Last year, I had the privilege of taking a mission trip to spend time with some of my brothers and sisters in Africa. It is amazing how my expectations for that trip were so different from what I actually experienced. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I half expected to go there and find a bunch of people that were beat down, disheartened, or even depressed over the oppression in their country and their lack of basic necessities. I thought we were going over there to “save them”, in a sense, from the harsh circumstances that they were forced to live in. Boy was I wrong.
What I actually found in Africa was bunch of loving and joyous people. Yes, they lacked some of the most basic things that we take for granted here in America. There was a point where we didn’t have running water for 3 days, which is apparently not uncommon. The unemployment rate of the country we traveled to was something like 90%. I heard stories from several people about how their currency became so inflated that it basically became worthless, and they lost virtually their entire life savings. The amazing thing is that most of the people that I encountered, if you met them on the street, you would have absolutely no idea that they had been through such things. In fact, you would probably assume they were the richest people you had ever met. They praised God constantly. They gave him thanks every day. The presence of God was so distinct in the midst of their praise, because their praise was so genuine. They had to depend on God for everything, so they saw God’s hand at work in providing them even the most basic of needs. I thought I was going there to serve these people, but they actually ended up serving me.
God’s word tells us that the testing of our faith produces perseverance (James 1: 2). These people had developed perseverance, because their faith had been so greatly tested. What they learned through that testing was to focus on praising God for the things that they do have, rather than being angry with Him over the things they do not have. When we focus on being thankful for the things we do have, we stop worrying about all the things we don’t have.
So no matter what your situation is today, take the time to thank God for it. If you are in a position where God has blessed you with much, praise Him for that. If you are going through a period of lack, praise Him for the opportunity to depend on Him. If you are in the midst of a season of testing, thank God that you are learning to persevere. If you can’t think of anything to praise Him for today, then there is one thing we can always be grateful for. Thank God for sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to come and pay the price for your sins. Thank Him for the greatest gift of all, the gift of eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 5: 18 – in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Proverbs 17: 22 – A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
Psalm 30: 12 – that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.