I tossed and turned trying to go back to sleep. It was only 4am but my mind was already racing with deadlines, to-do’s, and insecurities. Topping the list was the live Internet show I was being interviewed on later that morning to discuss my new book The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus with a messianic Jewish rabbi!
“Who am I to discuss Old Testament scriptures with a rabbi?”
“What did even I write about the tabernacle?”
“And can I articulate why God’s justice and mercy must go hand in hand?”
So many doubts filled my mind that instead of continuing to battle sleeplessness, I decided to just get up and start reviewing my notes while the house was quiet. But as I waited for the coffee to brew, that still soft voice of the Spirit prompted me to first open my Bible to read and pray.
I had been using Melissa Kruger’s In All Things to study the book of Philippians. And wouldn’t you know it, the very section I was schedule to read that morning covered the well-known Philippians 4:6 verse, “…do not be anxious about anything.”
Don’t you love when God does that?
But even in this familiar passage, something new jumped out at me.
“… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made know to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (6-7).”
While I had asked God to help me recall and articulate what I needed to know to hold an intelligent conversation with the rabbi, I hadn’t thought about doing so with thanksgiving. In fact, I spent the prior evening wishing I didn’t have to do the interview. So now staring me in the face was my ingratitude for the opportunity to expound upon God’s Word on a forum that might lead others to get their hands on gospel-centered material. It’s one of the primary reasons I write!
Thank you, Jesus.
As I later reflected upon that morning, I realized how quickly my mind—when set on self—is overtaken by stress, anxiety, and fear. I cling tightly to self-sufficiency and control, often without a thought about God. If He does enter my mind, it’s certainly not with thanksgiving and praise. Yet, here this passage clearly connects a heart of thanksgiving with his peace that we ultimately long for.
What’s amazing is though I continue to fret and seek control without a thought of thanks, Jesus never failed in this way, for me.
If you recall, before Jesus was crucified, he gathered with his disciples in an upper room to share a last meal. But before passing the wine and breaking the bread, he gave thanks.
HE GAVE THANKS, even knowing what was about to happen to him!
He knew that his Father was about to turn his back to him. He knew he was going to have to die an excruciating, humiliating death. But as Hebrews 12 tells us, it was for the joy set before him that Jesus endured the cross and thought little of the shame. He knew what he was doing was necessary to bring his children into an everlasting relationship with the Father.
So he took the bread and gave thanks.
Every time we partake in this meal, we remember and give thanks for Christ’s broken body and blood shed for us. It serves as a tangible picture meant to help us taste and see his goodness and grace.
Some traditions refer to the taking of this communion meal as the Eucharist, which is a derivative of the Greek word “Eucharisteo,” meaning “thanksgiving” which I found fascinating! What’s more is this word broken down finds its roots in the word “charis” meaning “the token or proof of grace,” coming from the word “chara” meaning “joy.”
In other words, thanksgiving is rooted in joy!
Therefore, it could be said that the extent of my joy will be reflective of the degree of my thankfulness. Is it any wonder then that when my heart feels little thanks, joy escapes me, and I miss seeing the abundance of his grace?
So my prayer for us is this: that in whatever circumstances – suffering and trials, seasons of loneliness and discontent, and also when everything is great – that he would cause our eyes to stay fixed on him and our lips to sing his praise.
How thankful I am for the weekly reminder reinforced through the liturgy that accompanies our communion meal:
“Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Christ our Passover has
been sacrificed for us.”
“Therefore, let us keep the feast. The gifts of God are for the people of God. Come eat and drink with thanksgiving. Hallelujah!”
About the Author:
Kristen Hatton is the author of The Gospel-Centered Life in Exodus for Students, Face Time: Your Identity in a Selfie World and Get Your Story Straight. In addition to her own blog, she frequently contributes to the Rooted Ministry and Women’s Ministry enCourage blogs, and recently started Redemptive Parenting on Instagram. Kristen lives in Oklahoma with her pastor husband and is the mother of three teenage/young adult children. Learn more by visiting her website at www.kristenhatton.com.