While a young, spiritually-indifferent Oxford don, John Wesley met the college porter late one night. The porter was a poor but deeply pious man. The evening was cold, and he was poorly clad, so Wesley urged him to go home for a coat.
“I thank God for this the one coat I possess,” the porter replied, indicating the threadbare garment he was wearing. “And I thank Him for water, my only drink during the day.”
Intrigued by this response, Wesley queried, “What else is there for which you are thankful?”
“I will thank Him I have the dry stones to lie upon.”
“I thank Him that He has given me my life and being, a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.”
Returning to his room that night, Wesley realized he was a stranger to such sentiments. The porter’s ready thanksgiving for his many blessings, even in the midst of impoverished circumstances, revealed a genuineness and depth of Christian experience that Wesley knew he did not possess.
Though materially poor, the porter was spiritually rich. By focusing on the priceless blessings he had received from God – physical life, a spiritually-transformed heart, desire and opportunity to serve the Lord – he had much for which to be thankful. As his heart welled up with gratitude, he also sincerely thanked God for the provision of his basic material necessities.
The porter’s example is instructive and likely corrective to many Christians. Our primary focus should be on the countless, constant spiritual and non-material blessings that the Lord pours out on us. Maintaining such a focus will provide us with a continuous, overflowing source of thanksgiving and praise, even when physical or material circumstances are challenging. We’re also reminded that with regard to material blessings, we rightly thank God for His ever-faithful provision of basic necessities. To the degree that He blesses us beyond mere necessities, our gratitude should correspondingly increase.
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This incident involving John Wesley is taken from my book Timeless Stories, God’s Incredible Work in the Lives of Inspiring Christians. That book contains a number of other helpful examples to encourage us in cultivating appropriate thankfulness to God for His innumerable blessings on our lives.
Copyright 2014 by Vance E. Christie