It was only a week or two ago when I stepped onto my porch and felt the cool temperatures and soft breeze greet me as I headed to the mailbox. Finally, fall was here and I was loving it. I began up the driveway, admiring the giant tree that stands boldly in front of our house pointing heavenward towards it’s creator, reminding all who see it of someone far more incredible than itself. Having reached my destination, I paused for a moment and breathed in all that God had graciously given me and then reached into the mailbox and immediately found my hand overwhelmed with every conceivable Christmas catalog, political flyer, and bill I could carry.
In a moment, the tranquility I had found in thankfulness was overwhelmed with messages that elicited more chaos than calm. Add to that junk mail the 24-hour news cycle, podcasts, youtube, social media, and each of us can find ourselves surrounded by voices that demand our attention and leave us battling with anxiety, comparison, and fear.
With Thanksgiving approaching, it seems appropriate to consider how we can live lives of thanksgiving amidst the realities of our fallen world. Over the next five weeks several authors will share their thoughts on maintaining Christ-focused thankfulness while steeped in various elements of life in an effort to encourage you to pursue thankfulness this holiday season.
This week we begin by considering how we maintain a thankful heart in our current culture of chaos?
Ecclesiastes tells us that nothing is new under the sun and this is certainly the case for our world and the chaos that has plagued it since the fall of man. Death, war, famine, hatred, as well as the subtle sins of covetousness and pride, have laid foundations of chaos throughout history.
While the visual chaos of our fallen world is clear, the chaos of our hearts and minds can often be ignored or numbed by binging the next Netflix series or having another glass of wine. This is the chaos that I am most concerned with because it’s this internal chaos, seeded by the culture, that perverts our view of life and hinders our ability to live lives of gratitude.This internal chaos stems from our fleshly desires and is encouraged by a culture that preaches a false gospel at us at every waking hour of life.
- What is the world’s primary doctrine? This life is all about you.
- What is the world’s religious service? YLive your truth based on your inward desires.
This message has become a steady rhythm in everything from children’s cartoons to political discussions, and the fruit of this false gospel is a back-breaking burden to be the god of our world. A world that we can barely keep track of, let alone control.
Under this worldly mindset, the solution is always more exaltation of self. Yet, when a society is living under this unbiblical framework we end up with division, hatred, and an increase in outward chaos rather than an increase in peace, joy, and thankful hearts.
We see this articulated in Philippians when Paul describes those who walk counter to Christ saying:
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Phil 3:19-21
How do we maintain a thankful heart when the chaos of this world will not leave us alone?
First, we must die to this self-focused false gospel that is so pervasive and instead cling to the words of Christ who said, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. Mark 8:34-35
We are not the gods we sometimes act like we are.
We are not sovereign, omnipotent, or able to create our own truth from out of thin air. Instead, we were made to find great joy in submission to the One who holds all things together by the power of His will. If losing my life means finding it, then in order for me to truly experience the joy of a thankful heart I must first lay down my own agenda for the sake of Christ.
Once we bypass the world’s chaotic system of belief we are able to see more clearly the eternal realities of life in Christ. The byproduct of this clarity is a resulting thankfulness for everything we see and experience in this life, including the difficult things. Yet, we must pursue this kind of clarity by filtering the messages we allow in our hearts moving forward as Paul instructed later in Philippians.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Thankfulness is a byproduct of understanding the goodness of God. It comes from a place of deep gratefulness for the Gospel and the grace we find in Christ. As we consider the sinfulness of our lives and the graciousness of our Savior we are moved to view the world as a means to glorify God and not a staging platform for our personal kingdom. Thankfulness can permeate our families and friends as we see them, not as obstacles to our own personal agenda, but as gifts of God to be loved as Christ loved us.
Thanksgiving is a byproduct of a Christ-focused life, but it takes diligence to filter the world’s messages, dismiss falsehoods, repent of error, and recall the promises of God. The good news is that our great and mighty King has promised to never leave us through this process. His strength will see us through till the end, and this is yet another wonderful thing to be thankful for.
HBC Pastor of Kids and Communication
Mike joined the HBC staff in 2015 and enjoys cooking, hiking with his family, and playing 90’s video games. He is currently the host of Heritage’s Alongside Podcast, which can be heard on your favorite podcast app.