God is Asking Us …. Do We want Him to Bless Us today? Proverbs 28:18-22

“Count your Blessings!” “Hug your Blessings!” “Be a Blessing unto Others!”

Each an expression most of us know well. It was made famous by a great old hymn you may not be familiar with if you’re younger. This inspiring hymn of thankfulness to God makes for a truly wonderful meditation for your private devotions or to share in a time of quiet prayer, reflection with a small group, 

Do you want God to bless you today? Are you in the mood to be blessed? Do you want to be blessed? Do you genuinely “feel like” being blessed today? Christians obtain blessings by living like Christ. But who wants to live their life like Jesus? “Blessed to be a Blessing?” What is that supposed to mean when all is not well?

I mean, I would never turn away the opportunity to experience feel the comfort of another human being who wants to turn all of my frowns into widest smiles. But, to sort out abundant uncountable blessings from the uncountable curses, to count, to give any number, unto the uncountable blessings promised of God?

I simply do not know, perhaps I do not want to know, how high that number truly is.

Proverbs 28:18-22 NASB

18 One who walks blamelessly will receive help,
But one who is [a]crooked will fall all at once.
19 One who works his land will have plenty of food,
But one who follows empty pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
20 A faithful person will abound with blessings,
But one who hurries to be rich will not go unpunished.
21 To [b]show partiality is not good,
Because for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
22 A person with an evil eye hurries after wealth
And does not know that poverty will come upon him.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Although quite precious, abounding faithfulness to God is a rare virtue today.

The Bible has many references to it. But Proverbs 28:20, in particular, says that faithfulness is the key to our abounding in our God’s uncountable blessings.

First, there are two types of blessings in general.

The first kind is known as the common blessings such as rain, sunlight, etc. One does not have to be a faithful child of God to the abundance of receive these.

The second kind is known as the unique blessings which include both spiritual and material riches but available only to God’s children.

In today’s devotional, we are going to look at the story behind the writing of the famous Hymn – “Count Your Blessings” written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897)

The Story Behind Count Your Blessings

Johnson Oatman, Jr. grew up in New Jersey in the middle of the 19th Century singing hymns with his father. His life is a testimony to the legacy left by a loving Father who sings praise to God with his children!

Johnson grew up to become a bi-vocational Methodist minister and he wrote over 5,000 hymns, including Count Your Blessings in 1897. Count Your Blessings is considered his finest hymn and for over one century it has been one of our most loved hymns. It’s a song of thankfulness to God that is sung by English speaking people around the world on Thanksgiving Day and all year long.

One writer 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 most favored of hymns sung at every service.

The Meaning Behind Count Your Blessings

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 does not work and never will work!

It certainly does not 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 unto 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.”

In other words, we bring ourselves and our circumstances to Christ in the Kingdom of the Heavens, which he said is right “at hand” (Matthew 4:17). In the spiritual reality of God’s Kingdom is “wealth untold,” a “reward in heaven” and a “home on high,” “Help and comfort” now and “to [our] journey’s end.”

To count all of 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).

Meditate on Count Your Blessings

In the name of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I invite each of you readers to join me by prayerfully reading the lyrics to this great hymn, letting God use it to work within, help you count your blessings today. Ask God to make this sweet song become a beam of sunlight to brighten up any dark places in your life and inspire you to shine the light of Christ more brightly in your circle of influence.

Count Your Blessings

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.

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
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.

Quiet Prayer and Reflection

How has God blessed you?

What has he done in your life?

As the hymn teaches, do not just look to God’s physical blessings, but also to his spiritual blessings, which are eternal and are in the heavenly realms for us to drawn on today and ever more so into eternity. 

As you quiet yourself in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 46:10-11) “count your blessings” one by one. You will find that “it will surprise you what the Lord has done.” (Indeed, experiencing a sense of surprise is one of the distinguishing marks that God has spoken to your heart or acted in your life in a special way.)

You may want to then write a prayer of thanks and praise to God. Then it’d be read, wonderful to share with your group or a friend how God has blessed you.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Savior Jesus Christ, I thank you that, on the basis of your merit, I have inherited a full, abundant and eternal life. Awaken confidence in me that I may receive all the blessings that you have prepared for me. In union with you, I ask for special favor today. If it be your will, grant my request and fix my eyes upon you that I may honor and glorify your name.  In your blessed and glorious name, Amen.

