• Our hope-filled future is bound up in sharing the story of Jesus, in discipling others, in bringing those disciples together into communities of believers, and in developing and releasing those believers to create other communities... till Jesus the King comes again!

Grate-ful

Just finished reading an article by TJ Addington on gratitude.  He cited an article from Forbes magazine about the 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude that will Motivate You to Give Thanks Year-Round. Then he finished off his article with that most difficult of questions: “Are you living a thankful life today?”

It kind of ‘grate-d’ against my soul to read that question, rather than cause a gusher of grate-fulness to pour out of my heart. 

Now the problem is not with TJ, nor the article. It’s actually with my heart, with our hearts.  We are just not satisfied.  Not satisfied with life, with work … we might even admit we are not satisfied with God at times.  As Tim Chester put the question: “Do you want more of God? Do you want to enjoy him?  Or let’s put the question like this: do you like God?

So as I start, as we start 2019, a check of our hearts would be in order.  Here is a short text and one question to reflect on and get us started:

A soul that is capable of God can be filled with nothing else but God; nothing but God can fill a soul that is capable of God. Though a gracious heart knows that it is capable of God, and was made for God, carnal hearts think without reference to God. But a gracious heart, being enlarged to be capable of God, and enjoying somewhat of him, can be filling by nothing in the world; it must only be God himself. Therefore you will observe that whatever God may give to a gracious heart, a heart that is godly, unless he give himself it will not do.  A godly heart will not only have the mercy, but the God of that mercy as well; and then a little matter is enough in the world, so be it he has the God of the mercy which he enjoys.”

What ‘distracting, heart-consuming care’ keeps us from prizing again today our union with Christ and the work God is carrying out in our lives?

If you are interested in reading further: The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs.  It’s not an easy read, but well worth the effort as Burroughs speaks to the heart to motivate, not our pride.

Providence?

Providence?  Kind of a strange word to our ears today, but which is psalm-104-1rich in meaning for our daily lives.  We could talk about His foresight, guidance or sovereign hand over all things happening in our lives and in this world.  Yet, that ‘comfort’ needs to go much deeper into our heart so as to produce a change in how we live and act in light of this biblical reality.

The Heidelberg Catechism is one of several Protestant catechisms.  It was written in 1563 and follows the standard pattern of question and answer, where the question is normally asked of a catechumen (that’s a word to look up!) who then responds with the appropriate answer, summarizing numerous biblical texts.

One of the questions (Question #28) relating to God’s providence is the following:

What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?

Answer: We can be patient in adversity,¹ thankful in prosperity,² and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love;³ for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move.

¹Job 1:21, 22; Ps 39:10; Jas 1:3.

²Deut 8:10; 1 Thess 5:18.

³Ps 55:22; Rom 5:3-5; 8:38, 39.

⁴Job 1:12; 2:6; Prov 21:1; Acts 17:24-28

Knowing that God cares for us in such a way gives rise to patience, thankfulness and assurance.  If we apply this thought to cross cultural ministry today, it would mean:

  • There is ‘light’ at the end of the tunnel when learning the language of the people among whom we serve
  • Our witness is never in vain, even if rejected by those to whom we are called
  • We should be saying ‘thanks’ a lot more than we currently do

If you were asked the question: What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?   Would your response contain anything about patience, thankfulness and assurance?  The joys and difficulties of cross cultural work call us to together think more deeply about God’s providence.