PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Mastering the Hardest Arithmetic-Counting Our Blessings!”
By: Ron Woodrum
This week is Thanksgiving week. Eric Hoffer says it is the time to “master the hardest arithmetic-counting our blessings!” G.K. Chesterton said, “I would maintain that thanks is the highest form of thought, and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder”. He also said, “Everything should be received with gratitude, and passed on with Grace.” JFK made sure we understand that thanksgiving is more than words. He said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”. He thought thanksgiving should be translated into thanksliving! John Wannamaker says that thanksgiving is a process. “It begins with a feeling in the heart; expressed in words; results in giving in return”. Cicero said, “Gratitude is the greatest of all virtues-and the parent of all others”. Robert Louis Stevenson warned-“The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life”. Shakespeare was even more convicting-“Blow, blow, blow winter wind, thou are not so unkind as man’s ingratitude!” William Ward reminded us that “God gave 86,400 seconds today. Have you used ONE to say thank you?” He also said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it”. Gratitude is not to just concern what we get but what we don’t get! Storm Jameson, in Journey from the North, I have received may the Lord make me thankful. And more truly…thankful for what I have NOT received!” There is an old proverb that says, “He who will not thank for the little things will not thank for much either.” “When we have forgotten the language of thankfulness, we are no longer on speaking terms with happiness.” One of the best thanksgiving messages I ever heard was a sermon by a Seventh Day Evangelist named George Vandeman. It was called “I wonder how to thank Him”. He said, “Nothing can have a more profound effect on your mental health than a spirit of thankfulness”. We can always find things to be grateful for and to give thanks for even in difficult times. H.U. Westermeyer reminds us-“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts that first Thanksgiving-no Americans have been more impoverished, yet set aside a Day of Thanksgiving”. Thomas Aquinas gets to the heart of the matter when he instructs us that “God has no need of our worship. (He loves our devotion and worship-but has no inherent need of anything!) It is us who need to show gratitude for what we have received”.
Probably the most insightful thing I have ever read about Thanksgiving and Praise is something C.S. Lewis said in his book Reflections on the Psalms. He wrote: “I struggled with the idea that God demands our praise and commands us to give Him glory. For years this was a stumbling block to me! Then I seemed to see its purpose. The most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or anything-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or giving honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless-shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought into check it. the world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite games-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians, or even scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits, and malcontents praised the least…Except where intolerably adverse circumstances interfere, praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it. ‘Isn’t it lovely? Wasn’t is glorious? Don’t you think that is magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable One, what we delight to do, what we indeed can’t help doing, about everything else of value. We delight to praise…because praise not only expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed…If it were possible for a created soul fully to appreciate, that is to love and delight in, the worthiest object of all, and simultaneously at every moment to give this delight perfect expression, then that soul would be in supreme beatitude…the Confession says, ‘man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever”. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him. Living in Praise is something we need more than God needs. It completes us…and glorifies Him. Praise Him! Praise Him! Happy Thanksgiving.