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Matthew 5:6, Blessed Are Those Who Hunger and Thirst for Righteousness

Understanding the fourth beatitude turns on the readers understanding what Jesus meant by righteousness. In ancient Judaism, righteousness meant “to acquit, vindicate, restore to a right relationship.” The righteous are those who maintain right relationships—with God and with the people around them. On the basis of right relationships, those who commit infractions are acquitted of guilt provided If your hearts were genuinely in the right relationship with God.

Have you received the blessing of being filled with right relationships? It flows from meekness (the third beatitude) because we can only form genuinely right relationships with others when we cease making all our actions revolve around ourselves. Do you hunger and thirst for right relationships—with God, with your co-workers, with your family, and your community? Hunger is a sign of life. We are genuinely hungry for good relationships if we yearn for others for their own sake, not just as candy or snack food for meeting our own needs. If we see we have God’s grace for this, we will hunger, thirst for right relationships, not only with God, but with the people, neighbors, with whom we work or live.

When you’re really hungry or thirsty, you’ll do anything you can to get food or drink. In fact, it becomes all you can think about. When you are desperate for a drink, you don’t want to chat with a friend for two hours about your neighbors’ best recipes. Instead, you want to do whatever you can to quench your thirst.

This is a lot like what today’s Bible verse is challenging us with. It’s telling us that we should be hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Doing the right things for God’s Kingdom. It should be something that we’re going after and wanting.

Challenge yourself today to zealously pursue after righteousness. Don’t become so used to your friends and what’s going on around you that you forget that you should be hungering and thirsting to get to know God better, to become .001% more like Him every day. Determine to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

Matthew 5:6 The Message

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We each understand the concept of hunger quite differently. You might be hungry, even desperately starving for the want of a bowl of rice right now. I do not know what hunger feels like to other people, but I can only tell you what it feels like to me. What usually starts out as a mild feeling of discomfort from the stomach turns into a growing and maturing hunger that affects my entire body.

I know that if I allow my hunger to go on long enough, I get a big headache and experience dizziness. My body is screaming into my mind to tell my feet and my hands to get into the kitchen and do something fast! I am told that other people do not feel this way. That is why they will eat a later dinner at 8pm at night. The hunger pangs in my body would become so great I could never wait that long.

Thirst operates in the same way. When you are thirsty you can hardly think of anything else. Your mind becomes consumed with needing water to drink. There is nothing better than a cold glass of water when you are truly thirst.

After working outside noon day heat, you do not want anything else to drink than water. Nothing else will satisfy the needs of the body more. You do not want to do anything else – just drink. Hunger and thirst will become so great that you cannot do anything else. When our desperate hunger and thirst kick in, life not so subtly stops, and we drink, quench our thirst and eat, fill our hunger.

This has become a metaphor for a having a strong desire. When a sports team wins a game, the coaches and athletes will often talk about being hungry for being and becoming a champion. The idea is that of a driving pursuit and a growing and maturing passion that comes from deep within the soul of that person. Another word which may help us to understand the idea is ambition.

Hunger and Thirst

With this in mind, let us listen to the words of Jesus as he continues to teach the crowds which have now come and gathered to hear him speak on the mountain. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

Therefore, hungering and thirsting is not any one person’s mild desire. To say that you are hungry for something does not mean that you do not really care if you have it or not. To say that you are thirsting for something does not mean that you are presently content or satisfied. Hungering and thirsting speaks of having a deep craving, a zealous yearning, and wildly passionate pursuit. The scriptures speak of having this brand of hunger and thirst in a number of places.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1–2 ESV)

Like a deer panting and thirsting for flowing streams of water is the thirst that David and his whole entire being has for the living God. Listen to David again:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Psalm 63:1 ESV)

We are reading these so we can have a sense of what the scriptures mean to hunger or thirst for the things of God. David does not speak of being mildly interested in God. He earnestly seeks the Lord. His souls’ thirsts for the Lord.

His flesh faints for the Lord. Do you hear the passion? Do you hear the desire dripping from his words? Now let us turn our attention back to Matthew 5:6, notice what Jesus says those who belong to his kingdom hunger and thirst for.

For Righteousness

Notice that Jesus says that our passionate pursuit is not simply for the Lord but for righteousness. Righteousness is used a few different ways in the scriptures.

When we read the writings of the apostle Paul, righteousness refers to the idea of justification. Paul will often write about how we are not righteous, but God makes us righteous through the cross of Jesus.

Justification is the word that we typically use to describe this.

Is Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven belongs to the people who desire to be justified, by God? While we could argue that this is true, in Matthew’s gospel the word righteousness is never used in this way like the Apostle Paul uses it.

