Yeah, I know what a lot of you who know me are thinking: “… Greg, teaching on time management – this I’ve got to hear/read …”! Read on please!
A couple of weeks ago, we started to look in Ephesians 5 where, Paul says this, “Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who don’t know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days.”
God says that He wants you to use your time wisely because you know the meaning and purpose of life — that this life is getting ready for the next. God says “let those purposes that I have for your life guide and determine how you use your time — make the best use of it!”
Last week we summarized everything God says in the Bible about time management with three things:
1. The Bible teaches that time management is actually life management.
2. The second thing that God says about time is that the problem isn’t time.
That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.
3. The good news is that time management can be learned.
That’s good because it means that most people aren’t just naturally good at managing their time. But, it’s something you can learn. The Bible says this in Psalm 90 “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are. Help us to spend them as we should.” You can be taught how to be far more effective with your time.
So, here we go – this morning, we’re going to look at biblical principles of time management.
In Ephesians 5, the apostle Paul gives us four steps in how to manage your time and make your life more effective. He says you need to analyze, you need to prioritize, you need to economize, and you need to utilize.
1. First Paul says if you’re going to get control of your time in life the first thing you have to do is analyze your life style.
He says this in v.15 “Look carefully at how you live! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise but as wise, sensible, intelligent people.” God says I want you to be sensible - wise in the way that you manage your time. Look carefully at your life; analyze your lifestyle. If you want to save time, you’ve got to figure out where you’re losing it first. You’ve got to discover the leaks.
There’s only one way to do this. What you need to do for awhile is you need to keep a time log. You need to write down and record where you spent your time and how much time it took.
Then after you’ve done that, the second part of it, is you ask yourself the tough questions and you look at that and you say things like “Is this the best use of my time? Is God pleased with how I’m using my time?” You ask yourself the tough questions. This is what it means to look carefully at your life. That’s step one. You can’t figure out what to do with your time until first you know where it’s going. You analyze your lifestyle. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for step two.
2. Then, you prioritize what’s important.
Once you know where your time is going, now, you can prioritize where you want it to go. God is saying that I want you to focus your time, and your energy on My will for your life. What is God’s will for you? What does He want you to do with your life?
God has THREE MAIN PURPOSES for your life; we use all kinds of words for them. If you’ve ever read The Purpose-Driven Life, by Rick Warren, or gone thru a 40 Days of Purpose Campaign (based on the same book) you know he talks about five purposes - about worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry and evangelism. Well, I usually like to “narrow down” those five purposes to three – worship, discipleship and service – upward, inward, outward. Here’s another way of saying the same thing we’ve heard for years … that God has three things He wants you to do with your life:
The number one purpose God has for your life is to Know. He wants you to know who He really is. If you don’t get anything else done that’s the first purpose in life. Get to know the creator who made you. The Bible word for that is Worship. Worship is getting to know and love God. The direction of our energies are upward.
The second thing God wants you to do with your life is He wants you to Grow. He wants you to grow in that love for Him. He wants you to grow to be like Jesus; to grow in spiritual maturity. The Bible calls this Discipleship. Know God through worship and grow like Christ through discipleship. The direction of our energies are inward.
But we not only grow in our love toward God, but also we grow in our love towards the members of our new God-family – our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. He wants you to love not only Him, but others as well. The Bible calls this Fellowship. Fellowship is just a fancy word for learning how to love people. That’s all it is. God wants you to learn to love other people. He says first you learn to love Me. Know and love Me – Worship. Then grow like My Son, Christ – that’s Discipleship. Then I want you to love others. Fellowship.
The third thing He wants you to do is to Show. He wants you to show your gifts, talents and abilities that God has given you. Those gifts are to be used as a “tool”. God didn’t give you your talent for your own benefit. God gave you your talent for somebody else’s benefit. Whenever you use your talents/gifts/abilities to help other people that’s called ministry, or service.
And our service or ministry has two directly benefitting groups – those inside the church and outside the church.
