Counting Blessings Instead of Complaints

by April Newbell

After recently losing my husband, I thought about all the things I would now miss doing with him. I complained about the plans and dreams that would never come to fruition. Then, it occurred to me that I was focused only on the negative.

While complaining about my loss, I wasn’t able to see all the blessings we had shared, like twenty-seven years of marriage, and having sold our business to retire three months earlier. I wasn’t thinking about our time spent together during those final months—just the two of us enjoying life without outside distractions. God already knew what was coming so He gave us that precious time together.

We can’t hold both complaints and blessings in the same hand.

Don’t we all complain about things—not just big ones but little ones too? And we forget about the blessings? We complain that it’s too hot or it’s too cold; there’s too much rain or we need rain; we’re hungry (or if you’re like me, you’re hangry) or we’re stuffed. In doing so, we may fail to see how blessed we are with ways to control the temperature in our homes or water the lawn when needed. We may not appreciate the food we have to eat. Not everyone is this blessed. We might spend more time counting complaints than blessings.

We aren’t the only ones guilty of that. The children of Israel did a lot of complaining too, even after God sent Moses to rescue them out of the hands of the Egyptians. They seemed to quickly forget that they had been delivered from their 430 years of bondage in Egypt.

And the people of Israel also wept again and said, Oh that we had meat to eat!We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” Numbers 11:4-6 ESV

The children of Israel forgot that God had brought them out of oppression. They forgot how God saved them from Pharaoh and the Egyptian army at the parting of the Red Sea. They forgot all the promises of God to bring them into a land overflowing with milk and honey.

It’s easy to read about the children of Israel and shake our heads at their actions. Yet we are not so different. Modern times but the same attitude of complaining.

Instead, may we dwell on God’s promises and His blessings.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. Philippians 2:14–16 ESV

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

About the author: April Newbell is a retired office manager for a family medicine office and an aspiring writer. She has previously published two devotionals on christiandeovtions.us. She enjoys writing devotions to which everyone can relate and apply to their lives. April and her husband, along with their dog, live in Huntsville, Alabama.

Join the conversation: What blessings are you thankful for today?

Advertisement

Thanksgiving Boulevard

by Fran Caffey Sandin

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.   1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV

When devastation touches our lives, responding with a thankful heart becomes a challenge. Everyone has a story. Mine began when our seventeen-month-old, Jeffrey, became ill on a Sunday and died on Thursday. Bacterial meningitis. Everything medically possible had been applied. Many prayers for Jeffrey’s earthly healing remained unanswered, but I know I will see Jeffrey in Heaven.

Years later, we said goodbye to our forty-three-year-old son, Steve, a godly physical therapist who spent his life serving and helping others. He passed away after a fourteen-year struggle with cystic fibrosis and kidney failure. My heart still aches, but I cannot live in constant grief knowing Steve will greet me in Heaven.

So, the question becomes: How can we be thankful when grieving such great losses?

I once heard singer Joann Shelton say, “Praise moves me from Complaint Avenue to Thanksgiving Boulevard.” I found the four-lane divided parkway beneficial.

  1. Thankfulnesssoothes our distresses as we recall joyful memories from the past. It is comforting to recall the times we enjoyed with our loved ones and thank God for those blessings.
  2. Thankfulness—helps to allay anxiety. God is in control, and we do not have to live in fear. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV).
  3. Thankfulnessheightens our hope. Remembering God’s past faithfulness and mercy causes us to look to the future with hope. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23 ESV).
  4. Thankfulnessstrengthens us for endurance. After the crisis and adjustment time has passed, we look toward what the Lord has for us to do, and we become the person He wants us to be. We press on and will remain on earth until our work is done. No one else can complete the unique assignment He has given to us.

When I think of the apostle, Paul, who endured shipwrecks, beatings, hunger, sleepless nights, imprisonment, and weary days, I marvel that he wrote I Thessalonians 5:18. He did not mean that we thank God for bad things that happen. But we can say, “Dear Lord, even in this heartache, I believe You are working things out for my good and for Your glory.”

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 ESV

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

About the author: Fran Caffey Sandin is a retired nurse, wife, mother, and grandmother in Greenville, Texas. She has authored See You Later, Jeffrey, and Touching the Clouds: True Stories to Strengthen Your Faith. This devotional is an excerpt from her new book, HOPE on the Way, DEVOTIONS to Go, published by Roaring Lambs Ministries in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. For more information visit Fran’s website: www.fransandin.com.