To see how Matthew uses the word righteousness in his gospel, we can look a few sentences down the page and understand the meaning. Look further into the Sermon on the Mount.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10 ESV)

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20 ESV)

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

We will examine the meaning of these teachings in later lessons.

For now, it is enough for us to observe Matthew is not using righteousness in these places to describe God justifying us or declaring us righteous.

Rather, righteousness is here used in Matthew’s gospel in terms of personal righteousness by doing God’s will.

God’s people are those who passionately, zealously desire to do God’s will and equally pursue to keep God’s requirements. They look at God’s laws and ways as spiritual necessities to be desired just as food and drink are physical necessities for physical life. Covenanting to, conforming to God’s will be the highest desire.

The character of God’s people is that deep inside their souls they long so much for a godly life and relationship with God as much as a starving person long for his next meal or as a parched tongue longs for drops of water. God’s people are desperate for the things of God. All which we desire is to be right with our God.

It is an interesting and sad to note how modern Christianity seems to have no concern for right living or holiness. Right living appears to be inconsequential in these days. People think that they are Christians or that they serve the Lord while their desires are for any and everything else but God. Their desire for God is mild curiosity and not a burning passion or raging hunger. We cannot think that a luke warm, mild interest in God is what Jesus is calling for in today’s text. Listen very carefully to what Jesus said unto the Samaritan woman at the well.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10 ESV)

Just slow down over those words, “If you knew the gift of God” and if you knew who is speaking to you, you would have asked him for the drink and received Living water. Those who know the gift of God and comprehend who Jesus is and what he is offering hunger and thirst for righteousness. Right living becomes as passionately, zealously important to them as food and drink. These are the ones who can never get enough of feasting and thirsting God’s word. They see their relationship with God as Isaiah pictured it: the eating of rich food (Isaiah 55:1).

Satisfied

Looking for satisfaction is the pursuit and goal of our culture.

All magazine headlines and television advertisements suggest that what they offer you will truly satisfy. Everyone wants to be satisfied. We try to fill our hunger and thirst with what will only eventually rust and be thrown away.

It is sad how often we desire lesser things. The prophet Jeremiah pictured this problem in the second chapter of his book where the people are described as having broken cisterns that do not hold water.

The reason it is so foolish is because God is offering flowing, clean, clear water. Yet we try to drink old, stale water thinking we will be satisfied in this way.

This is why the scriptures so often tell us to be godly and pursue righteousness and holiness decisively, exactly and exactingly like our lives depended on them. Satisfaction can only come through living such a lifestyle. Those in the kingdom understand that only filling and satisfaction is Christ. Listen to Jesus again:

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35 ESV)

The more we are satisfied with God, the more we are dissatisfied with “rust worthy” substitutes. What Jesus has done is create in us a hunger for God. The pursuit of His righteousness destroys our own self-righteousness because the pursuit reinforces our poverty of spirit, insufficiency, and need for repentance.

What Jesus says challenges each and every one of us to ask ourselves what we hunger and thirst for. Salvation comes only to those who truly and deeply want every last ounce and scrap of it. Our spiritual poverty and mourning over our sins should compel us to 100% desire salvation, restoration, reconciliation, and righteousness. Those who hunger for God desire to conform to the will of God.

I am going to say this another way I hope will make us a little uncomfortable so that we clearly get Jesus’ message. Jesus is calling for starving believers. We are fanatical about eating and drinking. We never miss meals and very regimented in our eating, drinking throughout the day. We absolutely must eat and drink!

Now we have read all of these passages that tell us that Jesus is to be our food and drink. We want Jesus and we do not want any substitute. We want time with him, and nothing can change us from that effort and passionate pursuit. Jesus is zealously upon our minds like food and drink are when we all hunger and thirst. We are called to be 1000% consumed with Jesus and desire his ways in our lives.

What is your passionate pursuit in life? What satisfies you? What do you hunger and thirst for? Your hungry heart, Your thirsty soul, Your time, your money will reveal those answers to you. Only Jesus can satisfy. Give your life to him today.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Helen Howarth Lemmel, 1922

O soul are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

His word shall not fail you he promised
Believe him and all will be well
Then go to a world that is dying
His perfect salvation to tell

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

O soul are you weary and troubled
No light in the darkness you see
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Father, my Guide, illuminate my mind so I can understand how you want me to live. Your word tells me that people of integrity who follow your instructions are joyful. You have said that those who obey your laws and search for you with all their hearts are blessed and happy. I want that joy! Holy Spirit, please guard me against allowing evil to influence what I believe and do. Help me walk only in your paths. May my actions consistently reflect what you have said is right and good. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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