Muhammed Ali was the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. He won 56 of his 61 professional fights and knocked out 37 opponents. His most famous catchphrase was, “I am the greatest!”
One day he was seated in an airplane when the flight attendant came up the aisle to make sure that all the passengers had their seatbelts fastened. When she reached Ali’s seat, she asked him to buckle up. He sneered, “Hmph! Superman don’t need no seatbelt!”
The flight attendant smiled sweetly and replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either!” Ali fastened his seatbelt.
The words of Moses in Deuteronomy 8:7-18 impress on the Israelites and on us the need to learn a specific lesson from the past. Their experience of God’s care in the wilderness period, when they were unable to help themselves, was to teach them humility through the Lord’s providential discipline. The memory of that experience should have kept them from having pride in their own achievements when entering the Promised Land. Similarly, our experience of God’s care in the tough times in our lives when we can’t help ourselves should teach us humility. We learn this through God’s loving discipline.
When Moses led the Israelites into the Promised Land, he urged them to be a grateful people. Thanks to God’s blessings, the land was abundant, but they could easily treat this prosperity as something they deserved. From this, the people developed a practice of giving thanks for every meal, no matter how small. For them, it was all a gift.
Moses didn’t want the people to forget that God was their liberator and leader. Remembering implies action and honour. The living God isn’t bound by time. On the other hand, man, susceptible to the pleasures of the moment, is constantly tempted to limit his horizons to what he presently sees and experiences. The very thing that was Israel’s goal-the Promised Land-was the possibility of her downfall. The God who blesses and sustains life was setting before Israel the choice: forget the Lord your God and perish, or remember Him and live.
Dependence is a two-edged sword. It can encourage trust, or it can encourage pride, rebellion and resentment. We as Christians are also susceptible to forgetting what God has done for us. We can get so involved with our daily lives and successes that we can forget that our successes are due to God’s involvement in our lives.
The Israelites needed to learn that if they disobeyed God they would cease to have a claim on Him. They would be judged the same as other nations who had disobeyed God and were therefore punished. Each new generation, including ours, needs to grasp this fact and decide for themselves to be obedient to God. This was and is not to be treated lightly. It was and is a life or death decision.
The greater our success, the greater the risk of us thinking too highly of ourselves, as Muhammed Ali did in the story that introduced this message. We must view success as a gift from God. We must learn to see all of our successes as a gift from God, not our own achievement.
We can be so arrogant as humans. Not only do we start to think that we have made our way by our own strength, but we also turn away from the One who has blessed us so wonderfully. That happened to the Israelites, and it can happen to us. Forgetting God means no longer having Him in our daily thoughts. This forgetfulness leads to disobeying His commandments. God designs our wilderness experiences so that we might learn discipline and obey Him. Through our obedience, we receive His blessings.
Sometimes God provides for us, but we aren’t happy with what He provides or how He provides. We want what we want and we want it now. We don’t consider that what we’re asking for might not be good for us. We don’t consider that the time might not be right for us to have what we’re wanting. Sometimes we act like spoiled brats who always want their way. Can you imagine how it makes God feel when we act this way?
Nothing in the Bible condemns hard work in the acquisition of material wealth. God wants us to remember that our ability to earn wealth comes from Him and Him alone. God designed us to create wealth and be productive people. He wants us to provide benefits, services and protection to others. He wants us to create opportunities to help people.
In verses 17-18, Moses warns against remembering the Lord when times are bad and forgetting Him when times are good. His people remember Him through thankfulness and generosity in His name. God cares for his people as a father cares for his children. He provided everything the Israelites needed for their long journey, including the Word of God. He provides everything we need for our journey through life, including the Word of God.
Making progress in our life of faith begins with a clear vision of the outcomes we are looking for. We need to know not only what our objective in following Jesus is, but why that objective is so desirable and worthy of unremitting effort on our part. Progress in our life of faith begins with a clear understanding of what it means to be revived daily in God’s Spirit and Word. As revived people, we can bring renewal of worship and mission to our churches and our communities.
God has prepared a place for us just like He prepared a place for the Israelites. There is no shortage of anything in this place. We won’t lack any good things. In return, we are to give God thanks by saying a prayer like this: “Lord, I want to thank You that You are bringing me into my garden, a land of blessing, a land where my gifts and talents will come out to the full, a good land where I will fulfill my destiny, a good land where I’ll live happy, healthy and whole, a good land where my whole house will honour You!”
Have you ever thought about how it makes God feel when we complain about the things He has provided for us? How much better do you think it makes Him feel when we give thanks to Him for what He has done for us? Instead of complaining about what we don’t have, maybe we should be more thankful for what we do have.
When we have trying circumstances in our lives, we are often so busy asking God to quickly take them away that we don’t stop to think that God, who oversees the entire universe, has not allowed this thing to happen by accident. He has given it to us for a purpose, and it will work for good. We can be content, even thankful, in every circumstance of life because Jesus will strengthen or empower us to do so.
We must always thank God for everything He has given us. In the worlds of a hymn we sing at this time of year:
We plough the fields and scatter
The good seed in the land,
But it is fed and watered
By God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter,
The warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine,
And soft refreshing rain
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord,
For all his love
Every day there are things in our lives to be grateful for. Some days may not seem like it. Those are the times to look a little deeper. Thanksgiving is not about the material things in our lives., though they can be nice. Giving thanks is about much more. It’s about feeling for another, for what they’ve done for you, for what they’ve helped you with or what you’ve done for them.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 238-239)
- Matthias Claudius, “We Plough the Fields and Scatter.” Published in Common Praise: Anglican Church of Canada (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre: 2000)
- Maxwell, J.C. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 5: Deuteronomy (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1987; pp. 139-146)
- 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)
- Pastor Rick Warren, “You Were Created to Be Productive.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- T.M. Moore, “Stay Focused.” Retrieved from www.ailbe.org/tmmoore
- Joel Osteen, “The Good Lord.” Retrieved from www.joelosteen.com
- “In Whose Strength?” Retrieved from www.dailydisicples.org
- Sheridan Vosey, “Grateful for Everything.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Os Hillman, “The Success Test.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Deborah H. Bateman, “Remember to Give Thanks.” Retrieved from http://deborahhbateman.com/articles-written-by-the-author
- Jennie A. Brownscombe, “In Everything Give Thanks.” Retrieved from www.wordofgrace.org