Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Count your Blessing and Give Thanks

Do you remember the Hymn “Count your blessings”? Many of us might remember the chorus, but the entire is very encouraging and challenging. It was written by Johnson Oatman Jr. in 1897 and really is based on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Someone has said about Count Your Blessings, “It is like a beam of sunlight that has brightened up the dark places of the earth.” Early on it was especially popular in Great Britain, where it was said, “The men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.” During the revival in Wales it was one of the hymns sung at every service.

The wonderful encouragement to “Count your blessings” is often misused. It does not mean to deny that you’re having problems. It does not mean to ignore your troubling emotions. It does not mean, “Cheer up and act like everything is fine.” That doesn’t work! It certainly doesn’t lead to lasting joy and peace. The hymn is actually encouraging us to acknowledge openly that we are “tempest-tossed” or “burdened with a load of care” and bring our concerns to God in prayer.

When we go to God with our troubles we can begin to see that we do not need to be discouraged because “God is over all.” To count our blessings is to appreciate, one-by-one, that we have “every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). And genuine thanks and praise to God goes with openly unburdening ourselves before the listening ears of the “Father of compassion” and “God of all comfort,” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). Listen to the Words:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Refrain:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.]

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings—*money cannot buy [*wealth can never buy]
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

It is so easy to get caught up with what we don’t have that we forget to be thankful for what we do have and then we can become discouraged. I heard a story about a man who found the Devil’s seed barn. It’s where the devil keeps the seeds he sows in the hearts and lives of human beings. The man noticed there was a super abundance of one kind of seed. It was the seed of discouragement. When he asked the devil why he had so many of those, the devil said, “If I can sow discouragement into a person’s life, then I can get almost anything else I want into his life. The seeds of discouragement will sprout almost anywhere except in the heart of someone who is thankful.”

We are living in a day where there is so much unthank-fullness. In fact the, Paul told Timothy that this would characterize people in the last days (2 Tim. 3:2). Romans 1:21 reminds us that failing to give thanks is what characterizes the wicked, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.”

But the Bible gives us a lot of positive encouragement on the subject of giving thanks. It repeatedly stresses the importance of giving thanks. “Offer to God thanksgiving” (Ps. 50:14). Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing (Ps. 107:21-22). “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High” (Ps. 92:1). “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:20). “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Col. 3:17). “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15). So from all these verse we can see that thanksgiving should permeate our speech, our songs and our prayers!

The Lord Jesus knew the importance of giving thanks. In Matthew 11:25 He said, “At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.” Before feeding the five thousand, He “And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples” (John 6:11). Just before raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me” John 11:41).

We are told that even the Angels give thanks, “All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 7:11-12).

Scripture instructs us to give thanks for many things. We are to thank Him for who He is. Psalm 30:4 says, “Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.” We should give thanks because He is ever near us, “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Ps. 75:1). Paul gave thanks to God for his salvation and his opportunity to serve Him, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:12-13).

Paul also gave thanks for the spiritual growth he saw in others, “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thess. 1:3).

The one thing that we as Christians should never lose sight of and always give thanks for, is the work of Christ! In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul exclaims, "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!"

Paul had pass through many deep waters, beatings, shipwrecks mocking, persecution, hunger, thirst, nakedness and even character assassination (2 Cor. 11:25-28) and yet he could later write “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”(1 Thess. 5:18). But what is really amazing is what he wrote in Ephesians 5:20, “Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We may be able to understand how we can give thanks “in everything,” but how in the world can we give thanks “for” everything?

I think the secret to that is perspective! When I remember who it is I am giving thanks to, it changes my perspective. We give thanks to a God who is always in control, never taken by surprise, never needing to readjust His plans because of circumstances! Even when choices are made that are totally opposing Him His overruling hand is still in control! This is how we make sense of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This is not to say that our circumstances are good or the deep pain we might be experiencing is good. But we know our God is in control and for that we give thanks!

Paul could see the big picture and asks us to step back and see the same big picture! Here are a couple snap shots of that big picture. The Psalmist could say, “Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation” (Ps. 68:19)! Reminded us that daily we loaded up with many blessings! In Psalm 103:1-2 we are encouraged to say, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” Jeremiah, who was known as the “Weeping Prophet,” passed through many deep waters of his own and yet could say, “Remember my affliction and roaming, the wormwood and the gall. My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him (Lam. 3:19-25). How could he go from such deep agony to such hope? The LORD was his portion! His portion was bigger than his problem! This is what Jeremiah and Paul had in common. Both passed through deep valleys in their lives, but both men knew that no matter how deep the valley might be God’s love for them was deeper and that He is the God of the valleys as well as the God of the mountains!

If we spend all of our time counting our difficulties we will be discouraged very quickly. But if we begin to count our blessings it won’t take long before we are occupied with the Blesser Himself! Take some time right now and write down on a piece of paper all the things that you are thankful, after you have made the list add to it! Then look at it each day and thank the One has blessed you!

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