For most of the past two weeks the Father has had me attending to the needs of a young disciple of Christ named Nicholas. This has been a change from my normal routine of writing, research, and sending out newsletters to men in prison. Whether the Father calls us to minister to one, or to a multitude, the dynamics are the same. There is a necessity to be led of the Spirit of Christ in all that we do. Daily I find Yahweh giving me the ability to perform whatever task He sets before me. He both guides and provides that we might fulfill whatever work He calls us to. What a blessing it is to have such a heavenly Father.
I am blessed to report that Yahweh has gone before Nicholas in a mighty way. Nicholas will be starting a new job tomorrow (Monday morning). He will be working ten hour days, five days a week, at a large dairy. His duties will be in the area of maintenance and repair of the facilities and equipment. His supervisor is a Christian man who attends the same church as my daughter. This man is knowledgeable and skilled in all areas of facilities maintenance, which should afford Nicholas a good opportunity to continue to learn new skills and hone the ones he already has.
Since Nicholas will be heading off to work around 7 A.M. each morning, and will not return home until after 6 P.M., also having a class to attend every Saturday to fulfill the requirements of his parole, I will find myself with an abundance of time alone once more. This will afford me time to continue to write and fulfill other areas of ministry, and I will still have the blessing of fellowship with Nicholas in the evenings.
These past two weeks have been very fruitful. Nicholas has a sincere eagerness to grow in the Lord and to please Him. He is a humble young man, a characteristic I find encouraging as the Lord uses me to serve in the role of a spiritual father to him. Nicholas receives instruction very well, and does not shrink back from words of admonishment. A notable aspect of Nicholas’ behavior and attitude is that he is very grateful for all the blessings Yahweh brings into his life. I do not know any other person who expresses thankfulness more often than he does. The one phrase that I hear coming forth from Nicholas’ mouth with the greatest frequency is “Thank you Papa Joseph.”
As I have interacted with Nicholas these past two weeks I have at times reflected on the type of sons that are pleasing to our heavenly Father. One thing Yahweh must do with all of His children is to give them instruction, guidance, and oftentimes correction. Those who fulfill the role of spiritual fathers will find themselves being called to do the same. What a difference it makes to interact with people who accept instruction and correction, even welcoming it. The experience of “fathering” humble sons and daughters is vastly different than the experience of striving with those who are prideful and unteachable.
I at times agonize over how to express some word of instruction or correction to another individual. I wish to do so without injuring their spirit. I want to assure them that my words are not born out of anger, or any personal offense or sense of being upset. Rather, I am seeking their welfare, and offering words of admonition that they might grow up into the fulness of the image of Christ. It has been with some trepidation that I have broached some subjects with Nicholas, but in every instance I have been met with a remarkable response. Nicholas has thanked me for bringing some matter to his attention in which he needs to mature and be perfected before God. What has been remarkable is that his words are spoken with enthusiasm. He truly appreciates having someone who cares for him to offer him guidance and correction. I can hear him now saying “Thank you Papa Joseph!”
This extraordinary response, which is so atypical of what one usually encounters in the world, has led me to meditate upon that attitude which God finds pleasing when He instructs and corrects His children. Yahweh is pleased when we demonstrate humility and a teachable spirit before Him. He is delighted when we acknowledge our gratitude for all He does for us, even when He must correct us.
I remember an occasion back in the mid 1990s when Yahweh had to discipline me severely for failing to handle money matters wisely. I kept going into debt to purchase things my soul coveted. In one particular act of discipline, the Lord scourged me, afflicting me with a physical injury. The Spirit of Christ made very plain the reason for my injury. It was to teach me to walk carefully in an area in which I had been very disobedient and self-willed. At the same time He showed me the principle that those of His children who were not faithful in the use of money and material possessions could not be trusted to receive true spiritual riches which include revelation and understanding of the mysteries of God (Luke 16:11-12). I had a great hunger for spiritual revelation and understanding. When I perceived that Yahweh had disciplined me so that I would correct my behavior and be judged worthy to receive these “greater things” I was deeply thankful for what He had done. I began vocalizing my thankfulness for His chastisement of me as a son. I confessed His righteousness and my disobedience. I thanked Him for the stripes which were leading me to a greater conformity to Christ.
