Many self-made men have no time for God because they think that they have no one to thank for their success but themselves. They view life as a brutal competition in which the fittest survive, and they count themselves among the fittest. None of us would be so crass, but still we are all prone to thank ourselves for our achievements. When we finally move into a dream home after years of working and saving, do we say, “This is the result of what we have done,” or do we say, “This is the result of what God has enabled us to do”? For indeed, everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him.
Remember Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4). God warned him through a dream interpreted by his chief counselor, Daniel, that because he failed to acknowledge his dependence on God, God would bring him low, making him like a beast in the field. A year passed and nothing happened. The king probably had forgotten the dream, or had decided that he was in no danger of divine judgment. Then one day he went up to the heights of his palace and surveyed his capital city, Babylon.
On his north he saw the Hanging Gardens, which were one of the seven wonders of the world. There, a visitor could see exotic flowers and trees and beasts and birds collected from every corner of the known world.
On his east the king saw the beautiful Ishtar Gate, which still exists in ruins. Beyond that, he saw the wall of Babylon stretching into the distance. The wall was actually two walls. Each section was twenty-five feet thick, and between them was space forty feet wide filled with rubble that supported a military road running along the top. So, the overall width of the wall was close to one hundred feet. No one knows how high the wall was, because in the course of centuries people have carted the bricks away and put them to other uses. One Greek writer said that the wall was eighty-six feet high. Outside these walls was moat three hundred feet wide, and beyond the moat the land was wet and marshy. No wonder that the world in Nebuchadnezzar’s day regarded the defenses of Babylon as impregnable. And indeed, no attack force ever took Babylon by going over the walls.
To the south of the palace Nebuchadnezzar saw the great ziggurat of Babylon. This ziggurat, called Etemenanki, was a step pyramid within a perfectly cubic space, over 300 feet in each dimension. It is likely that Etemenanki was patterned after the original Tower of Babel, or Babylon. Beyond the ziggurat lay Esagila, the great temple of Marduk, god of Babylon, and within his temple there was a golden statue of the god.
When the king looked to his west, he saw the great river itself, the Euphrates, dividing the city into two sectors, and in the western sector he saw great temples and homes and broad avenues.
Humanly speaking, Nebuchadnezzar had every reason to be proud. He said to himself, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built?” (Dan. 4:30). But what happened when Nebuchadnezzar boasted in himself and failed to thank God for his achievements? The judgment that God had foretold a year before immediately fell upon him. His mind was filled with the mad delusion that he was a beast, and for seven years he went about on all fours, seeking to feed himself by grazing grass, and he allowed his beard and nails to grow as if they were fur and claws.
It is possible that America will come to a similar fate. As a nation we neglect to give thanks to God and instead we boast in ourselves. God has patiently withheld judgment, giving us a chance to repent. But his patience will not restrain judgment forever.
One reason we fail to thank God for blessings is that we forget them. What did God do for you yesterday, last week, a year ago? Do you remember? If you do not, how can you be properly thankful? Most of us give God a laundry list of requests in the morning. Then, as we go through the day, we more or less forget God and fail to notice how His answers are working themselves out in events. So, when we return to Him the next morning, we just give Him another laundry list of the same kind, consisting of requests without thanksgiving. What is the remedy for this problem?
1. When you pray, emphasize spiritual requests. Pray for souls, for their salvation if they do not know God, for their growth to spiritual maturity if they do know God. Ninety percent of your requests should not be for healing of sickness, or for rescue from trouble. You will discover that God frequently does not grant a request of this kind, because to grant it would be to negate His higher purpose in the trouble or sickness. God did not take away Paul’s thorn in the flesh. Why? He wanted to keep Paul humble (2 Cor. 12: 7-9). He let Fanny Crosby lose her sight when she was a little girl and He never restored it. Why? He wanted her to develop the sensitivity to sound that would make her the finest religious poet of her generation. John Bunyan was an outstanding preacher, yet God allowed his opponents to silence him by putting him in prison for several years. Why? He wanted Bunyan to write Pilgrim’s Progress, that great work of Christian literature which has been a source of instruction and blessing to millions.
Therefore, if you pray only for the relief of misfortune, you will often approach God with a disappointed heart. But if you see every misfortune in a spiritual light, revealing that God uses trouble to accomplish good purposes, you will be able to thank Him for whatever happens.
2. Keep a record of God’s blessings. When He does something extraordinary or miraculous, do not pass over it quickly, keeping only a dim memory somewhere in the recesses of your brain. Write it down somewhere, in a notebook perhaps. After you have compiled several stories of His working, these will be very helpful and encouraging to read at difficult moments in your life. In the past I have recommended that a believer keep a prayer diary. But I have found that answers to many requests do not become evident until years later. So, a prayer diary will not help you much if you lose patience and set it aside after a few months. However, if you keep it faithfully for five or ten years, it will do much to support your prayer life. It will encourage you to pray, and to pray in faith, and to keep on praying, even when heaven seems silent.
So, as we come to Thanksgiving, let us indeed give thanks—let us give thanks to the great Benefactor whose goodness many people on that day will ignore and resent. Let us not be among them. Let us prove ourselves to be God’s children by giving Him the praise He is due.
Standing on His Promises and, As Always,
In His Grip …Shalom Aleichem (Peace Be Unto You) …
Your Most Obedient and Humble Servant,
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” – Matthew 28:19 (NIV).
~ Famous Quotes ~
Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody are two of my favorite evangelical preachers and I want to share some of their famous quotes with you, so for the foreseeable future I will offer these tidbits.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon became a Christian at the age of 15 and at the age of 19 became a pastor at the largest Baptist church in London. It did not take long for him to become one of the most famous preachers around. He was soon preaching to crowds of over 10,000 and his preaching was published and circulated to thousands every week. He later formed a pastor college and continued writing numerous famous books that are still read today.
“Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God . . . as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that He wrought all His mighty acts, and showed Himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.”
“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”
“The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything.”
“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through.”
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength.”
“We have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because the Lord is my shepherd.”
Dwight Lyman Moody, more commonly known as D.L. Moody was born to a farmer’s family in 1837. He only attended school until grade 5 and left the busy farm life at age 17. In Boston, his uncle hired him as a shoe salesman, but he could only keep his job if he attended church regularly. He had high hopes of earning great money in shoe sales. His Sunday school teacher visited him at his Uncle’s store where he led D.L. to Christ. Soon he moved to Chicago in pursuit of that shoe sales career. It was there that he was called to ministry through the YMCA where his desire was to begin a Sunday school for the children. He is known for his work with the youth of the city in his Mission Sunday school. In 1864, he founded and pastored the Illinois Street Church, now known as The Moody Church. He expanded into more evangelist ministries, including a great Civil War outreach to both Union and Confederate troops. D.L. Moody was a great leader and trainer of missionaries in America. Long after his death in 1899 his ministry continues through the Moody Bible Institute. He was not a man of few words. The Lord gave him great speech and his quotes are repeated by many even today.
“I would rather a thousand times be five minutes at the feet of Christ than listen a lifetime to all the wise men in the world.”
“The preaching that this world needs most is the sermons in shoes that are walking with Jesus Christ.”
“If He laid down His life for us, is it not the least we can do to lay down ours for Him? If He bore the cross and died on it for me, ought I not to be willing to take it up for Him?
“Shame on the Christianity of the nineteenth century; it’s a weak and sickly thing. Would to God we had a few men like Daniel living here today.”
“A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.”
“There is no man living that can do the work that God has got for me to do. No one can do it but myself. And if the work ain’t done we will have to answer for it when we stand before God’s bar.”