Francis Schaeffer wrote, “The beginning of men’s rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart.” I concur. More importantly, Scripture concurs, and it does so robustly.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God is Christ Jesus for you.”
– I Thessalonians 5:18
“Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
– Ephesians 5:20
“And whatever you do, in word of deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
– Colossians 3:17
These are just a few of many verses that speak directly to a heart of thankfulness, a heart that should be continually overflowing with our gratitude for the innumerable gifts of a gracious God. Yet, from the very beginning, it would seem that thankfulness was securely packed away in favor of rebellion, complaining, greed, envy, and a potent mix of other destructive and rebellious desires that can only be authored from the core of a malignant sin nature. These things steal our joy, they cause dissatisfaction and unrest. These things are what I call the “sideshow.” They run simultaneously with the “main attraction” of God’s plan, but their message is contrary in nature and relentlessly destructive.
We can all become distracted from time to time and live a life caught up in the sideshow. It can even be fun for a moment, or so we think. Consequently, life inside the sideshow may be entertaining, but it is destructive to all involved, and it can even change our heart. No, it will change our heart from thankfulness to something entirely different. Be prepared, the side effects of an unthankful heart are far reaching.
Thankfulness can be defined as “feeling or expressing gratitude, appreciative, or conscious of a benefit received.” The very last definition poses a great question to the child of God:
Are we conscious of the benefits that we receive through the lordship of Christ?
A thankful heart is, at its core, a heart that is paying attention to what really matters, and that is the main attraction of God’s perfect will and purpose for us. A thankful heart is a perceptive heart. A thankful heart perceives based upon the lordship of the life it’s implanted within. A thankful heart sees through the eyes of Christ, and it is empowered to appreciate, to love, to serve, and to show compassion in the face of all things, good and bad. A thankful heart rises above the fray of worldly unrest and drama, because a thankful heart sees clearly the much bigger picture of the sovereignty of a loving God. It keeps a clear focus on the main attraction.
We cannot have a thankful heart when we become fixated on the world. The world is full of sideshows. They can be found on every street, in every corner, at every workplace, in every family, and they even consistently thrive within every church. Sideshows are everywhere, and they seek to become the main attraction. At the very least, they seek to pull us away from the main attraction, if only for a moment…and, sometimes, a moment is all they need to achieve a lifetime of success distracting us from the glory of God.
Life’s problems have a way of distraction about them, and we seem to love a good distraction. If we’re not careful, we’ll end up embracing all of the frustrations of the world, and the drama of the people in it, and we will find ourselves living life with a thankless heart, because we have abandoned the sovereignty of the big picture (main attraction) to firmly take hold of the moodiness and rebellious nature of the sideshow. We’ve taken our eyes off of Christ, and we’re being entertained by something of far less relevance.
Hebrews 12:2 leaves for us some pertinent instruction:
“…look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary of fainthearted.” – Hebrews 12:2-3 (ESV)
Let’s take another look at that same verse in The Message bible…
“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” – Hebrews 12:2-3 (The Message)
Christ did not die on the cross with a thankless heart. A thankless heart is devoid of passion, compassion, and love. The heart of Christ was overflowing with all three of these characteristics as He literally suffocated to meet a horrific physical death, under the weight of our sin. He endured this course because He never lost sight of the big picture…the perfection of God’s will and the redemption of sin.
The example set by Christ throughout His earthly life pointed directly at His love and thankfulness for God, the Father. The example set by God points directly at His love and thankfulness for Christ, the Son. They never took their eyes off of each other, barring the one moment that God had to look away from Christ, because Jesus had literally become the sin of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Sincerely immersing ourselves in the lordship of Christ will inevitably lead to a heart full of thankfulness. Thankfulness is a byproduct of letting Jesus lead.
If we suddenly find ourselves dissatisfied, bitter, angry, and rebellious towards life, it’s probably because we’re being entertained by a sideshow. (Again, they're everywhere, and we love a good distraction.) These are signs of a thankless heart being entertained by the world. We should immediately relinquish our seat at the second-tier amateur act and head back to the main attraction where we belong. The doors are still open. Just know that while we were away, groveling in the mundane at the sideshow, we missed great things premiering on the main stage of God's will. God's will doesn't stop in our distraction, and every moment we spend away costs us opportunities to see Him in all of His glory.
Let us never take our eyes off of Christ. Let us never become entrenched in the sideshows of life and lose sight of the main attraction, and let us live with thankful hearts for the incredible gift of Christ.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!