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“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18
If your Thanksgiving holiday was anything like mine it was probably filled with lots of family, food, and football. And hopefully, at some point during the festivities, there was a moment of personal reflection for recounting God’s faithful work in our lives throughout the year past.
But today it’s over. It’s the day after Thanksgiving. The family has gone home. The left overs are in the fridge. And the football is off the air, at least for a little while.
Is Thanksgiving something we gather to do once a year, indulging ourselves for a few hours, and then going our separate ways back to normal life? Or is there a way to take this special day with us every day, all year long?
In the fifth chapter of his first letter to the church at Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul boldly declares that Thanksgiving is more than a holiday—it is a day-to-day:
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
As we move forward into the rest of the year until next Thanksgiving, there are two settings in which we must give thanks daily, and one strategy to help us do it. God’s graciousness demands our gratitude, in all circumstances, and this is not an easy feat.
Setting #1: Good Times
Good times present one of the most treacherous traps to giving thanks in all circumstances. When all is well in our world, if we are not cautious, the contagion of comfort and poison of pride can begin to creep into our lives. Rather than having an attitude of gratitude we can begin to believe the lie that we, not God, are responsible for our successes or well-being.
Setting #2: Hard Times
Hard times reveal our true commitment to giving thanks in all circumstances. When we find ourselves in times of desert drought we tend to focus inwardly, summoning all our strength to rise to the challenge before us, rather than resting in the power that only God can provide. Instead of thanking him for what he is teaching us through our trials, we tend to fall victim to frustration and complaint.
Strategy: Look Upon The Cross
There is only one strategy that allows us to give thanks, both in good and hard times—the cross of Jesus Christ.
In good times, when all is well, looking upon the cross creates humility—allowing us to give thanks for God’s saving grace. None of us are as smart or savvy as we think we are when we stare at what Jesus did for us at Calvary. We are simply sinners. We only have good times in our lives because of his pardon and provision. And coming to this realization produces praise—daily thankfulness for who God is and what he has done.
In hard times, when everything seems to be going wrong, looking upon the cross creates hope—allowing us to give thanks for God’s victory over sin and death. Even if our trial will not pass until we head home to heaven, we have confident assurance that it will come to an end, and that a surpassing glory awaits us with our Lord Jesus. This assurance also produces praise—daily appreciation for the celebration to come.
Thanksgiving all year long? Yes, it is possible—in good times and in hard times—if we will look upon the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ. In the cross alone is the power of humility and hope—the source of true gratitude that will never fade away.
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! How do you stay thankful for God’s work in your life all year long? What are some practical strategies you use in your daily life to maintain an attitude of praise and gratitude?
But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.
As I reflected on Veteran’s Day last week, I took some time to think about those who served our country that also directly invested in me. Specifically, I found myself replaying memorial services I attended for veterans in my life. They were celebrations for the life of my grandfather and my great uncle.
As I went back to those moments in time, I recalled the most moving and emotional part of those memorial tributes—the military flag folding ceremony.
Deeply rooted in the faith-based principles our nation was founded upon, the flag folding ceremony pays homage to veterans who faithfully and honorably served their country. Each of the 13 folds of the flag folding procedure holds special significance and symbolism, honoring the deceased veteran, the United States of America, and our Heavenly Father.
When it comes to showing my feelings, my wife will be the first to tell you that I am not a very emotional person. I’m never too high. I’m never too low. In her words… “you’re boring.”
So what moves me about the folding of the flag?
I think it’s the beauty of a life lived in sacrificial service.
In the second chapter of his letter to the church at Philippi, the Apostle Paul says he is willing to be “…poured out like a drink offering…” for those he lovingly served in that community. But what exactly does this mean?
