Life is a battle, isn’t it? We are caught between two armies, ‘self’ and spirit, fighting to the death. Some days we give in to the side of ‘self’ and our lives are filled with misery. Other days we side with spirit and feel joy in our relationship with Jesus. This is our world and what we face daily as believers but we can overcome in this battle through thankfulness.
What if I told you there is a super powerful weapon you can learn to use to blast ‘self’ right out of existence? Would you want that? Read on.
Thankfulness and 'self'
God has given us, in His Word, very real, practical tactics to defeat ‘self’ and end its reign of terror. It is the immense spiritual power of thankfulness. With thankfulness anyone can neutralize the enemy called ‘self’. ‘Self’, however, will “not go gentle into that good night.” It tries to convince us to spiritualize the strategies God gives to neutralize them. Thankfulness is no different. As long as our thankfulness is a religious recitation or an empty sop done only on Sunday then it will not be effective. To work against ‘self’ thankfulness has to rise from our spirit in praise to God.
Mid November 2011 saw us alone, huddled in the woods of eastern P.E.I.; homeless. Light rain was coming down and a strong wind was blowing as we huddled under a few blankets and bits of pitiful cardboard. Cold, shivering and sick, our misery was immense. ‘Self’ wanted us to focus on ourselves and how miserable we were. From there we would get depressed, angry and frustrated at God. This is a common strategy ‘self’ uses when we are in difficult and trying circumstances. Whenever things get tough, like conflict, pain or suffering, ‘self’ wants us to focus on ourselves. It feeds on this attention and grows exponentially with each trial. This is exactly what must NOT happen.
To counter the overwhelming thoughts of ‘self’ that come in difficult situations we need to learn how to be thankful.
Focus on God
This is not the thankfulness learned in Sunday School or church. That kind of thankfulness is as about as useful as a two legged table. God wants us to learn thankfulness that comes from focusing, not on ourselves, but on Him. Too often we are taught that we need to be thankful for what we have. This kind of thankfulness is an extension on ‘self’ because it is still focused on us. True thankfulness focuses on God and who He is. When we have learned that thankfulness it will kill ‘self’ faster than a New York comeback. In the woods of P.E.I. we literally had nothing to be thankful for in our circumstances, or so it seemed. Sitting there cold, wet and miserable we forced ourselves to recite the Lord’s Prayer.
Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13
The brute force of thankfulness
We forcibly turned our thoughts to God. With the Holy Spirit giving strength to our spirits we engaged our free will to pressure our minds and our hearts to focus on God. This was a battle and we literally had to rip the reins of our will from ‘self’. Viscerally and emphatically we made our minds and hearts focus on our Lord. The battle was not easy, but it was critical in deciding who would be in charge, ‘self’ or spirit. We chose spirit. After praying the Lord’s Prayer we sang Jesus Loves Me. Again we were making conscious, forcible decisions to focus on Jesus; not on ourselves. With no ammunition ‘self’ backed down. It wasn’t quitting the war, but it had lost the battle. At this point we engaged the super weapon of thankfulness.
You see focusing on God, instead of ourselves, at that critical moment, put ‘self’ on the back foot but did not knock it out. The knock-out blow came from the spiritual weapon of thankfulness.
Thankfulness and endurance
By looking at God, we saw His goodness and could ‘enter in’ to thankfulness. That thankfulness lifted our spirits off the cold, wet ground, to the very streets of heaven where we could see Him in spirit. ‘Self’ didn’t have a chance and slunk away, deeply wounded by a crushing defeat; not dead but dying. There was no physical change in our situation. Our bodies were shivering, our teeth chattering, and there was no physical evidence of God’s presence. Yet He was there, with His angels, in spirit, watching over us as a mother hen watches over her chicks. He never promised us that He would take us from the misery, He promised us that He would go through the misery with us. Big difference. Our choice was to change our perspective. Instead of getting angry at God for not getting us out we needed to see that He was in the pit with us. By focusing on Him, being thankful for who He is, we defeated ‘self’.
Being thankful starts with what we focus on.
Where is your focus?
Focus on ‘self’, regardless of the situation, and we will be miserable. Focus on Him, regardless of our situation and our emotions will flow with praise and thankfulness for who He is. The focus paves the way for thankfulness to erupt, like a volcano, from the spirit within. We won’t be able to stop praising Him once it starts. The difficulty lies in getting that volcano started. Focusing on God and thankfulness are choices. They carry tremendous spiritual power to defeat satan and ‘self’. Connecting with this power is a simple act of our will; a basic choice for spirit. Make this choice and God will meet us right where we are. Choose for ‘self’ and we will be alone and miserable.
True thankfulness is hard work at first. It is difficult to learn, and implement, for thankfulness is counter to everything we have been taught in this ‘self’ addicted world. If we persevere we soon will enter in to thankfulness and defeat ‘self’. The rewards are immense and it will open up avenues of joy you never knew existed. Try it. We dare you.
Homer and Wanda