by Rayola Kelley
Last month, most of us probably watched the riveting scenes on the news surrounding the hurricanes that hit and ravaged the Gulf coast. Our hearts go out to the people that have lost their homes, and sadly, their loved ones. For some, it means starting over, for others, it points to a new beginning, and for many, it is confirming what they have always perceived about life, it is so unfair to them.
It has also been interesting watching people’s reaction to their devastation. Some have rolled up their sleeves and begun the process of bringing order back into their lives. Others have taken advantage of a bad situation and used it as their own personal platform to accuse others, for the purpose of exalting their own selfish agendas and prejudices. Those who have no moral accountability looted at the expense of the American public or gouged us at the gas pumps. Others have basically laid down in utter despair as they gave way to hopelessness and self-pity. In situations such as these, the best and worst of people are clearly brought out. However, the one common denominator that can be observed in the midst of the kind acts, the rhetoric, and the tragedy that surrounds us, is that the type of character we possess individually and collectively as a nation is being tested.
Many of us can sit back in our nice chairs and discuss why this is happening to America. However, if you listen to the news, major disasters are happening everywhere. Europe and different parts of Asia have been plagued with floods and other devastation. Peru recently suffered from a powerful earthquake and an erupting volcano, Guatemala from devastating mudslides that wiped out whole communities, and Pakistan from yet another deadly earthquake where untold tens of thousands lost their lives.. The list goes on, but the world appears to be under siege by the powerful elements of the earth. Such events show us that we each, regardless of status, live in a house of cards. The elements around us could destroy all that we possess within seconds.
What is the secret about withstanding such times, and actually overcoming them with our senses intact? Most believers will tell you that one must have God in order to overcome in a situation. This is a correct answer, however, many claim to believe in God, but become bitter in times of testing. Therefore, the answer does not simply lie in the concept, “I believe in God,” but in our attitude about God.
Attitude is based on disposition, and one’s disposition is determined by a person’s perception of God. People’s perception of God will ultimately determine how they regard or look at life. This perception will determine how people approach a matter. Therefore, how a person approaches a situation tells much about his or her disposition or attitude about God and life. For example, those who loot or gouge the public reveal that they have no regard for God and no respect for life.
The next question is, as believers, what kind of attitude reflects a healthy disposition? One thing a person must understand about attitude is that its moods and preferences are influenced by what one values. Keep in mind, our affections have a lot to do with our attitude. In time of loss, our attitude will reflect what we truly value. For example, there were people who lost everything, but were thankful because they still had each other. On the other hand, a man shot his sister in the head over a bag of ice.
Obviously, these reactions bring a clear contrast to the substance behind what we value. For instance, if we value things, we are indifferent to people and see them as dispensable. If we value our relationship with others, things will quickly lose their value in light of great lost. And, what we truly value will determine our level of gratitude towards God in times of testing.
Are you getting a hint of what kind of attitude reflects a healthy disposition, that of thankfulness and gratitude. The Word of God talks a lot about thankfulness. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, we are told that it is the will of God to give thanks in everything. Note, we do not have to be thankful about everything that comes our way, but we do have to have gratitude towards God in every situation (Romans 8:28). Such gratitude is not based on circumstances, rather on the knowledge of who our God is. He never changes, nor should our gratitude for His character, ways, provision, intervention, or benevolence. As believers, we must realize that God blesses us because of His grace. Granted, we may work hard for what we possess, but if it were not for God’s grace that reveals His benevolence towards us through His many blessings, all of our labors would be in vain. Therefore, when God’s people display ingratitude for His ways of doing, grave consequences can follow.
We see this with the children of Israel (Numbers 21:1-9). They had been in a harsh wilderness for years. They had eaten the same old food and were forever reliant on God to not only provide food and water for them, but to lead them to what must have seemed nowhere. Believably, the drudgery of it was becoming unbearable.
The children of Israel had just come from a victorious battle. However, they were much discouraged because of the hard way they had been traveling. No doubt they were tired and in a bad mood. Clearly, their attitude was not becoming of their calling and their God. They began to speak against Moses and God.
Oswald Chambers claims that bad moods must be kicked out. In other words, we must take responsibility for our foul moods. Such moods clearly state that we need to stop and make an attitude adjustment. If we do not, complaining, accusation and a bad temper will naturally follow.
