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A Thankful Heart is a Peaceful Heart

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, searching for opportunities to thank God brings peace.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the Nov. 20, 2011, Pentecostal Evangel.

In the 1940s and ’50s, in the Gulag Archipelago, the shadowy prison camps of the Soviet Union, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned for a political “crime.” Here he encountered believers in Jesus Christ. The fact that they could have joy and peace in the midst of suffering influenced his conversion to Christianity — while still in prison.

How did those believers achieve this state? They followed the advice of God’s Word: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6,7, NIV).

When people talk about “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” they often leave the context out. That context includes prayer and thanksgiving. A thankful heart is a peaceful heart.

Amid our greatest difficulties we can still offer thanks. In my years of ministry I have often seen this perplexing peace of God in effect in the lives of people going through tragedies. A thankful heart somehow fills the spirit with peace.

But I have also seen the opposite perspective — negative people who are blind to God’s blessings, unwilling to thank Him or recognize His great mercy in their lives.

Some people have difficulty with a regular prayer life. They say they run out of things to pray.

What? If you simply spent your time reciting a list of God’s blessings in your life, you could fill a significant amount of time.

Some of the most basic things are often forgotten. When I go to prayer I can easily find scores of blessings to thank God for, things that are so easy to take for granted: a place to live, necessities, luxuries, a loving family, friends, Christian brothers and sisters, the church, our nation, salvation, spiritual blessings, health … and these are just some of the general blessings. When I get specific, it is difficult to stop. God has done so much for me.

Most of us can thank God for the majority of those things. Some are more blessed than others, yet all of us are blessed! And our lists should be lengthy!

Alexander Whyte said, “Thanksgiving … is, by far, the best and the most blessed part of both public and private prayer.”

It makes prayer easy!

Matthew Henry, the noted Bible commentator of an earlier day, was once robbed by thieves. After the experience, he wrote this in his diary: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, although they took my purse [wallet], they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

Henry personified 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsy were imprisoned during World War II, first in a labor camp, then in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Their crime? Hiding Jews in their native Holland during the Nazis’ occupation. Before she died (in Ravensbruck), Betsy said this to Corrie: “We must tell people how good God is. After the war, we must go around telling people. No one will be able to say that they have suffered worse than us. We can tell them how wonderful God is, and how His love will fill our lives, if only we will give up our hatred and bitterness.”

Despite her sister’s death, Corrie ten Boom did just that.

Whatever circumstances you find yourself in, search for opportunities to thank God. Matthew Henry found four, and Corrie ten Boom found enough to fill many years of ministry.

How will God use you when you begin to focus most on what you have to be thankful for?