Monday mornings can be hard, after the weekend, with the prospect of going back to work, or school, or the thought of the challenging things that have to be done this week. Any of these can result in feeling pressure or anxiety, or maybe just feeling flat and heavy.
Over the last few days we have been reflecting on how thanksgiving can be a brilliant help to us, in bringing life to waiting on the Lord and thus finding that our strength is renewed. And this is not just theoretical; rising up on wings like an eagle and running and not fainting sounds very practical when I have a challenging or demanding week ahead.
Thanksgiving tends to increase my joy among other ‘side effects’ and ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ Nehemiah 8:10. As we know, frequently in the bible, the context of this truth is important; these words in Nehemiah were not spoken to a people who were living on a high or in great victory, they were spoken to a group of people who had just realised they had been missing it quite badly in terms of God’s word and plan for them. Wow, isn’t it wonderful that the Lord invited them into His joy, which he knew would rejuvenate and strengthen them, at that time and at that point in their life journey. He really is a wonderful Father.
But there is more. Let’s reflect on that little word ‘alert’. I was struck by Pauls words in Colossians 4:2-3, mentioned in last Sundays blog. “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert, with an attitude of thanksgiving, praying at the same time for us….”. Sometimes prayer, like Monday mornings, can be hard work especially when you are placing before the Lord people, or situations, or battles, where a breakthrough is needed and you are in the waiting time for answers. It struck me that a benefit of thanksgiving, mixed in with prayer and life, is likely to help us stay alert, awake and fresh as we pray and as we wait. Pressures, concerns, worries can wear us down and make us flat even in prayer. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” Proverbs 13:12. But mix in plenty of thanksgiving, the air clears, alertness grows, and hope and faith return as we wait on the Lord. The Bible and the Lord are so practical – not just “Cheer up” but really practical guidance on how to catch the wind under your wings again – like the eagles.
It also struck me that there are at least two sorts of alertness. One can be particularly prevalent today, where we see dishonesty, deception, lack of authenticity, and possible conspiracies all around us. There are scams, selling us a line or a product that isn’t always what it says it is, people trying to get ahead of us, or get one over us. Now the reality is that in our fallen world there is alot of that about, and so people can end up beyond healthy care, caution and common sense, in a place of general cynicism or at worst paranoia, alert for the next bad thing or deception coming today.
Now we need to be alert and aware and wise and indeed Peter reminds us to “Be on the alert. Your adversary, the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”. 1 Peter 5:8. (NASB) The devil is a deceiver and the New Testament is clear that we need to be very alert not to be deceived by his, other peoples or our own subtle deceptions which can often start as half truths, and so seduce us. However we don’t want to end up with a cynical attitude about everything. Jesus encouraged us to be wise (or shrewd) as serpents and harmless (or innocent) as doves. (Matthew 10:16)
I believe thanksgiving will help us to cultivate a healthy, positive, balanced alertness. An alertness that knows that there is alot of deception in the natural and spiritual world around us in which we live, and is alert not to be deceived, but is also very alert to the grace, promises and power of the Lord. Sometimes prayer about problems, without thanksgiving, can seem to leave me still flat, heavy or worried. So back to Colossians 4:2, let us stay alert in our times of pressures, problems and the challenges that push us to call on God in prayer, by seasoning these times with a very healthy dose of thanksgiving that will clear our minds and emotions, and help us ‘see the wood for the trees’ from God’s perspective, with a fresh alertness.
As I thank the Lord that the problem I am praying about is also an opportunity for me to see God at work keeping His promises and showing His incredible grace, power and love to and for me, it will renew clarity and alertness that “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (1 Kings 6:16). By God’s grace my eyes will be opened (like happened for Elisha’s servant – verse 17) and the light and alertness it engenders will lift our spirits and inject fresh hope and faith, and then probably lead on to even more thanksgiving.