Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thanks a Million

David took the gold shields that belonged to the officers of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. From Tebah and Berothai, towns that belonged to Hadadezer, King David took a great quantity of bronze.
When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated the entire army of Hadadezer, he sent his son Joram to King David to greet him and congratulate him on his victory in battle over Hadadezer, who had been at war with Tou. Joram brought with him articles of silver and gold and bronze.
King David dedicated these articles to the LORD, as he had done with the silver and gold from all the nations he had subdued: Edom and Moab, the Ammonites and the Philistines, and Amalek. He also dedicated the plunder taken from Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah.
And David became famous after he returned from striking down eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
He put garrisons throughout Edom, and all the Edomites became subject to David. The LORD gave David victory wherever he went.
II Samuel 8:7-14

I have to confess something: However good a Christian I may be, I don't pray before I eat. Shame on me. Though it was modeled for me, more or less, in my childhood, it's not something that carried over into adulthood. I can't say I'm fully convicted to begin the practice, even though I recognize on an intellectual level that I probably should be. It would be a great heritage for my children, if done right.

This doesn't have anything to do with my own omission of thanks before eating, but all too often, I observe what I consider to be ungrateful thanks – rote, hasty, and insincere compliance with a ritual that is standing between us and eating. "Dear Father, thank you for this day; bless this food and the hands that prepared it. Amen." Done in less than five seconds! I just wonder what God thinks of such thanks. Is something better than nothing? Or would He rather us do nothing at all than to do something insincere? Something to ponder.

Whereas I'm not particularly convicted about pre-meal prayer, I have felt quite convicted about ingratitude in other areas. One such example happened just yesterday. In my morning prayer, I asked God for a small sign of encouragement. Later that day, I received it and when I did, the acknowledgement of it just skipped over my conscious thought like a smooth stone crossing a pond: Touch, touch, touch and then plop, sunken into my unconscious thought. Gone - without a word of thanks. Fortunately, God sent an angel with a scuba mask down into that pond to find that stone and bring it back up, raise it above the water and call out to me, "Hey! Did you see this? This was that small sign of encouragement you asked for earlier. I'm thinking you must not have seen it, because you didn't say anything about it."

"Thanks, Angel. I saw it and just completely ignored it. Thanks for bringing it back for me to contemplate."

And then I offered thanks.

What if I had ignored the angel in the scuba mask (however difficult a thing that might be to do!)? Well, our Heavenly Father is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35) and does not treat us as our sins deserve (Psalms 103:10), so probably He would continue to give, give, give. That's just the way He is - a giving God! But why would I want to grieve God like that?

What if I rightly acknowledge God's gifts to me? Psalms 50:23 (ESV) says, "The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me." And the passage above from II Samuel is a good case study of what happens when we make it a practice to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving for every good gift: "God gave David victory wherever he went."

I love that last verse and I have personalized it: God gave Donna victory wherever she went. But I also have largely ignored the preceding verses that detail what David was doing that was so favorable to God.

Every gift should prompt a sacrifice of thanksgiving from me - whether a small sign of encouragement, or a large sum or money. And this should be just the beginning of my gratitude toward the Father. A right attitude is to give thanks for all that I have (James 1:17) and in all that I do (Col. 3:17).

Wait! If I did this, I would be muttering thanks under my breath all day long. I would be praying continually. What a concept.

Contemplate this: How often do I sincerely offer thanks to God?

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