These people falsely accused Moses and God of not caring about their needs, thereby, letting them die in the wilderness. What a slam against the character of God. For forty years, He had provided for them in every way, but now, they were falsely accusing Him. They also stated that there was no bread or water. What a lie! Every morning manna fell from the heavens, and water was always provided by the Rock (Deuteronomy 8:2-4; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4).
However, the last part of Numbers 21:5 tells us why the children of Israel were displaying an attitude of ingratitude: “…and our soul loathed this light bread.” They actually committed fraud against God when they implied there was no bread. What they were really saying is that God’s provision was no longer good enough. God responded by sending in fiery serpents. His response quickly brought repentance from the children of Israel.
At the core of ingratitude is the sin of pride. Pride will not humble itself to see that all of God’s blessings are a matter of grace, and not something that any of us deserves. Since pride will not humble itself to receive in gratitude, it exalts itself while crying foul, and brings accusation against God’s character because He does not pay homage to it.
Pride sees what it desires or lusts after. Such contrast will cause one’s soul to become dissatisfied and discontent with its present state. This type of environment will actually cause one to become contemptuous or loathe what it does have, which causes anger, resentment and rebellion. Obviously, we saw this reaction from those who resorted to looting during the aftermath of the hurricanes. Although some foolishly tried to blame these people’s reaction to the situation on their physical poverty, it was both unfounded and far-reaching. Such reactions do not come from the state of physical poverty, but from the environment of spiritual poverty. Spiritual poverty simply means one lacks moral character, initiative and accountability. Case in point, not everyone who is poor automatically resorts to criminal actions, such as looting, when the opportunity presents itself.
In Deuteronomy 28:47-48, we find reference to the right attitude in service: “Because thou servedst not the LORD thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things, Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies whom the LORD shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things; and he shall put a yoke of iron upon thy neck, until he have destroyed thee.” Gratitude towards God results in service that is a matter of joy to the soul and gladness of the heart.
This brings me to another aspect of our life before God. Sadly, some believers see service to God as a duty, and not as a glorious right. God has set us free from the entanglements of sin. He has given us the power and tools to do work that is eternal in purpose. He has done all of this, so we can serve Him in the liberty and joy of the Holy Spirit. However, how many of us in our religious exercises have no excitement towards His Word, no delight in His interventions, no benevolence towards others, and no life to our worship? Mechanical service simply means we are devoid of gratitude, and lacking the joy that will make us distinct in our life before God.
As we approach Thanksgiving, it would be a good time for us to examine our attitude towards God and His blessings. In its material abundance, the American culture encourages an environment of ingratitude within those who lack the right disposition. Sadly, much of what Americans value upfront has no eternal value. In fact, we are told in James 2:5: “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” Those who are forced to rely on God due to their various limitations in this present world, become rich in faith towards God. This faith allows them to possess the unseen treasures of heaven.
The Apostle Paul made this statement: “As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Co. 6:10). We have such treasures available to us. They may not be attractive to the physical eye for they are unseen, but they are sweet to the spirit because they are eternal. Such riches should result in us offering the sacrifice of praise (Hebrews 13:15). Praise cannot be offered up without the attitude of thanksgiving. Praise especially becomes a sacrifice when things are going amiss in our lives, but we still maintain a thankful attitude towards God.
This Thanksgiving, prepare yourself to honor God within the attitude of thanksgiving. The way you prepare yourself is by directing both your attention and affections heavenward. Like the serpent in the wilderness, Jesus was lifted up on a cross in the midst of despair and hopelessness to draw us to Him (John 3:14-18; 12:32). Bring your mind into subjection to the reality of your Great God.
One of the ways you can do this is by doing a study on the riches of heaven. As you begin to grasp the enormity of the unseen, eternal blessings of God, gratitude will grow. When you begin to realize that all the riches of heaven are found in Christ Jesus, you will be humbled as you rejoice in the unspeakable gift of God. When you recognize that the powerful life of Christ causes you to triumph over all that would rob, oppress, and destroy you, you will begin to offer the sacrifice of praise as you enter into the place of worship and communion. It is in such an environment, that the attitude of thankfulness can be established, enabling you to celebrate God and the blessed gift of life He has freely given. After all, Thanksgiving was established, so we could recognize and meditate on the fact that all that is blessed about our life, family, community, and nation has come from the hands of our benevolent, merciful God(James 1:17).
Have a glorious Thanksgiving celebration as you meditate on the benevolence, majesty and faithfulness of your God.