By Gary Skeen
For the last several years I have sent a thanksgiving message that reminds us of our wealth and the gratitude we ought to have related to that wealth, even though many of us do not to perceive ourselves as wealthy.
It is true that the middle class is shrinking and the distance between those at the poverty level and the top one percent is dramatic in the US. Americans earning over $34,000 a year are in the top one percent of wage earners in the world and most all of us are part of the one percent if we take a larger world view. I have reminded you that we share in the enjoyment of vast resources as citizens of the United States, including roads, libraries, national parks and a functioning economic system – or at least one that is not failing like many other places. We enjoy significant freedoms and maybe the most important one is religious freedom.
As I began to write this year I questioned my previous messages. The circumstances are all still true but is that the best or appropriate focus for our Thanksgiving gratitude? I was recently asked to provide a “generosity testimony” by my local church. In preparing for that testimony, I considered my tithes and offerings, and why I make contributions. In the Old Testament, tithe doses have us focus on the annual increase of what has been entrusted to us, but not on the actual assets for which we are stewards. We are to be stewards of those resources on His behalf. Our world was created by and belongs to Him. So much of the strife in this word is created by the illusion that we own or control things, when in reality at best we are temporary stewards. Our focus should be on the creator not the created.
Every day I am inundated with retirement education and investment messages from a multitude of sources that is based on the fear of what might happen to investments in the future and the fear of not having saved enough money for the future. In many ways the industry is waking up to the fact that with longer productive lives the old picture of retiring from vocation is changing to retiring to something else. It now seems we are beginning to realize life revolves around encouraging all of you to prepare for the future and that is important in relationship to being the presence of Christ more than the beach and golf pictures painted on Facebook by Fisher Investments.
Those of you participating in CBF Church Benefits really need to know that retirement planning and investing is about being good stewards with what has been entrusted to you to prepare for a life of ministry and ongoing relationship with the one who called you – even beyond fulltime employment.
“In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world – things are in My hands – I am victorious – in Me you have peace.” John 16:33
Thanksgiving turns our eyes from our problems and ourselves to the Lord, so that we might focus on Him and His sovereign grace. It helps us to see life through the perspective of God. Then, as this happens, this upward focus promotes faith and courage in the face of the trying and painful situations that we all eventually face to one degree or another.
Whenever you give thanks to God, despite the most difficult circumstances, the world loses a big battle in your life. When you give thanks in the midst of difficulty, you bring pleasure to God’s heart. He is looking for Christians who live in a realm of praise and thanksgiving where the fallen world no longer has an ability to hold or manipulate that person. When we have a thankful heart it is pleasing to God.
Are you thankful? Are you thankful for your present circumstances? Are you thankful for your salvation, your family, friendships, and your work? Thankfulness is a key to your relationship in Christ. It is the key that turns your situation around because it changes you. There is power in a thankful heart.
Gary Skeen serves as the President of CBF Church Benefits, a ministry of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.