Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Debt of Thanksgiving

Leslie Basham: In the middle of real life, thankfulness can seem impossible. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I can remember a season in my own life when I was very wounded by a series of circumstances that had come into my life. And for about eighteen months I would not give thanks.

Leslie Basham: It’s Friday, November 27, and you’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

This week I’ve been telling you about Nancy’s new book, Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy. Why is the word choosing in there? Well, you know gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Sometimes it’s a tough choice. Nancy will describe what it’s like to make that choice when it feels like life is conspiring against gratitude.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Last Thanksgiving I got a letter from a dear 89-year-old couple, Del Fehsenfeld, Sr. and his wife, Dot. I call them Grandma and Grandpa Fehsenfeld. This is a thankful couple. And here is the letter they sent out as a Thanksgiving letter to their friends. They said:

My dear friends and co-workers in Christ,

This is the day that the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24, KJV).

Regardless of our physical status (healthy or otherwise) we are to rejoice. Realizing our position in Christ, we can do no less. Taking inventory, we thank Him because:

And then they listed five reasons they thank the Lord each with a Scripture reference.

  1. We are saved.
  2. We are sanctified.
  3. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.
  4. We are secure eternally.
  5. We are satisfied.

And along side that one they wrote Psalm 103:5 which says, “He satisfies our mouth with good things.” They went on to say:

We do not need material things, entertainment, or stirred up emotional excitement to be glad. In Christ we have everything we need and want.

Although Mrs. Fehsenfeld and I have been frequenting the offices of doctors more than we prefer. [And that’s an understatement by the way. They’ve both had some real serious health challenges in the last year.]We are still glad and rejoice that He has been our sufficiency through aches, pains, and operations. We ask you to join us in obeying His command.

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18, KJV).

What a challenge to me in my mid-40s, whining and complaining about the little things in life that throw me off, to hear this couple approaching 90 saying, “We are thankful. We are thankful.”

Do you know what they are doing? They’re offering what the Scripture calls “the sacrifice of thanksgiving.” We read about this in the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 13: “Therefore by him,” by Jesus, “let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name” (verse 15, NKJV).

The sacrifice of praise. Psalm 116 talks about the same kind of sacrifice. The psalmist says, “I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the LORD” (verse 17, NKJV).

Sometimes it’s easy to thank the Lord. When the sun is shining and you’ve got money in the bank, and you’re healthy, and your husband is wildly in love with you, and your children are rising up and calling you blessed and obeying your every instruction, well, anyone can be thankful in those circumstances.

But sometimes it’s really hard to give thanks. Sometimes it’s costly to give thanks. Sometimes you have to offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving through your tears to say, “Lord, though I do not understand why You would have me to be going through these circumstances, though I do not understand why I am receiving these divorce papers that I don’t want, why I don’t understand why my son or daughter is responding in these ways that are not pleasing to you; I choose in the midst of the struggle, in the midst of the pressure, in the midst of the problems, I choose to give You thanks because You are still God, and You are still good. And You are accomplishing Your purposes through every circumstance that is in my life."

Martin Rinkart was a German pastor who at the age of 31 came to be the pastor of the church in his hometown of Eilenberg in Germany. He arrived there in 1618, just as the Thirty Years War broke out, one of the bloodiest wars of all history. That war brought great devastation throughout all Europe. In fact, the population of Germany was reduced from 16 million to 6 million during those 30 years.

The city of Eilenberg where Rinkart was the pastor experienced wave after wave of pestilence and famine, and the coming and going of invading armies who marched through the city and left death and destruction in their wake. The city became overcrowded with refugees from the war.

In 1637 in the midst of this war, a plague broke out. The other two ministers in the town died, but Rinkart stayed in the town and carried on their work as well as his own. All day long, day after day throughout that year, he went from bed to bed nursing the sick and cheering and praying with the dying.

He buried about 5,000 people that year including his own wife, sometimes reading the funeral service over 40 or 50 bodies at a time. Rinkart himself died a year after the war ended.