Nicholas also expresses thankfulness for the material things that are given to him, large or small. Throughout the day I hear him say “Thank you Papa Joseph.” I do not tire of hearing this phrase, for I desire to see a heart of gratitude formed in all of God’s people. I know that if Nicholas is expressing gratitude to me, he is also doing the same toward others, and he is doing so to Yahweh as well.
Nicholas’ frequent expressions of thankfulness are the fruit of humility in his life. A spirit of thanksgiving and humility are closely linked together. The humble man or woman does not walk around with an attitude of entitlement. They do not take everything that is given to them for granted. They see themselves as undeserving and realize God could choose far more austere and unpleasant experiences for them. Consequently they are conscious of even the smallest gifts and blessings, and are quick to express their appreciation for that which they receive.
At this time of year when we are approaching the Thanksgiving holiday in America, many people’s minds should be turned toward the subject of the things God has blessed them with. Sadly, for many, Thanksgiving means a family gathering, eating turkey and watching football games on television. Little time is actually spent contemplating the riches of Yahweh’s blessings we receive every day.
When the Father was taking me through some lean times years ago, I became sensitive to the smallest of blessings. There was a period of time when I was living out of my car for five months, and I spent 80 days camping in the woods in a tent with very little food, and limited water. It was winter time and I did not have winter clothes. I kept warm at night by sleeping close to my two dogs inside my tent. The last 17 days I was in the woods I had no food at all. Upon leaving there the Lord directed me to go to a homeless shelter. I was appointed to fill the role of Resident Manager for the men in the mission’s alcohol and drug recovery program. I was given a small room and three meals a day in the mission’s dining room. Although I was working 80 or more hours a week, I was paid a small stipend of $100 weekly. I did not resent this at all. Rather, I was very grateful. I had room, board, and adequate spending money for necessities. Having experienced living in a car and a tent and going without food, I was sincerely grateful, and considered myself blessed, to have a roof over my head and more than sufficient food available to eat each day.
During the lean days the Lord led me through, I came to appreciate a great many things I had given little thought to in earlier years. No doubt Nicholas’ experience of spending 4-1/2 years in prison has caused him to appreciate many things that those with greater freedom and material possessions give little thought to. I have found it to be a source of delight to be around Nicholas as I find the two of us expressing appreciation throughout the day to our heavenly Father for all He is doing for us. We are truly blessed, receiving far more from our Father than we deserve.
I am persuaded that one hallmark of those who are spiritual men and women should be that they have a culture of humility and gratitude. Thanksgiving should flow from their lips as a steady stream daily.
There is an oft quoted statement attributed to Chuck Swindoll that I find much agreement with. He speaks of the importance of attitude.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.
Our attitude should be one of humility and thankfulness. Life is transformed by the manifestation of these qualities. A man or woman with a bad attitude will moan, murmur, and complain in the midst of tremendous blessings. They can have an abundance yet find fault in some small detail that does not suit them. On the other hand, there are many who are poor in this world who overflow with thanksgiving. They look for the silver lining to every cloud.
Just a couple weeks ago Nicholas was told he needed to find a new place to stay. Around the same time the Spirit of Christ impressed upon him the need to be forthright with his employer about his prison record. When he told his employers about his past they terminated his employment. He was faced with needing a place to stay while having no job. Yet, throughout this experience Nicholas did not complain against God. On the contrary. He expressed his faith in Yahweh’s goodness and his confidence that God would provide for him. Attitude! It transforms our lives. Look now what God has done! He has brought Nicholas to a place where he has fellowship with other believers and has provided for him a good job.
I encourage you to make thanksgiving a part of your daily experience. Don’t wait for the holiday to roll around one day a year. Wake up each morning with words of gratitude on your lips. Give thanks to your heavenly Papa every day, all the day.
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