Have A Thankful Heart
31 January 2016

There was a poet named Mizuno Genzo (水野源三 1937-1984) in Japan. He was called the blinking poet. He suffered from cerebral palsy. He couldn’t move his body freely. He couldn't speak and couldn't write either. Blinking his eyes was the only way that he could communicate with people. His sister in law helped him compose poems. When he composed a poem, his sister in law pointed each Japanese letter on the board. When he wanted to use a certain letter on the board, he was waiting until his sister in law pointed that letter. When she pointed that letter, he blinked his eyes several times. He chose each letter on the board with her help by blinking his eyes. Through that way, he composed many poems. His poems became a best seller in Japan. The title of one of his poem books is "His Grace Is Enough For Me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In this book, he expressed his thankful heart to God. He faced a frustrating situation but he chose to give thanks to God in that situation.

Pascal said, "Some people cry when they face a difficult situation but some laugh in the same situation." If we faced the situation that Mr. Mizuno faced, we would always cry and complain about the situation. But if we have a thankful heart of Mr. Mizuno, we would also give thanks to God as he did.

Are you very irritable these days? If so, it is evident that you have lost a thankful heart. Check it out when was the last time that you gave thanks to God. You probably have not given thanks God these days.

In today's passage, we find a man who truly thanked God. He was the prophet Habakkuk. While he prophesied, the Israelites faced a very difficult situation. The Babylonians continued to attack them. When they invaded, they took stocks, crops, vegetables and fruits away from the Israelites. The Israelites had a hard time because they didn't have enough food for themselves. They complained about their situations to God. In that situation, Habakkuk had a joyful heart. He chose to thank God. He said in Habakkuk 3:17-18, "Even if the fig tree does not grow figs and there is no fruit on the vines, even if the olives do not grow and the fields give no food, even if there are no sheep within the fence and no cattle in the cattle-building, yet I will have joy in the Lord. I will be glad in the God who saves me." The prophet Habakkuk had joy in his heart even though he didn't have things for him. He also thanked God despite the situation. How could he be able to be joyful and thank God in that situation? It was because he knew that all blessings began with a joyful and thankful heart to God. He knew that all blessings began with thanksgiving to God.

We keep Thanksgiving Day on November. What do the Scriptures say about Thanksgiving Day? The word "Thanksgiving Day" is not found in the Bible. We find the word "Feast of Tabernacles" in the Bible. It was the Thanksgiving Day for the Israelites in the past. How did they keep Feast of Tabernacles? They had this feast for 7 days. After the harvest, they set up some tabernacles on the fields and thanked God there for 7 days. They already put all the crops from the harvest in their storages. There were no crops on the fields. Nothing was there on the fields. The fields were totally empty. God ordered them to stay on the fields for 7 days and thank him. Here is a question. Why did God order them to stay on their empty fields and thank him there, not in their storage where it was filled with their harvest?

He wanted them to remember how he had raised the plants on the fields. He wanted them to remember how he had filled their empty fields with a lot of crops during the past year. He wanted them to thank him with an expectation that their fields would also be filled with a lot of crops next year. The Israelites thanked God for two things. First, it was about the blessings in the past. Second, it was about the blessings in the future.

How can we thank God? We should thank God for the things that he gave us in the past and for things that he would provide us in the future. Maybe some of you say these words to me. "How can I thank God even when my debt constantly increases?” "How can I thank God when my family member is now sick? Regardless of situations, you should thank God. Have faith and an expectation that God would resolve your financial issues. Have faith and an expectation that God would heal your beloved family member. If you can thank God in a difficult situation, God would be greatly happy with your thanksgiving. He will fill your life with many blessings.

What is there in a heart where there is no thanksgiving? Is it empty? No, it is filled with complaints and hatred. Norwegians are the people who thank God the most among people in other country in Europe. The weather of Norway is very cold. Even though they live in the cold area, they thank God. Since they try to thank God in all situations, there is a saying among them. It says, "Satan can't sow his seed in the heart of a grateful person."

There is a city named Sapporo in Hokkaido Japan. Sapporo has much snow every year. In the past, the city spent much money to clean the snow. In 1940, there were no indoor green houses to cultivate veggies at that time. Farmers didn't have much work during the winter. The city didn't work well during the winter. People of Sapporo complained to the sky because they had much snow.

In 1950, a couple of high school students made several snowmen in Sapporo. Those snowmen looked so funny. Through those snowmen, they wanted to tell people that they didn't need to complain about the snow. Through those snowmen, they wanted to tell people that they needed to find joy and peace. They wanted to tell people that they needed to have a joyful and thankful heart for the snow instead of complaints.

People who saw the snowmen laughed due to their funny shapes. People began to make other snowmen and made them stand next to the snowmen made by the high school students. The news about the snowmen spread to other cities and people of other cities came to Sapporo in order to see those snowmen. They began to make their own snowmen and displayed them for visitors. Sapporo began to hold a snowmen festival every winter season. There are three world famous festivals. They are Rio Festival in Brazil, Munich beer Festival in Germany and Sapporo snow Festival in Japan. In 1972, Sapporo held the Winter Olympics.

In the past, the people of Sapporo didn’t like snow during the wintertime. They complained to the sky because they didn't have many jobs to work during the winter. They complained about the snow because their monthly income decreased and suffered from financial issues during the winter. But Sapporo finally became a world popular city where people want to visit and tour. It became famous due to the snow. The people of Sapporo make much money during the winter season. How could all these things happen to Sapporo? The high school students had a joyful and thankful heart for the snow and chose to do fun things with the snow instead of complaining. It changed the whole city.

Recently, the UPTV tested some children who were the members of Metro Atlanta Boys & Girls Clubs. These children were the children from low-income families. UPTV recorded what happened while they tested those children.

In the video, a MC showed two different gifts to each child. One was for the child and one was for the parents of the child. The MC said that they could choose only one gift. Every child had a hard time choosing one gift. After thinking very shortly, each child chose the gift for their parents. Let us watch the video clip.

The MC asked a question of a girl why she chose the gift for her parents. The girl answered, "I receive some gifts every year but my mom doesn't receive anything. She takes care of me when I am sick and helps me with my homework." A boy answered, "My mom prepared a place where I live and so I'm thankful." Another boy answered, "My parents always took care of me. I think that it is a time that I need to express my thanks to them. It is my turn to give something to them."

They are the children from low-income families. When would they have a similar opportunity to receive those awesome gifts for themselves? However, they willingly chose the gifts for their parents. They had a grateful heart for their parents.

As we begin a New Year, we have to have a thankful heart. We should thank God regardless of our situations. First of all, we should be thankful for the things that we have already received. We should be thankful that we have our own families. We should be thankful that we work with our coworkers. We should be thankful that we have our friends.

Not only should we be thankful for the things that we received in the past, but also we should thank God for things that he would provide us in the future. Now you don't see any sign of blessing. But you should keep trusting in the Lord. Have faith & an expectation that God will heal your or your family member's disease. Have faith and an expectation that he would fill your life with much blessings this year. God blesses you and surely fills your life much blessings. I bless you in the name of Jesus so that your life will be filled with God's blessings and grace as you have a joyful and thankful heart in all situations.

Rev. Dr. David Choi
Wahiawa UMC


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Last modified 8 February 2016.
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