But some time during that bleak period in his life and in the life of his city, he composed a great hymn of thanksgiving. It is said to have been written as a table grace for his children, written in the midst of those devastating circumstances. Perhaps you’re familiar with it.

Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices.
Who wondrous things hath done
And whom this world rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms
Hath blessed us on our way,
With countless gifts of love
And still is ours today.

All praise and thanks
To God the Father now be given.
The Son and Holy Ghost,
Supreme and highest heaven.
The one eternal God
Whom earth and heaven adore.
For thus it was is now
And shall be evermore.1

That’s a sacrifice of thanksgiving. And that sacrifice of thanksgiving that Martin Rinkart offered up in the 1600s is still blessing us today. You don’t know who may be blessed by your willingness to offer up a sacrifice of thanksgiving when it costs you the most.

One of my great heroes in the faith is a woman named Dr. Helen Roseveare who was for many years was a missionary surgeon in what was then Belgian Congo. She served for I think 20 years as a missionary.

Then came the point in about 1970 when the rebels came in and began to loot and ravage the nation. Most of the missionaries left. But Dr. Roseveare and some of her partners in ministry felt that they should stay and continue to serve the people God had sent them to serve.

During that time, Dr. Roseveare describes the night when the rebels came to the mission compound where she was living. They ravaged the place and then savagely beat and raped the women missionaries. She tells of the struggle that she went through following that awful, awful night to make sense of this atrocity.

Here she had come to give her life and to serve, to lay down her life for these people, and then this is what she had experienced.

There were a number of things that God used in the healing process in her life, but one thing I’ll never forget. She said that the healing process for her began when it was as if God said to her, “Helen, are you willing to give Me thanks for that which I may never give you the privilege of understanding?"

You see, we tend to think that if we could just figure out what God's doing and what His purpose is in these circumstances in our lives, then we could thank Him. But the test of my faith is, "Am I willing to make the sacrifice of thanksgiving when I don't have the answers, when I don't know the why's of what is going on in my life, when there is no way to make sense of what has happened?"

I can remember a season in my own life when I was very wounded by a series of circumstances that had come into my life. For about 18 months, I would not give thanks. I wouldn’t.

Now, I wasn’t consciously saying, “I won’t give thanks.” I just wouldn’t do it.

I believe, as I look back on that period of time, that I really forfeited a huge measure of grace that God wanted to give me to walk through those circumstances because I wasn’t willing to offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.

I can tell you when the healing process started for me in that journey. It was in a mountain cabin in North Carolina on a hardwood floor kneeling next to a wooden chair offering to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving for the first time, and saying, “Lord, I still don’t understand why You made this choice, why these circumstances have come into my life, and I don’t know if I will ever understand. But by faith I choose to say, ‘thank you.’ Thank You for allowing it. Thank You for making these choices in my life. I know that whatever You do is good, and I give You thanks.”

Now, did that make all the hurt go away right away? No. There were still tears. There was still a sense of loss. But it became a healthy sense of loss. And in the giving up of the sacrifice of thanksgiving, God began to restore and renew and rebuild my spirit.

I can look back on those circumstances today and can truly feel thankful about those circumstances. I didn’t feel thankful at the time. It was an expression of faith. It was an act of my will. But now I look back and I can see so much that God has done for me and in me and through me through those very circumstances that I was most resistant to.

I’ve discovered in my own walk with the Lord that basically in every circumstance of life I have one of two responses:

  1. I either whine.
  2. Or I worship.

Whine or worship. We need to help each other not be whiners, to help each other become worshipers, to help each other develop the beauty of the attitude of gratitude.

So as we wrap up this series let’s talk today about how can we develop a grateful spirit.

Number one, yield all your rights to God. If you’re holding onto those rights, if you have expectations of how you deserve to be treated, you’re going to set yourself up for disappointment. But if you’ve yielded all your rights to God, then anything God gives you will be a blessing, and you’ll be thankful for it.

