Today is Wednesday, March 18. My name is Gina, and I’m here with you for more scripture reading, reflection and prayer time in our 40 day Lent journey. There are a lot of things we could be thinking about right now, things we could be worrying about right now. Let’s just take a moment to quiet ourselves, quiet our minds, our hearts. Let’s quiet our cell phones, televisions, news streams and let’s give God our full attention right now.
Theme: Worshipping God is good for us
Scripture: Psalm 78:1–6 (NIV)
A Nazarene leader in South Asia told me that he was writing a book for his children. It was a book of stories about all the times God had been faithful to provide for all his needs. For example, he told them a story about when he bought some food with his last money, but while he was gone from home, stray animals got into his room and ate his food. Having nothing else to eat, he thanked God for his other blessings, and prepared to go to sleep. A knock on the door revealed a friend who had missed his train. The friend held up two bags of food and said, “Can I stay with you tonight? I brought extra food to share.”
Nazarenes in Moldova who have experienced God’s lasting freedom from alcoholism and drug addiction seek out people in drug rehabilitation centers and tell them what God has done for them. As a result, many former addicts find freedom in Christ, and in in turn, they continue to share their stories with even more addicts.
That’s what this passage is talking about: Making sure that we regularly tell each other our stories about what God has done for us. We should tell the stories of God’s “praiseworthy deeds,” about “his power” and “wonders.” We are to tell them to each other now, and also to our children and future generations, as described in this Psalm.
Today’s additional scripture passage, Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 5–9, urges much the same thing: “But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.”
Why does God care? Is He some cosmic narcissist who wants everyone to talk about Him all the time in glowing and exaggerated terms?
Is He an insecure heavenly ruler, who needs humans to constantly tell Him how great He is, to stoke His failing self-esteem?
No! The truth is, God doesn’t need us to praise Him, either to Him or about Him to each other.
Like everything else that God does, or that He asks us to do, it’s because we need this. Our moods and our faith are both influenced by what we listen to and what we talk about.
This is why, in 1 Thessalonians 5, it says, “So encourage each other to build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.”
We could apply this beyond crude language or stories. We can extend this advice to our choice between a lot of complaining or intentionally talking more about what we’re thankful for.
Even non-Christians understand the physical and psychological benefits of being grateful. Psychology Today, an online publication, cites various studies that demonstrate people who are more grateful:
- have better and more compassionate relationships with others
- have higher self-esteem
- report fewer physical aches and pains
- sleep better
- are less depressed
- are more resilient following trauma
It goes on to say that gratitude is a choice; that “mentally strong people” exchange their self-pity for gratitude.
Recent studies in biology and psychology only reinforce what God began saying to us thousands of years ago through the Bible’s authors: It is for OUR benefit that He commands us to dwell on His goodness and faithfulness, and to tell stories about God’s blessings and miracles to each other and to future generations. Expressing gratitude and worship to God contributes to our physical and mental health. Allowing our thoughts to dwell on His character brings peace, joy, and hope.
Have you ever felt there was a voice in your head that just repeated negative thoughts or replayed bad experiences over and over, like a song on repeat? Our enemy constantly fights for our attention. Our enemy tries to distract us, frustrate us, and center our thoughts on our disappointments, our failures, or the ways others have failed us or betrayed us. The enemy does this on purpose to steal our focus from God.
When we start to become aware that negativity is dominating our perspective, we can see that our focus has shifted. It’s time to shift it back to God.
While there’s nothing wrong with confronting and processing our negative feelings with God or others, balancing those stories or feelings with worship and thankfulness to God will regulate the scales of our perspective, and give us all the benefits we’ve just read.
We can fulfill God’s command to praise Him and testify to others about all He has done in a variety of ways:
- We can spend a bit of time each day or once a week with a prayer journal, writing the things we are grateful for.
- When we’re with friends or family and others we know, we can share stories of how God has been faithful to meet our needs.
- Each time we worry about something, or remember something that makes us sad, anxious, frustrated, angry or bitter, we can choose to remember a beautiful character trait about our God, and praise God for being Who He is.
- If a conversation we are having is lingering in negative stories, we can balance that with a positive story of God’s goodness and grace to us.
Let us do as we are urged in 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18: “Always be joyful. Always keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
- What are five things I’m thankful for today? Make a game of this. See how many you can come up with, maybe lots more than 5!
- On balance, do I tend to do more complaining and repeating negative stories and experiences to myself and others? Or do I balance negative thoughts and stories with grateful ones about God’s goodness and faithfulness?
- What is one story of God’s faithfulness that I might be able to share with someone today who needs to hear it?
Our loving and close Father,
These are days when it is easy to find all our thoughts and attention and conversation glued to the negative, the frightening, to what has gone wrong, or ways we are frustrated. Thank You that it’s OK to have those moments or times in our lives when we have truly difficult or frightening experiences or circumstances.
But thank You, also, that You give us a way to rise above all of this by refocusing our thought and words on You. We want to do that now.
We praise You, our Creator God who is outside of all time, who sees and knows in intimate detail of even the most ancient and distant past.
You also know every detail of our present: our personal present, and the present of every human being alive. And, You know even the future. All of it. There is nothing to come for us and our generation, or for future generations, that You do not know.
We worship Your greatness, Your goodness, Your infinite power, Your endless love, Your perfect wisdom, Your knowledge that is far beyond all human knowledge. Everything that is a mystery to us is no mystery to You, whatsoever.
You have showered us with Your love in great abundance, more than we could ever deserve. You have rescued us from our sins and from our shortcomings. You are ever and always restoring us, healing us, forgiving us, comforting us, and reconciling us.
Thank you for Who You are, and all that You have done and will do. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
Read more about Rev. Simon Jothi, the man who tells stories of God’s faithfulness to His children, and how God has loved and called him.