The Principle of:
Being Thankful for the People to Whom One Ministers
...remaining Thankful for
Those under one's care releases a stream of Kingdom life toward them.
I Thessalonians 1:2a We give thanks to God always for you all, ...
Sometimes--and this is not a good thing--those in leadership become angry and resentful toward the people under their care. Not one would care for this to be known, but it is a difficult thing to hide. It comes out in speech, in the way one looks at another, and in body language. It is inevitable: what is in the heart of a leader will eventually come out in his or her message. So, it is important that the heart of the messenger be pure of defilement, especially the defilement that comes from being not thankful.
BECAUSE of the alarming number of people being wounded by ministries, it behooves us to give heed to this principle. Books are being published on this subject. One that recently came into my hand is Healing Spiritual Abuse by Ken Blue, published by InterVarsity Press. It is an alarming book, but I suggest it for reading. It describes many of the situations like those into which we have been called as counselors.
Actually, our recent finding of so many people who have been abused by their "shepherds" has prompted that we go ahead with this manual. While we try and protect shepherds from attack by disgruntled believers, we do see the need for them to become more aware of those who are hurting in their flock.
1 THERE IS A TERRIBLE EFFECT THAT CAN COME FROM BEING NOT THANKFUL.
Take note of this passage. It is a Scripture that has a principle we believe applies here. Rom 1:21--Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Although this verse has its first application to the terrifying descent of mankind into sin, we can find in it the principle that grows out of being not thankful. It is a principle applicable to Pastors, or any leaders, whose hearts are not thankful for those to whom they minister. It will cause great trouble in bringing a clear and direct word from the Lord to the people.
Even in knowing God, the absence of thanksgiving casts its effect on the imaginations. They become vain. This means the reasonings of the mind and heart lose substance and become empty of what is meaningful and productive. Following this, the foolish heart becomes dark with no sense of direction. Imaginations is from the Greek dialogísmos from which our word "dialogue" comes. Significantly, in this passage it means the interchange and discussion of ideas within one's own heart and mind. It is in the heart and mind that the message of the preacher, or teacher, or parent, takes form. It develops wonderfully when the Holy Spirit has access to the dialogues and reasonings of the mind, but it become a hard and wounding word in the one that holds resentment and unthankfulness. The word foolish applied by Paul to the heart in this same verse is from asunetós. It means senseless, unable to put things together with intelligence. Being without thanksgiving in general, and particularly toward those under one's care, leads to this darkness of heart and the inability to receive or give proper guidance.
Jeremiah discovered a catharsis for his heart. He said, Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart--Jer 15:16. David knew the important place of the heart in the preparation of one's speech. He said, My heart was hot within me, while I was musing (meditating; contemplating God's truth and its application to life) the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue--Ps. 39:3.
2 PAUL SET THE EXAMPLE OF BEING THANKFUL FOR THOSE UNDER ONE'S CARE.
Rom 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all... Take note of the word first. Before Paul presented the amazing revelation of truth contained in Romans, he first thanked God for all the people to whom he was sending it.
This apparently was his general practice. In Eph 1:16 he said, I cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers. In Col 1:3 he said, We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.
In II Thes 2:13 he said, But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord... Bound in this verse is from ophéilo which means to be obliged by what is due or fitting. What a conviction Paul held! This statement could mean, "It is our moral and spiritual responsibility to give thanks always to God for you."
Paul's conviction concerning this ran so deep that he exhorted Timothy, the young preacher who would follow in his steps that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men (I Tim 2:1).
3 DEVELOPING THE DISCIPLINE OF THANKFULNESS IN EVERYTHING.
Sometimes, some of the people under one's care are troublesome and do not quickly evoke thanksgiving. But here again, we can learn from Paul in the admonition he gave near the end of the First Thessalonian Epistle. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you--I Thes 5:18. Give thanks is from eucharistéo from which the word "eucharist" comes. This word has been adopted by the Roman Church to name part of its liturgy. It is no less fitting that all believers and leaders, liturgical and non-liturgical, take up the practice of a literal "Eucharist," the giving of thanks for everything and every one.
I have found this a liberating exercise, to simply take a day in which I will thank the Lord for every person that comes to my mind. When done for loved ones, it calls forth a spirit of supplication in their behalf, along with a faith that the will of God shall be accomplished in them. Thanksgiving for the people to whom we minister will make our hearts tender toward each one. It calls forth a revelation of God's will and purpose for them, along with a genuine love and faith on their behalf. Amazingly, it takes the drudgery of hard labor from ministry and makes it a delight.
4 WE CAN LEARN MUCH FROM DAVID ABOUT THANKFULNESS.
As we take note of some passages from the Psalms of David, we will find their energy helps quicken thankfulness in our own hearts. His practice of thanksgiving goes beyond thankfulness for those under one's care. His Psalms carry us on into a life of thankfulness as they help dismiss the negativity and drudgery that tries to overtake so many who minister. A person who has learned this thankfulness has much to give to a congregation of believers.
• Psalm 18:49 Therefore will I give thanks unto Thee, 0 LORD, among the heathen (the nations), and sing praises unto Thy Name. We learn to be thankful in the presence of unbelievers, never allowing them to hear us complaining or expressing discontent, especially concerning the people to whom we minister.
• Psalm 30:12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent. 0 LORD my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever. We learn to take up the habit of being thankful at all times, for everything thing, in everything--even for ever. This is a discipline that can develop in our spirits and will go with us into the eternal Kingdom.
• Psalm 35:18 I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation: I will praise Thee among much people. We learn to express our thanks unto the Lord in the midst of all who confess the Name of our Lord, even among those who believe and worship differently. We confess there is a great congregation who worship the same Lord we do.
• Psalm 106:47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy Holy Name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Take note of the last part of this verse. So close to giving thanks there comes triumph.
Some exercises in thankfulness:
1) Find all the Scriptures you can about thankfulness. Meditate in the Word, Allow it to come over on your spirit--wonderful Fire that it is--and burn up the dross of unthankfulness and its close cousin resentment. If you are a leader of others, and you carry unthankfulness in your spirit, you will impart it to those who are under your care. If you hold resentment and unthankfulness in your spirit toward the people to whom you minister, they will know it. If you become thankful toward them, they will know this also. With your new condition, they can receive life from you and grow into maturity.
2) Set aside an occasional day and just simply thank the Lord for every person that comes to your mind, particularly those to whom you minister. This will set your spirit free to impart life and love to these people. If you can, take long walks for "thanksgiving."
3) Make a list of every annoying and pressing situation surrounding you. Thank the Lord for each one, even if you think it came from the devil. This will bring it over into the court of the Lord and open the way for the working of His grace and power. Incidentally, there is nothing so frustrating to the devil as when we thank the Lord for some thing that came from the enemies hand. This throws confusion into the enemies camp and opens the way for the sanctification of what he meant for evil.
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