1 Thessalonians 5: 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I have heard many athletes say “I ain’t no role model”. I understand what they are saying. They happened to be extremely talented athletic children who likely devoted significant time playing the sport they love. Perhaps it was spending 5 hours a day on the neighbourhood basketball court, soccer pitch or local tennis courts. And with time, perseverance and genetic favour they rose to the top of their game and achieved fame and fortune. What, of that, qualifies them to be a role model for others? The reality, however, is that if they achieve sports fame, they will be looked up to by many children wanting to achieve what they did.
I am always pleased, therefore, when I hear stories of athletes who accept the reality of being a role model and choose to stretch themselves to do something with this fame. I recently listened to a podcast (World’s Greatest Athlete Podcast – out of Santa Barbara, CA) where they interviewed Canadian track & field star, Brianne Thiessen-Eaton. Fresh off her World Indoor Pentathlon Gold in Oregon in 2016, Brianne described a trip that she, and her world record-holding husband Ashton Eaton, had taken to Kenya. There was much that had impressed her on the trip, but she said that one thing made an indelible mark on her – the people’s spirit of appreciation. Brianne described being invited to Kenyan’s houses. She said they were nothing more than mud houses with a single room and few places to sit, but these people were so happy to show off their home to them and to share the little food they had. While in North America we would be ashamed if that is all we had, they were appreciative of the very little they possessed.
As Christians we must be very careful that we do not fall into the unappreciative attitude of the Western world. We may not realize it, but approximately 3 billion people live on less than $3 per day and they lack water, housing, education etc. In contrast, on any given day, one of our greatest problems is that our smart phone gets hung up or our high speed internet connection is lagging.
The Holy Scriptures are filled with reminders that we are to be appreciative children of God. “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:8). “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). But I can guarantee that there will be believers reading this now who are experiencing intense and legitimate pain and asking “how can I give thanks with where I am at today”? Having been there myself many times before, I made a decision years ago that I would become even more appreciative in those times. I decided to fight spiritually and I would pray and make a concerted effort to find everything possible to thank God for. I remember days where I was literally crying in pain while I thanked God for his many blessings; I would then ask Him to deal with the real hurts that were going on in my life. I realized that appreciation is a choice, and the thing that I am most appreciative of, and the thing that no person, not even Satan can take away, is the reality that one day I will spend eternity without pain, with my loving Saviour Jesus Christ. Choose appreciation!