How thankful are you this year?
How thankful are you this year? Maybe, you are feeling really thankful. You made lots of money. You got a new house. You added to your family. Or... Maybe it hasn’t been your year. You don’t have a lot of money. You lost your job.
Oftentimes circumstances determine exactly how thankful we are at Thanksgiving—and in everyday life. In Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul claims to know the secret to being content no matter the circumstances. He says, “I have learned to be content in any circumstances in which I find myself. I know what it is to live in humble circumstances, and I know what it is to have more than enough. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, while being full or hungry, while having plenty or not enough.” (Philippians 4: 8-11)
There are really three types of circumstances in which we can find ourselves. The first is to be without need. Paul calls it, “to have more than enough.” Really it means that he doesn’t have a single need. This is the feeling you might get at the end of a two hour epic Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is in your belly. The tryptophan is at work. The cranberry sauce is dribbling between the spaces in your tummy left by the stuffing. To be without need means that one is truly blessed. Oftentimes, this is the circumstance we find ourselves in. We are clothed. We are full. We have a roof over our head. Yet, when this is our circumstance, how often are we content? With the world constantly in our face telling us what we need, how long is it before we begin to believe that we are in need.
This leads to the second circumstance we might find ourselves in, perceived need. “I need an iPad. I need a Fiat. I need a Starbucks coffee in the morning.” Kids do it too: “I need a cookie!”, as if they will faint without the nutrition contained within the chocolate chip. Of course, the truth is that we don’t need this stuff. Yet our minds do such a good job of convincing ourselves of this need that we aren’t always so thankful in perceived need. We aren’t thankful because our house isn’t as nice as our neighbors, our family isn’t as polite, and our job isn’t as fun.
And if we aren’t that thankful when we have perceived need, what does that mean for when we have...real need. You need help in order to pay the rent. You need transportation. You need food. It is very difficult to be content when you are in real need, when your stomach is growling from hunger, when your legs are tired from walking everywhere, when your eyes are bloodshot red from staying up and working hard.
What kind of circumstance was Paul in when he wrote the letter to the Philippians? He was in jail. Paul was in real need. How could he be content in that situation? He said at the end of Philippians 4: 11: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” In other words, Paul found contentment from looking up. And what do you find when you look up? The God who provides all things. He takes care of our earthly needs. He takes care of our earthly wants. He has an endless supply of food, drink, clothing, and shelter. Beyond that, he gives us what no one else can: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and the promise of spending eternity with him in the glorious riches of heaven. When your focus is upwards, it doesn’t matter where you are in this life. Whether whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want, you are content.
Content to be forgiven.
Content to be God’s child.
Content to be in God’s good graces.
So, how will your Thanksgiving be this year? I suppose it depends on the circumstances. As you look up, you will be reminded of your circumstances: Jesus loves you. You have a Savior. You are blessed. Circumstantially, you couldn’t be in a better place.
Pastor Martin Spaude
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