Thankfulness as a Sacrifice

by Elaine Helms

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Hebrews 13:15 NASB

I was having one of those mornings when I just didn’t feel like saying thank you for anything. It wasn’t just a bad hair day; I was running late for work. When I turned onto a two lane road by the river, a car darted around me in a no passing zone, and then slowed down.

My attention was immediately drawn out my window to the daffodils beginning to bloom next to the road. I suddenly said out loud, “Lord, thank you for the beautiful flowers!”  I started to laugh and prayed, eyes open, “God that was You! You are working in my heart.” It wasn’t that long ago that in a similar situation, I would have started fuming that someone was in my way and slowing me down.

My whole mood changed as other things to be thankful for entered my mind. I began to praise God for my health, a comfortable car with heat, paved roads, and traffic lights so I could get across a busy intersection. The slow car in front of me actually turned right at that intersection, so I thanked God for that, too. I even thanked God for the job that I was rushing to get to.

My spirits began to rise, and I began to pray for the day ahead, the people I worked with who might also be having my kind of Monday morning. The projects we were working on that week were my next topic of prayer. I arrived at my destination before I could even finish praying for all my co-workers! Spring wasn’t completely here, but I noticed a spring in my step as I walked to the building.

With just a little gratitude, my attitude had completely changed. God knows us so well, He created us after all. When He gives a command like “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God,” it’s for our good. Gratitude equals joy – that inner joy that is not based on our circumstances. I am a child of God and I have much for which to be thankful.

The verses in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18, NASB came to mind, “Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It does make sense that in my walk with Jesus, there is opposition – my flesh wants control. It is a challenge to make my flesh submit to the Holy Spirit within me, but that is the goal.

Once inside the building, I was shocked to see in passing a mirror that my hair didn’t seem that bad. I had a smile for those I encountered on my way in, and I invited my secretary to join me in my office to pray about our busy week ahead. What a difference a little thankfulness had made in my day.

Maybe that’s why Jesus told the disciples and us in Mark 14:38 (NASB), “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: With her passion for God, humor, vulnerability and spiritual strength, Elaine Helms encourages audiences and readers to draw closer to God and live the abundant life Jesus came to give His followers. Prayer Coordinator for the Southern Baptist Convention for 10 years and for My Hope America with Billy Graham for two years, Elaine has 30 years of experience in church, national, and interdenominational prayer leadership. www.ChurchPrayerMinistries.org or erhelms@bellsouth.net

Prayer 101: What Every Intercessor Needs to Know

Prayer 101, What Every Intercessor Needs to Know, is a comprehensive guidebook for discovering how to pray as God intends. You’ll journey through Scripture, find inspiration in the stories of others, and learn simple and effective principles for prayer. An ideal resource for groups, Prayer 101 includes review questions for each chapter and a prayer ministry guide for churches eager to put prayer into action.

Join the conversation: For what are you thankful today?

Journey to Joy

by Melissa Heiland

If I’m honest, I’ll tell you, I still cringe a little bit when I hear the phrase, “joy in suffering.” The words just don’t go together in my mind, but I know they are paired in the Bible. And so, I pursue joy in suffering. I have not reached the mark on this. I am no expert, just a fellow-traveler on this journey to joy. I have searched the Bible for truth and guidance on how to experience true joy in the face of deep suffering. I have discovered eight practices that I believe are helpful for the journey.

Slow Down. Trauma has forced me to slow down. I simply cannot work at my former pace. I believe the Lord sometimes allows us to suffer, so that we will run to Him. There is healing in His presence. Spend time with the Lord every day. Allow Him to heal your wounds. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11 NIV

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16 NIV

Surround Yourself with Kind People. When you are suffering, people may say and do things that hurt you more. Ask the Lord to send you a friend who will listen to you and love you without judgment.

Be Kind to Yourself. When we suffer as believers, we often feel guilt for not feeling joyful and brave. Give grace to yourself. God loves you and He understands.

Have Fun. Think back to the things you enjoyed before the grief. Make a list of things that brought you joy in the past. Choose one each week. They can be simple things like reading a book or walking in the park. Make a conscious effort to do something that makes you smile.

