Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Thankfulness

I used to think that the first thing that disappeared from a distinctively Christian life under pressure was prayerfulness. But it's not.

Like Israel in the wilderness hardening their hearts, the first thing to disappear is not prayerfulness but hope, followed by faith and love. The disappearance of these three great Christian characteristics is evidenced outwardly and firstly by thanklessness.

Israel in the wilderness, as recorded in the Exodus story, still made their desires known—more food! more water! more meat! better leadership! (sounds not unlike Australians in the lead-up to an election campaign). They did so in an indirect way, addressing Moses and not God, the way complaining people often do. But most of all they did it with a singular lack of thankfulness for the extraordinary grace and goodness of God both past and promised.

So with me, and a lot of other people I see experiencing suffering. They don't stop praying, at least at first. Their prayers in fact become more urgent and more desperate, even to the point of bargaining with God, like the proverbial drowning man who cries out for rescue and promises to serve God forever if he will only save him. They pray because others around them are praying. They pray because it is a part of their routine.

But the idea of being content with God and his good gifts is as far from them as the east is from the west. Even the suggestion that we should be thankful meets with bitterness and incredulity.

It is understandable, of course, and I have done it myself and will do it again. But I don't think it's very good.

1    Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
2 Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
3 For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6    Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
7 For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”


-Psalm 95

Slightly frightening here is the note of final judgement.

5 comments:

David McKay said...

This is an interesting note on thankfulness, hope, faith, love and prayer, Gordon.

Can I suggest you edit the final word in this sentence* to read "him" or else amend the sentence differently?

* Their prayers in fact become more urgent and more desperate, even to the point of bargaining with God, like the proverbial drowning man who cries out for rescue and promises to serve God forever if he will only save them.

Gordon Cheng said...

Thanks David.

The PC police infiltrated my brain. I have changed because I prefer the GC police (Grammar correctness!)

Di said...

Gordon,
These thoughts 'messed with my head' all day - in a good way! Thanks

David McKay said...

What do you think of Piper's distillation of Jonathan Edwards' theology:
God is most glorified in us
when we are most satisfied with him?

Gordon Cheng said...

That's quite wonderful, and reminds me of the Trinitarian thought of passages like John 17. We are designed to be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea, and in this we reflect the glory seen in the mutual indwelling of Father, Son and Spirit.