In one of the Old Testament books of law, Leviticus, we see five offerings to God prescribed to the nation of Israel: burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and trespass offerings. The drink offering Paul speaks of in Philippians 2:17 was always linked to the burnt, meal, and peace offerings. These gifts were fellowship sacrifices the people gave to The Lord in loving recognition of his sovereignty, provision, and goodness. The emptying of the drink offering was a voluntary gift to The Lord that required sacrifice on the part of the giver and that showed honor and glory toward God.
In similar fashion, some 1,500 years later, Jesus Christ modeled the living drink offering as he voluntarily died for our sin, requiring the ultimate sacrifice, yet eternally glorifying the work of our father in heaven. I’m confident Paul was thinking of Jesus the drink offering as he penned his letter to the Philippians.
Like our veterans, Paul, and the ultimate example—Jesus—we too are called to serve sacrificially each day, as living drink offerings. Consider how this plays out in our lives:
1. As living drink offerings, we must be filled
There is nothing to pour out of an empty cup. So too, if we are not coming to the well (John 4:13-14) on a daily basis, we will not be equipped to pour our lives into the lives of others.
2. As living drink offerings, we must have a place to be poured
A gift is not a gift unless given to someone else. We each have God-given things that only we can say, do, write, build, play, design, or make. Where will you give your God-given gifts?
3. As living drink offerings, we must be completely emptied
I was deeply convicted by Matt Chandler’s question in this video last week: “Why are you going to bed so strong?” In other words, why are we not giving our all? Each day we must give until we have nothing to offer. Then we should rest, rise, and request strength from God to do it all over again. And again. And again. This is the epitome of the poured out life.
This week let’s all dig deep in God’s strength and give a little more until we have nothing left to give. Let’s be living drink offerings for the glory of God and the service of others!
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What veteran, teacher, coach, co-worker, friend, pastor, family member, or other person in your life has deeply impacted you through their selfless and sacrificial service? What difference has it made in your life?
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”
These days, as I look at leadership in various arenas of life, I see a common theme: Pressure.
For whatever reason, The Lord has allowed me to see leadership in many varying settings in my 27 years of life—from collegiate and NFL locker rooms, to church ministry, to public schools, to corporate America, to our small, but growing business, Next Level Performance. What I find fascinating is that whether it be coaches, pastors, principals, athletic directors, vice presidents, or student-athletes, the pressures I see are common across all walks of leadership.
I see leaders feeling pressure to be three things:
1. Leaders are feeling the pressure to be LOUD
There is a common misconception that being a leader and being extroverted are synonymous. I see leaders of varying ages and roles departing from their natural, God-given personality to lead loudly, because society is telling them this is the right approach. Vocal leadership is not the only path to positively influencing others.
2. Leaders are feeling the pressure to be LIKED
Leaders naturally should have a healthy desire to keep their teams engaged. Leaders must care for people! But time and again I see that care for others is getting intertwined with “people need to like me”—and it has dangerous side effects, like allowing performance to slide and shirking accountability. The reality for a leader is this—our actions as leaders are so loud, people can’t really hear what we’re saying anyway!
3. Leaders are feeling the pressure to be LAPSE-FREE
Let’s cut to the chase. We are all mistake-ridden, flawed people. No one is perfect. No leader is perfect. But in our social media driven world, leaders are feeling the heat to present a flawless front at all times. The reality is: vulnerability and sharing failure earns a leader more credibility. Any time I share openly at a speaking engagement about being cut from an NFL roster or injuries I suffered as an athlete, I can tell you I am speaking to a more engaged audience.
Whether you are a leader of faith or not, I want to offer you hope today from the pressures to be loud, liked, and lapse-free. Ephesians 2:10 has provided me words of encouragement that have carried me through many difficult times as a leader. Specifically we read three powerful promises in this scripture verse:
1. As leaders, we are PLANNED
“…we are God’s handiwork” is an amazing reminder that as leaders, we are not an accident! We are perfectly planned to be who we are naturally wired to be—our personalities, our communication styles, our passions—and we should lead from those unique gifts, rather than conforming to society’s definition of leadership.
