9 or 1?

I shared on my blog last week about what we discussed in Sunday School...Rule of Peace.  It was so convicting to me and I wanted to share it with others.  This week was equally convicting to me as well!  We are studying the book of Colossians in our class and we are in chapter 3.

And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him--a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.  So, as the chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.  (Colossians 3:10-17)

In this passage we are commanded to do several things:
1)  Put on the new self
2)  Put on a heart of compassion
3)  Put on kindness
4)  Put on humility
5)  Put on gentleness 
6)  Put on patience
7)  Bear with one another
8)  Forgive each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone
9)  Put on love
10)  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts
11)  Be thankful
12)  Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you
13)  Teach one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
14)  Sing with thankfulness in your hearts to God
15)  Do everything whether in word or deed in the name of the Lord
16)  Give thanks through Jesus to God

I don't know about anyone else, but I fall so short of obeying this list fully.  The life that a Christian is called to is an impossibility on our own.  We have been given a Helper, the Holy Spirit to take up residence inside of us the moment we become His child.  His job is to lead us, guide us, convict us, show us where we fail, and lead us to repentance.  To live each of these sixteen items out fully, we must have supernatural help.  It simply is out of our capability to produce lives like this apart from Him.  There is one item on the list that is repeated three times.  Be thankful.  I believe that if we focus on this one in particular and truly live thankful lives then the others will fall into place easier.

Last week, we discussed verse 15 about letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.  That lived out means we are free from any worry, anxiety, frustration, or stress.  In that same verse it says, "and be thankful."  It almost appears it is an afterthought.  I actually overlooked it when I was teaching about peace ruling.  Then I noticed that it appears in verse 16 and 17 as well.  When it's repeated three times consecutively, then you might want to take notice :)  I believe that this is one of the keys to letting the peace of Christ rule along with all the others listed.

We usually talk about being thankful at Thanksgiving time only, but as believers, we should live lives of thanksgiving.  It should constantly be on our minds all throughout the year, not just in the fall.  What would the opposite of a thankful life look like other than the obvious answer...unthankful.  Unthankful lives are acted out by a complaining or critical spirit, an entitled type of attitude, a covetous attitude, discontentment, and a victim mentality.  Ouch.  Which type of attitude are we surrounded with more? thankful or unthankful?  I'd say without hesitation unthankful.

I read a book recently called Respectable Sins: Confronting Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges.  This book made me feel like I went through a ringer.  There was conviction in every single chapter.  There was an entire chapter on unthankfulness.  Clearly as defined in Colossians we are commanded three times in a row to be thankful.  There are numerous other references to being thankful so anything other than being thankful would be considered a sin.  Unthankfulness is a sin we can tend to tolerate.

In Luke 17:11-19, Jesus tells a story about thankfulness.  During this time and before, when a person had leprosy, it was a disease that made them an outcast.  They were required by law to walk around continually crying out, "Unclean, unclean," so no one passing by would be contaminated by the disease.  Luke records that Jesus was once met by ten lepers who stood at a distance and cried out to Him, "Jesus Master, have mercy on us."  In saying this to Him, they were recognizing Him as Lord, thus believing in Him.  Jesus said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests."  They were cleansed and completely healed of their disease before they even got to the priests.  Out of the ten that were healed, only ONE returned to Jesus to thank Him and praise God for this miracle.  He was a Samaritan, too.  Jesus then exclaimed, "Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except for this foreigner?"

As I read this story, I can be quick to say, "Where were the NINE????"  How could they be so ungrateful that they could not even go back and thank Jesus for completely restoring their lives??  They could do nothing in society with this disease and they could now return to their lives completely free from the disease. However, when I really think about my attitude much of the time I am most definitely a part of the nine and not the one.  I have been healed of something much greater than leprosy!  Spiritually before Christ, I was dead.  I was a slave to the world, to satan, and to the passions of my own sinful nature.  Out of His great love for me and all mankind, He sent His Son to suffer to the point of death so that I could be cleansed of my sin, forgiven, and made spotless.  To say I have so much to be thankful for seems shallow.  The words don't fully express what my thankfulness should be for what has been accomplished and given willingly.

