Posted by: rcottrill | January 10, 2011

Count Your Blessings

Words: Johnson Oatman Jr. (b. Apr. 21, 1856; d. Sept. 25, 1922)
Music: Edwin Othello Excell (b. Dec. 13, 1851; d. June. 20, 1921)

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Count Your Blessings is considered the best of over 5,000 hymn texts from the pen of busy Methodist clergyman Johnson Oatman. Written in America, it came to be a great favourite in the British Isles as well. Evangelist Gypsy Smith recalled, “In South London, the men sing it, the boys whistle it, and the women rock their babies to sleep on this hymn.” It was also one of the songs sung at nearly every service during the great Welsh revival.

The theme has its parallel in passages such as Psalm 103. “Bless [praise] the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits [the good things He has done for us]” (vs. 2). And David proceeds to list some of these benefits (vs. 3-5).

The fact that we are exhorted in Psalm 103 not to forget, suggests strongly that we have that weakness. We can readily identify the trials and tribulations we have–and our prayers remind the Lord about them regularly! But we may simply take many good things for granted (see Deut. 6:10-12; cf, Jas. 1:17). How often do we stop to list the things we have to be thankful for. We need to do what we can to build a gratitude attitude!

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can declare all His praise?” (Ps. 106:1-2).

Sometimes we make the mistake of comparing ourselves to others, and thinking that somehow life (or God) has been unfair in allotting the troubles that come our way. Stanzas CH-2 and CH-3 hint at that. “Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?” Or are you envious “when you look at others with their lands and gold”? The Bible says we’re not wise to compare ourselves with others (II Cor. 10:12).

Why is the practice unwise? For one thing, we may not know all the burdens and heartaches that other person has to bear. For another, we may have forgotten that spiritual riches we possess are of far greater worth than any earthly blessing. “Wealth can never buy / Your reward in heaven nor your home on high” (CH-3, and see Matt. 6:19-21; Eph. 1:3; 2:7; I Pet. 1:3-4).

Some years ago, I bought a little notebook and assigned myself a project. Each evening, before bed, I took a few moments to note three blessings that day for which I praised the Lord. I did it for a full year. That’s 1,095 blessings, and it hardly scratched the surface! Reviewing that little journal was quite an inspiring experience. It was indeed “surprising” what the Lord had done! (I challenge you to try something like that.)

There is another thought to be considered. Most often we look upon the pleasant and enjoyable things in our lives as our blessings. But what about our trials? Can they not be blessings too? The Apostle Paul realized that our times of weakness can become platforms on which the Lord can demonstrate His strength (II Cor. 12:7-10). He encourages us with the fact that God works in “all things” for our good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28). So, “Do not be disheartened, God is over all” (CH-4).

Questions:
1) Try to list 10 blessings for which you thank the Lord today.

2) Joseph was sold into bondage by his jealous brothers. He spent years in slavery in Egypt (some of them also in a prison cell). Yet he was able to see that God was at work in it all.

¤ What did God accomplish through this experience (Gen. 45:1-7; 50:20)?

¤ How did Joseph’s understanding of the ways of God affect his later attitude toward the brothers who’d wronged him?

3) In a chapter that discusses idolatry and the terrible moral depravity of sinners is the little phrase “nor were thankful” (Rom. 1:21), and again, in a list of grossly wicked sins, we see the word “unthankful” (II Tim. 3:2). Ingratitude is a root that leads to many other sins. Explain.

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


Responses

  1. “There is another thought to be considered. Most often we look upon the pleasant and enjoyable things in our lives as our blessings. But what about our trials? Can they not be blessings too? The Apostle Paul realized that our times of weakness can become platforms on which the Lord can demonstrate His strength (II Cor. 12:7-10). He encourages us with the fact that God works in “all things” for our good and for His glory (Rom. 8:28). So, “Do not be disheartened, God is over all” (CH-4).”

    These words meant so much to me. I also love the story of Joseph…how in the end he explained that what they had intended for evil God had intended for good. He proclaimed the Lords goodness when he spoke about all who were saved from famine. Plus it says that he comforted them and spoke kindly to them…so Christlike!

    • Thanks for the comments. Yes, Joseph was a remarkable man. And his insight into the providential workings of God preceded the writing of the first books of the Bible by several centuries. When others are thoughtless, or even cruel, in their dealings with us, how blessed to be able to say, by God’s grace, that He is able to bring from it our good and His glory.

  2. I just had to comment on your response to my comment above.

    “And his insight into the providential workings of God preceded the writing of the first books of the Bible by several centuries.”

    I had never considered that. We go through difficulties and when we are looking for encouragement, for hope to hang on we ask ourselves “What does the Bible say?” We are so privileged to have the luxury of the written Word in many of our homes. Men who lived many years later [than Joseph] who are mentioned in the Bible did not have a Bible laying around, but they did have scribes and testimony passed down…had the Law, but Joseph lived before all of that. It truly is remarkable that the Lord imparted that insight to Him. That is just one more example of the wonderful truth described in the first chapter of John!

    I have my struggles, but today my heart was so encouraged by your words. I thank you and I thank the Lord!


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