Here are three verses and three challenging directives from 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually 18 give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you…”

As we look forward to commemorating Thanksgiving Day next Thursday, these directives from the Apostle Paul – ‘If followed’ – will create a joy-filled atmosphere and cause people to celebrate.

In 1960 Disney Studios created a movie called “Pollyanna, starring Hayley Mills. The title character is Pollyanna Whittier, a young orphan who goes to live with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly in Vermont. Pollyanna's philosophy of life centers on what she calls "The Glad Game," an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. She consistently finds something to be glad about in every situation regardless of how difficult things become. The game originated one Christmas when Pollyanna was hoping to receive a doll for her present. When she opened her gift, however, she found only a pair of crutches inside. Some would have complained but she gave thanks. Why? Because she was taught to give thanks in ALL things – In this case – her thanks was offered because she saw that "she didn’t need the crutches." Her gratitude and thankful spirit influenced this small New England town and transformed it into a place of joy and thanksgiving.

Some people are like elevators – with only a down button. They focus on everything that’s wrong and miss the things that are right! Get around them and you too will develop a negative view. Listen to his or her complaints and you will be influenced to do the same.

What would happen if we focused on what we have rather than what we don’t have? What if we chose to give thanks rather than complaints? I’m not suggesting we give thanks for all things but give thanks IN the mist of all things. Look for the good!

It’s like mining for gold. You have to go through a whole lot of dirt but if you focus only on the dirt, you will never find the gold. If, however you keep your eyes upon the possibility of possessing the gold, you will not be discouraged when you’re surrounded by dirt.

The one who wrote those verses in the book of Thessalonians went through many ups and downs in his life. He was beaten, shipwrecked, hungry, deserted, and even stoned to the point of death. If anyone had a right to complain he did! But listen to his words from 2 Corinthians, chapter 4:16-18. “Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are quite small in comparison to the big picture and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” NLB

Pollyanna, the Apostle Paul, and many others choose to 1. Rejoice always. 2. Pray continually and 3. Give thanks in every situation!

Thanks will guard you against a spirit of entitlement and help you to stop taking things for granted. Giving thanks will cause a demanding spirit to leave and a grateful heart to grow.

Let’s give thanks in this season! And how about the other 364 days?

Pastor Tim Howard is the lead pastor at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to: tim@kcfchurch.org.

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