Emma lay in bed listening to her parents’ voices on the other side of the wall. “How are we going to pay this bill, Ben?” Mom asked with a worried tone.
Emma huddled deeper under her blankets. She knew her parents didn’t want her to worry, but her stomach hurt. Everything was different. First Dad lost his job, then Mom worked longer hours. Emma packed her own school lunches and helped Dad with chores and simple meals. Dad searched for a new job every day, yet Emma had overheard her parents say they might need to move. “God, can’t you give my Dad back his job?” Emma prayed as she drifted to sleep.
Mom poked her head into Emma’s room the next morning. “Time to get ready for church, sleepyhead.”
“Why?” Emma said. “If God can do the things we learn about in church, why doesn’t He give Dad back his job?”
“Get ready,” Mom told her. “We’ll talk some more after breakfast.”
After Emma rinsed her cereal bowl, Mom led Emma outside. “Look at the bird feeder.”
“Mom, we haven’t filled it since Dad lost his job,” Emma objected.
“Are the birds worried about the empty feeder?” Mom asked. Emma looked around. She saw sparrows nibbling in the trees. Others roosted in the gutter, and still more perched on their neighbor’s feeder.
“No,” Emma answered.
“For years, God provided for our family through Dad’s job,” Mom explained. “God is still providing, but in different ways.”
“Like how the birds that used to come to our feeder now go other places?” Emma asked.
“Yes,” said Mom. “The Bible stories we learn in church remind us how God has helped many people through many hard times in many different ways. Church is also where we can connect with other Christians and hear them thank God for what He’s done to help them. Their words remind us that God is with us and cares for us even though our situation may be different from theirs.”
“And thanking God at church for providing for us might help someone else,” said Emma as she headed for the car.
Memories are an important part of our relationships. Memories forge our future. We celebrate important national holidays so we can remember moments of triumph and be bound together by them once again. A good example is the recent celebrations for Canada’s 150th birthday.
Psalm 105 is filled with the memory of what God has done for his people. His deeds are based on His covenant with Abraham-a covenant that He never forgets. The covenant promised Canaan as Israel’s inheritance. He protected His prophets. He sent Moses to bring His people out of bondage. He judged the Egyptians with plagues. He provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. He gave the Israelites their land.
People can remember God by calling out His name, or calling upon Him in prayer. Speaking His name invokes His presence and His authority. Knowing His name also assures us that we have a personal relationship with Him. To seek Him is an occasion for joy. We are called to praise God because He has intervened on our behalf. He intervenes on our behalf today. He will intervene on our behalf in the future. God has given us a covenant in His Son. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, He has intervened on our behalf. We can now look toward a future that includes eternal life with Him.
We need to search our spiritual memories from time to time. We need to remember what God has done throughout history. That’s one reason why we hear passages from Scripture read in church each Sunday. When we remember God’s work in history, we can be encouraged to praise God because we can trust Him. We need to remember what Jesus did for us on the cross. We need to remember what He does for us in our lives today. Only then can we praise Him properly. Only then will our worship and witness come from hearts made new.
The psalmist drives home his point. After calling God’s people to thank and praise Him, He gives ample reason for obeying-namely, “that they might observe His statues and keep His laws.” We are on a lifelong adventure of seeking God. Because He is infinite, we will never run out of new and exciting territory to explore regarding His character and nature.
When we remember and give thanks to God for what He has done and continues to do, we are encouraged to share the Good News. Some time ago I attended an information and training seminar for an organization named Community Chaplains Canada. This organization recruits and trains volunteer people who have received the Holy Spirit to minister to residents of nursing homes and special care facilities. These volunteers spend quality time individually with residents and act like true friends. These volunteers offer to pray with the resident and read Scripture. The residents can also receive literature. Most important is the opportunity the volunteers give for the residents to think about and receive Christ as their Saviour. In summary, these volunteers spread the Good News.
Our attitude of gratitude will pave the way to a life full of blessings that God has for us. It will also help us defeat Satan. It drives back the enemy. Praising God will change us. It will drive out old, negative, sinful thoughts and fill us with His strength and power.
When we praise God, we show our joy, which is the second fruit of the Spirit. It is true that there is a lot of suffering in our world today, but beneath the suffering (especially for Christians who suffer because of their faith), there is a joy that will burst upward if we allow it. Praise is both a spiritual and practical experience. It forms deep within the soul and comes forth in song or proclamation, and shows itself just as real as delivering a meal to a family in need. How can we make known to others what God has done? How can we practically tell of his wonderful acts? We can do things such as:
- Visiting people in a nursing home.
- Taking a meal to a person who is unable to come to church. Encourage them with the ministry of your presence and God’s Word.
- Shoveling the snow from a neighbour’s driveway or mowing their grass when they’re gone on vacation.
- Driving a person to medical appointments and staying with them.
- Volunteering in a ministry of your church.
- Using your spiritual gift up front or behind the scenes.
God will often work in unexpected ways. He has the power to turn defeats and hopeless situations into pivotal moments that bring new life. Where do we see the hand of God in the events of our past, present and future with the same clear vision of Psalm 105? We are invited to look for God in everything we do and in every person we meet. If we do, we will find God’s strength, loyalty and love. Even if we forget to look for Him, He is always mindful of us. Our faith must not be experienced in silence. We must always talk to God, and we must always tell others about how God is active in our lives.
Do we spend much time glorifying in all that the Lord has done for us, or do we lament over what has yet to occur? So often we can find ourselves blaming God when things don’t go right. The Hebrew people did it. Kings did it. Even early Christians did it. We should be careful to learn from their mistakes and fill our hearts and mouths with the praise that God surely deserves.
When life gets us down, our first reaction may be to hide under a blanket, stick our heads in the sand or dive deep into denial. We think, incorrectly, that by doing so we’ll never be hurt again. Unfortunately, hiding from the truth only delays growth and our ability to embrace new possibilities. God wants us to seek Him and depend on His strength to get us through.
When life changes, do you think about how God has cared for you in the past? Do you spend time with people God has helped? Have you thanked Him for how He is caring for you now? Remember that God can care for you and your family in many different ways. No matter what your situation is, God is always with you. His love never fails.
Thanks be to God, AMEN
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1533)
- Williams, D., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 14: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 184; pp. 240-246,250-251)
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Stanley, C.F: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 805-807)
- Joni Eareckson Tada, “Amongst the Nations.” Retrieved from www.joniandfriends.org
- Joel Osteen, “Remember What He Has Done.” Retrieved from www.joelosteen.com
- Os Hillman, “Listening to the Father’s Heart-May 6, 2017.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Selwyn Hughes, “Always Reason to Rejoice.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Ron Moore, “Practical Praise.” Retrieved from www.ronmoore.org
- Brian Pinter, “Bible Study, 12 Pentecost, Proper 17(A).” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
- Jessie Gutgsell, “Bible Study, 12 Pentecost, Proper 17(A).” Retrieved from www.episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
- “Solitude.” Retrieved from www.leadllikejesus.org
- Bobby Schuller, “God’s Shining Face.” Retrieved from www.hourofpower.org