When you wake up each morning what are your first thoughts? Oh no. It’s another day. But Sir John Templeton, a man who in 2007 was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, used to say, “What are five things I can be grateful for?”
Quite a refreshing attitude I thought, for a man who was given a special honour for his “pursuit of spiritual understanding, often through scientific research” and through his establishment of the John Templeton Foundation. He was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church. He served as an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Englewood, in New Jersey. He was a trustee on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary, the largest Presbyterian seminary, for 42 years and served as its chair for 12 years.
Templeton was one of the most generous philanthropists in history, giving away over $1 billion to charitable causes. Sir John Templeton used to say: “There is no greater tonic and perhaps no more potent tonic for our spirit than gratitude”. Chairing board meetings, he opened in prayer and amazed his business colleagues, who greatly admired him, even though they didn’t understand his Christian principles. Recognised as one of the greatest mutual fund managers of the last hundred years, he died in 2008.
The Greatest Investment
On one occasion he said, “Life’s greatest investment is the tithe!” Most reporters present that day had never heard of tithing. He was later knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1987 for his philanthropic efforts. He is quoted as saying: “If you do not fall down on your knees each day, with overwhelming gratitude for your blessings—your multiplying multitudes of blessings—then you just have not yet seen the big picture.”
He initially felt called by God into full-time Christian service. He was taught to tithe his income by his parents. One of the scriptural themes of his life is from one of Jesus’ sermons: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:38)
Ralph Waldo Trine has said: “There is no such thing as finding true happiness by searching for it directly. It must come by the service, the love, and the happiness we give to others”. Many others have made this amazing discovery. Mother Teresa used to say: “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
The Risk Of Becoming Ungrateful
Not everyone sees life in a grateful way. There is an old story of a waiter who asked a customer whether he had enjoyed the meal. The guest replied that everything was fine, but it would have been better if they had served more bread. The next day, when the man returned, the waiter doubled the amount of bread, giving him four slices instead of two, but still the man was not happy. The next day, the waiter doubled the bread again, without success.
On the fourth day, the waiter was really determined to make the man happy. And so he took a nine-foot-long (3 metres) loaf of bread, cut it in half, and with a smile, served that to the customer. The waiter could scarcely wait for the man’s reaction. After the meal, the man looked up and said, “Good as always. But I see you’re back to giving only two slices of bread.”
One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful. It is easy for us to start off being passionate about something big, shiny and new but everything new gets old. At times we can get so accustomed to God’s goodness that we can let what was once a miracle become common to us—then life becomes routine, dry and without passion.
Thankfulness produces peace in life and passion for life. In order for us to stay passionate for life and have peace in life, we must not forget the ‘little things’ that God so graciously blesses us with each day. When we appreciate the little things, great things will come to us more frequently. Do you live in the moment, aware of God’s blessing and presence today, rather than always waiting for ‘the next event’ to bring happiness and meaning?
We Find Joy In The Journey
Robert J. Hastings offers good advice on making the most of today: “Sooner or later we must realize there is no ideal destination, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life outdistances us. So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. ‘Relish the moment’ is a good motto.”
- Do you appreciate your life today?
- Do you stop and say a prayer of thankfulness to God?
- Or do you take it all for granted?
Someone has said, “It is not life’s circumstances that determine the quality of our lives but how we respond to them.” Think about that.
Let’s take another look at 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Paul does not say to give thanks for all circumstances, but in all circumstances. The words ‘thank’ and ‘think’ come from the same root word. Thankfulness grows out of thoughtfulness. The more you think about what God has done for you, what he is doing for you, and what he will do for you, the more you should be filled with thankfulness.