Pastor Sylvia Peterson

Former Co-Pastor Sylvia Peterson

On Nov. 21, 2017, Rev. Billy Graham wrote the following prophetic words:

“Are you thankful no matter what? Perhaps you have lost your job recently, as the economy has continued to struggle; or you have lost your health, or a loved one. Such circumstances can be tremendously difficult. But even so, we all have much to be thankful for. Look with me at the story of a man who had every right to be bitter—but wasn’t. 

“The next footsteps in the corridor might be those of the guards taking him away to his execution. His only bed was the hard, cold stone floor of the dank, cramped prison cell. Not an hour passed when he was free from the constant irritation of the chains and the pain of the iron manacles cutting into his wrists and legs.

“Separated from friends, unjustly accused, brutally treated — if ever a person had a right to complain, it was this man, languishing almost forgotten in a harsh Roman prison. But instead of complaints, his lips rang with words of praise and thanksgiving!

“The man was the Apostle Paul—a man who had learned the meaning of true thanksgiving even in the midst of great adversity. Earlier, when he had been imprisoned in Rome, Paul wrote, ‘Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:19-20).

“Think of it: Always giving thanks for everything—no matter the circumstances! Thanksgiving for the Apostle Paul was not a once-a-year celebration, but a daily reality that changed his life and made him a joyful person in every situation. 

“Thanksgiving—the giving of thanks—to God for all His blessings should be one of the most distinctive marks of the believer in Jesus Christ. We must not allow a spirit of ingratitude to harden our heart and chill our relationship with God and with others.

“Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart. And nothing will do more to restore contentment and the joy of our salvation than a true spirit of thankfulness.

“In the ancient world, leprosy was a terrible disease. It hopelessly disfigured those who had it, and it permanently cut them off from normal society. Without exception, every leper yearned for one thing: to be healed. 

“One day, 10 lepers approached Jesus outside a village, loudly pleading with Him to heal them. In an instant He restored them all to perfect health—but only one came back and thanked Him. All the rest left without a word of thanks, their minds preoccupied only with themselves, gripped with a spirit of ingratitude.

“Today, too, ingratitude and thanklessness are far too common. Children forget to thank their parents for all that they do. Common courtesy is scorned. We take for granted the ways that others help us. Above all, we fail to thank God for his blessings. 

“Ingratitude is a sin, just as surely as is lying or stealing or immorality or any other sin condemned in the Bible. One of the Bible’s indictments against rebellious humanity is that ‘although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him’ (Romans 1:21).

“An ungrateful heart is a heart that is cold toward God and indifferent to his mercy and love. It is a heart that has forgotten how dependent we are on God for everything.”

My prayer is that each of us leads with a soft and grateful heart, giving thanks to God in all our circumstances.

•••

Sylvia Peterson is a former co-pastor for Bald Hill Community Church and an author. She and her husband are chaplains for the Bald Hills Fire Department. You can email her at sylviap7@comcast.net. She is the author of “The Red Door: Where Hurt and Holiness Collide,” which can be purchased at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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