Everybody needs a ministry in the church and a mission in the world. You need a ministry to believers and a mission to unbelievers. You need a ministry serving the family of God. And a mission to those serving outside the family of God.
These three things are the things that matter most in life. If you don’t get anything else done this week you need to get those done. Because God isn’t going to care about the rest. What matters are the reasons He put you here on this planet. None of the other things are going to last for eternity.
The truth is this actually simplifies your life. My goal today is not to teach you how to get more done in less time. Effective time management isn’t cramming more in. Effective time management is knowing what matters most – doing that and not worrying about the rest.
That’s probably enough to “gnaw on” for now … we’ll share the other two principles a little later in the week.
Suppose you had a bank account that every morning at 6, the bank deposited $86,400 into your account … the one requirement was that you had to spend it all that day - any unused money would be debited back out of the account. What would you do? You’d figure out a way to use it, wouldn’t you?!
That is exactly what God does with each one of us each and every day. He gives you 24 hours - eighty-six thousand four hundred seconds. At the end of the day, any that’s unused or misused or didn’t use, you lose. If you don’t use it, you lose it. And you’re never going to get it back.
The Bible tells us that life is a trust and life is a test. God says I have entrusted certain things into your hands: time, money, abilities, relationships, intelligence, freedom of choice — everything you have in your life is a gift from God.
He says, also while you’re on earth I’m going to be testing you. I’m going to watch for how you live out the answer to this question, “What did you do with what you were given?”
In Ephesians 5 Paul says this “Live life with a due sense of responsibility, not as those who don’t know the meaning and purpose of life but as those who do. Make the best use of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days.”
God says here that He wants you to use your time wisely because you know the meaning and purpose of life — this life is preparation for the next. God says I want you to know the meaning and purpose of life and let those purposes that I have for your life guide and determine how you use your time and make the best use of it.
God has a lot to say about time management in the Bible – far more than we could cover in just one session. So let me summarize with three introductory remarks about time ….
1. The Bible teaches that time management is actually life management.
Today when we talk about managing your time we’re actually talking about controlling, managing, guiding, directing your life. Because your time is your life. If you don’t have any time, the moment your time’s up your life’s up here on this planet. So time is your life. What that means – the implication is – any time you’re killing time, you’re committing suicide. Killing time is suicidal because you’re giving up part of your life. You’ll never get it back again. You need to decide what is worth the investment of my time. What is it worth it in the grand scheme of things?
2. The second thing that God says about time is that the problem isn’t time. It isn’t my lack of time. My problem is my choices.
The problem is not that you don’t have enough time. The problem is you don’t use it wisely. You make poor choices. And those poor choices are the cause of stress and pressure in your life.
We all have the exact same amount of time. You and I and everybody around us have one hundred sixty-eight hours in a week. So what’s the difference between the people who are more effective than you, the people who are more successful, the people who get more done than us? Do they have more time? No. They just make better choices.
That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.
3. The good news is that time management can be learned.
That’s good because it means that some of us just aren’t naturally good at managing our time. BUT, it’s something you can learn. The Bible says this in Psalm 90 “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are. Help us to spend them as we should.” You can be taught how to be far more effective with your time.
More on this next week …
When we started this series last month, we said that we’re going to look at three different areas of your life mainly – your time, talents and treasure. In my estimation, these are the THREE MAIN AREAS of our lives the areas in which God wants to “direct our paths” (Prov. 3:6). If I were to take everything the Bible says about these three areas and summarize it in a sentence here it is: Our time, talents and treasure – all three of these areas - are a trust, a tool and a test.
Looking at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 24-25, here’s the bottom line again … this life is preparation for eternity; it’s a trust, it’s a tool, it’s a test. In eternity, God has certain roles and rewards and responsibilities for you to do in heaven. He is watching to see how faithful you are with what He’s given you here and if you use it in the right way He’s going to share the whole thing with you in heaven. He says it over and over and over in scripture. In these stories Jesus told that I’ve just shared with, the main question He’s asking – that He will ask each of us – is this: “What did you do with what I gave you?”