Listen to Worship Music. Worship music can change your heart. Find songs and artists whose music touches your soul. Praise can be a sacrifice when your heart is wounded. Let Him heal you through your praise. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. Hebrews 13:15 NIV

Be Thankful. When we are in the darkness, it is so difficult to find reasons to be thankful. Discipline your mind to find the good things in your life. Make a gratitude list. Each day, make a list of things for which you are thankful.

Keep Serving. Grief can be all-consuming. We may need to step back from serving for a while, but I encourage you to continue to look for ways to serve the Lord and others, even in your pain. There is healing in this sacrifice, as well.

Look to Heaven. As God’s beloved children, we know that our time on earth is short. We have a promise that joy is coming. Focusing on the future, which is full of joy, helps us to find joy on the journey as well. Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13 NIV

Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours. Isaiah 61:7 NIV

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

Melissa heiland
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About the author: Melissa Heiland is the Founder and President of Beautiful Feet International, a mission organization that plants pregnancy ministries around the world. She is an international speaker and author who is passionate about mommies, babies and sharing the Gospel. She has written devotionals for pregnant moms, new mothers and short-term mission teams, as well as a children’s book based on Psalm 139. She and her husband Ken have 6 children and 5 grandchildren.

Join the conversation: Have you ever found joy in suffering? Please share!

Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush

by Patti Richter

The year 2020 arrived with more than a bang: a US embassy attack followed by ballistic missiles and the resulting loss of a passenger plane. Meanwhile, as Australia battled wildfires, several other countries experienced either earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Closer to home, we watched a troubling impeachment trial and grieved the death of a beloved sports icon.

Most of those bad-news events involved countless people who suddenly found themselves in adverse or worse circumstances. Daily, many people must fight for their lives, evacuate, or deal with disaster.

Others face a more private heap of trouble, like a mountain of debt, a broken relationship, or an unhealthy addiction. Difficult challenges require perseverance or, as one longsuffering friend says, “pushing through a puddle of mush.”

As we scroll through social media, we see online prayer requests and calls for help. We can pray and offer support, or we may feel called to put aside our personal well-being to enter someone’s world of pain.

The Old Testament includes an account of such a mercy mission. Nehemiah, a royal cupbearer in Persia, grieved from afar over his people’s “great trouble and disgrace” on account of Jerusalem’s broken-down wall (Nehemiah 1:3 NIV). After fasting and praying, he received permission and support from Persia’s king to leave his palace position to go help those exiles who’d returned earlier to their devastated homeland.

Once in Jerusalem, Nehemiah found willing but weary workers; the ongoing threats of enemies who opposed the rebuilding of the city wall had taken their toll. Their resolve was further weakened by the negative words of their own people: “There is so much rubble” (4:10).

Nehemiah directed these workers in two ways. First, he stationed them at regular intervals behind the wall, “with their swords, spears, and bows” (4:13). He also encouraged them to fight for their families and their homes, with assurance: “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (4:14 NIV).

They finished the wall in fifty-two days. Nehemiah wrote says, “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid… because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:15-16 NIV).

Like Nehemiah, the Son of God left his royal abode for the sake of others. Jesus came to earth to confront the rubble of man’s sin, and He sacrificed his life to atone for it. Before accomplishing this, he struggled against the suffering that awaited him. On the night of his arrest, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives and, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44 NIV).

With these stories in mind, the writer of Hebrews offers all of us help in persevering when discouragement leaves us hopeless:

  • “Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22 NIV).
  • “Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23 NIV).
  • “Consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (10:24 NIV).
  • “Let us not give up meeting together” (10:25 NIV).
  • “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3 NIV).
  • “Through Jesus… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (13:15 NIV).

Our fears and our foes diminish in size when we remember that God is with us because of his Son, who took our greatest burden upon himself.

The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. John 6:29 NIV

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Persevering Amid Piles of Rubble or Puddles of Mush – encouragement from Patti Richter on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Patti Richter headshot 2017-1nAbout the author: Patti Richter lives in north Georgia with her husband, Jim. She writes and edits global mission stories for The Gospel Coalition and her faith essays appears at BlueRibbonNews.com.

Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of SufferingIt is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.

Join the conversation: What has been a source of discouragement to you lately?