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 fill 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 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 a simple truth that there is immense spiritual power in thankfulness. With gratitude 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. Being thankful 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.
A testimony of suffering
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 gratitude 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 gratitude that comes from focusing, not on ourselves, but on Him. Too often people tell us we need to be thankful for what we have. This kind of thankfulness is an extension on ‘self’ because the focus is still on us.
True gratitude 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.
The Lord's Prayer
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 difficult, 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 gratitude.
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 gratefulness. 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, cut 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.
Jesus is with us in the trial
He never promised to remove us from misery, He promised us 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 delivering us, we needed to see that He was in the pit with us. By focusing on Him, being grateful 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 gratitude 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 gratefulness is hard work at first. It is difficult to implement, for gratitude is counter to everything we learn in this ‘self’ addicted world. If we persevere soon we 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