Count Your Blessings
“Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your blessings, see what God hath done; Count your blessings, name them one by one; Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.” - Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1897)
The lyricist, Johnson Oatman, is credited to have written hundreds of hymns, but this is generally his most recognized hymn. Oatman’s hymn teaches the singer an easy and simple truth, that is one of the hardest to remember and to apply. When our lives are filled with trails and tribulations, Oatman wrote for the Christian to be reminded of God’s goodness and abundant blessings. In moments of darkness and despair, the most productive task we may accomplish is counting our blessings, and naming them one by one.
The problem in counting blessings is that we often do not know where to start and fail to recognize the minute things we take for granted everyday. When the apostle Paul spoke on Mar’s Hill, concerning the Unknown God, he gave to us the foundation for counting our blessings from God. The apostle said – “for in Him we live and move and exist…” (Acts 17:28a). These three blessings serve as God’s work in our lives. The Psalmist wrote –“Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak to them, They would be too numerous to count” (Psalm 40:5; emphasis mine, bcj). While it may be difficult to enumerate every blessing, it is beneficial for our spiritual well-being and it keeps us humble and thankful for every small and large blessing given by God.
The apostle Paul said that “for in Him we live.” We live, because God has chosen to give us the breath of life. Moses wrote – “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The breathe of life is one of our greatest needs physically, but it also remains one blessing that is the most forgotten. Anyone who has ever held his breath long enough can attest to the body’s intense need for oxygen. The brain will override any perceived self-control and cause the mouth to open wide and begin to breath once again. When was the last time we took time to give thanks for the air we breath?
The apostle Paul said “for in Him…we move.” God created man/woman with the intellect and freewill to choose where, why, and how we may live on earth. This freewill is not found in any other portion of God’s creation, but rather it is something unique and only given to mankind. God has also given to us dominion over His physical creation (Genesis 1:28-30). It is our duty to superintend the physical realm and to be faithful stewards of the bountiful resources that He has given. This world was not merely created for man’s enjoyment, but rather as a way of pointing us back to Him. The invisible attributes and power of God are abundantly shown through His creation (Romans 1:20). When we evaluate the evidence and “we move” among His creation, it leaves us with no doubt in God, as the Creator and His sustainment of all physical and spiritual life.
This brings us to the final point of Paul’s trilogy – “for in Him…we exist.” Thousands of words have been written trying to answer life’s greatest question(s) – Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? Throughout history man has tried to answer this question by building temples, high places, and pyramids, but none of these ever brought them closer to the one true God. The apostle Paul said, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Our God cannot be contained by brick or mortar, but rather He dwells in heaven and His presence among us is inescapable. If only we would faithfully submit to His authority and reign over our lives. We exist because of His love. We have been/can be saved because of His grace. We will live eternally because of His mercy. Our God’s greatest desire is to dwell in the midst of His people. The purpose of life is nothing more than being one of His faithful sons/daughters.
The Psalmist wrote that God’s blessings are “too numerous to count,” but this should never stop us from trying to list a few and be thankful for every one. The apostle Paul taught an idolatrous society about the unknown God with these three basic blessings – “for in Him we live and move and exist.” May God grant us thankful hearts for the bountiful blessings He gives to us each day.