Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Debt of Thanksgiving

Dannah Gresh: In the middle of real life, thankfulness can seem impossible. Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: 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.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Monday, March 9, 2020. I'm Dannah Gresh.

This month here on Revive Our Hearts we’re talking a lot about blessings. Not only the blessings we receive, but also how we can turn around and bless others. And I’ve been telling you about Nancy’s 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. Today, Nancy describes what it’s like to make that choice when it feels like life is conspiring against gratitude.

Nancy: I got a letter from a dear eighty-nine-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. (Ps. 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 Thess. 5:18 KJV)

What a challenge to me whining and complaining about the little things in life that throw me off, to hear this couple approaching ninety 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” (v. 15).

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” (v. 17).

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 thirty-one 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 sixteen million to six million during those thirty 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 forty or fifty 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 twenty 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 eighteen 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.

Am I a worshiper or whiner?

Remember thos commercials for the American Express card? "Don't leave home without it." Well, the attitude of gratitude is something that you want to be sure you don't leave home without.

I know you got dressed to come here today, but did you put on the attitude of gratitude? That's one of the most important things we can put on. Don't leave home without it. In fact, don't stay home without it. The atmosphere of your home will be markedly different depending on whether or not you have the attitude of gratitude.

So as we wrap up this series let’s talk today about how can we develop a grateful spirit? We're putting together some of the things we've been saying over these past days. I want to give several practical suggestions about how you can 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.

Number four, 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 Thess. 5:18) one day while he was brushing his teeth. And he said he was challenged by the thought of thanking God for everything.

If tomorrow’s supply depended on today’s thanksgiving, how much would I have tomorrow?

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 benefitted 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.

I have a friend who says that when he gets up, before he gets out of bed, thanks God for ten things that he is grateful for that morning. Live a lifestyle of gratitude—abounding with thanksgiving, overflowing with thanksgiving.

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.

And, by the way, thank you notes are almost a thing of the past, but they shouldn't be. Look for opportunities to write thank you notes. I often do this in my own quiet time, when God brings to mind someone who has blessed me or served me or has given a gift in some way. The blessings that come into my life are so frequent that I can hardly keep up with the thank you notes.

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. Like any other debts, any other bills. Ask yourself, "Do I owe any gratitude?"

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.

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

If you read this book with an open heart and participate in the thirty-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, you have a thankful heart today. I see that all the time in you. I know one of the things you are most excited about is how you see God moving through the ministry of Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy: Yes, there is so much cause for thankfulness and gratitude! In fact, tomorrow, Robert and I will be flying down to Monterrey, Mexico. You'll be joining us later in the week as 6,000 women be joining us this coming weekend for a Mujer Verdadera conference. That's the Spanish True Woman conference. You and I are so excited to be joining other speakers from Latin America and the United States. We'll be sharing from God’s Word, and we are excited to see what He’s going to be doing in the lives of the women who come there from all over Latin America! Please be praying for us this upcoming weekend!

Dannah: And He is moving so powerfully there, Nancy. You know, that traffic on our website for the Spanish-language ministry, Aviva Nuestros Corazones, has surpassed the traffic at our English Revive Our Hearts website at this point. Isn't that amazing?!

Nancy: That’s incredibel. You know, several years ago I said that I anticipate that this will happen some day, and now it has. More people logging on to our Spanish website than even our English website. Millions and millions of people throughout the year. That's exciting because it means that more Spanish-speaking women are taking advantage of the resources we’re offering there.

Dannah: And then, Nancy, one of the things that I'm excited about is how you are leading the effort in passing the baton of leadership from one generation of biblically-minded women leaders to another. Just a few months ago, we gathered for a “Sisters in Ministry” conference here at Revive Our Hearts. We equipped and encouraged and heard the teachings of women who are rising up into leadership for tomorrow.

Nancy: I love these younger women. To see what God is doing to put a passion for truth and a passion for ministry in their lives. It's such a joy to come alongside of them, as older women did for me when I was starting out in ministry, to encourage and equip these next generation women is a great joy

Dannah: Another thing that I'm really grateful for is the podcast and Bible study series at Revive Our Hearts. We recently participated in the Abigail study. We learned how to live with difficult people.

Nancy: Thousands of people participated in that study. Again, we are getting women in the Word. That's something to be grateful for.

Here's another thing on my gratitude list: over the past few weeks hundreds of our listeners have connected with their local Revive Our Hearts Ambassadors. So more kingdom relationships and friendships are being established there.

Dannah: In fact, speaking of kingdom relationships to be grateful for, didn't you and Robert speak at a homeschool convention in Nashville, Tennessee just recently? A little over a week ago, maybe?

Nancy: We did. I was a Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention. What a joy to connect with those moms and dads. Robert and I were both able to share and to encourage those parents who are seeking to teach their children diligently the ways of the Lord.

And then looking forward there is lots to be grateful for as well. We are making plans now for True Woman '20. This year’s theme is: Awaken Compassion. You and I have been part of the team that has been working on the program. I'm so excited about who God is bringing and the ideas that are coming together to get thousands of women rolling up their sleeves and extending to our world the compassion we have received from Jesus Christ. That's going to be an amazing conference coming up in September.

There is so much more as we look at the past, the present, and the future. God has been so good to us! I'm so thankful to Him because none of it would be possible without Him! And I'm thankful for the prayers and the financial support of our listeners. None of it would be possible without friends like you linking arms with us!

This month we are asking the Lord to bring along several hundred additional members for our Monthly Partner Team? Maybe Revive Our Hearts has been a part of your life—it's encouraged you; it's blessed you; it's given you a resource to share with others. Would you consider joining that Monthly Partner Team?

Through that monthly partnership, you can be a part of what God is doing through Revive Our Hearts, in a deeper and more connected way.

Dannah: We'd love to have you join us. You can do that by visiting ReviveOurHearts.com, or calling us at 1–800–569–5959. We’d love to tell you "thank you." We want to be grateful for you right away by sending you a complimentary copy of Nancy’s book Choosing Gratitude when you make a gift today in any amount.

Our guest tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts sometimes feels sorry for herself when her life doesn’t seem as spectacular as she’d like. Laura Booz will tell us how she counsels her own heart to serve with gladness, even in the less flashy, more mundane parts of her life. I’m Dannah Gresh, saying, “Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.”

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth encourages worship, not whining. It’s 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.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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