Most believers, I think, would recognize that all things come from God, but how often do we stop and give Him thanks for what He gives us?  One of my greatest desires as a mom is to have grateful children, but I cannot impart on my children what I do not bestow.  What are my children seeing modeled before them? They are watching. They see the real me.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says not only to give thanks, but we are to give thanks in ALL circumstances, for it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  What exactly does this mean?

Recently I read a short biography to the boys about Corrie ten Boom.  Her story is amazing and a beautiful picture of grace.  She and her family were from Holland and harbored Jews during the rise of the Nazi regime.  They were caught and Corrie and her sister were roughly pushed into Barracks 28 at Ravensbruck, a "work camp" for prisoners.  The barracks were crowded, covered with dirty, stinking straw.  There wasn't even enough room to sit up.  Corrie jumped up and cried, "the place is crawling with fleas!"  Her sister reminded her of a Bible verse they had read that morning.  "Be joyful always, pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  Corrie said to her sister, "Oh, Betsie, that's too hard in a place like this!"  Her sister encouraged her to give it a try.  Corrie agreed and said, "Well, if we must be in this awful place, I'm thankful we're together."  Betsie added that she was thankful that the guards didn't find the Bible she had hanging down her back.  Corrie then said, "Maybe we should thank God for how crowded we are in here because that way more women will hear the Word of God when we read it aloud."  Betsie's eyes danced and said, "That's right!  And thank you, God, for the fleas."  Corrie cried, "No, Betsie, I can't thank God for the fleas.  There's nothing good about them." Betsie answered, "we'll just have to wait and see."

Every day, the prisoners were awakened at 4:30 a.m. and forced to stand outside in the cold for roll call. They worked eleven hour days.  They were given black bread for breakfast and a thin soup of turnips for supper.  The only thing they had to look forward to was when all the women stumbled back to the barracks at night.  Before they went to sleep, Betsie and Corrie would open up their smuggled Bible and read God's Word to the other women.  Anyone caught with a Bible would certainly be killed, so they were on the lookout for the guards.  After two days passed, no guards came into Barracks 28.  Soon they read the Bible twice a day, and more and more women listened.  No one bothered them.  One day, Betsie grabbed Corrie's arm and whispered, "I know why no one has bothered our Bible studies.  I overheard some of the guards talking.  None of them want to come into Barracks 28 because of the fleas!"  Corrie wanted to laugh.  "All right, Lord," she said.  "Thank you for the fleas!"

In this story of Corrie and Betsie, they had to make up their minds and purposefully be thankful.  That's what it takes.  It is intentional.  It will not happen by accident.  I have not endured anything close to these two sisters, and yet they chose to be thankful in their time of suffering.  How does this apply to me personally?  I have such a long way to go in this area of a thankful lifestyle, but I can think of a few times when I have intentionally shifted my thinking and on purpose chose to be thankful instead.I'll share a few examples.  One day I was driving in Cookeville and there were people everywhere.  I was annoyed because they were in my way.  I wasn't even in a hurry, but I was frustrated with having to wait on everyone around me.  Suddenly, in my moment of silent complaining about all the people, I thought to myself that I should be thankful for all the people because that meant that there would be businesses that would be supported so that I could shop.  Without the people I wouldn't be able to have the selection I was enjoying.  So instead of being annoyed at all the people, I purposefully switched my thoughts in that moment to somehow be thankful for them instead.  It was a huge moment for me.  It may sound silly, but if we continually practice this, our lives will be much different.  There is always something to be thankful for, in every circumstance.

Another time when I shifted my thinking from complaining to thanksgiving was after a trip to the grocery store.  Shopping with all three kids can be mentally draining and when I pulled into the garage, I just sat there with absolute dread at the thought of unloading the groceries and putting them away.  It hit me in that moment that instead of complaining about unloading my groceries I should instead be thankful that I could go to the store to shop for whatever I need with a large selection.  Instead be thankful that I had a vehicle to drive to the store and money to purchase food.  My whole attitude changed in that moment.  I realized what a spoiled brat I was being.

