WILLS POINT, TX – Bishop Danny Yohannan, vice-president of Gospel for Asia (GFA World), whose heart to love and help the poor has inspired numerous charities like Gospel for Asia Canada, and Bishop of Believers Eastern Church, to serve the deprived and downcast worldwide — shares on the importance of having the perspective of being thankful to God no matter the circumstance.
In the Gospel of St. Luke, we read a story about Jesus healing 10 people with leprosy. Right after these men cried out to Jesus, He told them, “Go show yourself to the priest.” And I appreciate these guys; they obeyed right away. They hadn’t been healed yet, but they were still obedient to follow what Jesus told them to do. Then, along the way, they experienced a miraculous healing. Often, God waits for our step of obedience before He fulfills His promise in our life.
What happened next is a very familiar account. Out of the 10 who were healed, only one of them decided to turn around, walk all the way back, fall on his face in front of Jesus and give Him thanks. It wasn’t that these other men weren’t thankful; I’m sure they were. Who wouldn’t be? I imagine what happened was they were all so excited they just started running and rejoicing back to their homes. But only one expressed their thanks to Jesus.
How often do we as believers recognize things that God has done in our lives, but then fail to take it a step further and actually say, “Lord, I thank You”? That verbal confession carries a lot of power.
Something incredible happens in our own hearts when we stop and physically say, “Lord, I thank You. I give You praise.” Thankfulness becomes the basis for worship.
In 2 Timothy we read this crazy long list about all the things that will happen in the last days. St. Paul warns Timothy (and, by extension, the Church at large) about how people will be brutal and slanderous and greedy and on and on. But then right there in the middle of this insane list, we read St. Paul’s statement that one of the signs is “unthankfulness.”
So in the last days, right alongside all this crazy stuff people will be doing, there will be a trend of people becoming less and less thankful.
When I look back on my own life, it’s easy to see that the times when I’ve been most miserable are the times when I’ve been the most unthankful.
One of the places I’ve always dreaded the most throughout my life is the airport. It’s one of the thorns in the flesh for me. Every time I go anywhere in the world, whether in the U.S. or a foreign country, I end up being “randomly selected” for a special screening. Every time.
Once, this nice lady from the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) pulled me out of the security line in the airport and said, “We would like to randomly select you today for a special screening.”
My first reaction was to groan and think, “Alright, here we go again!” But I remember this time I had just listened to a message that basically taught that God is able to work out even the bad things in our lives if we will just learn to rejoice and trust God. So I thought to myself, “Okay, let’s test this out. No matter what happens, I’m going to say, ‘Lord I thank You for this.’”
And so the same thing happened that always happens. They asked me all the same questions, they checked me a few extra times and looked through all my stuff. But the experience was different in my heart. I wasn’t upset. It seemed better.
The choice I made to respond in opposition to how I naturally felt made all the difference.
So often we find that God is absolutely faithful with us. He saves us, He takes care of us, He blesses us, He meets our needs, and we end up throwing out this token prayer of praise at the end. But having an actual heart of thankfulness is a purposeful thing that takes practice and deliberation.
Look at St. Paul when he wrote the letter to the Philippians. He’s sitting there in jail, and it wasn’t a nice jail. Imagine a dungeon with chains and shackles and no beds or even semi-healthy food. It was horrible. But somehow, there in the worst situation he could find himself, St. Paul sees the glory of God. Now is that based on how he naturally feels? I don’t think so! I think it was based on what he chose to see.
It’s all about perspective.
I mentioned how I like optical illusions—have you seen those street chalk drawings that look 3D from a certain angle? From one side, they look all warped and stretched out in crazy shapes. But when you see it from the place where the artist wants you to stand, all of a sudden it’s popping out and looks completely real.
In life, sometimes our perspective is warped and jaded and we can only see the mess. But when we choose to be thankful no matter the circumstance, all of a sudden we are given a glimpse of God’s point of view. He’s in control and He’s actively working all things out for good.
When I see the airport, I only see TSA and some security personnel I don’t want to meet. But God is looking at something beyond that. And it changes everything if I can say, “Lord, I don’t understand it, but I will thank You for what’s on the other side of this situation.”
Thankfulness helps us to see God’s hand right now in our lives, it gives us the faith to believe God for what He will do in the future, and it leads us into a place of true worship.
This Thanksgiving, we have the awesome opportunity to spend time in thankfulness and give God praise with our families. And if you’re not sure what to be thankful for in this season, take time to be silent and say, “Lord, will you please put a thankful heart in me?” He is gracious to answer.
As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, what can you praise and thank God for in the midst of the circumstances you find yourself in? Share with us in the comments below!
Bishop Danny Yohannan is vice-president of GFA World (Gospel for Asia, www.gfa.org), a leading faith-based mission agency, bringing vital assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially to those who have yet to hear the love of God. In GFA World’s latest yearly report, this included more than 70,000 sponsored children, free medical camps conducted in more than 1,200 villages and remote communities, over 4,800 clean water wells drilled, over 12,000 water filters installed, income-generating Christmas gifts for more than 260,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry. For all the latest news, visit our Press Room at https://press.gfa.org/news.
Find out more about Gospel for Asia in the video “A Year in Review with K.P. Yohannan.”
Keep encouraged and get your regular dose of challenge through other articles on Patheos by KP Yohannan Metropolitan, or on his blog at kpyohannan.org.
You can learn more about K.P. Yohannan Metropolitan by clicking here.
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