It is a trust to be managed properly for God’s purposes in your life.
God says “everything I give you is gift from Me. I expect you to make the most of it and I’m going to watch how you use it.” The Bible word for this is the word “stewardship.” Stewardship is just an old English word that means management. A steward is a manager and stewardship is simply management. What we’re talking about today is life management; and it is the acid test of your character. God says it’s how I watch to see if I can trust you with greater responsibility in heaven.
It is a tool to be used for God’s purposes in your life.
God allows you to have money, abilities, time. It’s all a gift from God. Even your ability to make money – or any other ability or talent – it is a gift from God. He gives you money, time and abilities to use for the purposes He put you on this planet to do.
The only other thing He says about these three areas of our lives is that He’s going to test us in these areas.
It is a test of your character. It is a test of your values. It is a test of your priorities. It is a test of your responsibility. God says I’m watching you to see how you deal with your time, talent and treasure. He’s checking to see how much He can trust you with. He’s checking to see how much you trust Him. He’s checking to see the principles by which you use it, save it, spend it, invest it.
Now, I know any time the teacher said “test”, we all got scared! But here’s the good news – then and now: why did the teacher tell us “test” ahead of time? They wanted us to be prepared! So does our heavenly Father! So does our Savior, Jesus Christ! So does your pastor! That’s why God has given us His Word! That’s why I’ve prepared this series of messages dealing with what God says in His word about these three key areas – our time, talent and treasure. And that’s why Jesus came and gave His life for you and me – shed His blood for you and me - He wants us to be ready, prepared!
After establishing the “Why” of setting godly goals that God desires to bless (they give us hope; focus or energy & efforts; stretch our faith; and build our character), we’re continuing the series by answering the question “What does a Godly goal look like?” Not every goal that you set is a good goal, much less a Godly goal. God hasn’t said, “Go out and set any old goal you want - I’ll bless it no matter what.” God will only bless goals that meet certain criteria:
1. It needs to be based on God’s purposes for your life - not yours or anyone else’s. I think most of us approach God incorrectly by saying (either explicitly or implicitly) “God, here’s my goal, my purpose, my dream, etc. - I’ve worked it all out, figured it all out, down to the nth degree - now, all I need You to do, is bless it!” God doesn’t work like that. God is God and you (and I) are not! He has a unique plan and purpose for your life. His purposes for you are much bigger than what you think they are for you! Also, His purposes are eternal - they are not just for the here and now. Since this life is preparation for the next life in eternity, God’s purposes in our life have that in mind.
2. The aim of a Godly goal is to bring glory to God. “… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10. And the “whatever” encompasses so much more than just “religious” stuff. As long as you’ve got the right attitude and the right motivation, everything you do can be done to the glory of God. The right attitude says that “no matter what I’m doing, I’m grateful to God for the opportunity.” There’s tons of things you for which you can thank God. Live in an attitude of gratitude. Secondly, you’ve got to have the right motivation - not “I gotta do this” but “I GET to do this”. “Lord, I want to do this so that my life is pleasing to You.”
3. A Godly goal MUST be motivated by love. Goals can stem from so many different motivating streams - greed, pride, ego, arrogance, resentment, anger, guilt - the list is exhausting. But because God is the epitome of love, and He wants us to be like Him, our goals MUST be motivated by love. And the way that this works itself out practically is that RELATIONSHIPS TAKE PRECEDENT OVER ACHIEVEMENTS. Don’t fall into the trap of “loving things and using people” - do the opposite: “love people and use things”.
4. Godly goals are only achieved with God’s power. There are so many “self-help” books out there on the market, that you couldn’t get half of them read if you spent an entire lifetime. But their weakness is in the meaning of the title of the category in which they’re placed: SELF-help. Broken things don’t “fix themselves” - and neither do broken people. We’ve failed miserably at many of the goals we have set in and for our lives simply because we were trying (and maybe STILL are trying) to achieve them in our own strenght instead of trusting in, asking for, and acting upon the power of God. You want to be a success in life? The Bible says “You will not succeed by your own strength or your own power, but by my Spirit” (Zech. 4:6, NCV) … the biblical “formula” is found in Proverbs 3 - “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart; do NOT depend on YOUR own UNDERSTANDING. Seek HIS WILL in all you do, and He will direct your paths.”