If we really think of what we have compared to those in other countries, they we should be even more thankful for what we have.  The reality is that most everything in our lives in the American culture would be classifies as a luxury, not a necessity.  The computer I am writing this on, the food that I eat, and the bed and pillow I will sleep on tonight (in addition to many other things in my life) are all luxuries.

A few years ago, I read several Little House on the Prairie books to Logan.  I remember thinking and saying, "I'm SOOOO glad I was born in this time period."  I would have had trouble having to plant a garden, raise animals, and prepare every single meal, or live without electricity.  In our modern society with our conveniences that make life easier, how often to we pause to give thanks.  I am guilty of taking so many things for granted....hot water, a microwave, a refrigerator, oven, air conditioning, heat...I could go on and on.

I have been more aware of my attitude of unthankfulness and have tried to work on it more, especially in front of my children.  Once again, this has to be intentional.  It takes NO effort to be a complainer or critical.  In the story that Jesus told, more than the majority of them were unthankful.  The exception was the one who came back to give thanks.  It is our natural tendency to be unthankful.  Since this has been on my mind, I have focused on saying things that I am thankful for out loud in front of my kids.  Like I said earlier, I want to have grateful children, but they need to see a grateful mom to model after.  We were in the drive thru the other day, and we prayed before we ate, but instead of my usual prayer, I thanked God for the vehicle to get there, the gas that we had in the vehicle, for the money to buy the food.  These are all things that I can take for granted, but I wanted my kids to hear these things so they could also note that this is a luxury that many do not have.

Thankfulness is not just in our words, but it is in our hearts.  God sees and knows our hearts, so even if I bite my tongue and do not utter words of complaints, I could be unthankful in my heart, which clearly is defined as a sin.  When we choose to give thanks in all things, our focus is shifted toward God rather than our circumstance.  We can't have both a thankful heart and a critical or complaining heart.  They don't mix.

Learning to live a life of thanksgiving will also help with discontentment.  When I am tempted to dwell on what in my house I want to change, if I instead walk through my house and thank God for providing everything in it, my whole attitude will change.  When I am tempted to be discontent with my weight or body image, if I instead thank God that I am healthy, that I can walk, that I am not struggling with a disease, then my focus shifts and gives me a much better perspective.  I do long to be able to say like Paul, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed of hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Philippians 4:12)  I think the secret to true contentment is through learning to live a life of thanksgiving.

If I have a thankful heart, then I won't have an attitude of self-entitlement.  This is a difficult attitude to combat with conflicting messages we hear so often.  I hear so many times, "You deserve it."  "Do more of what makes you happy."  Actually what I deserve is death and hell, but because of God's great love and mercy for me, He sent His Son so that I might have eternal life.  If I can keep that thought in my mind then I realize that everything I have is much more than I deserve, and I should be thankful!!

Being thankful can also help in difficult relationships.  We will always have difficult people in our lives. They are there for a reason.  This is something that Landon has taught me to do in regards to people who I am having a difficult time with.  He will often times remind me of a good quality or character trait in that person and it quickly shifts whatever I am frustrated with toward the good in the person and help us to "bear with one another."  I have not mastered this fully, but it works!  Try it!

Thankfulness relates to letting peace rule also.  If I am giving thanks to God for what I have then I am less likely to be filled with worry or anxiety.  Why?  Because the focus is on God, not our situation or circumstance.

Failing to give God thanks for all things--temporal and spiritual blessings that God has so richly bestowed on us and failing to give Him continual thanks can be considered a "respectable sin".  It can be easily overlooked and be a blind spot in our lives.  It has been for me!!  We are commanded over and over in Scripture to give thanks, so when we don't, it is indeed a sin.  I don't think during this lifetime we will ever be free from a complaining or critical heart, but it is something we should strive for.  It won't happen accidentally.  It must be intentional, but when we do, we will live a life of peace. We will also STAND OUT in a critical world.  I want to be the one not the nine.

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