My theme for 2013 is gratefulness; I shared that with you on January 1. I want to challenge myself to have 365 days of grateful. Truthfully, I am already grateful – by and large, most of the time I’m grateful for my life. When I’m asked the question, “How are things?,” or “How are you?” I answer, “Awesome,” because I mean it and I can list off a number of reasons why it’s true that day. Most people will never see my enthusiasm for life wane. Occasionally, I can be overwhelmed by life, but those moments are more the exception, rather than my normal experience and I bounce back quickly. The situation may not change, but my attitude changes.
Over the last couple of years, time and again I’ve received prophetic words and words of encouragement that my turmoil has been seen by the Lord and he is rewarding me, that my tears will be turned into laughter. The first few times I received words like that, I discounted. That’s not me. But I as I continued to receive similar words, I began to get a sense of foreboding. I had to ask the Lord, “Are these people giving me a future prophetic word? Is my life going to make a turn for the worse, but in it, I’ll know the faithfulness of the Lord because they don’t seem to be describing me very well?”
The Lord answered me by showing me the weight I’ve been carrying – the things others see and feel burdened in their spirits for me, and yet, I’ve not felt overwhelmed by it. The reason, the only reason, I’m not overwhelmed is because I’ve been hidden under the shadow of the Almighty. I’ve made his sanctuary my home and I’ve made his Presence my single desire.
The challenge I made to myself to be grateful isn’t because I am currently ungrateful but because I understand the correlation between thankfulness (gratefulness) and quenching the Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:18-19). I want to be intentional about cultivating a grateful heart because I want to fan the flame that burns bright inside. I want his fire to burn away anything not worthy of eternity. Problems aren’t going to be there anyway, so why not get the party started early?
Problems really aren’t problems when you rest in his holy Presence, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Yesterday I had a familiar conversation with a dear, close friend whom I admire so much. Many areas of her life are a struggle. One area, in particular, seems to be a constant struggle and I suggested she look for ways to be grateful in that area. I’ve talked with her at other times, when she is full of the Holy Spirit, full of fire and nothing seems to faze her when she’s full of the Presence. We talked about the correlation between expressing gratefulness and maintaining the bonfire of the Holy Spirit.
I know you know this already. Gratefulness is important but what comes first? The fire or gratefulness. It’s the great age old question, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” Really, does it matter? Put yourself in the place of his Presence and be intentional about being grateful and the rest falls into place.
I used to think Paul was arrogant when he said, “follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) I no longer think Paul was arrogant; he simply knew where he had personal victory and encouraged others to reap from his inheritance. Likewise, I say, follow me into gratefulness, as I have learned how to be grateful and thereby not put out the Spirit’s fire. Live in his Presence, where every battle outcome is already settled in our favour.