Aloha Friday Message – August 9, 2013 – Counting ALL as Blessings

1332AFC080913 – Counting ALL as Blessings

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Psalm 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea. E pili mau na pomaika‘i ia ‘oe a me ke akua ho’omaika’i ‘oe! (Much love, Beloved. May blessing always be with you and may God bless you!) The famous poet, playwright, and essayist, Anonymous, once said, “To love God is the greatest of virtues; to be loved by God is the greatest of blessings.” We all know it is important to remember all the great and beneficial things God has done for us. He created us, nourishes us, protects us, gives us Salvation, sends us his own strength and wisdom, and fills our hearts and minds with vast measures of wonder, love, and joy. If we could be truly aware of all his benefits, we should never have time to grumble, worry, or be irritated by inconsequential things in our lives; but, we do grumble, worry, and get irritated about so many trivial things. We completely overlook King David’s exhortation like the one we started with in Psalm 103, or this one: Psalm 105:5Remember His wonders which He has done, His marvels, and the judgments uttered by His mouth. And again, David tells us: Psalm 118:1 – Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

We also find many admonishments in the History Books of the Old Testament to remember God’s blessings, for example:

1 Chronicles 16:12Remember the wondrous works he has done, all his marvelous works, and the justice he declared!

There are only a few people I know of who manage to live such lives of faith and are so firmly established in the Presence of God that one never has cause to question what their priorities might be; whatever they do, they do it in, for, and through God. When one sees them in action, one is convinced they have great depths of JOY. Yet when we look into the moment-to-moment lives of some of the people so richly blessed, we see there is also pain and suffering, and – at times – even doubt. It seems that people of great JOY often go through periods of great pain.

When we reflect on our own pain, we do well if we compare our sufferings with those of Christ, or the Apostles, especially Paul. We have only vague accounts of the life and death of most of the other Apostles, but in Paul’s story we find many amazing details. He relates some of them in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. He had been scourged, beaten, stoned nearly to death, imprisoned, shipwrecked, snake-bit, hungry, thirsty, abused, and so many other things. I often wonder if he had to endure the after effects of all that – long-drawn-out days of lingering pain, or if he prayed for his own miraculous recovery. We know he facilitated many miracles. Paul states matter-of-factly that his sufferings are no big deal, nor are the miracles. The only thing he will boast about is his weakness. The only things he values are his failures, because they are the moments in his life that correspond to the greatest blessings:

2 Corinthians 12:7-10If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul has his priorities straight. He waits for God to do what God wants done – whatever it is. We are often in a hurry to pile up material goods and ceaselessly ask God to give us this and that – safety, financial security, comfort, love, obedient children, loving spouses, and all the good things in life. Often when we pray we try to express to God how urgently we need these temporal, worldly blessings. Sometimes the only answers are silence and the opportunity to be more patient and compassionate. We learn that there are gifts and blessings far greater than our wants, and those gifts and blessings increase our faithfulness. As we read in Proverbs 28:20A faithful person is rich with blessings; but one who is eager to be rich will not go unpunished. No matter how many times we hear (or even profess) that God can and does supply all our needs we still pester him with our wants as well. We are blessed beyond measure, but want more for our pleasure. Paul shows us a different way:

Philippians 4:11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. Paul didn’t learn this peaceful satisfaction in a miraculous flash, but it instead over time through a great deal of suffering. He learned that the basic, small provisions of God are the things for which we should be most thankful; those are the things that move us through the week. How rarely we go to the Lord and thank him for the Simple Gifts. Sometimes, the blessing of suffering helps us remember of all of the myriad small graces that God pours into our lives. Even our pain, our suffering, and our sorrows are occasions for thanking God. These things also show us the power of his Love and are blessings that help us live for him instead of just for us: 2 Corinthians 5:15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. God is especially generous with blessings we can share.

The abundance of God’s gifts, great or small, is not intended to be our personal property. We have all these blessings so that we can share them with others; yes, even our pain can be shared as we share the pain others endure. In this way we learn to understand more deeply the love and compassion of God. ALL of our blessings come from him, and ALL of them are for sharing. They are not ours to hoard. Our blessings multiply when they and we are united with, and in, Christ. Ephesians 1:3 – All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

We become so used to asking God to take care of the physical wants and needs in our lives that we may forget that the best things are spiritual, not temporal or material. We think about stuff (belongings, power, prestige, security) and do not think about how that stuff came to us. We think about the stuff we want instead of the blessings we need. We need to change the way we think: Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. These are the characteristics of the blessings of God – they are true, respectable, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Beloved, let us reexamine our lives slowly and with sincere gratitude. Have you ever taken up paper and pen to make a list of your blessings – all of them? Try that from time to time, and you will find that your list grows and grows; and as it grows, you will also find that you understand you have learned to be content with whatever you have because everything that you have is a blessing. Count them, and be amazed.

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved.


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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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