I discovered in some reading I was doing on this subject a little piece that was written by a man named Russell Kelfer, who’s now with the Lord. He was a wonderful Bible teacher, and many of his teachings have been put into print. In some of his teaching on the attitude of gratitude he suggests people taking this little pledge, signing this document to the Lord, turning over their rights to Him. Let me read what he suggests about a way to yield all your rights to God.

Having been born again into the kingdom of God, I do hereby acknowledge that God’s purchase of my life included all the rights and control of that life for all of eternity.

I do further acknowledge that He has not guaranteed me to be free from pain, or to have success or prosperity. He has not guaranteed me perfect health. He has not guaranteed me perfect parents. He has not guaranteed me perfect children. He has not guaranteed me the absence of pressures, trials, misunderstandings or persecution.

What He has promised me is eternal life. What He has promised me is abundant life. What He has promised me is love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, and self-control. He has given me all of Himself in exchange for the rights to my life.

Therefore, I acknowledge this day the relinquishment of all my rights and expectations and humbly ask Him by His grace to replace these with a grateful spirit for whatever in His wisdom He deems to allow for my life.

His servant.1

And then he suggests that you sign your name. Yield all your rights to God.

And then secondly, let me encourage you to confess and repent of any ungratefulness that God has exposed in your heart. We’ve seen that the sin of ingratitude is no small sin. So wherever God has revealed to you that you have that sin of ungratefulness, that you have failed to be thankful in everything, confess it as sin, and then repent of it.

And then number three, let me suggest that you try a week of thanksgiving, a week where you really focus on this subject of thanksgiving. Commit yourself during that week not to ask God for anything but to look for every opportunity that you can find to say thank you to God and to others.

In fact, we’ve prepared a little resource that we’re going to be making available to you that will help you do this week for thanksgiving. Just a little Bible study and then exercise for each day that will help you practice a week of thanksgiving.

During that week, number four, we’re going to suggest that you take time to count your blessings. "Count your blessings. Name them one by one." I love that old gospel song.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.

Count your blessings name them one by one;
Count your blessings see what God has done;
Count your many blessings and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.3

As one writer said, “Gratitude is born in hearts that take time to count up past mercies.”

I have a friend who talks about a day when he was meditating on this verse: “Give thanks in everything” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18) one day while he was brushing his teeth. And he said he was challenged by the thought of thanking God for everything.

He said, “I began by thanking God for my toothbrush. Then I thanked Him for the toothpaste. Then I realized I had never thanked God for my teeth.” He went on to ask what I thought was a probing question. “If tomorrow’s supply depended on today’s thanksgiving, how much would I have tomorrow?”

Then after you’ve counted your blessings and named them one by one, take stock of your gratitude accounts. What do I mean by that? Are there any people to whom you owe a debt of gratitude that you haven’t paid?

Now, we all owe a debt of gratitude to God that we will never finish paying for all of eternity. So how are you on your gratitude accounts? Is there gratitude that you owe to God or to others? Is there gratitude you owe to certain people? Is there an individual, a family member, a friend, an acquaintance, an associate, a teacher, a pastor, someone who’s touched or benefited your life in some way to whom you’ve not yet paid your debt by saying, “Thank you”?

Now don’t overlook the people who live within the four walls of your own home. Does your husband bring home a paycheck? Do you just expect it, or are you grateful for it? Do you express gratitude for the seemingly everyday things?

Make a list of the people you need to thank and then begin to thank them with notes, with calls, with emails, in person. Thank them one by one. Count the blessings one by one and then one by one thank those people. Don’t wait until the funeral when it’s too late for them to hear and to be blessed by your gratitude.

And then in everything, give thanks. Purpose in your heart in everything to give thanks. Is there any circumstance or problem or issue in your life for which you’ve never given thanks?

And then finally keep up-to-date with expressing gratitude to the Lord and to others.

