Inkspill No. 17: Every Good and Perfect Gift

_-xqzkowpge-felix-russell-saw“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” — Psalm 100:4

One thing I notice about living a life of grace is that I never run out of things to be thankful for. As soon as I realize how good God is, and how kind and merciful to His people, gratitude begins to overflow. Conversely, if I allow the realization of God’s grace and my righteousness by faith in Him to fade from my thinking, I find that I grow less and less thankful. I get so busy seeking ways to please God, by working and toiling rather than sitting at His feet and listening to His voice: giving Him time. The more I believe that everything depends on me, the less I thank Him. I am standing in the way, blocking God from blessing me as He wishes to. Because time, I’m thinking, is my enemy. Always I seem to be running out of time. I must dive in, get some things done, take hold of my destiny by the horns! “God,” I think to myself, “is just not working quickly enough for me.”

It is counterintuitive, therefore, to give God more of one’s time when it seems in such short supply already. Yet this, together with cultivating a thankful heart, is what must be done in order to make progress in life.

Look at time as a seed you can plant, like money: you reap whatever you sow. Giving to the Lord, either time or money or whatever is important to you, will yield a good harvest of whatever was planted. I firmly believe that sowing time into my relationship with God (reading the Word, listening to faith-filled messages, praying, praising) causes me to find the time for each demand of life. It calibrates my mind, makes me organized and ready for challenges. As I give time, I find that I am given time. I think this is what the Bible calls ordering your footsteps, and we could all use some of that.

As for thanksgiving being a factor of success, note that thanksgiving is a kind of seed also, yielding a fruit of praise delicious to our God. Hebrews 13:15 says, “By (Jesus) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.”

This verse calls it a sacrifice: the most powerful seed there is. And what is it about thanksgiving and praise that is sacrificial? To me the word sacrifice means that something is being placed on the altar; something is being surrendered to God forever. The moment you choose to thank God instead of speaking your problems; when you choose to focus on God, major on His mercy and turn your attention to His blessings, is the moment your worries, your cares, and the burdens you’ve been clinging to are bound upon the altar and sacrificed before God. That’s one reason why it pleases Him so much. He hates for His children to be heavily laden. Jesus was clear in Matthew 11:28-30 that what He wants for us is to be at rest; to be light on our feet and walking with ease.

A lifestyle of gratitude and appreciation toward God is absolutely key to this. Thanksgiving says, “I recognize Your goodness.” Praise says, “Because of Your goodness, I am aware that Your power in my life is greater than the power of darkness.”

What do we call that kind of talk? Faith. It is said that praise the language of faith, and as Hebrews 11:6 tells us, it’s impossible to please God without faith. Why? Because it’s impossible for Him to move us forward in life without it. Faith connects us with His blessing, for it is the substance He uses to create the things we hope for (Hebrews 11:1). He wants above all things to bless us and make us happy. Blocking Him from doing so is what displeases Him.

God will never break His own rules. And if we want to play on His side, we’ll have to do it by the rulebook. Thanksgiving is one of the rules. Abide by it.

One practical way to give the Lord a little extra time is as follows. Every night, when I switch off my lamp and slide beneath they comforter, I do as I learned from a preacher a couple of years ago: take a moment to thank God for His faithfulness. No matter how exhausted or groggy you are, recount to yourself every good thing you can remember that He did for you over the course of the day. My prayer tends to go like this: “Lord, thank you for you faithfulness to me today. You were faithful to do such-and-such; you were faithful in answering my prayers for so-and-so … ” and it goes on. Sometimes all I can think of is to thank Him yet again for being faithful to make sure I wind up safe and warm and clean and dry in bed every night, the challenges of the day behind me.

If I stop to think about it, it shocks me to consider just how faithful God really is. If it’s true that “every good and perfect gift is from above,” then no matter how small or taken for granted it may be, then it appears that God has busied Himself blessing me every breathing moment of my life.

I strongly encourage you, my dearly beloved readers, to join me in this little ritual. Every night before you go to bed, take a moment to thank God for His faithfulness, and for whatever gift or help you can remember Him giving you that day. Learning to associate all the good things in life with God’s faithfulness is a great faith-booster. In my case, it changed my entire outlook. More importantly, it also changed my notions of God, and the degree to which I perceive His love.

And isn’t that the point of all this anyway? The very point of life, even? To know God better? Anything that draws us closer to him can be counted a blessing.

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I have learned a lot at church recently about the crucial importance of knowing God. Of pursuing His presence, and recognizing that the consuming hunger within me is a hunger for Him. Not only this, but I have learned that He hungers for me also. Love, after all, is a kind of hunger. A hunger to give. A hunger to sacrifice. Does this not describe God’s behavior toward us?

After all the striving for excellence which we humans believe is necessary to validate our existence, it is shocking to consider that maybe what God wants from us is simply to know Him. Maybe true excellence only comes after we prioritize knowing Him better. Maybe knowing God more each day is the key to gaining achievements by the Holy Spirit’s power rather than our own.

Recently our pastor quoted a question from a grade-school catechism in the New England Primer. “What is the chief end of man?” The answer: “To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Those words have had a profound effect on me. Ephesians 2:7 sheds further light on our destiny: “ … God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us . . . hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”

A believer’s first step in glorifying God is to know Him more, sowing time into the relationship. Praying, studying the Gospels and all the New Testament, because to see Jesus is to see God (John 14:9).

A believer’s first step to enjoying God is to give thanks.

Obviously the Thanksgiving holiday is over. Maybe it’s odd to address giving thanks three days after the fact, but no less important. As much as I revere the great American tradition of setting aside an entire day to thank God for what He has given us, I nonetheless maintain that as far as a Christian is concerned, every day is to be Thanksgiving Day. Consider that the next time you find yourself bogged down, stressed, or tempted into pessimism. Today is your Thanksgiving Day.

“Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” — Psalm 107:8-9

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Image credits to Felix Russell-Saw, Aaron Burden, Patrick Fore, and Micah. H for http://www.unsplash.com

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