Saturday, June 25, 2016

With Grateful Appreciation

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            I heard a word today that hit me pretty hard. To be completely honest, when I heard this word I was complaining about a particular person in my life. This person and I have been having some issues, some struggles in our relationship and I have been praying about the conflict for some time now. As I was thinking about all the things I wish this person would change, I heard the word “Appreciate”. Appreciate? (I found myself asking the Lord.) What does that have to do with the struggle I am facing with this person? I was being appreciative, it wasn’t me with the problem, it was them.
            The word appreciate means to be grateful and thankful. It means to find the value in something or in someone and regard it with honor and respect. My thoughts about this person have been less than grateful and certainly not appreciative at all. This simple word showed me how ungrateful my heart really was. I have been so focused on what I thought this person needed to change, I couldn’t see the change needed in me.
            “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving one another, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15 ESV
            Paul gives us I these verses some simple ways to live in relationship with our fellow man. As I read through these verses, I found myself falling very short. I found my ungrateful heart beating so loud it was drowning out the love He has called to walk in. I couldn’t hear His word telling me, “It’s not about them, it’s about you.” I’m not going to go through every word that Paul writes to us in these verses, I am only going to expound on the ones that jumped off the page and hit me in my ungrateful heart.
            First of all, Paul tells us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. We are valued in the eyes of our Father. Every human life is precious to God. Every man, woman and child has been predestined by God to have a place and a purpose in this world. Every time I complain or begin to focus on that person’s faults and failings, I devalue their worth. I don’t appreciate them. According to God, we are all priceless. What right do I have to speak anything differently?
            We are also called to have compassionate hearts. Mercy should be the center of every relationship we have with anyone. Is not the mercy of God central to your life? Is not His mercy what brought you to see His grace and receive His gift of life? Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Yes, we may be hurt and we may be angry, but we also must have mercy. We did not, and do not get what we deserve, so let us not be so eager to hope they get theirs.
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            The next words that jumped off the page of my Bible were Paul’s call to bear with one another. Whenever I read these words I think about that woman who just seems to push every single button I have. When I see her coming I usually run the other way. But Paul encourages us to bear with them. The call to bear with one another means that we put up with one another’s faults and idiosyncrasies. Those things that person does to get on your nerves and to cause you to want to complain about them, bear with them, because you probably get on their nerves too. Bearing with one another also means to hold each other up. We should be there for one another. We should be there to walk beside one another and hold each other up. Yes, even the ones who seem to know where every button you have is located.
            Lastly, Paul tells us to be thankful. The word used here doesn’t only mean to be thankful. It means to be gracious. It means to be pleasant in your words, your thoughts and your deeds. It means to be nice. One of the verses referenced to help define the context of the word thankful is Proverbs 11:16, “A gracious woman gets honor; and violent men get rich.” Have you ever been around someone who is just not nice? Is there any honor in their words? When they talk about other people, are their words gracious or thankful? Probably not. We are to be opposite that. We are to be nice and gracious at all times, in all ways, even in our thoughts about others. Your thoughts will determine your words, and your words reveal your true feelings. Listen to yourself, are you gracious?
            Be thankful. Value and esteem others. Appreciate them. We all have these relationships in our lives that could be better, that could be stronger, but we don’t appreciate the other person enough to work on our bad behaviors. We focus so much on what they are doing wrong that we fail to see our own ungrateful hearts. God has called us to live in peace, not only with Him, but with others as well. Until we can let go of what we think we deserve and appreciate others for who God sees them as, we will continue to have struggles in our relationships.
            Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that we are to be a thankful people, a gracious and loving people, for this is the will of God for those who are in Christ Jesus. God does not desire us to live in struggling relationships with one another. He desires us to live in peace and love having compassion on one another. We all have faults and failures. We all deserve the worst, yet we have been given the best. Let us not take that for granted with ungrateful hearts. Let us instead strive to appreciate the worth God has placed on every individual life, whether in Him or not.

            I pray today that you and I will choose to no longer walk with an ungrateful heart, but that you will choose to put on compassion, love and graciousness in all that you think, say and do. I pray that we, as His holy and beloved children, will learn to value one another as deeply as we are valued by Him. May the God of peace be with you, and may His Word be true. Amen and Amen.