An elderly gentleman drove himself up to the airline check-in counter. His vehicle was a motorized wheelchair. He was in the wheelchair because he had no legs. They had been amputated at the point where they connected to his torso.

He was wearing a baseball cap that appeared to have some war veteran insignia on it. I was immediately humbled.

I don’t know the gentleman and I didn’t stop to talk to him, but I imagine that he lost his legs serving his country (and mine) in a war many, many years ago. Perhaps that’s not his story, but it is the story of many.

So perhaps for the first time, I really (I mean really) thought about this man and those he represents. I imagined returning home from war with no legs and the tremendous struggle that must have been so many years ago. Then I imagined the lifetime this man has lived without his legs. And I was so very aware that I live every day enjoying a lifestyle that very well may not have been possible without the service and sacrifice of this man and others like him.

I can’t express the thankfulness that welled up in my heart.

Then God took the teachable moment a step further. He reminded me of how easily I give in to the temptation to complain. My back hurts. My sinuses burn. My have a headache. My car windshield wiper motor isn’t working properly. My house is a mess. My customers have unrealistic expectations. The weather is too hot/cold/humid/dry. I could go on. Unfortunately sometimes I do. It doesn’t glorify God.

His word tells me to “do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). It also tells me that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 13a). Further, it tells me that I am “blessed beyond the curse” (a simplification and paraphrase of Galatians 3:13-14).

When I focus on these things, how can I complain about the small things I mentioned above? The obvious answer is that I cannot, so I must be focusing on the wrong things. More about that in a minute.

When I complain, I am not only letting the enemy win over my attitude, I am also letting society influence me more than God’s Word. America has become a society of complainers. I don’t know when that happened, but I don’t think it was always so. I can’t imagine the pioneers travelling across the country complaining all the way. I rather think they were expectant about their adventure and endured adversity because of their anticipation of things to come. Reminds me a bit of Jesus – read Hebrews 12:2.

I don’t remember adults from my childhood sitting around complaining. I can’t think of a single person from my childhood whose life was characterized by complaining.

As an adult, I can name many. And when I am with them, I sometimes get tired of being what seems like “Miss Pollyanna,” so I join in their complaining. I follow the crowd. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m quite capable of initiating the complaining, so I’m not in any way blaming them for my sin. I’m pointing out the multiplication of my sin – the sin is mine not only for complaining, but for following the crowd instead of responding to God’s higher call.

That’s not the person God wants me to be, and it’s not the person I want to be. Again, when we remember all that Christ has done, how can we consider complaining? A Scripture that often comes to mind is:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

Our focus will impact our thoughts, actions and words. When we focus on what we have to complain about, it is very difficult not to complain. When we focus on how blessed we are in Christ, it is difficult not to be thankful.

Thankfulness and complaining cannot live together in harmony. The complaint robs the thankfulness of its substance. It weakens the impact that being thankful has in our lives. It kills the joy that might otherwise spring from the thankful heart.

God is the author of thankfulness; satan is the author of complaining. We have the power to choose whom we will serve. With the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the enabling power of God Almighty, I choose to serve the Lord.

It’s not the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day, but I want to thank all those who have served our country in a uniform of the armed forces. Thank you for giving sacrificially so that I may live in freedom today. I bless you in the name of Jesus to live in peace, joy and the awesome presence of God.

Friends, will you join me in blessing those who have served today. Pray for them and for those who continue to serve to preserve our freedom.

Further, will you agree with me to serve the Lord instead of satan with your attitude? Choose to focus on thankfulness and allow complaining to die before it is ever spoken. Your thanksgiving muscle will grow and your complaining muscle will weaken. And that’s such a better way to live!

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