Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV) 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits--
In 1896 Johnson Oatman wrote a hymn that many new hymnals still contain: Count Your Blessings. Each of the verses of this hymn describes tough times or difficult situations that a believer may go through: discouragement, heavy-heartedness, doubt, the (undeserved?) prosperity of others, burdens, and conflict. The chorus then tells the singer what to do in response to these hardships:
“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.”
At face value the song and its “solution” seems pretty simplistic – almost like wishing your troubles away. But if you have ever literally done an exercise of making a list of the blessings you have received… that surround you at every level of life – physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, financially, spiritually, etc., then you probably have a higher view of the value of counting blessings. Several months ago I had the occasion to make such a list. It did not take a whole lot of imagination. All around me were (material) things that have been a blessing to me. All around me were people who had been a blessing. And all around me – and within me – were spiritual realities that reflected the presence and love of God in my life. All it took was a little time to start writing a list and it wasn’t long before the page(s) filled up. More important than the size of the list was what the process itself did to me – how it impacted how I thought and felt. A simple exercise like this can have a major positive impact on one’s attitude.
I was reading in The Valley of Vision: a Compilation of Puritan Prayers and Devotions the other day. Here is an excerpt from one of the prayers:
“O Lord, I am astonished at the difference
between my receivings and my deservings,
between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,
between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit.
Who made me to differ, but Thee?
for I was no more ready to receive Christ than were others;
I could not have begun to love Thee hadst not Thou first loved me,
or been willing unless Thou hadst first made me so.
O that such a crown should fit the head of such a sinner!
such high advancement be for an unfruitful person!
such joys for so vile a rebel!”…
Even a few moments of serious thought about these matters always puts things into perspective for me. Just in His death alone, Jesus did more for me than everything I could possibly gain in this world. A more modern expression of gratitude in response to God came from the heart and hand of Andrae Crouch:
“How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me
Things so underserved, yet You gave to prove Your love for me
The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude
All that I am, and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee
To God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory, for the things He has done
With His blood He has saved me, with His power He has raised me
To God be the glory for the things He has done...”
I invite you and encourage you to take some time very soon to analyze your “receivings” – to count your blessings. See what happens when you think about what God has done.
Romans 8:32 (NIV) He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Psalm 144:13-15 (NIV) 13 Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; 14 our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. 15 Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the LORD.
Mark 6:42 (NIV) They all ate and were satisfied,
PRAYER: Lord God, you have filled my life with blessing. Give me eyes to see it and a heart to give thanks for it. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.”
Jesus Christ is Lord!