Some time ago some friends gave me this journal that says on the front “Counting my Blessings.” And on the inside it’s just got five blank lines for every day. You put down the date and then you jot down five or six things that you’re thankful for that day.

I have almost filled in this book, and I went back a few days ago and was reviewing some of the things from a year ago that I had written down in this gratefulness journal. What a neat thing it was to go back and rehearse what God has done and how good He has been.

Keep up-to-date not only in expressing gratitude to God but in expressing gratitude to others. I want to encourage you to have a little basket perhaps next to your bed or next to your desk where you just have some thank you notes, notes and envelopes. Because if you have to go scrounge them up when you’re thinking of something that you’re thankful for, you’re not as likely to write the note.

By the way, I’m so thankful for parents who made us write thank you notes when we were children. “Have you written your thank you notes yet?” they would say to us. And those of you who have children, teach your children to write thank you notes.

I carry around some thank you notes with me so as I have a few minutes here or there I can stop and write out those cards and thank people who’ve blessed my life. Make it a daily exercise to keep your gratitude debts paid.

I think one of the most important things God wants us to do through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts is to call women to be thankful women. Women today, in many cases, are so angry, so bitter, and so wounded. I believe one of the huge keys that is going to set women free across this land to live lives that are full and abundant and fruitful is learning to be women of gratitude.

There is such power in a grateful spirit. A grateful spirit can overcome bitterness and discouragement and depression and worry and selfishness and loneliness. A grateful spirit encourages others.

And most important of all, a grateful spirit honors and glorifies the Lord. And He is worthy of all our thanks and all our praise.

Leslie Basham: In every circumstance you can either whine or worship. Are you doing more whining or worshiping today? Nancy Leigh DeMoss describes this daily choice in detail in her new book Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy.

If you read this book with an open heart and participate in the 30-day study at the back of the book, you’ll find yourself whining less and worshiping more. To get a copy of Choosing Gratitude visit our website ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy has a very thankful heart today. We asked her to share some of what God is doing with the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: Well, I hope you had a great day yesterday. The Thanksgiving season is such a good time to look back over the past year and thank the Lord for all that He’s done.

As I’m thinking back over the last several months, my heart is so grateful for all that God has been doing in this country and around the world through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

For instance, recently I met a woman named Michelle who attended the Revive Our Hearts' True Woman Conference last year. That was our first national women’s conference and women came from all around the world, including Michelle who came all the way from Bermuda.

When she went back home she started passing on the truths that she had learned at the True Woman Conference. Ever since then, a group has been gathering in her home, and she’s discipling women in the ways of God.

Worldwide connections like that are possible thanks to listeners like you who pray for us and who support this ministry financially. That support makes it possible for us to minister to women literally around the world through radio, conferences, publications, and the Internet.

Now a good percentage of the funds that allow this ministry to take place typically arrive during the last month of the year. So it’s important that we hear from you as we get ready to launch into 2010.

By faith we’ve scheduled three major True Woman events next year, which will greatly multiply our opportunity to invest in the lives of women.

Some friends of this ministry are excited about what God has in store for Revive Our Hearts next year. I want to let you know about a generous offer that they have made. They’ve agreed to match dollar for dollar every gift from now until the end of the year, up to a total amount of $280,000.

Our team is praying and we’re excited to see how God is going to provide over these next weeks. So would you pray with us and ask the Lord how He might want you to participate in this year’s matching challenge?

Leslie Basham: Your donation will be doubled when you call 1-800-569-5959 or donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com.

On Monday Nancy will get back to our study on the letters to the churches in Revelation. Find out why Jesus doesn’t like His Church to be lukewarm. I hope you have a meaningful time in your church this weekend then be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

1 "Now Thank We All Our God." Martin Rinkart. Our Daily Bread, Feb. 20, 1994.

2 Russell Kelfer. "A Grateful Spirit, Part 2." (176-B), 14.

3 "Count Your Blessings." Johnson Oatman, Jr.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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