A wise person once said, “When all else fails - READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!” God has clearly instructed us in His Word about what it’s going to take to fix what is broken … and He’s already taken the first and biggest step. He’s already initiated the “cure” - how will you and I respond?
I started a new series of messages this past Sunday on goal setting. I’ve heard it said on different occasions by numerous “motivational speakers” (and preachers) that there are three kinds of people in the world - those that make things happen; those who watch things happen; and those who haven’t a clue as to what’s happening! At Elk Creek, we’re riding the wave of some good, positive momemtum - God has truly blessed us with His presence saturating our worship services and a string of answered prayer. But I, for one, definitely do not want to be in that third group of people who are clueless … nor even in the second group who are just spectators - I want to be part of the group of people who are “in step” with what God is doing and, with His help, make things happen! To achieve this, you’ve got to have a dream, goals, vision, ambition - something for which you’re aiming.
I think there are four basic reasons why we should set goals that God would delite in blessing.
1. Goals that God would bless give us HOPE. A common denominator among Holocaust survivors - those who amazingly handled the atrocities of their experience in the camps - was their “forward look”; their reason to “go on”; they had a gaol that kept them going instead of giving up. Godly goals keep you moving forward when everyone else around you, and everything in you says “give up”. They give you hope to endure.
And goals don’t have to be huge for them to help you and give you hope. As a pastor, many times I’ve gone to the hospital to visit a church member and been there when their care-givers were “detailing” their recovery strategy: “… first, let’s just get you setting up in bed; then, we’ll try sitting on the side of the bed; next, we’ll shoot for standing up; a little later, we’ll strive for using the restroom on your own …” Small goals, but important - a goal doesn’t have to be BIG for it to make a change in our behavior.
2. Goals that God would bless help to FOCUS our efforts and energy. The secret of an effective life is focus. Don’t try to do EVERYTHING - do a few things and do them well. Besides, you don’t have time for everything, especially if you’re wasting it in indecision! Should I do this? Should I do that? Now? Later? When? How? When you know WHAT you need to do and you set a goal, things are so much easier.
How many times have you (and I) had those days when we stopped and thought to ourselves, “Did I get anything done today?” “Where did the time go?” The world is filled with distractions. And one of our biggest problems is the inability to distinguish between pressures and priorities, the urgent and the important - knowing what’s good, what’s better and what’s best.
God wants to give us hope and focus.
3. Goals that God would bless also stretch my FAITH. In fact, if you’re not setting and working towards goals in your life, you’re not “living by faith”. You’re not taking any risks. You’re on perpetual, spiritual cruise-control! In fact, I think it’s bold enough to say that goals are statements of faith - “I’m trusting God to help me accomplish this …” Until we trust God to help us do something that we could otherwise not do without His help, we’ve really never exercised much “faith”.
A good rule of thumb is to let the size of your God determine the size of your goal. Don’t base your goals on who you think YOU are - base them on what you think God is capable of. You’re thinking, “this is crazy” - AND YOU’RE EXACTLY RIGHT! Every great accomplishment started off as somebody’s crazy idea. But “God is able to do far more than we would ever dare ask or even dream of - infinitely beyond our highest prayers and desires and thoughts and hopes …” says Paul in Ephesians. God loves to do the impossible!
Finally, 4. Goals that God would bless build my CHARACTER. God’s number one purpose or goal for us, is that we grow up. He wants us to be like Jesus, He was the perfect example, model of what God want you and me to be. Our entire lives are a course in character development. And the reason setting goals are important is, that while you’re working on your goal, God is working on you.
Let Him work on you … as He is working on you, He will give you hope, focus and a good “faith-stretching”!
