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FIRST-PERSON: Giving thanks

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Giving thanks is one of the great privileges of the Christian life. Giving thanks reminds us that who we are and what we have is nothing apart from Christ. Giving thanks to God is one of the identifying traits of a Christian.

When we daily give thanks to our Lord, the root of bitterness has little or no opportunity to implant itself deep within our hearts. A Christian who gives thanks to God is less interested in personal ownership and attribution and is focused singularly upon sacrificial service for Jesus’ sake.

The Christian life is all about Him … speaking the name of Jesus, serving Him faithfully, living the life that will let others see Jesus in and through us. No one less than the Son of God sacrificed Himself to atone for our sins. What greater sacrifice can there be than to have given His life for us? Have you made it a daily practice to give thanks to God for His abundant blessings and divine guidance? God loves for His children to give thanks.

The traits of self-centeredness and selfishness only creep into our hearts when our eyes are no longer focused upon our Lord Jesus Christ and instead have been riveted upon ourselves. Have you taken a long and lasting look at you own heart lately? For that matter, have you taken a long and lasting look at Jesus lately? To do so dramatically transforms our vision.

God helps us begin to see others and ourselves as He sees us. God blesses His people with 20/20 vision when their hearts’ desire, above all, is to know and live the powerful principles and practices discovered in God’s Word while rejoicing in His saving grace.

Os Hillman, founder of Marketplace Ministries and a friend of mine, told a profound story in one of his devotionals not long ago.

He stated, “Otto Koning was a missionary in New Guinea. He worked among a native tribe that had known only their village ways. One of those village ways was stealing from others. When Otto and his wife arrived and moved into a hut, the natives often came by to visit. The Konings would notice that after the natives left the missionaries’ home, various household items had disappeared. They saw these items again when they went to preach in the natives’ village.

“The only fruit Otto could grow on the island was pineapples. Otto loved pineapples, and he took pride in the pineapples he was able to grow. However, whenever the pineapples began to ripen, the natives would steal them. Otto could never keep a ripe pineapple for himself. This was a frustration, and he became angry with the natives. All during the seven-year period in which this took place, Otto preached the gospel to these natives, but never had a conversion.

“The more the natives stole, the angrier Otto became. Finally, one day Otto had a German Shepherd dog flown in from another missionary to protect his pineapple garden after other frustrated efforts failed. This only further alienated the natives from him.

“Otto took a furlough to the United States and attended a conference on personal rights. At this conference, he discovered that he was frustrated over this situation because he had taken personal ownership of his pineapple garden. After much soul searching, he gave his garden to God. Soon the natives started having problems among their tribe. They discovered that Otto was the reason for their problems because he gave his garden to his God. The natives saw a correlation between what Otto had done and their own lives being affected by calamities in their village. When Otto gave his garden to God, he no longer got angry and was free from worry. The natives started bringing him fruit from the garden because they didn’t want any more calamities to come into their village.

“The light came on one day when a native said to Otto, ‘You must have become a Christian, Otto. You don’t get angry anymore. We always wondered if we would ever meet a Christian.’ They had never associated Otto with the kind of person he was preaching about because his message did not line up with his life. Otto was broken in spirit when he realized he had been such a failure.

“At the end of seven years, he witnessed his first conversion, and many began coming to Christ once he fully gave his garden to God. The fruit grew so abundant that Otto began exporting it and growing other types of fruit, such as bananas. His village became the most evangelized in the whole region, yet for seven years he had not one convert.

“Otto realized something each of us must realize: To gain your life you must lose it, along with your possessions. It was only when he gave all his possessions to God that he became free from them. God measured back to him manifold blessings once He had complete ownership.

“Do you have some possessions that you need to give up to God today? Let God have all that you have. Become a steward, not an owner. You will be surprised at how well God can take care of His possessions.”

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Morris H. Chapman is president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Os Hillman is director, International Coalition of Workplace Ministries (ICWM), www.icwm.net. Ph: 678-455-6262 Fx: 678-455-6264 E: os@icwm.

    About the Author

  • Morris H. Chapman