When last did you count your blessings? An old idiomatic expression to: “think about the good things in your life in order to get your focus off the bad things that are happening.” But as we have explored Numbers 21:4 – 9 together and reflected on contentment, complaining and self-pity, it has been interesting to note how often being grateful is set up in opposition to a heart attitude that rejects God’s provision as the Israelites did. Their complaints may have been viable, and understandable, but they were still rejecting what God had provided. God’s response was to send poisonous snakes amongst them, and many died. God judged the condition of their hearts.
Their heart attitude was focused on what they did not have, rather on what had been given to them to meet their daily needs. A self-pitying, complaining heart does not focus on the blessing it has received already, but instead focuses on the desires of the fickle heart that have not been met.
God judged their ungrateful hearts, it is easy to complain, but it is wrong. 1 Cor 10:9 Paul warns the Corinthians not to “put the Lord to test, as some of them did and then died of snakebites”. Phil 2:14 encourages us to “stay away from complaining and arguing.”
Instead, scripture is clear about what the condition of our hearts should be:
Phil 4:4-6 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Col 2:6-7 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
1 Thes 5:18 … give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Heb 12:28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…
I think it is clear! God’s will for us is that we are to be thankful, in fact characterized by thankfulness as a condition of our hearts. When? This is to be true in each and every circumstance, constantly, overflowing with thankfulness. It is foundational to our joy, our life, our peace, our purpose and our worship.
Thankfulness starts with remembering. It was customary for the Israelites to spend time consciously remembering what God had already done for them. Psalm 136 is one such example of constantly remembering God’s love and faithfulness. How He had brought them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, led them through the desert, struck down great nations etc. to conclude in v26 “Give thanks to the God of heaven.”
It was customary during the Passover feast for the youngest child to ask the father why the Passover was celebrated, and then the father would lead the family through the process of remembering. Many of the Psalms written by David, remember God’s faithfulness to Him and express his thanksgiving.
The purpose in remembering was to strengthen their faith and the value still applies to us today. Focusing on what God has done in the past, helps us to focus on His unchanging nature, the fact that He keeps promises and like in Ps 84:11 He “withholds no good thing” from those who trust in Him. It repositions us before Him, thankful for His faithfulness in the past and His provision for today and the future.
Remembering is an important discipline and should be practiced regularly since it develops within us a thankful heart, no matter what our circumstances.
Count your Blessings: by Johnson Oatman, Jr.
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.
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.
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 be 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,
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.
Lord help me to develop a thankful heart that recognises your provision and care in my life. Help me to recognise and see Your goodness in my life, the blessings I have received, the protection I have, the provision You have made. Help me to remember that no matter how bleak things are, You are still good to me and I have much to thank you for.