Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Message - The Blessing of the Fifth Kernel of Corn: God Listens and Answers

As we prepare for Thanksgiving Day, let us prepare our hearts by remembering the early settlers of this great nation and their hardships. They endured more than just harsh weather and crop failures; they endured the testing of their faith. Anyone put into their situation or the situations we face today, financial, medical and spiritual problems, would wonder the same thing, “Is God even listening to me?”

It is a very honest question to ask when you consider the problems that you have had to endure or are continuing to endure. Like them, we sometimes need to stop and be reminded of God’s love and grace in our lives. As we go through our trials and troubles, we only see the darkness and we sometimes fail to see the brightness of God’s love around us. We believe that God has given up on us and left us for dead. Problems seem to compound themselves one on top of the other.

2018 has been that sort of year for my family and myself. We have had to endure many painful and difficult times. The medical and financial issues have really caused us to cry out to the Lord. When things seem to be improving and we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, the light disappears and there is more darkness. The light just moves away from us and is only a distant speck in a very bleak and long trek to seeing the end of these ordeals.

As we continued with our journey, we became tired and weary. We continued to ask God for His will to be done in our lives; however, it became more and more difficult to even utter those words. Prayers of praise and thanksgiving soon became prayers of despair and loneliness. We, like Jesus on the cross in Matthew 27 and David in Psalm 22, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” We began to wonder what we had done so wrong to deserve our current lot in life. Had we sinned so badly that God had turned away from us? 

These questions and many more filled our prayers and daily thoughts especially when things were getting worse. My wife, daughter and I had more questions and hardly any answers. More and more issues plagued our daily lives. What were we supposed to do? In fact, some of our prayers were no longer prayers. They became moments of weeping and groaning to the Lord. There were many occasions when I found myself on my hands and knees pleading before the Lord. I was laid humble before Him and just asked Him for help. At the time, I felt that He was not listening. Help seemed nonexistent. But, I was so very wrong. 

As we recovered from those “meltdown moments”, the first thing we realized is that God listens to His children and responds to their cries for help and mercy. Even when all seems lost or when we have abandoned all hope, God does not give up on or abandon us. He remains our Heavenly Father and hears our prayers. As I was reading the second chapter of Exodus, I meditated on this passage, “23 Years passed, and the king of Egypt died. But the Israelites continued to groan under their burden of slavery. They cried out for help, and their cry rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and he remembered his covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 He looked down on the people of Israel and knew it was time to act.

My family and I endured a different sort of bondage. It was a bondage of medical and financial issues. We were being crushed and continue to be crushed by those two things, but I began to see the message that God was placing in my heart. The first is that our groaning was being heard by God. He does listen to our prayers even when they are just groaning and weeping. He knows exactly what our hearts are filled with and the pain we have. The second is He remembers the covenant that He has with us. He has plans for us that are to prosper and not bring us harm. The third and final part of the message is that God acts when the timing is in accordance to His will. All things are subject to His will and timing and we must always remember that God is bound by His covenants and promises to us.

Once we began to see this message, our prayers changed from groaning and weeping to prayers of praise and thanksgiving. We began to sing and praise Him daily for the beauty and blessings of a single day. We remembered the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, “So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today.” Tomorrow is tomorrow and we cannot change that fact. All we have is today and we should be happy. 

The words of the Psalmist in Psalm 118 should be our morning prayer, “24 This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Our sorrow became joy and we continued to carry that joy in our hearts throughout the course of the day and we continued to rejoice in the Lord’s blessings and in His joy. It was then that we also realized another valuable lesson which is best captured in the beautiful words of the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, “10 Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

The Lord rejoices over His children and loves each of us dearly, so dearly that he gave His one and only son as our atonement sacrifice to pay our debt of sin. When we began to put all of these messages that He placed in our hearts together and began to see the beauty of our relationship with the Lord, we realized that we should never believe or even think that God is not listening. He always listens. Equally as important, we should never believe or even think that God will not act. He always acts in accordance with His will and perfect timing. 

Answers to all of our problems have already been planned and executed. Those things that we need are already on their way and we must just remain faithful to Him and remember that God will deliver us out of our bondage just like He had done for the Israelites in Egypt. We will be delivered out of our dark times and we will get through the valley of darkness and come out of the situations that we faced stronger in our faith and with more wisdom in knowing and understanding God’s plan in our lives.

As I have often said before, it is easy to be a believer when things are going well. However, when things turn from good to bad, our faith is truly tested and we must learn that God always listens to His children. We should never doubt that one immutable fact. We should always remember that we, as His children, must come into His presence with joy and thanksgiving. The Psalmist eloquently tells us in Psalm 95, “1 Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.

It has taken me almost a full year to begin to see the light of day. During this year, my family and I have had to endure many hardships and difficulties. Some days it seems like problems pile up on our shoulders and we are crushed by their weight. It is at those moments that we remember the scriptures of God’s wondrous works and His covenants and promises to His children. He always listens. He will never forsake us. He will provide for us. He, most importantly, will always love us and see us through those dark moments of dread and despair. We just have to remain faithful to Him and praise Him for what we have, our daily bread, and let Him handle our problems.

Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, tells them in chapter four, “6 Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Always remain joyful and thank Him for everything. When we do that our outlook on life will change from despair to joy. As you and your family and friends sit down for your Thanksgiving meal, start your prayer with just a few simple words of thanksgiving and joy. When you do that,  you will be filled with joy and strength and, most assuredly, can stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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