Thankful for a different kind of present (amended)

A Sunday or two ago I preached a sermon on anxiety (since I’m well qualified to speak about the subject!) from Phil 4:6-7 called “I got a peacful easy feeling.” In it I referenced the book A Praying Life by Paul Miller. If you haven’t read this book, it’s definitely worth checking out. CBD Reformed has it on sale Black Friday for 5 dollars. It is the only book that I’ve seen on prayer which has really connected prayer to life. That and its one of the better devotional books I’ve ever read. Check it out. No one has ever returned my recommendation with anything less than praise to God for it.

The book is so honest and real, just like our prayers should be. Our prayers are not detached from life. In fact, even when we are invited to lay our requests before the Lord (activity), we do this with thanksgiving (lifestyle). I tend to think the command in Phil 4 means more than just saying “thanks” the way we make our kids say “thanks” when the bakery gives them a cookie. It means a regularly thankful heart.

Paul Miller does a fine job of explaining the connection between thanksgiving, asking, and the experience of peace in the life of a believer. I would include a snippet if I could find it in the book-but believe me, it is not for lack of trying. He reminds us that a thankful heart is a life constantly on the lookout for God’s hand in the story.

And sometimes the things we should be thankful for are those which we are not usually thankful for. It’s not too hard to be thankful for friends, family, food, or football on Thanksgiving. In seminary, one my professors encouraged us to be on the lookout for people who would be hard to deal with, and who may possibly drain or annoy us. He said, “You need those people as well. Look at them as a present from the Lord giftwrapped with a bow on top.” He instructed us to consider them presents, not problems, because God would use them to teach us more about our need to grow in grace. God could use them to develop us in special ways where “easier” types of folks would not “grant” us the opportunity. 

Unfortunately, he didn’t necessarily take his own advice in one particularly important instance. However, that truth is nevertheless still true and timeless. I’m thankful for his challenge, although I’ve not done the best job of heeding his council.

We can be on the lookout not just for those obviously thank-able things, but for those “presents” which at first glance don’t seem very much like presents. God loves us too much to leave us where we are. He loves us too much to not reveal more of our need for His Son Jesus. Knowing more of Jesus is just too great a gift for Him to withhold from us (Phil 3:8). When we see God really does love us so much he won’t deny us such presents, we may find ourselves less burdened and more receptive to what God is teaching us through them. We’ve then opened the door to real thanksgiving and ultimately a greater experience of a Christ-centered peace.

This thanksgiving season, try not to overlook such “presents,” remembering to be thankful for more than family, food, friends, and football on Turkey Day. 

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