This past Sunday, preaching from Isaiah 43, I shared with our congregation at Elk Creek that God promises to carry us through rough waters. Some, if not many, of us though mistake His promise to carry us “through the waters … through the fire” as a guarantee that we’ll never even SEE or experience rough waters or fiery trials.
I was amazed to discover the latest offering of cruise ships from Royal Caribbean, the Oasis of the Seas. It dwarfs a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, stands taller than a 20-story building and can carry 8,000 people - it isn’t a boat; it’s a floating city for cryin’ out loud! It’s the largest, tallest, widest, heaviest and costliest passenger ship ever built. It’s six massive generators/engines produce enough electricity to light up over 100,000 homes. The Atlantic magazine quotes a spokesperson describing the Oasis as “… a celebration of excess(emphasis mine) … packed with glitzy amenities and attractions of the sort usually associated with Las Vegas.”
When we read/hear the words of the prophet Isaiah, “… this is what the LORD says … He who created you … Fear not, for I have redeemed you … you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … when you walk through the fire, you will not be harmed …” (43:1-2) - we discover not a celebration of excess but a celebration of creation and redemption! Each one of us, individually and collectively, is worth much more than $1.4 billion Oasis - “… you are precious and honored in My sight, and … I love you” (43:4)!
But we don’t live in a perfect world. As much as cruise-ship builders might try to create a picture of paradise, the harsh truth of reality is that we live in a broken creation. We sin against God and each other. We indulge our selfish desires; bringing hurt to others, thinking that what we’re doing - or failing to do - doesn’t have any impact on anybody else but ourselves. In turn, we fall victim to the evil of others. So, it’s no wonder that we need to be redeemed.
That’s why the Lord of the Seas comes to us to rescue - to redeem - us back from the captivity and destruction of sin and the way it “sabotages” our chances at health, happiness and wholeness.
But, just as Lynn Anderson sang so many years ago “I never promised you a Rose Garden”, the Lord of the Seas does not promise you and I that we will never face rough waters. Being a Christian doesn’t mean cruising on the Oasis of the Seas but sailing with the Lord of the Seas. On board with God isn’t a guarantee that you’ll never get seasick. You can still be hit by an enormous wave of illness, a cold Northwesterly of betrayal, a tidal change of Tsunami proportions in the economy or a strong current of temptation with what feels like an inescapable undertow.
The promise - the guarantee - is not that our sailing will always be smooth … but that our Captain will always be with us.
The great Russian novelist, Leo Tolstoy, once said, “If you are not happy with your life, you can change it in two ways: either improve the conditions in which you live, or improve your inner spiritual state. The first is not always possible, but the second is.” We will and do face many situations and conditions upon which we cannot improve or possibly try to control. But the Lord of the Seas promises us that we will not be overwhelmed - no matter how the waves may crash around us.
Some years ago, on a hot summer day in South Florida, a little boy decided to go to the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming twoard the shore. The boy’s father, working in the yard, saw the two get closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his dad’s voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late. Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs, which began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go.
A farmer happened to drive by, heard the screams, raced from his truck with a rifle and shot the alligator. Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack. And on his arms were deep scratches where his father’s fingernails dug into his flesh in an effort to hang on.
A newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after he came home from the hospital asked if he would mind showing him his scars. The boy lifted his pant leg - and then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But that ain’t nuthin’ - I’ve got great scars on my arms, too, because my dad wouldn’t let go!”
This past Sunday, we concluded our series of sermons from the Psalms entitled, “Managing Our Emotions” — over the last several weeks, we’ve seen how studying the Psalms can help us become more aware of our emotions, and manage them better in a biblical way. As one writer has said, The Psalms are “an anatomy of all parts of the human soul.”
As we come to the end of the Book of Psalms, we notice that each of the last five all begin with the phrase, “Praise the Lord”, and each Psalm increases - crescendos, if you would - in praise and joy until we come to the last one in Psalm 150. In just six short verses, the writer uses the phrase 13 times. Every sentence is very short and starts off with “Hallelujah” (Hebrew for, “Praise the Lord”). It’s as if he can’t wait to get to the next opportunity to say, “Praise the Lord” again!
