Rejoicing in the Small Things

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things in life.-2.png

I don’t know about you, but I tend to save my celebrations for the significant moments in life. The big promotion. The new baby. The summer vacation. The sizable financial donation. Big things. Good things. Things that make me want to praise the Lord, sing a song, and maybe even dance the jig (though I’ll admit it’s not pretty).

But this morning, the Lord reminded me that every moment on this earth is precious. Every person is a blessing. Every event is momentous. This revelation occurred on my morning prayer walk.

As I typically do, I passed by the Swamp Rabbit Cafe, which has a small play area for children. Except in harsh weather, the area is filled with parents and small children, climbing on the various equipment, riding small tricycles, or playing with their toys. Today was no different, but as I walk by, I noticed a little girl playing alone in the corner of the fenced area. At first, I felt bad for the young girl, fearing she was being shunned by the other children and even that she may be crying about her loneliness. But as I drew closer, I realized nothing could be farther from the truth.

This sweet child was jumping. Not jumping rope or jumping over obstacles. She wasn’t aiming for a target as far as I could tell. No, she was jumping for the sheer joy of it. Arms pumping as her little legs propelled her into the air. And with every landing, she giggled and shook her blonde curls. Then, she jumped again and again and again—each jump eliciting a joyous response.

As I walked, I marveled. This dear child was content.  Truly content. She didn’t need toys or equipment or fancy games to bring her happiness. Instead, she found joy in the simple act of jumping.

The more I walked, the more I realized how much I long to be like that little girl. I want to find joy in the little things. I want to make a big deal about all the good things in my life. The scale this morning said I'd lost a pound. Let’s celebrate! I received a $20 check in the mail yesterday for a survey I completed. Let the songs break forth. After several days of a very rough detox, I finally feel almost human again. Let’s do the Hokey Pokey (because honestly, that’s the only “dance” I know how to do.) But I think you get my meaning.

Why should we wait for the “big things” in life before we praise God or celebrate? Why don’t we recognize the many blessings we’ve been given, both big and small? Yes, as I thought about that precious child this morning, I wondered how much more I would enjoy life if I’d genuinely take time to appreciate it. Every minute. The sun on my face. The breeze through my hair. The colors of the sunset. The loving embrace of my husband. The nuzzles from my precious pooch. The ability to be, walk, and yes, even jump (though it may not be graceful).  

I’m reminded of the song, “Count Your Blessings,” but even more than that, I’m reminded that it’s more than just a song. It’s an essential ingredient for a joy-filled life. Sure, we can look around and find problems everywhere, but if we’d stop and count our blessings, we’d see they far outnumber the problems. The trouble is, we don’t notice all our blessings—only the “significant” ones. But, friend, that little girl reminded me this morning that every blessing is significant, and none of them should be taken for granted.

The Bible has a lot to say about child-like faith, but I think we would all do well, too, to have a child-like appreciation for the little things. We would all be much happier and much more content if we did.

 For who hath despised the day of small things?
— Zechariah 4:10a

Sacrifice of Praise - A Repost

Have you ever wondered how many times we read the same verses over and over again without really allowing their true meaning to set in?  I fear it's more often than we would like to believe.  Such was the case with a verse I currently read in Hebrews 13, for it wasn't until another author pointed it out in a devotion that I realized its significance.

By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
— Hebrews 13:15

If you're like me, you read this verse and thought, "Okay, I get it.  Give thanks to God.  Praise Him continually."  Right?  But there's more.  The true depth of the entire verse lies in one word:  sacrifice.

The word "sacrifice" carries many meanings, but all of them revolve around this one principle:  the loss of something you willingly give up, usually for the sake of a better cause.

With that thought in mind, how can praise be a sacrifice?  Praise is given willingly, but it doesn't cost us anything, does it?  That depends.  When life is going well, and you feel like lifting your voice in praise, then, no, praise does not cost you anything.  But what about when life isn't going so well, and you really don't feel like offering praise?  Hmm, now things make a little more sense.

According to Hebrews, we should give thanks and honor to God all the time.  Not just when we feel like it.  Not just when we're walking on cloud nine.  But all the time.  Through the good, the bad and the ugly.  And that's where the sacrifice comes into play.  To truly praise God in the midst of our suffering, we have to give up our self-pity, our negative attitude and our mournful countenance.  We can't sing praises to God while simultaneously singing the blues.  To fulfill the command in this verse, we have to let go of our discouragement, disappointment, anger, frustration, regret, guilt and anything else that is preventing us from lifting our eyes toward Heaven and saying, with heartfelt sincerity, "Lord, how great Thou art!"

