A young boy went to the local store with his mother. The shop owner, a kind man, passed him a large jar of suckers and invited him to help himself to a handful. Uncharacteristically, the boy held back. So the shop owner pulled out a handful for him. When outside, the boy’s mother asked why he had suddenly been so shy and wouldn’t take a handful of suckers when offered. The boy replied, “Because his hand is much bigger than mine!”
Sometimes we just like to get everything we can.
Too often we look past God’s rewards and graces and find ourselves asking what’s next. We gather all of the good things the Lord has given us in the barns and then start to build bigger barns, basically demanding there be more coming. This neither pleases God nor lets us rest in the midst of our lives.
We think our children might be a little ungrateful the day after Christmas but maybe that’s because we parents haven’t taught them how to be grateful for what we have. We need to find a way to being content with our lives. Find a way to stop grasping for more.
Hebrews 11:6 tells us, “…without faith it is impossible to please (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe he exists and rewards those who seek him.” Please God by thanking the Lord for “rewarding” you already with your life and blessings.
We are so blessed in so many ways and yet we often just assume it’s just the way it is. We often forget that most of the world is barely struggling to survive.
Let me put this into perspective. But this perspective is ten years old. It’s the most current one I could find. I think you will get the idea. According to the International Programs Center, U.S. Bureau of the Census, the total population of the World, projected for a single moment back in 2004 was 6,359,256,483. (It’s now about 7.2 billion).
If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a bed to sleep in you are richer than 4,769,442,362 people in the world. You’re in the top 25%. You’re blessed.
If you have any money in the bank, some money in your wallet, or just some spare change in a jar, you are richer than 5,850,515,964 people in the world. You are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy. You’re blessed.
If you can attend a worship service without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture or death you are more blessed than three billion people on this planet. What we’re doing right now is illegal for three billion people somewhere in the world. You’re blessed.
Now of course these are macro issues when it comes whether or not you’re doing well, whether or not you’re blessed. Most people don’t look across the globe and compare themselves to the poor and starving. We compare ourselves to our neighbors, and our kids to our friends’ kids.
And though we know the Ten Commandments, and are actually pretty good at most of them—worship one God, don’t swear by God’s name, no idols, honor father and mother, haven’t murdered anyone—it’s that last one that is really the toughest: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” I think you know what scripture is trying to tell you here, even if it isn’t spot on for what we’re envious of.
Comparing yourself to someone else and worrying whether or not you’re making it is a lousy way to try to find peace and joy in your life. It undermines your ability to be grateful for what God has given you and who you are. It also leads to discontentment because we’ll always find people who appear to be better off than we are.
Paul says such comparisons are silly. “In all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.” 2 Cor10:12b Scripture teaches, “Do your own work well, and then you will have something to be proud of. But don’t compare yourself with others.” Gal 6:4
Don’t give in to another round of feeling bad. Seek for God to show you when you’re comparing yourself to others and ask God to redirect your focus and heart toward contentment and gratitude.
We do often need to be redirected to what’s good and blessed.
I like what Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “If the stars came out only once a year, everybody would stay up all night to behold them. We have seen the stars so often that we don’t bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.”
Our schedule with the kids.
The word blessed Jesus used in the Sermon on the Mount is translated into the Greek as makarios, which means to be happy or blissful, but it also means a self-contained happiness. Our peace and joy ought to be independent
of our circumstances, or it ought to include as much as humanly and divinely possible all of our circumstances each and every day. It is self-contained in the sense that we don’t want to be looking for our joy on another day, or our peace when something else occurs. Makarios is peace and joy you carry around with you no matter where you are and who you’re with.
Remember God’s spiritual blessings and no matter your circumstance you will be able to recall God’s love toward you. The best list I know is Psalm 103:2-3:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
When we forget God’s love for us we often take on a continual spirit of criticism and complaining. This spirit can basically take over our disposition, attitude, view of others, and over all general sense of what life is. You can be sure that for someone like this even if God did give them what they asked for, they’d would eventually complain about that.
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon reaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The peasant learned what many of us never understand, every obstacle is really an opportunity in disguise.
Now I know there are difficult days and nights in our lives. We’re not always supposed to have a smile on our face because sometimes all you can do is dig down deep, grit your teeth and keep pushing forward.
But that’s the difference between faith and defeat. Faith says, “Go ahead, grit your teeth and keep facing forward. God is going to meet you on your path.”
Look, Abram and Sarai both said to God, “Thanks but it’s a little too little and a lot too late.” They’re sort of the king and queen of reality check faith in the Bible. They both had a snicker or a laugh that God’s promise of a son to them was still going to happen. But they didn’t head backward. They kept going forward. They got themselves into position for God’s power to create divine purpose. They weren’t sure but they believed God still had good things ahead for them.
I married a couple several years ago and before the wedding when we talked this couple was sure their future consisted only of each other. They were steadfast they weren’t going to have children. They told me straight out they were going to be happy on their own, married as a couple, enjoying everything life has to offer. That was going to be their blessed life.
Then Robert got cancer; he fought it and survived, and more than survived. He’s right here with us and his family. After that, everything changed. Robert’s and Sherdean’s heart were changed forever and for good. They realized God’s blessings, if it would happen, would be in giving them a family beyond just themselves.
They then had their first son, Austin, whom we baptized. And then came Kyle, whom we will baptize in a little while.
Because of their change of heart, look, this morning they are surrounded again by these family and friends and this church who will joyfully witness Kyle’s baptism and their faith because of who they now are as this family. Talk about blessings coming disguised as trials!!
Often when we think we are rich, but we’re missing what God is really trying to give us. And when we consider ourselves poor, we might instead be very rich indeed.
This is because our belief in what constitutes a blessing may not be so accurate. In fact, we make many assumptions of what is supposed to bring us happiness when in fact we’re being led astray. Many times we’re trapped in them because if we think something’s essential for us and yet in truth it isn’t, then that’s at best an illusion and probably more like a delusion—which is never good.
Take a good look at your life. What could you really do without and still find yourself at peace and joyful? You see, the difference between what
you have but have always thought you needed and actually not needing it is your freedom, and without a doubt the possibility every day and every way of knowing peace and joy.
One day the father of a rich family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose to show him how poor people can be. They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very poor family. When they got back from their trip the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”
“Very good, Dad!” “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Yeah!” said the son. “And what did you learn?”
The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden. They have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden. They have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have a whole horizon.”
When the little boy was finished, his father was speechless. His son added, “Thanks, Dad for showing me how poor we are!”
Count your blessings. Focus on what you DO have, not what you don’t. There’s always something for which we can be thankful, and gratitude is what heals the heart. Look at your life not from the angle of how the world sees things but what God can create in you, for you, through you.