By JT Clark
My Brothers’ Crossing
By now, many of us have enjoyed a bountiful meal with all of the holiday trimmings. We likely have shared a perspective of what we are truly thankful. Some will have stepped into communities of people that are struggling in this day and time and helped to prepare and serve a meal. For some who volunteer in such situations, it is an annual tradition. For others, it is just what they do week in and week out.
Through our ministry, my wife and I have an opportunity to meet with a few men at the Franklin County Jail. We have been leading them in a Bible study three days a week. We are nearing the end of the study for this semester. A portion of the study that we recently covered had to do with thanksgiving. No, not the holiday. We have been discussing an attitude and spirit of thanksgiving and praise.
I have written previously about how easy it is to have praises on your tongue and a spirit of thanksgiving when you’re on the mountaintop. It can be more difficult to do so when you are in the midst of a storm. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV), In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. In his encouraging the church to be sober of mind, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in every and all situations. We as a body of believers need to continue to be sanctified in our faith. We need to continue to become mature in our beliefs. So that when the storms do come, we can stand firm on the foundation and offer thanksgiving and praise, even though we are going through something.
A task that was assigned to the men in recent weeks was to write a top 10 list, if you will. Each was asked to write down 10 things that he was most thankful. You can imagine that someone who is incarcerated would be in the midst of a tribulation. Separated from family. Remorseful for their actions. Repaying a debt owed to society. Regretting lost time. And with that being said, each man shared the list that he developed.
Some of the answers were common on each list. They were thankful for their Savior, Jesus Christ. They were thankful for their health. They were thankful for this period in their lives as it allowed them to refocus on the proper priorities. For one man, he was thankful to hear of a saving grace. They were thankful for family members who had stood by them even through their mistakes. They realize that not everyone is so fortunate.
As I listened to their lists and expressions of thanksgiving, it warmed my spirit. To me, it was a reflection of all God’s word that we have been sharing since the semester started. It also challenged me. If these guys can be so hopeful and expressive of their praise, what is holding me back? The difficulties that I am facing pale in comparison. I was greatly encouraged by the spirit that each exhibited. As Paul wrote, “In everything give thanks...”
I, too, have much to be thankful. We were able to celebrate the holiday yesterday with family, including the newest addition – a granddaughter, Margot. Collectively, we chose to reflect on all the blessings in our lives and the opportunity each of us have to pour into the lives of others. A spirit of thanksgiving was easy to achieve yesterday. As I continue to be refined by the fire of life, I hope that I will be a reflection of Christ’s love for His people. I hope I will be an example, much in the way the men of our Bible study class have been for me and my wife.
Psalm 95:2 (KJV) reads, “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.” Let us all continue an attitude of gratitude for all that He has done for us already. Even if He doesn’t do one more thing to bless any of us, He has already done it all.