Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. (Psalm 100:4, N.K.J.V.)
R.T. Kendall tells the story of some youngsters who played a prank on a man who had a prominent mustache. Somehow they got hold of some limburger cheese and gently rubbed it on his mustache while he was napping. When the man awoke he said, “This bed stinks.” He then got up off the bed, walked around the bedroom, and said, “This room stinks.” Next, he walked throughout all the rooms of his house and said, “This whole house stinks.” Finally, he walked outside, took a deep breath, and announced, “This whole world stinks!”
Like that fellow, we too can sometimes start thinking that the whole world stinks. Isn’t it funny how we can get up from a comfortable bed in the morning, put on nice clothes, enjoy a filling breakfast, walk out of a good home, start up a reliable vehicle, head off to a job that keeps all the bills paid, and then, as soon as someone cuts us off in traffic, decide that the whole world stinks? What about being thankful for another day to live? What about being grateful for that comfortable bed? Those nice clothes? That breakfast? That home? That vehicle? That job? For that matter, what about just appreciating the fact that we have the health and ability to get out there and ride that big wave called the “modern world”? I’ll guarantee you that there are people in hospital beds and nursing homes right now who would love to get up tomorrow morning, hit the highway, and have someone cut them off in traffic.
Our text verse is one we hear quoted a lot around the holiday we Americans call Thanksgiving. The truth is, though, that God bestows His blessings upon us every day and therefore should be thanked every day. That goes for saved believers as well as lost unbelievers. On the subject of God bestowing blessings upon everybody, Jesus pointed out that God makes His sun rise on not only the good but also the evil, and He sends rain on not only the just but also the unjust (Matthew 5:45). Jesus said that, by the way, as part of His teaching about how God loves His enemies, a teaching in which Jesus commanded His followers to likewise love their enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
But it’s hard to show much love, either to our friends or to our enemies, when we go around grumbling all the time about life’s assorted problems. We have too much in common with that father whose son was once asked, “Does your dad spend a lot of time in his den?” To that, the boy replied, “No, he just growls all over the house.” I myself shutter to think what answer my two sons would give if someone ever asked them, “Does your dad complain much?” Let’s just hope they never get asked that.
Someone has said, “What a grand world this would be if we could forget our troubles as easily as we forget our blessings.” All I can say to that is, “Amen!” Unfortunately, me saying, “Amen!” to it isn’t the same as me actually doing my part to live it. Another quote I picked up somewhere along the way goes like this: “Don’t be mad about roses having thorns; be thankful that thorns have roses.”
Along about now I can hear someone saying, “Oh, that cutesy little saying ignores the problem. What we really need is some way to eliminate the thorns from the roses. That’s how we can truly make this world a better place.” Well, all I can say to that is, “Good luck, let me know how that goes for you.” But until someone actually succeeds in eliminating the thorns, I think the best way I can make this world a grander place overall and build a more enjoyable life for myself and my family is for me to do a better job of focusing on the roses rather than the thorns. And I’m sure that I’ll do that too, every single day I live, that is until the next time someone cuts me off in traffic.