Give Thanks in Plenty and in Want
Open Your Bible
Psalm 23:1-6, 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, Deuteronomy 6:10-15, Haggai 1:2-6, Philippians 4:12
BY Guest Writer
Scripture Reading: Psalm 23:1-6, 1 Chronicles 29:10-13, Deuteronomy 6:10-15, Haggai 1:2-6, Philippians 4:12
Saying thank you is something we learn to do almost as soon as we can speak. We’re taught to thank a person for things like passing the salt, blessing us after we sneeze, or holding a door open for us. The absence of a thank-you in those circumstances will most likely draw disapproving looks, and your parents’ skills in raising a decent human being will be severely questioned.
There’s an unwritten rule in our culture that when someone does something kind for us, we owe them something in return. From the time we’re little kids, we’re conditioned to offer thanks when we experience good at the hand of another. And it logically follows that the not-so-good things don’t deserve our thanks. We’re not taught to offer thanks when a stranger stumbles into us on the street, let alone when a friend offends us. And why should we say thanks? We feel slighted, and now they owe us. It seems so simple: Good things deserve our gratitude. Bad things deserve our righteous indignation—or stale indifference at best. Makes sense, right?
When I read Paul’s words to the Philippians, I have one eyebrow raised in defiance. Of course Paul, arguably the greatest missionary of all time, has “learned the secret of being content” (Philippians 4:12). How am I, a regular girl with a regular life, supposed to get in on that secret to contentment? I fill my mind with “evidence” to prove that I should be excused from being content in every situation: unanswered prayers, a dry bank account, and broken relationships top the list of reasons I might be excused.
And then, of course, I’m confronted with my sin once again. The Holy Spirit has a way of knocking me off my feet and onto my knees in the gentlest way. (This can leave me simultaneously exasperated and grateful, if I’m honest.) As I consider what it means to give thanks and be content in all things, I see hidden in my heart an attitude that tells me I deserve every good thing coming my way. Conversely, whenever I consider myself in a season of lack, I can start to believe God owes me for my inconvenience.
When I actually take a minute to examine my life through the lens of the gospel, it becomes awfully clear who owes who in my relationship with God. Here’s a hint: it’s me. It’s always me. Because even in times of struggle or hardship, the fact remains that each breath I breathe is a mercy of the living God. In times of abundance and plenty, I’m still dependent on Him—nothing I have is of my own strength or ability.
Everything in Paul’s life was laid before the Father, everything was offered in service. And so whatever he was forced to endure was nothing compared to the glory of a life poured out in obedience to God. That’s the secret to contentment: it’s all about God, not me. From Him, through Him, and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever!
Erin Rose lives and works in vibrant Richmond, Virginia, where she serves as Worship & Teaching Pastor at East End Fellowship. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, and is currently enrolled as a graduate student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Erin is a member of Urban Doxology, a ministry that is writing the soundtrack of reconciliation for the church. Her greatest joy lies in leading God’s people in authentic worship, and teaching them the truth found in God’s Word. She also enjoys eating delicious food, spending time with loved ones, and indulging in the occasional Netflix binge.