“Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.” Psalm 105:2-3
Each year over 3.5 million people visit Yellowstone National Park. The park is loaded with signs that read, “Don’t feed the bears,” but visitors are constantly doing just that. As a result, bears become too lazy to look for food. So, sadly, some of them starve to death in the woods—which are full of nourishment—when the tourists aren’t there to give them handouts.
Ever wish you could get a few spiritual handouts from God? A lot of us are like those bears when it comes to walking with Jesus. We’d like to have everything handed to us, straight from God—no questions asked. We keep looking for those divine snacks of His direct involvement in our lives.
It’s tempting to measure the quality of our relationship with God by the frequency and intensity of those times when we see Him reach into our lives and change things. This leaves us prone to the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately?” attitude. When God doesn’t live up to our expectations, we get bogged down in discouragement, doubt, and even a dysfunctional view of Him.
Admittedly, it’s easy to feel cheated by the absence of those spiritual freebies. If I hear Bob talk about how God provided an anonymous donor for his mortgage payment just in the nick of time, I begin to wonder why God never does anything like that for me. Sound familiar?
Then we read stories in the Bible about characters who experienced God’s miraculous work in their lives. When Abraham and Sarah were too old to have a baby, God intervened and did something really spectacular. Later, when God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, God showed up in a miraculous way and spared Isaac’s life.
So, it’s easy to wonder why God is not as liberal with giveaways in our lives as He was with Abraham. But before you think Abraham had an edge, remember that the recorded interventions of God average about one every 15 years in Abe’s life! Just imagine being Abraham and going 15 years with no Bible, no indwelling of the Holy Spirit, no spiritual friends, and no word from God.
Abraham’s experience shows that God rarely invades lives with dramatic demonstrations of His power. God’s desire is to be loved and adored by us not for the handouts, but because He is worthy of our praise and unfailing allegiance regardless of what He does or doesn’t do for us. That’s why Psalm 105:2-3 encourages us to, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.”
And it’s not that He won’t help you when the time is right. He loves you and will indeed supply and protect. But it would be a major distortion of our view of Christianity to see God as our sugar daddy, ready to jump every time we thought we needed a handout from Him. I sometimes wonder if heaven has a sign that says, “Don’t feed the Christians!” with the fine print reading, “They’ll think it’s all about the goodies”!
From: Streams In The Desert
And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me (John 11:41).
This is a very strange and unusual order. Lazarus is still in the grave, and the thanksgiving precedes the miracle of resurrection. I thought that the thanksgiving would have risen when the great deed had been wrought, and Lazarus was restored to life again. But Jesus gives thanks for what He is about to receive. The gratitude breaks forth before the bounty has arrived, in the assurance that it is certainly on the way. The song of victory is sung before the battle has been fought. It is the sower who is singing the song of the harvest home. It is thanksgiving before the miracle!
Who thinks of announcing a victory-psalm when the crusaders are just starting out for the field? Where can we hear the grateful song for the answer which has not yet been received?
And after all, there is nothing strange or forced, or unreasonable in the Master’s order. Praise is really the most vital preparatory ministry to the working of the miracles. Miracles are wrought by spiritual power. Spiritual power is always proportioned to our faith.
PRAISE CHANGES THINGS
Nothing so pleases God in connection with our prayer as our praise, and nothing so blesses the man who prays as the praise which he offers. I got a great blessing once in China in this connection. I had received bad and sad news from home, and deep shadows had covered my soul. I prayed, but the darkness did not vanish. I summoned myself to endure, but the darkness only deepened. Just then I went to an inland station and saw on the wall of the mission home these words: “Try Thanksgiving.” I did, and in a moment every shadow was gone, not to return. Yes, the Psalmist was right, “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.”
–Rev. Henry W. Frost
From: Through the Bible
2 Chronicles 12:1,5 (NIV) 1After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD…
5Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.'”
Rehoboam began with greed and immediately lost two-thirds of the nation. That did not humble him. He continued in his pride. After strengthening his army and defenses, he abandoned the law of the LORD. As the leader went, so went the nation. They followed his bad example in forsaking God.
An innumerable army, led by the king of Egypt, came against him and captured all the cities he had fortified and armed. One by one they fell. Then the prophet Shemaiah came and told Rehoboam that since they had abandoned God, God had abandoned them. Since they wanted to proceed without God, God allowed them to. What would our life be like without the protection of the hand of God? When a man or family or nation is walking in the fear of the LORD, they are surrounded by a protecting influence. You will never know all the things the LORD spared you from that the enemy planned against your life. That is why the end of the LORD’s prayer says, “Deliver us from the evil one.”
When we step outside of a trusting dependent relationship with God, that invisible hand of protection is lifted and the enemy is allowed in to bring us to our senses. It worked for Rehoboam. He and his leaders humbled themselves and said, “The LORD is just.” Then God could have mercy on them and allowed Jerusalem to remain, though subjugated. All the treasure amassed in the temple was carried away by the enemy. Sin has consequences, and though we are allowed to continue and are restored relationally, there is a great loss because of our rebellion.
Consider: Draw near to God now so that He does not have to use tragedy to draw you back.
Romans 1:16-17 (NIV) 16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The Apostle Paul lived in a world that was similar to ours. Philosophies and a variety of religious beliefs permeated the Roman world. The preaching of the cross was quite contrary to the religions man had created, but Paul was not ashamed to be different. He did not mind not fitting in, for he knew the power of God that could save anyone who would believe. We need to carry that kind of confident boldness into our world.
Since Paul would later say that God does not respect one person over another, what does this mean that the gospel is to the Jew first? Certainly it is not first in importance. Throughout Scripture we can see that it is God’s order. Even Jesus’ ministry went to the Jew first. Even though God knew that they, as a nation, would reject Him, He still went to them first. It is God’s desire that all receive the salvation He has provided for them, and He knows the best order to make that possible.
Verse 17 is the verse that broke through to Martin Luther’s conscious mind and showed him salvation was not attainable by works. To be justified with God, to be made acceptable in His eyes, can only happen through faith. No amount of good deeds, no particular ritual, simply a heart that places its hope and trust in the God that made us through the way provided by the cross. Abraham believed God. That belief was credited to him as righteousness. Everyone comes to God the same way, as Martin Luther later summed up, “By grace alone; through faith alone”.
To live by faith includes more than a one-time comprehension of God’s sufficiency. It is a daily reliance on His all-sufficiency. It is a daily dependence on His power, provision, and His life to be what He calls each of us to be.
Consider: Are you living by faith today? Are you trusting more in the unseen than in what you can see?