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August 11, 2017

Imagine if you will a wagon with a driver being pulled by two horses. The two horses are your mind and your emotions. The driver is your will and the cart is your body. The two horses, your mind and emotions, will take your body, the cart, wherever your will, the driver, wants to go. Simple, right? It would be simple but there is one thing missing from our picture and that is the invisible spirit and ‘self’ that sit, hidden, on each side of the driver whispering instructions into his ear. Listen too much to ‘self’ and the driver will drive the horses, wagon and driver right over a cliff. Listen to spirit and the whole unit will eventually get to the destination of God. It is important then to block out the voice of ‘self’ from affecting our will and destroying our lives. One of the easiest ways to block that voice is thankfulness.

The battle for our souls between spirit and ‘self’ is a very real conflict. God has given us, in His Word, very real, practical tactics to defeat ‘self’ and end its reign of terror in our souls. What God taught us was the immense spiritual power of thankfulness that binds up ‘self’ so that it cannot survive. We did learn in the wilderness, however, that ‘self’ will “not go gentle into that good night.” It does not want to die so it will fight us tooth and nail and do anything to stay alive. ‘Self’ tries to convince us to spiritualize the strategies God gives us to neutralize them. Thankfulness is no different. As long as our thankfulness is simply a religious recitation or an empty sop done only on Sunday then it will not be effective. In order to work against ‘self’ thankfulness has to rise from our spirit in praise to God.

On one of our darkest nights in the wilderness we found the power of thankfulness coming from deep within. Mid November 2011 saw us alone in the woods in eastern P.E.I. with no shelter. Light rain was coming down and a strong wind was blowing at us as we huddled under our few blankets and bits of pitiful cardboard. We were cold, shivering and sick. The misery was immense. Now in these situations the tactic ‘self’ would use would be to get us to focus on ourselves and how miserable we were. From there we would get depressed, angry and frustrated that God had led us here. Now many of you may think that this would be a reasonable conclusion considering our situation. Unwittingly you have just agreed with ‘self’ and a common strategy it uses when we are in difficult and trying circumstances. Whenever things get tough, we are in conflict or pain or suffering, ‘self’ wants us to focus on ourselves. It feeds on this attention and grows exponentially with each trial. This is exactly what must NOT happen when we are in the wilderness.

To counter the overwhelming thoughts of ‘self’ that come at us when we are in difficult situations we needed to learn how to be thankful. This is not the kind of thankfulness you learn in Sunday School or church. That kind of thankfulness is as about as useful as a two legged table. The thankfulness God wants us to learn comes from focusing, not on ourselves, but on Him. Too often we are taught by religion and others that you need to be thankful for what you have but this kind of thankfulness is merely an extension on ‘self.’ True thankfulness focuses on God and who He is. When you have learned that thankfulness it will kill ‘self’ faster than a New York comeback. When we were in the woods of P.E.I. we literally had nothing to be thankful for in our circumstances, or so it seemed. As we sat there cold, wet and miserable we forced ourselves to recite the Lord’s Prayer.

Pray, therefore, like this: Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven (left, remitted, and let go of the debts, and have given up resentment against) our debtors. And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13

We were forcibly turning our thoughts to God. With the Holy Spirit giving strength to our spirit we engaged our free will to pressure our mind and our emotions to focus on God instead of letting ‘self’ take the reins and guide us to disaster. This was a battle and we literally had to rip the reins of our will from ‘self’ and viscerally, emphatically make our mind focus on our Lord. This was neither easy nor pleasant because it was a critical battle for who would be in charge, ‘self’ or spirit. Who won that battle would be critical in the days ahead. We chose spirit. After we prayed the Lord’s Prayer we began to sing Jesus Loves Me. Again we were making conscious, forcible decisions to focus on Jesus; not on ourselves and our situation. Now with no ammunition ‘self’ began to back down. It wasn’t quitting the war but it knew it had lost the battle. At this time, we were then able to engage the super weapon of thankfulness. You see focusing on God, instead of ourselves, at that critical moment, put ‘self’ on the back foot but it did not knock it out. It is an important first step but the real power came when we implemented the spiritual weapon of thankfulness.

When we began to look at God and see His goodness we were able to ‘enter in’ to thankfulness. All of heaven is thankful for who God is and what He is like, His faithfulness, His love, His righteousness, His holiness, and all of His attributes. There is truly none like Him and all of heaven is thankful for who He is. As we focused on God that night we joined with heaven in thankfulness and praise to Him for who He is. That thankfulness lifted our spirits off the cold wet ground to the very streets of heaven where we could see Him in spirit. ‘Self’ didn’t have a chance and had to sulk away, deeply wounded by a crushing defeat. It wasn’t dead but dying. Now lest you think that we were in some sort of ecstatic trance of spiritual awe let me remind you that our bodies were shivering, our teeth were chattering and there was NO physical evidence of God’s presence. Yet He was there, with His angels, in spirit, watching over us as a mother hen watches over her chicks. He never left us. He never promised us that He would take us from the misery, He promised us that He would go through the misery with us. Big difference. What we needed to do was change our perspective. Instead of getting angry at God for not getting us out of our situation we needed to see that He was right there in the pit with us. By focusing on His presence and being thankful for who He is we defeated ‘self’ and strengthened our spirits.

Being thankful starts with what you are focused on. Focus on ‘self’, regardless of your situation, and I guarantee you will be miserable. Focus on Him, regardless of your situation and your emotions will begin to flow with praise and thankfulness for who He is and His immense love for you. The focus paves the way for thankfulness to erupt, like a volcano, from the spirit within. You won’t be able to stop praising Him once it starts. The difficulty lies in getting that volcano started. Focus on God and thankfulness are a choice. They carry tremendous spiritual power to defeat satan and ‘self’. You can connect with this power at any moment by a simple act of your will; a basic choice for spirit. Make this choice and I will guarantee you God will meet you right where you are at and take your spirit to be with Him. Choose for ‘self’ you will like everyone else who follows ‘self’; alone and miserable.

True thankfulness is hard work at first. It is not easy to learn and implement for it is counter to everything we have been taught in this world that is addicted to ‘self’. If you persevere though you soon will be able to enter in to thankfulness and defeat ‘self’. The rewards are immense and it will open up to you avenues of joy you never knew existed. Try it. I dare you.