Yesterday we reflected on how thanksgiving helps me to say ‘No’ to things that are too much or do not seem to be what God wants me to do. This opens up a fresh vista – that is that thanksgiving is a means of protection, a defense. We have considered over the last few months many way in which thanksgiving helps us to move forward, grow in faith and stay in the flow with the Lord and His Spirit. But as well as being vital for our progress, growth and close walk forward with the Lord, thanksgiving is a defensive weapon too. Yesterday’s reflection on it being a super aid in enabling us to say ‘No’ is one example. Over the years we have done a lot of work with stress management and I have come to the conclusion that if I had a top ten commandments for managing stress in our lives, the ability to say ‘No’ and secondly, importantly, the ability to say ‘No’ without guilt would be in my top ten. Over the best part of 30 years I have seen many people, myself included, in whom a significant ingredient in their stress and ‘dis-ease’ was an inability at times, or great difficulty saying ‘No’ and doing it without guilt.
I don’t believe Jesus had that problem, and He lived a life that was surrounded with pressure and potential stress. In Mark chapter one Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law, the whole town gathers, many are healed, revival is breaking out, next morning Jesus talks to His Father, Peter catches up with Him and says “everyone is looking for you” effectively ‘revival is breaking out in town’. What does Jesus say and do? “Let us go somewhere else….!!” (verses 29 – 39). Sounds like a ‘No’ to me to what looks like an open door and a great opportunity. As we considered yesterday, I think that the Lord Jesus knew that a ‘Yes’ to returning to that town where it was all happening, would be a ‘No’ to another village or villages. (see verses 38,39)
Today we can also look at another way thanksgiving is a great defense and protection – this time from getting sidetracked, deceived or bogged down. In Paul’s first letter to Timothy he talks in chapter four about people who are forbidding marriage and ordering believers to abstain from certain foods. Clearly Paul (and the Holy Spirit) are indicating that these two teachings are wrong. However, even more importantly, we should notice how important thanksgiving is in negotiating our way through other inevitable questions today about what is right/wrong, good/bad, ok/not ok as Christians before the Lord in our walk with Him. Especially when we hear, read or see teachings, whether live, in a book or on the internet. So Paul writes, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” (verse 4) Twice in two verses Paul repeats the importance of receiving things with thanksgiving. It seems to me that a heart and practice of thanksgiving is likely to be a great aid in helping me to see the wood for the trees, to separate walking in a way that pleases God in righteousness, from getting sidetracked or stuck in religious practices that appear to be pious and godly but actually cut across the character, heart and goodness of God.
Relationship or rules? Already the early church was getting bogged down by some peoples’ rules. See also Paul’s letter to the Galatians. That is not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Because we love Him we keep His commandments, John 14:23. But restored relationship in salvation by grace through faith, and ongoing relationship of being welcomed into the Father’s family, crying Abba Father, and with Christ within, is the core and primary heart that comes first. This is followed by a life growing in the fruit of the indwelling Spirit and doing works that arise from faith. Thanksgiving is and will be a great aid to bring me back to my centre and my relationship with my good and loving Lord. A place of thanksgiving is powerful in restoring and reminding me who God is, what He likes and does, and who I am as His beloved child. Then I am likely to be in a much better place to discern the practical will of God in daily life, to strengthen and inform my daily desire to ‘keep His commandments’, and to not get sidetracked or bogged down in the wrong sort of religiousness.