Psalm 150 is a very fitting conclusion - doxology - to the entire book and gives us the “BASICS” of praise - the “where”, “why”, “how” and “who”. As followers of God, we are called to praise Him in all of life’s circumstances - in every season of the soul.
The writer to the Hebrews in the NT says, “… let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise …” (13:15) - we can sincerely praise God no matter what we’re going through or feeling.
1. WHERE do we praise God? The question of the whether we worship God privately or corporately is not an either/or question - it is both/and! The songwriter here urges us to worship God in the sanctuary AND in the heavens. In other words, we’re to praise God anywhere and everywhere at any time.
2. WHY should we praise God? We praise God because He’s worthy - because of what He has done (His “acts of power”); and because of who He is (”His surpassing greatness”).
3. HOW should we praise God? With the bulkiest part of the hymn, the writer urges us to praise God in any and every possible way. This psalm suggests that any and every instrument - which he lists all the instruments available to the Hebrews at the time - can, and should be used to praise God. There is no “holiest” style of praise.
It’s interesting (and sometimes amusing, yet heart-breaking) to me that so many Christians argue at this point over the best way to praise God.
Luther once asked, “How has it happened that in the secular field there are so many fine poems ans so many beautiful songs, while in the religious field we have such rotten lifeless stuff?”
William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once said, “Secular music, do you say, belongs to the devil? Does it? Well, if it did, I would plunder him for it! He has no right to a single note of the whole seven.” That kind of sounds real close to what a more contemporary musician once asked - “Why should the devil have all the good music?”
But more than just stressing the range of possibilities of styles or ways we can worship God; I think the psalmist is also giving us a clue as to some principles involved in the way we worship:
The trumpet (here, probably the shofar) was associated with the grandest and most solemn events in the OT.
The harp and lyre required very skillful hands to play them properly.
Inclusion of the tambourine and dancing in his list no doubt reveals the principle of worship being an active experience and not just a “spectator sport”.
There were so many different kinds of stringed instruments and woodwinds that the writer must be stressing the variety and diversity that God enjoys in all aspects of His creation; and therefore, as we reflect back to Him with our praise, He must enjoy the various ways in which we do that.
And with the mention of cymbals, the writer could be prompting us toward intensity. We are encouraged to worship God with gusto - all we can muster!
4. WHO should praise God? That’s an easy one - “everything that has breath”! But the important thing here is that the act of praising the Lord is lifted up in this phrase as both possibility and responsibility. The responsibility is given to all for whom it is a possibility - all who have breath.
We can praise God in every season of the soul. So long as you have breath, praise God no matter where you are, for who He is and not just for what He does for you, and in any and every possible way.
This is taken from the website, The Presidential Prayer Team (http://presidentialprayerteam.com/) …
As our nation’s Founders designed their plan for a more perfect union, they understood that the success of a modern republic would require more than a political document like the Constitution. From their study of history, the Founders had learned of the pitfalls of republics before this one. They concluded that even the Constitution alone could not curb individual selfishness. They believed that virtues were necessary for sustaining the American experiment. Their fervent prayers were an integral part of the birth of our nation. As a testament to this, Samuel Adams declared on August 2, 1776 as other members of the Continental Congress were still signing the Declaration of Independence, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
The prayer …
Father, as You warned many times in Your Word, because of our disobedience to Your law, we are losing our land. Please forgive us Lord for not listening to You and repenting from our sin and allowing You to heal us. We have worshiped money, possessions, and ourselves over You and now we face the consequences of our actions. You are taking the country that You gave to us because we were unfaithful and we dishonored You. I pray today that Your will be done and that Your Kingdom be returned to its rightful place. Help us to be strong through the difficult times ahead. Grant us peace in the knowledge that these things must happen. Thank You, Lord, for the gift of your Son Jesus Christ and may those who do not know Him as Lord and Savior, be drawn to Him in this time of turmoil. I pray in earnest for Your return and I pray for Your mercy on the United States of America.
In Jesus name I pray, Amen!
