With Turkey Day coming up, most folks are focused on Christmas prep and eating a lot of food on Thursday. The older I get, the more I see how we all seem to skip past Thanksgiving and it’s call to ‘Give Thanks’. CBC recently finished up teaching thru the book of Colossians and Pastor Bill took this past Sunday to turn our eyes to Paul’s call of ‘Thanks’ throughout the book. He noted 7 verses that Paul mentions ‘Being Thankful’/’Thanksgiving’. I’m not going to go over all 7, but I do want to bring your attention to a few. Then, I’ll introduce you to an amazing man.
In Col 1:3, Bill talked about ‘Thanksgiving’ being CONSTANT. An attribute that we need to cultivate. When ‘Thanksgiving’ is constant, it will repel complaining. Col 2:6-7 tells us that our ‘Thanksgiving’/’Gratitude’ should be OVERFLOWING. Bill’s analogy was that of a cup so full of liquid that it overflows at the slightest bump. Later, we see Paul telling us to sing with thankfulness (3:16). As God’s word richly dwells in you, we will admonish one another with ‘psalms and hymns and spiritual songs’. ‘Thanksgiving’ leads to SINGING. Finally, in Col 4:2, the Holy Spirit through Paul tells us to “Devote yourselves to prayer keeping alert in it with an attitude of Thanksgiving.” We are to remain steadfast in prayer with an attitude of Thanksgiving. Remain solidly entrenched in ‘Thanksgiving’ no matter what is going on.
The apostle Paul, a giant in our faith, was a man of ‘Thanksgiving’. It permeates his writings. ‘Thanksgiving’ poured out of this man who did not lead a smooth life. As Bill was going over the attributes of ‘Thanksgiving’ in Colossians, another man kept coming to mind, Cesar Garcia. I have had the privilege to spend time with this man on a few occasions and have been blessed every time. He is a modern-day giant of our faith. I will share a little bit about him, but you can read more about him on my friend Brock’s blog (http://deepstreamblog.blogspot.com). Click the link and search Cesar.
Cesar is a man who is in love with Jesus. Cesar is a man who knows the Bible from front to back and all that is in between. It is believed, by many, that he knows the Bible by heart. Cesar is a man that is bedridden. Cesar has a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. Basically, his spine is fusing together. His spine has fused into a bent position. If you removed the pillows that he rests on, his flexed position remains. He’s been bedridden for many, many years. He is unable to walk. He is unable to sit or stand unattended. His body does not move much which leads to all sorts of issues both externally and internally. As you may have figured, Cesar lives with immense pain every day and some days are filled with pain during every minute. His pain can be very agonizing from multiple sources. He can do very little independently from a physical standpoint.
Yet, Cesar SINGS!! Anyone who has spent time with him has heard him sing to his Savior. He sings songs of blessing, psalms, and you guessed it, songs of ‘Thanksgiving’. He gets overwhelmed during preaching, talking, etc and breaks out in song. Song for His Savior & Sustainer. Neither, Laura, Mama, Brock, nor myself have ever heard him complain…ever. If anyone has motivation to complain, it could be Cesar, but he never does. ‘Thanksgiving’ is constantly on his lips. Cesar dwells and feasts on God’s Word. I have heard from his lips that the Word of God sustains him and keeps him going. “Jesus is my Bread of Life” is not lip service for Cesar…it is a reality. In conversations with him, Cesar will break out in praise of ‘Thanksgiving’ in all things. And, it overflows to all who are in the room. Truly a blessing to see. Prayer is not something he just does for a meal or when he needs something. Prayer is a discipline of his. Something he has devoted himself to and something he enjoys…it’s a conversation of ‘Thanksgiving’ to the love of his life.
When you talk to Cesar or hear him preach, you will hear him praise God through proclamation, prayer and songs of ‘Thanksgiving’. For a man who walks as close to God as he does, he proclaims ‘Thanksgiving’ for many things. However, one of the items that he is most ‘Thankful’ for is his illness. Yes, that’s not a typo, he gives ‘Thanks’ to God for his illness.
Cesar used to go door to door in Magdalena preaching the Gospel. Many doors were slammed in his face. Since he has been bedridden, folks have come to him…first from his village (church folks visiting the “sick guy”), then crazy missionary folks from the USA and the “teams” they brought. All in all, from his bed, Cesar has shared the Gospel and proclaimed Jesus to people from 29 countries all over the world. His illness has allowed Him to proclaim Jesus to a much broader audience than a small, rural village in Guatemala.
His illness has pushed him to rely on God and God alone for all of his sustenance. He knows better than most the sustaining power of Christ’s love. No job, no hobby, no electronic thingy, no person can sustain him…it is Christ and Christ alone.
Cesar’s illness has allowed him to spend time with his Savior. He spends time with the one he loves and that love has grown exponentially. He embodies Psalm 119 and the call to observe, meditate and follow after God’s commands. He loves Jesus and he loves others. His love overflows to all who come in contact with him.
So, let’s be ultra clear…Cesar thanks God every day and speaks it aloud to anyone who will listen that he is ‘Thankful’ for his debilitating illness. It has allowed him to share Jesus with more people, made him more content and sustained by an all fulfilling Savior, as well as allowed him time to spend with a loving God. His life and all that it entails is ‘Thanksgiving’ continuously spilling out. And, the ‘Thanksgiving’ is all for Jesus. It is ‘Him he proclaims’!!
May you be inspired by Paul and Cesar. May your life be full of ‘Thanksgiving’. May your ‘Thanksgiving’ be Constant, Overflowing, in your Singing, and in your devotion to Prayer. God Bless and Happy Thanksgiving!!