Turning Points Magazine & Devotional

December 2022 Issue

Love in the Most Unexpected Way

From the November 2022 Issue

A Moment of Thanks

A Moment of Thanks

In the race of life, we must pray with thanksgiving. We should praise and thank Him before revving up our engines each morning. We should pause for prayer during pit stops throughout the day. And how wonderful to fall asleep at night by counting our blessings.

Life is hard, and every day is challenging. You may be wondering just now if you can go on. Perhaps another person is vexing you. Perhaps you’ve been maligned or criticized. You’re discouraged with unanswered prayer. Maybe you’re feeling like Elijah under the broom tree, wanting to die. Try praying with thanksgiving. A thankful attitude is the cure for many emotional ailments.

Billy Sunday, the famous baseball player, became a world-renowned evangelist; and his wife, Helen, known affectionately as “Ma” Sunday, was his partner in ministry. On November 19, 1935, Billy suffered a heart attack and died suddenly in her arms. Ma Sunday was devastated; and in the days that followed, she felt herself spiraling into depression.

Sometime later, a group of Christians in Buffalo asked her to speak at a memorial service for Billy. At first, Ma didn’t think she could do it; but an idea came to her. She entitled her talk, “Things I’m Thankful For.” She developed a long list of thanksgiving items. Rising to speak, she said: “Folks, it’s surprising how many things God can reveal to you to be thankful for, if you really want to know and ask Him to help you. I had no idea there were so many! But when I prayed and asked God to help me write them down, they came into my mind one after the other—and the very first one was: If Billy had to go, oh, how thankful I was to God Almighty that He called him away in an instant . . . . He just cried out to me, ‘I’m getting dizzy, Ma!’ and he was gone! How wonderful to be here one second, and up in heaven the next second! Never knowing any real pain or any real suffering of that type—I think God was so good to take Billy that way, and I thank Him for it.”

She went on to list a number of items that had come to her mind as objects of praise and thanksgiving, and it lifted her depression and released her for a life of continued usefulness and service.1

Thanksgiving is also the opposite of discontent. It’s easy for us to become disgruntled with various factors in our lives; but the other day, I read something I’d like to pass on to you. A man wrote that he was thankful:

  • For the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
  • For all the complaining I hear about the government because it means that I have freedom of speech.
  • For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I am alive.
  • For the teenager who is not doing dishes but is watching TV because that means he is at home and not on the streets.
  • For the taxes that I pay because it means that I’m employed.
  • For the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning, and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
  • For weariness at the end of the day because it means I have been capable of working hard.
  • For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking and that I have been blessed with transportation.2

Thanksgiving is also the opposite of anxiety. We learn this by noticing the words of Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

God used this verse one night in Ruth Graham’s life as she was traveling abroad. At that time, her children were rebelling against the Lord, and Ruth awoke with a sudden fear for them. She lay in bed and tried to pray, but she suffered growing anxiety. She looked at the clock, and it was around three o’clock. Though exhausted, she knew she would be unable to go back to sleep. Suddenly the Lord seemed to say to her, “Quit studying the problems, and start studying the promises.”

Opening her Bible, the first verses that came to her were Philippians 4:6-7. As she read those words, she realized that the missing ingredient in her prayers had been thanksgiving. “In everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (NIV).

She put down her Bible and spent time worshiping God for who and what He is. She later wrote, “I began to thank God for giving me this one I loved so dearly in the first place. I even thanked Him for the difficult spots which had taught me so much. And you know what happened? It was as if someone turned on the lights in my mind and heart, and the little fears and worries which, like mice and cockroaches, had been nibbling away in the darkness suddenly scuttled for cover. That was when I learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart: They are mutually exclusive.”3

Thanksgiving is also the corrective for sadness and even grief. One Saturday years ago, I was in my office working on my message for the next day, which was from Psalm 100, the passage that tells us to enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. My phone rang, and it was a call from a family I had loved while pastoring in the Midwest. This family was dear to me, and our children were about the same age and had played together.

The caller told me there had been an accident in the woods, and a portion of a tree had fallen on one of the boys. He’d been pinned for over an hour before the ambulance arrived, and it appeared the young man would be paralyzed from the waist down. His spinal cord had been crushed.

Well, that just destroyed my afternoon. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. This was a blond-headed kid, very athletic, full of life; and in one moment, his life was shattered and changed. I wrestled with my own thoughts and emotions until evening, then I placed a call to the intensive care unit of the hospital. Frankly, I didn’t know what to say, but I didn’t have to say much at all. The boy’s father ended up comforting me.

He said, “Pastor, I want you to know that my wife and I are, first of all, thankful that our son is alive. Second, we’re thanking God that it wasn’t the upper part of his body that was paralyzed. And thirdly, though we don’t understand why, we know God is good and that somehow in the midst of this, He has a plan for our son’s life that must go beyond anything we can imagine. Though it’s hard and we wish it hadn’t happened, we have committed it to our God, for He is good.”

I hung up the phone and went back to Psalm 100 and thought—how it changes any situation to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise!

Is the race of life wearing you down? Try a moment of thanks. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His name. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Sources:

1Taken from “Ma Sunday Still Speaks: A transcription of the tape recording she made shortly before her death,” published by Winona Lake Christian Assembly, Winona Lake, IN, 1957,

2Quoted by D. A. Benton in Executive Charisma (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003), 53.

3Ruth Bell Graham, Blessings for a Mother’s Day (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing, 2001).

This Month's Magazine Resource

Moments With God

This devotional is a collection of moments with God. You can read each page on the prescribed day as a supplement to your Bible reading and prayer. You’ll find biblical insights here on familiar (and unfamiliar) verses in the Bible.

Learn More »

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