/Monday, November 25, 2019
Matthew 14:19: And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. (NIV).
A Cure for Weariness?
Is there a cure for weariness in the Christian life? Christians know that they have every reason to be happy, to be joyful.
Experience tells us, however, that the daily cares and pressures of everyday life have a way of wearing us down; of weakening our enthusiasm even though our efforts—in calling, in relationships-- might be perfectly respectable by any normal measurement.
One approach might be to pause and explore the dimensions of gratitude in our lives. One starting point could be the verse quoted above—in Matthew 14:19 we see that Jesus himself gave thanks for seemingly inadequate provisions at hand.
It was after giving thanks to God the Father that five loaves and two fish somehow became enough to feed five thousand people (14: 20-21). This should be our first hint that gratitude to God, which is certainly a form of expression of faith, may unlock mysterious and joyful blessings.
Joy & Gratitude
Moving ahead to the book of Philippians, we can learn something from Paul about gratitude. This entire book is filled with a joyful intensity and we can see that gratitude, or thanksgiving, is an integral part of that joy:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7).
We give thanks in advance, knowing full well that the Lord knows best how to orchestrate the blessings and trials of our lives. “The Lord is near.” Do we understand this; do we feel it?
Glory to God
Let’s continue on a little further. Paul is often very thankful, it seems, particularly when addressing his new Christians:
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1: 15-16).
Paul is not complimenting the Ephesians or flattering them; he is giving thanks for them. To whom? To God, of course. It is God who is glorified by thanks. That is the way it should be. Paul goes on to pray for the Ephesians, demonstrating his implicit love for them as well as God:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3: 16-19).
This prayer—directed at us as well as the Ephesians—must get our hearts beating a little faster. If it does not, we should seek medical assistance. It is so rich. This is not poetry nor is it philosophy—this is the Lord speaking to us in a special way, through his servant Paul, in the language of divine love.
Gratitude for God's Love
Henry Scougal, writing in the seventeenth century in his book The Life of God in the Soul of Man, talks about our personal response to the love of God:
Nothing is more powerful to engage our affection to find that we are beloved. Expressions of kindness are always pleasing and acceptable unto us, though the person should otherwise be mean and contemptible: but, to have the love of one who is altogether lovely, to know that the glorious Majesty of heaven hath any regard unto us, how must it astonish and delight us, how must it overcome our spirits, and melt our hearts, and put our whole soul into a flame!
Now, as the Word of God is full of the expressions of his love toward man, so all his works do loudly proclaim it: he gave us our being, and, by preserving us in it, doth renew the donation every moment.
Scougal’s writing about the highly personal response we should have to the love of God was highly influential, particularly over one George Whitefield, who went on to become instrumental in the Great Awakening in America.
Yes, we should be grateful for many things, particularly our very lives, no matter how fleeting they may seem to be. Not for us the realm of nothingness, or nihilism, or despair—we have a hope and a faith that is infused with the overpowering love of God.
Praise the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
Patrick McKitrick is as OC Associate, who provides regular meditations for the OC Team. When he was a kid, Patrick dreamed of being the Prime Minister of Canada, or a cowboy! If he had a free afternoon, you might find Patrick on the back patio reading or snoozing!
 Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications) 2012, p.98.
 Scougal, “Introduction” by J.I. Packer, pp.7-16.