This Week's Focus Passage

Count you're Blessings

Focus Passage: Philippians 4:8

‘Think on these things.’

Even the world says;

‘If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep, and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.’ A hymn-writer applies that to the Christian walk. ‘Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.’

Whether we are considering setting aside our insomnia, or setting aside our unbelief, the counsel given is appropriate, as far as it goes. Whether we are singing the popular Irving Berlin song, or its predecessor, the hymn written by the 19th century Methodist minister Johnson Oatman Jr. in 1897, we are looking at the glass half-full rather than half-empty. This is a good thing.

This is not the teaching of the famous ‘grin and bear it’ school. We are not suggesting that we should simply ‘suck it up,’ ‘grit our teeth,’ or its’ corollary, ‘bite the bullet, and get on with our lives.’ I don’t believe that even Irving—I like that, ‘Even Irving’—was implying such. It is virtually certain that Johnson Oatman Jr. was not insinuating this sort of response, and it is absolutely certain that Paul was not doing any such thing when he wrote his epistle to the church at Philippi. His exhortation is conspicuously positive;

Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say Rejoice. Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. —Philippians 4:4-9

We are—each and every one of us—inclined rather to dwell on things that are not likely to buoy us up, but cast us down. We do not suggest that, with yet another song-writer, we should ‘eliminate the negative,’ but we should be always doing our best to ‘accentuate the positive.’ We are required to deal with the negatives that come before us, but why can we not do so in the light of the positive?

Those things that Paul encourages us to think on, or to bear in mind, may well constitute that positive light for those times and occasions when all would seem to be so dark and foreboding. David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, counsels us in Psalm 37:1, ‘Fret not thyself because of evil-doers, Neither be thou envious against them that work unrighteousness.’ This is wonderful; helpful instruction as to what we ought to forebear doing. We ought not to fret; we ought not to be envious. We could, in reference to our focus, consider the teaching here to intend, ‘think not on these things.’ This was the unhappy folly of Asaph in Psalm 73 with his extended lamentation over his situation; he was fretting when he said;

For I was envious at the arrogant, When I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death; But their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; Neither are they plagued like other men.

David’s counsel to Asaph would be, ‘don’t fret about it!’ And Paul’s advice might be, ‘stop thinking about it so much; think on the many good things!’ This is, in fact, what Asaph finally did when he went into the sanctuary of God. Beside telling Asaph to stop fretting, David also recommends ‘good things’ for him to do. He exhorts us, Trust in Jehovah, and do good…..Delight thyself also in Jehovah ….. Commit thy way unto Jehovah. David understood these matters. He was often troubled; he was many times cast down; he was worried and could not sleep. What did he do in these situations? We find the answer to that question beautifully expressed in a number of other psalms; talking to himself:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, Who is the help of my countenance, and my God. —Psalm 42:11

…and then talking to God Himself:

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips; when I remember thee upon my bed, And meditate on thee in the night watches. —Psalm 63:5-6

…..and yet again:

I anticipated the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy words. Mine eyes anticipated the night-watches, That I might meditate on thy word. —Psalm 119:147-148

It seems that Paul is once more in perfect agreement with David. Rejoice in the Lord…in nothing be anxious…..but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And as you close your eyes in sleep, thinking on God, thinking on the truth, thinking of things honorable, and meditating on all things just and pure; things that are lovely. Would this not put us in mind of our Savior and Lord? Who else is the Truth incarnate? Who is more honorable than He? And there is none so just and pure and lovely as the Shepherd of our souls; He is our justification; He is our sanctification; He is loveliness itself. Yes, it may well be that we sometimes need to ‘bite the bullet,’ but let that bullet be the Word of God. Let us not only bite it, but masticate upon it, ruminate upon it, let it be assimilated into our being for our spiritual nutrition.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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