2. As leaders, we are PURPOSED
We are “created” for a reason—“to do good works” that glorify Jesus Christ. There are good works that only you can do as a leader. There are good works that only I can do as a leader. You are made to lead specific people, in a specific place, for a specific purpose!
3. As leaders we are PREPARED
The good works we are created to do were “prepared in advance for us”. This is amazing to wrap your mind around! There are people, organizations, teams, cultures, and systems that you and only you are designed to impact and make better. All leaders should approach this opportunity with confidence. While all have continual learning and growing to do, we have the God-given tools inside us to lead well where we are called.
As you lead today, are you feeling pressure to be loud, liked, and lapse-free? Or are you doing what only you can do best—just as God planned, purposed, and prepared for you to do?
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
-“Mr.” Fred Rogers
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What is the greatest pressure you personally are feeling as a leader? How do you deal with it as you lead?
“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
Growing up in a small town, you were in the minority if you didn’t get an article from Tom Hiller (my dad).
My dad is the type of guy that gets up at five in the morning every day, even if there isn’t a bonafide reason to do so. Every morning during my school years I got up early with my dad to eat breakfast, do our daily devotions, and read the newspaper. Without fail, every morning when I entered the kitchen the paper was marked up with a pen.
“Tim – Read”
“TIM” (with arrow pointing to circled article)
“Save for Sally”
“Send to Mike”
My dad’s annotations were all over the place. Then, when my parents were done with the paper, he would either cut out the articles and mail them to people, or walk them to their house and stick them in the mailbox.
Looking back, at that stage of my life my dad’s article sharing habit was ultra-embarrassing. But as I reflect on those articles, I realize he was doing 2 things:
- He was showing me pictures of leadership and service that he wanted me to emulate. As I read the articles he selected for me, he was showing me what to do (and sometimes what not to do) and how to live and serve others. He was showing me pictures of who he desired me to become. And pictures are truly worth a thousand words.
- He was also showing other people he cared about them—that he was thinking about them and that he cared about their personal growth and development. As a child and teenager I was too immature and self-conscious to realize it—but people truly appreciated these articles my dad was sharing with them. They saw his genuine concern and interest in their lives.
The author of Hebrews exhorts us in chapter 13 to remember “to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” My dad was truly modeling this exhortation for me—even through a simple act of sharing articles with me and others he cared about.
What jumps out at me about Hebrews 13:16 is the word “sacrifice.” Doing good and sharing with others requires sacrifice—lowering the self and elevating others. It would’ve been much easier for my dad to sleep later, skip his devotional time, and plow through the paper, only reading for his own edification. But rather he approached his time reading the paper with others in mind, rather than just himself. And if you know him—he approaches everything he does this way.
Now that I’m older, and hopefully a little wiser, I try to follow in my dad’s unselfish footsteps and share something of value with someone else—article, hand written note, blog post—at least one time a week, every week. It’s more electronic, e-mail, and social media driven than my dad’s sharing (he still mails or brings me articles every time we visit!), but I still try to carry on example of unselfish giving he always set for me.
This week let’s all show others we care by unselfishly being on the lookout for ways we can share a piece of our life with them!
IT’S YOUR TURN: Add your comments! What are some practical ways you give and share with others to show you care about them?
Strive: The Book
In Strive, former collegiate and NFL quarterback Tim Hiller leads you on a year-long journey, taking small steps each week on the path to making your life matter, developing into the person God designed you to be.
Our lives are short. Together, let’s pursue what matters.
From his platform as a champion, Tim has a natural gift for connecting with a wide range of audiences—from schools, youth groups, and churches, to student-athletes and business leaders. Submit a speaking request to invite Tim to inspire your group, team, or organization.
Next Level Performance
Co-founded by Tim Hiller, Next Level Performance develops the total athlete through elite sports performance training, club teams, and Beyond The Game™ Conferences. NLP’s proprietary leadership development process helps student-athletes succeed, both now and in the future.