November 21, 2016 • Life for Leaders
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.
Today is Monday, November 21. In three days, those of us who live in the United States will celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. On this day, we convene with friends and family to offer thanks to God for personal and national blessings. Sometimes we gather together for organized worship services in which we offer gratitude to God. But, for the most part, our Thanksgiving celebrations focus around food and even football (American football, that is, not what we call soccer). We eat far more turkey (with all the trimmings) than is healthy and top it off by watching some of our favorite college and professional teams pummel each other with gratitude on the gridiron.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I would have to admit that I need more than just Thanksgiving Day to express and experience the gratitude that God deserves and my soul needs. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Thanksgiving holiday. But I just don’t have much time on that actual day for intentional, thoughtful gratitude. Too much to do and too much to eat!
So, in the past few years, I have started thinking of Thanksgiving more as a season than as a single day. I try to make time around the Thanksgiving holiday for deeper and wider gratitude than would ordinarily get included in my personal daily devotions. Perhaps you would like to join me in this tradition. Today’s devotion, as well as those for the rest of this week, will get you started.
To begin, you might try imitating Paul’s example of nonstop thanksgiving. When he says that he has “not stopped giving thanks,” Paul does not mean that he is literally praying every moment. Rather, he’s speaking of a thankful frame of mind that finds expression in consistent prayers of gratitude. Perhaps daily, or perhaps several times throughout the day, Paul briefly thanked the Lord for those believers who were faithfully living as God’s people in the world.
I try to structure my life with regular times of gratitude each day, including morning devotions, praying before meals, and evening prayers. But, often my prayers of thanksgiving are brief and relatively predictable. How might my prayers be different, I wonder, if I spent a few additional moments thinking about how God has blessed me? What would happen if I asked the Holy Spirit to bring to mind blessings I had never even considered before? What if I asked the Lord to help me live each day with a consistent sense of gratitude? What if I paid attention to each gift of the day, offering thanks to the Lord? How different my faith would be! How different my life would be!
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Let me encourage you to consider the questions I have just asked myself. How might you make this week to be truly a season of gratitude?
What might you do by yourself?
What might you do with family and/or friends?
Gracious God, thank you for the example of Paul in this passage from Ephesians, for his consistency in thanksgiving. Help me, Lord, to imitate this example in my own life. May I learn to thank you, not only in predictable times and ways, but also throughout the day. Help me to pay attention to the manifold gifts you shower upon me and to offer nonstop thanks for them. May this whole week be filled with gratitude to you. May it be a season of Thanksgiving. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: God’s Grand Plan: A Theological Vision (Ephesians 1:1–3:21)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.