Check the Tank

I have a question for you today:
How’s your gratitude tank?
Is the needle where it needs to be, buried past the full line?
Or is it sunk on the other side, lower than the E?

If salvation is your helmet and faith is your shield;
if truth is the belt that holds you together and your heart is covered in Christ’s righteousness;
if your feet are ready to take ground for the gospel and you are in the Word, sharpening that sword;
if prayer is the covering that ties all of the armor of God together –

– then gratitude is the oil that lubricates all of life.
The fluid that oozes through every crack, all of the joints, each of the hinges of your world;
that softens the friction that is the daily grind;
that allows the gears to keep turning the wheels of forward progress in the journey of faith.

It is much, much easier to allow the grit of your circumstances into the cracks
where it rubs and wears and irritates.

It is much, much easier to focus on what you lack, the holes in your life, what you are missing instead of fixing your gaze on all that you have, all that has been mended, all that you have been given.

I think that, perhaps, the opposite of gratitude is not ingratitude as much as it is bitterness.

We forget to be thankful.
And instead focus on our problems.
Which pulls our gaze from the Master and His goodness.
And makes us hone in on the temporal
The things that will fade
The stuff the will burn
The situations that irritate
The people that annoy
The circumstances that are challenging at best and devastating at worst.

And as our gaze lingers on what is wrong, that seed of ingratitude sends out tiny tendrils into our hearts
The beginnings of the root of bitterness
Fed by the fertilizer of comparison
And watered by a critical spirit and an unthankful heart

And suddenly, everything you have and everyone you know loses some of their luster, some of their glory, some of what you loved about them.

What once was a refreshing giggle turns into an irritating guffaw.
What once was a home you loved turns into a burden you carry.
What once was a precious bundle of unspeakable joy in your arms turns into a millstone around your neck.
What once was a cherished friendship turns into an obligation.

Because of the disappointment caused by sin – yours and others.
And the whispers of the enemy.
The truth that this life is filled with trials.
And the fact that sometimes God doesn’t make sense to us –
These pieces of grit, both large and small, impact the gears of our lives.
When they have not been washed away by gratitude or at least lubricated by the oil of joy that remembers the goodness of God even in the darkest times –
Then the gratitude tank is empty
And the roots of bitterness begin to grow.

We forget that we are incredibly blessed children of God
Joint heirs with Jesus
Clothed in righteousness
Bound for heaven
Created in the image of God
Designed for eternal things
Made for His purposes and His glory

We forget that Jesus willingly poured out his life in our place
Taking the guilty verdict that He did nothing to deserve
As well as the spit in his face, the punches and slaps, the mocking and the torture
That should have been ours

We forget that He said, “Forgive as I have forgiven you, not keeping track, not remembering wrongs but for MY sake, forgive them.”
We forget that He has lavished on us all that we NEED for life and godliness, lavished on us good gifts, and empowered us by His own Spirit, the very Breath of God in our lungs.
We forget that He has called us first to love
ALL people
Masked and unmasked
“Right” political party or “wrong” political party
Smelling of garbage or smelling of roses
With a history full of mistakes or one to be proud of

We forget that WE are loved like that
That while we were yet sinners, Christ died
That we have been saved ONLY by amazing grace
And that we are not any better than any other human on the planet

We forget that God has carved our names in His palm
That He rejoices over us with singing
That He calls us “Beloved” and “Mine”
We forget that this life is blip on the radar compared to the eternity that awaits
And we forget that we are no more or less worthy of His love than anyone else

There are none righteous.
There is no human perfection.
There is no one who deserves God’s love. His favor. His blessing.

And yet, if you are a Christ-follower, if you have been born a second time into the family of God, you have it.
His mercies new every morning.
His grace that is sufficient for every trial
His love pouring through you as a conduit so that you CAN love that person even when you CANNOT love that person.

You have all of that – and more.

So how’s that gratitude meter?
Do you need to repent of an ungrateful heart?
Do you need to rip out any roots of bitterness? Even the tiny tendrils? Especially the tiny tendrils?
Do you need to confess a lack of love for someone?
Do you need to refocus your gaze?

Here’s one more thing to be thankful for:
You don’t have to conjure up any of the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness or self-control that you need in order to be grateful.
Those are fruit of HIS Spirit in you.
All you have to do is tell Him you want them.
Seek His face.
Seek His Kingdom and His glory.
Keep your eyes fixed on Him.
Making prayer like breathing.
Making His Word a continual feast.
If you will do that – fall in love with the God who loves you madly – He will do the rest.

And that, indeed, is something to be thankful for!

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