
  • The One who had no place to lay his head…
  • The One who was rejected, spit on, whipped and killed for the sins of others (you and me)…

…that One NEVER evidenced an attitude of craving anything except the will of the Father.  Jesus trusted that God would give Him all that He needed to accomplish exactly what the Father willed…and for that He was thankful and unselfish with all He had.

That pierces me as I think of the many times I fall short of thankfulness–and unselfishness!

The Apostle Paul put it like this:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich 2 Corinthians 8:9

Jesus gave it all so you and I could have great riches.  Too often, we forfeit our riches to chase after things that impoverish us.  Thankfulness for all Jesus has done ushers us into the inheritance that cannot be lost!  Check this out:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Ephesians 1:3

We are lacking nothing!  Now there’s a thought that sparks a thankful attitude!

Unselfishness is the next attitude goal to set our sights upon.  Everything that Jesus had He put on the altar for you and I…and all who would believe.  Everything we receive is to be held with the same attitude of thankful unselfishness…and offered back to God for His glory and good purposes.

To learn to receive and share freely – as beloved children of God because of Christ – is a necessary step in our transformation toward Christ-likeness.  Developing the character traits of thankfulness and unselfishness prepare us to receive more from our good and generous God.  He loves to give us gifts and He wants us to be like Him.  May we receive His gifts with unselfish thankfulness  and allow that sweet spirit to surround us as we enter into the Advent season and celebrate the Light of the World!

 

Be JOYFUL Always!

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Be joyful always.

Maybe your heart is saying, “Really?  Joyful?  My parents fight; someone is always mad at me.  My dad never acts like I matter.  I can’t do the work I’m expected to do.  I never do anything right.”

Or maybe your head voices sound like, “Nothing I do is every enough.  The bills never end.  Something always needs—or at least wants—something more than the money allows.  The house is a disaster.  I don’t remember what joy feels like.”

Yet the words stand.  Be joyful always.  It is part of our Christian identity.   Joy is a character trait that should be found in every Christian!  Like many aspects of faith, joy is the result of deliberate action.

The actions that lead to joy are found in the next two verses.

  • Pray continually.
  • Give thanks.

Pray continually.  Put those mountains that block your joy into the hands of Jesus and walk into the presence of God!  Trust that Jesus will move them aside and clear the way to the life God desires for you.  Joy comes from the presence of God.  When we allow the stuff of life to keep us from the beautiful presence of God, we fall short of His desire—fall short of the joy of the glory of God.

Give thanks.  Thankfulness is as natural as breathing when we rest in the presence of God.  Do you remember when you have been in His presence…really seeing Him and feeling Him as the Word describes Him?  All powerful.  Supreme Authority.  God of Love.  God of Comfort.  Holy.  Just.  Righteous.

Thanks flows from a heart that sees and rests in Him.  And THAT is the essence of the last verse:  the will of God for you in Christ Jesus!  Jesus came that we would have abundant life.  JOY is the flavor of that life.

God’s desire is for you to have joy in Christ Jesus.  If your life does not taste like joy, talk with one who spends time in the presence of the GREAT GOOD GOD of Scripture.

Strong & Flexible

Have you ever been disappointed?  You expected to do something or get something that you never got?  You gave your best but things didn’t turn out as you hoped?

Of course, you have.  Everyone knows the dismay of disappointment.  That’s why this Christian Character Trait matters so much.  It is a trait we need to bear the weights and blows of life:  FLEXIBILITY.

Things often do not go as we expect or hope…but we don’t need to let those things break us or even bend us out of shape.  We need the strength to be flexible and this verse is the key to spiritual flexibility:

Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2

What we choose to think about determines our strength and flexibility!  If our eyes are not focused on eternal truths of God, we will be rigid and unbending.  We’ll be hurt and we’ll hurt others.  We want to have the trait of flexibility so we can stand up in the weighty times of life!

snow landscape trees winter

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

In our physical bodies, muscle flexibility is a desirable companion to muscle strength.  All muscles work in pairs – biceps & triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings and so on.  When one of the pair is used more than the others two different types of weakness happens.  The unused muscle is flabby weak and fails to stabilize its partner muscle.  Joint damage is a common outcome.  The other weakness will be in the ‘strong’ muscle.  That muscle will be tight and vulnerable to tears and injuries.  A lack of flexibility creates discomfort and damage.  Spiritually the same truth can be seen.

Rigid, unbending faith that puts God in a box is a weak faith.  It is a demanding faith that places great strain on self and others.  Faith is the substance of things NOT seen.  Faith without flexibility is not faith it all—it rests on what has been experienced, what one can do, what is known as ‘fact’ — there is no room for a supernatural God.  God never violates His character as revealed in the Bible but He is bigger than any of us.  The Word reminds us no one knows a matter fully.  There is always more to discover about God; He doesn’t fit in any box we can create!  Growing the muscle of faith requires balance between discipline and discipleship.  We must do all we know to do and seek to know God more!

Do you remember when Jesus confronted the Pharisees?  They were religious people who had gone from believing God to believing that good work was the way to God.  The Pharisees even bullied others to be like them but Jesus said they had missed more important things than what they were doing:  justice, mercy and faithfulness.  The Pharisees were strong in small things but their ‘faith muscle’ was tight and weak.  They were trusting in themselves and not God!

Hebrews reminds us that the only way to please God is FAITH!  Faith is a muscle that becomes weak and tense when it is not used.  We use our faith muscle when we trust God for greater things than we can do in our strength.  Real faith takes us beyond our ‘boxes’ and our comfort zones.  Strong faith in God is the road to an abundant life that changes the world!  Faith makes us flexible enough to take the hits of life and keep running toward the glory of God!

Where is God helping you grow your faith muscle?