Gratitude has nothing to do with how much you have. It has nothing to do with how much money, how much stuff, how many friends, how much influence. People who overflow with these things never take the time to stop and be grateful, while people with just a little overflow with gratitude.
So, if gratitude has nothing to do with how much you have, what is the secret to being grateful?
Psalm 136 offers a healthy perspective on gratitude. Written after Israel’s return from exile in Babylon, it was composed for the worship service in the rebuilt Jewish temple. Today the psalm is still used by Jewish people as they celebrate Passover. Each line is followed by the same refrain (“His love endures forever”); a group of singers sing the first line and the congregation sings the refrain.
The psalmist opens the psalm with his “thesis statement”, if you will - our lives overflow with gratitude when we’re convinced God loves us, vv. 1–3.
The refrain, “His love endures forever,” forms the basis for thankfulness. The Hebrew word for “love” here is hesed, translated “steadfast love,” or covenant love. God’s love is forever; it’s not temporary or conditional.
The person who is convinced of the loyal love of God has a heart that overflows with gratitude.
So how can we know God loves us? We know God loves us because He saves us, 10–24.
The Jewish people annually celebrate the Passover meal with their family and friends and retell the story of their salvation, how God heard the Israelites’ cries for deliverance from servitude to the Egyptians and brought them into the Promised Land. By remembering God’s provision of salvation, the Israelites are reminded of his enduring love. Jesus saved us from our servitude to sin; he is our Passover lamb.
We know God loves us because He provides for us, 23–26.
The author thinks of his own circumstances as he writes this psalm—Israel is returning from Babylon. He sees God’s present provision as a sign of his love. God’s love for us is evidenced in his provision for our lives, in the big and the small things.
Our awareness of God’s love overflows as gratitude. A saying goes, “Gratitude can turn an ordinary meal into a feast, a house into a home, and a stranger into a friend.”
No matter how long we’ve been following Jesus, there’s still a restless ache that lives deep within our hearts. Restlessness can cause people to make sudden, life-changing decisions—both good and bad. Psalm 42 offers three possible causes of restlessness.
1. We’re restless because our small taste of God leaves us hungering for more.
Just as a deer is relentless in its quest for the cold water of a stream, the psalmist’s soul is relentless in its thirst for God. We long to taste God’s love and peace, but we settle for cheap and unsatisfying substitutes. Every person must learn that only God can satisfy the deep thirst in each of us.
2. We’re restless because our problems cause us to doubt God’s promises.
In the chaos of life’s problems, we forget God’s promises and wonder if he will really do all he said he would. We may know the right thing to believe in our heads, but our hearts doubt and struggle to accept it.
Forgetfulness is so tragic and so often condemned in the OT because it does not usually represent simple, passive loss of memory; rather, it describes a willful resistance or rejection of memory and a consequent failure to act appropriately.
One effective way to counter the defeating sense of being abandoned by God is to remember the times when God has been present with us – a journal of life moments with God can be a treasure of remem-brances that God has been with us and working through us even though the present may be difficult and God may see impossibly distant.
Another way is to long for and avail ourselves whenever possible of opportunities to stand together with those who are worshipping God. Even if we feel distant or abandoned, the celebration will have the effect of renewing our certainty and hope. One of the roles of the worshipping congregation is to worship when I cannot, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ when I am mourning the death of a loved one or struggling with my own sin.
3. We’re restless because our salvation has not yet been completed.
The salvation Jesus died to give us has not yet been fully applied to our lives. Although Jesus made our salvation sure and certain, our salvation won’t be complete until he returns again at the end of the age.
We live in a time between the ages—between the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom at his birth and its consummation at his Second Coming—so we feel the tension between the “already” and the “not yet.”
We are forgiven, but not sinless. We know the truth but still have doubts and questions. We live in mortal bodies but look to the perfect, immortal bodies God will give us.
As followers of Jesus, we live in “restless contentment”—we are content with the fact that we’re “saved” by grace through faith in Jesus, yet restless because the final chapter has not yet been written.