We often throw large numbers around: it cost me a million dollars, it’s worth its weight in gold, 99 bottles of pop on the wall…and I could go on for hours.
The ESV records over 130 verses that include “thanks!” That is a long list! How long does it take you to count your blessings? Ann Voskamp is an author who has inspired me through her book One Thousand Gifts, a story of her search for meaning in the everyday whirl of life. She began writing down things she was thankful for, and made lists till she reached 1000…and then kept going. That is her challenge to everyone: to be thankful in good and bad times. Mine might end up as a whirlwind of post-it notes. What are you thankful for?
Romans 6 speaks of Paul’s thankfulness for a life turned away from sin to a focus on serving God (emphasis mine).
“15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
Hallelujah!! We do not have to be controlled by sin anymore. We do not have to live controlled by grief and sorrow. God has conquered death and sin on our behalf and offers us free pardon!
Slaves in that day were more like indentured servants, and able to work their way to freedom. Some were captives of war. They were expected to obey competently what their Master ordered. In this analogy, we are taken out of the land of darkness and ordered on tasks of righteousness by the King. That is something to be thankful for on the darkest day: a hope!
But there are those dark days where it looks like sin has won…and we let it! It is even attractive to some extent to go back to the sin-habits, though we are ashamed and brash at the same time we admit it. But Paul keeps talking about this slavery concept in Romans 7 (emphasis mine):
“21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d]a slave to the law of sin.”
God does not give up on us. He gives us second chances. I often despair over my stumbles in life, but this is a perspective that does not sink into the error, but turns back to the One who corrected it.
Psalm 103 says it well:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
He has done great things for us, and Holy is His Name (see Luke 1). So, as we count down the days to Thanksgiving…and Christmas…and the number of times we hear that song and the number of presents we need to buy, do not remember to tally up your reasons to be thankful!
God, I rush. I jump headlong into a blizzard of activities. And so thank You for moments to slow down, to laugh and cry and be content. Thank You for warm socks, cheerful candles, even ticking clocks. God, I rush so fast. Please help me practice thankfulness which shows where You have been at work and reminds me to stop worrying and trust You. Because You are faithful. I need help on this, God. I try to brace myself for the challenges of life and I fall. But You always help me up. Please help me act in the job description of a “slave to righteousness.” And count a flurry of blessings. Amen.