Join the conversation: On what “street” are you living?

A Matter of Perspective

by Dena Dyer @denajdyer

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.  Philippians 2:14-15 NLT

I wonder if God sometimes feels as if he runs a heavenly complaint department. I, for one, am too quick to question God’s intentions when things go wrong, and am too slow to thank him for a daily multitude of gifts. Maybe you can relate.

I too often complain about the weather, my weight, traffic, my spouse, or my kids—instead of praising him for the rain, food in the pantry, gas in my car, and a loving family. It’s all a matter of perspective, really.

Speaking of perspective, Paul penned the book of Philippians as he sat under house arrest in chains. And yet the book’s theme is joy. His hard-won joy was defiant, born of dedication to a God who had shaken up his life and forgiven his mountain of sins. Paul is one of my heroes, both as a Christian and a writer. His Jesus-centered epistles are a handbook for gospel-centered, powerful life.

Perhaps the world would be more drawn to believers and the message of Jesus’ love if we, like Paul, focused on our blessings and what God has richly given us instead of complaining. What if nonbelievers heard us making the best of bad situations, instead of squabbling about differences in opinion? Perhaps if we daily cultivated gratitude for small gifts and made our thankfulness known, we would draw others to our positivity. In a world of badly behaving celebrities, news organizations that feed on tragedy and controversy, and political mud-slinging, we can be different. We should be different.

One of my dear friends exemplifies this kind of Christianity. He posts positive quotes on Facebook instead of ranting about the wrongs of the world and often sends encouraging cards to people who have influenced him. He sits on several boards of local charities and never hesitates to help folks in need. He even spearheaded an annual community outreach in which members of many different churches perform service projects together all over the city. He exemplifies the servant spirit which Jesus modeled.

Matthew says, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16  NLT). I pray that you and I will do just that.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, the world is such a dark place. I am often frightened and unsure when I look at world events. And my daily life, with all its demands and responsibilities, can be overwhelming. I tend to argue with you about your plan and complain too much about my problems. Please forgive me of those tendencies, and help me to cultivate a more grateful spirit. I thank you that Jesus, who lives in my heart, is my peace, and that you have given me the light of Christ in my heart. Thank you for placing us, your children, on this planet as lights in the darkness. I pray you will give us the courage to shine for you. Amen.

TWEETABLE
A Matter of Perspective – encouragement from @DenaJDyer on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

dena headshotAbout the author: Dena Dyer is an award-winning author, speaker, and non-profit leader. She loves encouraging hurting, harried women with humor and hope. You can find her on Instagram or Facebook, or at her website.

Dena’s book, Grace for the Race, uses real-life stories, Scripture, and gentle humor to soothe the souls of frazzled females. By being honest and vulnerable about the ways God has shown Himself to her as she’s struggled with motherhood, Dena hopes to help moms realize that they’re not alone, and they’re not crazy!

Join the conversation: How are you keeping a positive spirit these dark days?

More Gratitude = More Faith

by Julie Zine Coleman @JulieZColeman

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Psalm 136:1 NASB

Turning onto the main highway through Annapolis, I knew I needed to spend the next half-hour’s drive in prayer. Several things were weighing heavy on my mind. But before beginning my list, I decided to spend a couple of minutes thanking God for how He had already blessed me. I thanked Him for my family, naming them one by one. I thanked Him for my church, His provision in my ministry work, for the people in my life who were so important to me. I thanked him for our home, our neighborhood, and provision for our physical needs.

There was so much to be thankful for. Before I knew it, I had arrived at my destination. And I was still thanking God. I hadn’t even gotten to naming my requests! Those urgent items I had been stewing over? Suddenly they didn’t seem so urgent after all. My heart now brimmed with trust in a God of provision and love.

In Luke 17, we find three passages that together remind us that gratitude is vital to trust.

Jesus encountered ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem. In response to their desperate request for mercy, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” It was an odd thing to say, because lepers were not welcome in the temple. But the men turned and in faith did exactly what He said. And on the way, they suddenly realized they had been healed.

Most of them continued on to finish doing what Jesus commanded. One turned around and headed back to Jesus. His heart was too full of gratitude to continue forward.