The sacrifice of praise also requires us to shift our focus.  We must stop dwelling on all the things that are wrong in life and focus on the things that are right.  We must stop looking at the crises and instead look at Christ.  We must stop looking at ourselves, and instead look to others to see if there's some way we can ease their suffering.  You see, in the midst of our dark times, it's easy to forget that we're not the only ones who are facing trials.  Others are fighting battles of their own.  What a blessing it would be to them if we were to join forces and help them defeat their current foe!  But, no, we're too busy being consumed by our own circumstances to pay attention to anyone else.

How can such a little word have such a powerful punch?  Sacrifice.  It's not just about payment for sin.  Jesus took care of that on Calvary.  But every day of the Christian life should be a life of sacrifice.  Dying to self.  Dying to pride.  Dying to personal expectations.  Dying to our stubborn wills.  And yes, even dying to our pity parties.  It's about setting aside everything we want and think we deserve and placing our lives on the altar before God and saying, "Here's my life, Lord.  Do with it what You will.  I trust You and praise You for Your many blessings.  Thank you for using me!"

When Abraham obeyed God by sacrificing his son, Isaac, the Bible says that Isaac willingly climbed up on the altar.  Abraham didn't have to fight with him or tie him down.  He was a willing sacrifice.  How about you?  Are you willing to climb up on the altar, having faith all the while that God knows what He's doing?  Better yet, are you willing to take it a step further and thank God for the joy and privilege of offering yourself as a sacrifice?

I'd say we have a lot to think about!

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You Can't Go Wrong With Worship - A Repost

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And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth. And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive? And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance. - Genesis 43:26-29

I encourage you to read through the entire story of Joseph, for it holds many golden nuggets, but for now, allow me to set the scene.  Joseph's brothers have returned to Egypt to buy food, this time bringing their youngest brother, Benjamin, as Joseph had commanded them.  Upon arriving, they are sent not to the court but to Joseph's house.  Fearing they are about to be enslaved because of the money that had been in their sacks after they had come to buy food the first time, they strive to explain their predicament to the steward, who assures them that all is well.  When Joseph arrives, they present him with a basket of the finest fruits and spices that they could muster up during the famine (which I imagine was a pretty pitiful offering) and bow themselves.  After he asks of their welfare and that of their father, they answer his question and then bow again and worship him.

These men had been through it when they visited Joseph the first time.  They knew him to be a hard man (or so they thought).  At this point in time, they are each wrestling with a sea of emotions.  They are afraid.  Why are they being brought to his home?  They are confused.  Why had the steward placed their money back in their sacks?  They are dealing with guilty consciences because they had already attested that all their troubles were due to their poor treatment of Joseph.  But when Joseph appears before them, they don't protest.  They don't argue.  They don't question.  They don't beg or plead their case.  They answer his questions and then do the only thing they can think to do--they bow down and worship.

Oh, what a powerful lesson for us today.  How many times do we wander through life tossed about by many questions and uncertainties?  How will we make ends meet this month?  How can I juggle everything I need to do and still have time for the things that are the most important?  Why is this happening to me?  What is God doing?  Like the brothers, we are afraid, confused and plagued by doubt.  So when we appear before God, what do we do?  I don't know about you, but typically I whine, cry, pout, question and accuse.  But what should I do?  The same thing the brothers did.  I should bow down and worship.  

When I don't have a clue what's going on, that's okay.  I can worship the One who does.  When I don't have the answers, that's not a problem.  I can praise the One who does.  When I can't seem to find the way, I needn't be afraid.  I can lift up the name of the One who is the Way.  No matter how hard the trial, God is always worthy of my praise.  Always!  In fact, I believe it is through this worship that we find true peace and joy in the midst of our troubles.

James 1:2 says, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.  Joy?  Seriously?  How can I possibly be glad to be going through this dark valley?  By worshiping God anyway.  By giving Him praise and honor.  By taking my eyes off of myself and my circumstances and placing them on Him.  By remembering that He is working something good in me and through me.  How many times have I missed the joy that was waiting just on the other side of worship because I failed to give God the glory He deserves?  How many times have you?

My dear friend, in the midst of the trials, when you don't know which way to turn or what else to do, worship God.  Praise His name, even if it feels a bit insincere at the time.  Don't let that stop you.  Just keep praising, keeping in mind that He is worthy.  There's no need to whine, cry, pout or explain.  Let's learn this valuable lesson from Joseph's brother—we can't go wrong with worship!