Thankfulness changes our hearts.
Solomon's wisdom touches every aspect of life. Though he later viewed all of his learning as basically meaningless, what God taught him about the human heart has always been a central learning point for me. Of the seventy-seven references to the heart in the Proverbs, one particular verse headlined all of them in my personal life lesson catalog. He wrote---
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23, NIV
Considered alongside the many heart issues identified in the Bible, this bit of Godly advice seems so significant. Scripture mentions broken hearts, hard hearts, the loss of heart, deceitful hearts, hearts of stone, evil hearts, mad hearts, and so many other evidences of human depravity. Guarding our hearts is certainly a noteworthy discipline of spiritual maturity. Simple enough, right? Well, not really. You see, guarding our hearts, and even our minds, isn't one of the automatic disciplines of this life. Human ingenuity, the educational systems that prepare us, the toys and gadgets that help us navigate through the mania of fast complicated days can't really provide a fortress strong enough to resist those ideas and ideals that appeal to our thought and contemplative abilities. We humans are basically an easy touch in the mind and heart departments. Ask the marketing whiz's that surround us with impulse items out there in the retail world. That's why guarding them is such a challenge to us.
Scripture reminds us that a thankful spirit can be one of the guard posts that shields us from the many subtle influences that would capture our hearts, and even our minds. Take note of words the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi---
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to
everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by
prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4: 4-7, ESV
These verses were the text of my thanksgiving message at Edisto Beach Baptist Church this past Sunday. They remind us that prayer and supplication with thanksgiving produces the peace of God in us. It is this peace that frees us from anxiety and stands guard over our hearts and minds. This spirit of thanksgiving stands sentinel over our thought and decision making capabilities. Guarding my own heart in a broken world is certainly good advice and a worthy objective. But, poor me, another frail, mortal human. Yes, I know the goodies that that target my heart and mind aren't always so attractive. But, my heart and mind are often weakened by the rigors of living this life. I really need something supernatural and miraculous to keep mu impulses in check. Which Introduces, BTW, the peace of God generated by a thankful spirit.
Paul's words of instruction to the Philippians influences our hearts and minds in several notable directions. These include---
1. The challenge to live above our circumstances.
He told them to rejoice always regardless of their circumstances. Interestingly the word rejoice is actually a cognate of two Greek words, "chara" meaning joy, and charis, meaning grace. Rejoicing is to celebrate God's joy and grace always. They are constants in this life, and sources of personal strength. Nehemiah said, "The Joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8; 10, ESV).
2. The challenge to be thankful.
Paul told the Philippians to make thanksgiving a part of their prayer life. In my life this thankful spirit positions me to bow humbly before God when making my requests known to the Father. He is the provider and giver on his throne. I am the subject giving him my thanks for the blessings of this life. My prayer is grounded in the immutability of God, that he will do in my life what he has done in my life. Thankfulness deals with the troubling realities that can violate the sanctity of my heart.
3. The challenge to allow the peace of God to guard my heart and mind.
Certainly the Philippians were intimately familiar with life's anxieties. They lived in troubling times. Paul reminded them not to be anxious about anything, but to allow the peace of God to stand guard over their intellect and decision making by placing their prayers, supplications, and thanksgiving for everything. What sage advice.
Yes, thanksgiving changes us---our minds, hands, eyes, and hearts. Here's praying that your Thanksgiving will be blessed, safe, and truly grateful. A thankful spirit can be the decisive change agent for your entire life.