Jesus had just finished talking with His disciples about their need to forgive. If someone sinned against them seven times a day, they were to forgive them seven times. The disciples were taken aback. “Lord, increase our faith!” they cried.

So Jesus told them a parable about a slave who spent all day working in the field. He returned to the house exhausted and hungry. But his master told him, “Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink.”

Jesus finished: “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10 NASB).

The very next thing Luke records is the story of the ten lepers. Are we supposed to connect these three sections? I believe we are. Luke tends to group his stories together to make a point.

The disciples had asked for more faith. Without it, what Jesus was telling them to do would be impossible. When the one leper came back to fall at His feet and thank Him, Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.” That was the kind of faith the disciples had just begged for. Where did it come from? A heart full of gratitude.

Why is gratitude so key to increasing our faith?

Gratitude supplies the correct perspective. Remembering what God has done puts Him at the center instead of us. When we thank Him, we are expressing belief that the good things in our life are evidence of a God who is at work on our behalf (James 1:17). We are acknowledging that our lives are in His hands. He is in control. That puts everything else we have been focusing on in proper perspective.

Gratitude teaches us to trust. When we remember His past faithfulness, we are empowered to trust Him for the future. Psalm 136 is a great example in this. As the psalmist recalls the works of a mighty God, the audience repeatedly responds: “His love endures forever” (Psalm 136: NIV). What better way to increase their faith in Him?

We need to stop thinking like a slave, and start thinking like a leper. A slave focuses on obligation: what he needs to do to keep his master happy. But a leper focuses on what he has been rescued from—and his heart overflows with gratitude.

So in these days before Thanksgiving, remember who He is to you and what He has done. Then spend time thanking Him from the bottom of your heart. The very act of expressing gratitude will provide an accurate perspective on his power and help you to go deeper in your trust.

Be that leper—the one whose full heart makes doing anything but adoring Him impossible. Start with simple gratitude.

TWEETABLE
More Gratitude = More Faith – insight from @JulieZColeman on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Julie-Coleman-headshot-295x300About the authorJulie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: For what are you most thankful today?

 

Mind Your Manners

by Linda Gilden @LindaGilden

When Jesus encountered the ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem, all ten asked to be healed. All ten obeyed Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priests. As the lepers went to the priests, they were healed. However, only one returned to thank Jesus.

That surprised Jesus. “Were not all ten cleansed?” he asked. “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17).

Jesus did not heal the lepers for the thanks. But He really appreciated it when one remembered his manners.

In Scripture the mother of the leper who gave thanks was not mentioned. But we see the fruit of her teaching in her son’s behavior. Chances are she had to remind him many times to say “thank you” to those who did things for him or gave him something. And in his younger days she probably wondered if he would ever catch on to the importance of giving thanks. Can’t you hear her saying, “Son, tell the man thank you.”

And his reply, “Aw, mom, he knows.”

“That’s okay,” she replied, “he needs to hear it from you.” Probably this statement was punctuated by this mom giving her son “the eye!”

It probably wasn’t many days before a similar situation came up again and the mother faithfully repeated the scene. “Son, remember to say thanks.”

As her son grew into adulthood, this mother was diligent with her instruction. She realized, like all mothers do, that her time of influence was limited. She prayed daily for all her children to learn their lessons well.

This sweet mother never dreamed one of her children would contract leprosy and become an outcast. What heartache! But neither did she dare to dream Jesus Christ would heal him.

When Jesus met ten lepers on the road to Jerusalem, he didn’t require anything of them. He didn’t stop to think of the training their mothers had given them. He merely responded with love and compassion to their request for pity and healing.

We can almost hear the frustration in His voice as he asks, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” But His pleasure is also evident at the one who took the time to return and express his gratitude.

Can you imagine how this leper’s mother would have felt if she had been watching this scene unfold? Her heart would have swelled with pride as she watched the fruit of her teaching as her son bowed in thanks to the One who had healed him of the terrible disease.

Giving thanks is not spontaneous. Expressing our thanks to another person is a deliberate act. We learn to be thankful people by watching those around us.

Can you remember learning to say thank you? Perhaps an older sibling had something you really wanted and he or she teased you by holding it out in front of you. “I’ll give it to you when you say ‘thank you.’”

