Yesterday we were thinking about how our thanksgiving can change the atmosphere around us and at the same time bless and encourag our brothers and sisters. Today we look at another aspect of thanksgiving and its power to change atmospheres.
Jesus told His disciples ‘You are the light of the world’,….’let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven, Matthew 5:14,16. It is interesting that today, probably because of the long history of Christianity in this country, the radical values introduced by Jesus of caring for the poor and disadvantaged are, to a great extent, embedded in our culture. There are therefore many people and organisations, not necessarily Christian, who are doing those things that we would call ‘good deeds’.
Paradoxically at the same time, some other aspects of that same Christian culture have become very eroded. I am thinking now of Jesus encouragement to ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’, Luke 6:31. The thinking of others and putting them first. The ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’, teaching. Matthew 19:19.
We seem to be living in an unprecedented time of entitlement where that whole ethos has been turned on its head. Instead there is a strong belief that ‘I have a right that others should treat me with honour and respect’, and that ‘what I need’ should take pre-eminence. This has given rise to the opposite of gratitude, it has given rise to an epidemic of complaint and dissatisfaction with all sorts of things in life that would be viewed as blessings and privileges in less advantaged societies.
It is so easy to take so much for granted, and I don’t know whether these are the last days or not, but Paul’s description of how people will be in the last days feels very familiar. He writes ‘in the last days people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving …………….. lovers of pleasure rather than God,’ 2 Timothy 3:1.
It was also Paul who wrote, ‘Live a cheerful life, without complaining or division among yourselves. For then you will be seen as innocent, faultless and pure children of God, even though you live in the midst of a brutal and perverse culture. For you will appear among them as shining lights in the universe offering them words of eternal life’, Philippians 2:14,15
Like those early Christians living in a very pagan Greek society, our current culture is no excuse for letting our ‘light’ grow dim. So how can we ‘shine our light’ in our world today to bring praise to our Father in heaven? How can we be different? How can we resist being dragged into the pervading culture around us and let our light shine?
Well one way is, I believe, to take seriously the power of thanksgiving to change the atmosphere around us. I read something this morning that resonated with these thoughts that were going around in my head. It was this, ‘Thanksgiving helps us to say a simple ‘no’ to any ill will, angry, ungracious, unkind behaviour that produces a bitter, futile lifestyle’*
Our thanksgiving, in all circumstances cuts right across the culture in which we are now living, it will help us not to be drawn into any grumbling or complaining that we hear around us. It is impossible to have a thankful heart and find ourselves grumbling. Jesus said this ‘The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart….. For out of the overflow of his heart the mouth speaks.’ Luke 6:45
If our heart is overflowing with thanksgiving it will guard our minds and overflow from our mouths. It can also actually disarm people and change the attitudes of those around us, as we release a different spirit into the atmosphere. This is then a simple way of letting our ‘light shine before men’. Genuine joy even in difficult circumstances, is not an easy thing to quench, but rather it can be very infectious, drawing others closer to the Kingdom of God.
* The Newness Advantage (book two page 45) Graham Cooke, Brilliant Book House 2017.