As you got older, your mother or father probably said, “Mind your manners,” if you forgot to thank someone for a kind word or act. Then, as you became the adult, you heard yourself saying the same thing to a child, a niece, or nephew.

Gratitude and appreciation are important. People who are thankful are happy people. People who are thankful have lots of friends. People who are thankful have learned to say with Paul, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11 NIV). Thankful people know real thanksgiving springs from a heart that is focused on God.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  I Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

TWEETABLE
Mind Your Manners – insight from @LindaGilden on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

linda gilden 2About the author: Linda Gilden is an award-winning writer, speaker, editor, certified writing and speaking coach, and personality consultant. Her passion is helping others discover the joy of writing and learn to make a difference with their words. Linda’s favorite activity is Called to Speak: Practical Tips for Women's Ministry Speakers and Teachers by [Ellison, Edna, Gilden, Linda J.]floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren—a great source of writing material! http://www.lindagilden.com

Linda’s book, Called to Speak, uniquely addresses the practical call of a communicator to speak for the kingdom of God. Based on years of experience by two veteran women’s ministry speakers, Called to Speak is peppered with personal stories and encouraging Scripture. It is a valuable collection of essential principles to help you grow into the effective, life-changing orator God wants to empower.

Join the conversation: What are you thankful for today?

Hating it with the Right Attitude

by Cheri Swalwell @CheriSwalwell

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV

God has been working on my attitude for the past six years. Okay, let me be completely honest. God has been working on my attitude my whole life. One of my most vivid memories is being called out in fifth grade by my music teacher for rolling my eyes after he gave a direction. I didn’t even realize I had done it, but I did and still feel guilty about it some 35 years later.

Even though I don’t mean to, I have a tendency to grumble and complain, and at times, my memory can be so short that even if God came through in a miraculous way last week, I’m only focused on how He is not resolving my current issue right now.

But, while I am a slow learner, I’m starting to see progress. I’m continually reminded from Bible story after Bible story that miracles or breakthroughs happen after the thanksgiving. For example, Paul and Silas were miraculously released from prison after staying up all night praying and singing hymns. Even though God had loosed their chains, they chose to stay. As a result, the jailer and his household all became part of God’s family that night (Acts 16:22-33).

There has been a certain situation in my life, one of my own doing, that I have asked God to release me from for the past three years. Three long years. I’ve begged, pleaded, thanked Him ahead of time (hoping to cause His answer to come a little faster), all while nurturing and feeding my miserable attitude and spirit.

I’m not sure the exact moment it happened, but sometime this past fall, all that God has been teaching me for the past three years about this situation clicked into place. I realized, “This is where I am in life right now. My situation may change in the future, but for now, this is where God has placed me. I have a choice. I can be miserable and choose to wake up every morning dreading the day … or I can choose joy despite my circumstances and find the blessings in living life for Him.” No one else can choose for me … it’s my choice.

The next day I made a decision to praise God for every circumstance. If He closed a door of opportunity, I would thank Him for the closed door. I would look for the blessings in my life and choose to praise Him for those, even when I continued to struggle with that exasperating situation.

A few days after that decision, I was exercising with a friend and telling her what God had been teaching me. I shared that when I chose the right attitude, it truly did change my inward spirit, and I was feeling more joy despite my situation.

Wanting to encourage me, she replied, “So you’re enjoying your situation now?”

“Oh no,” was my quick response, “I’m still hating it, but now I’m hating it with the right attitude!”

For me, head knowledge about my need to be thankful had finally reached my heart. I would choose to trust God even when my circumstances are downright miserable. Submitting myself to the Holy Spirit resulted in His fruit of joy. It makes all the difference in the world in how I feel while He is asking me to wait.

TWEETABLE
Hating it with the right attitude – thoughts from @CheriSwalwell on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

cheri swalwellAbout the author: Cheri Swalwell is a Christ follower who thoroughly enjoys her calling to be a wife, mother, and writer, in that order. She has the privilege to write regularly for Book Fun Magazine and her devotional book series, Spoken from the Heart, as well as two other books, Hope During Heartache and Caring for the Caregiver are available through Amazon. She would love to connect with you through her website, www.cheriswalwell.com, through email: clSwalwell99@gmail.com, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell.

Join the conversation: What have you learned to hate with the right attitude?