Clearing our Minds... The Count of Many Christians
Written by Eugene Higgins
In one of the most absorbing novels ever written, Alexander Dumas introduced us to the memorable character Edmond Dantès, a slandered, sinned-against sailor who became rich overnight but seemed never to drop anchor in a harbor called “Gratitude.” Dantès viewed the hidden treasure he found (a byproduct of the terrible injustice he had endured) as the means by which to realize his revenge. Instead of becoming thankful for what he had received, he was resentful for what he had missed, and plotted the demise of those who had so cruelly defrauded him. Being appreciative for what we have, rather than annoyed at what we don’t, is surely part of Christianity 101, part of “counting our blessings." It was that “gratitude attitude” that enabled David to write (and practice), “I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Ps 34:1). Just now, in the midst of a global pandemic, how much we have for which we ought to be thankful! Counting our blessings sometimes involves thanking God for all that He has given to us. But it may also involve thanking Him for all He has withheld from us, sparing us from experiencing some sorrow, catastrophe, or loss. After all, every misfortune missed is a blessing bestowed. In her book “Thoughts for the Quiet Hour,” Frances Ridley Havergal wrote: “’As for thee, the Lord thy God hath not suffered thee so to do’ (Deut. 18:14). What a stepping-stone! We give thanks, often with a tearful, doubtful voice, for our spiritual mercies positive; but what an almost infinite field there is for mercies negative! We cannot even imagine all that God has suffered us not to do, not to be.” However difficult we may feel our present situation is, there are many who are in a far graver condition. During this pandemic, thousands of people all over the world have lost their life. That we are still alive is due to the sovereign grace of God for “He holdeth our soul in life” and “unto God the Lord belong the issues (escapes) from death.” Does this not “count" as a blessing? There are also other misfortunes we have not had to endure. Do any of the following situations reflect experiences from which you have been spared?
Many people have been prohibited from visiting a dying parent or relative in a nursing home or hospital due to the virus. (Because of this, one company has been providing such patients and families with a used iPad so that they could communicate.) If you can communicate with, wave to, see, visit, or are merely inconvenienced by needing to stay 6 feet away from, a family member, that is a blessing.
Numerous funerals have had to be held with merely a handful of people in attendance, usually no more than 10. Relatives have buried a spouse or parent without the solace of seeing how much that relative was loved by others, or the comfort of having sympathetic mourners to share their bereavement. How cruel is a form of death that takes from you a life you loved and then also takes from you the love and comfort of others who could share your grief! If you have been spared the experience of standing with just a smattering of relatives beside the casket of one you loved, is that not a blessing?
In one Communist country, Zoom meetings have been disrupted by government officials, preachers have been arrested, and people who signed in have been warned and threatened with prison if they repeated the “offense” of listening to the Bible in such a meeting. If, in your solitude, you have been able to benefit from an online meeting - and you live in a country where you are free to do so - that is indeed a blessing.
A man who contracted the virus at his work, inadvertently brought it home and infected his wife. She died from the virus and he must live with the crushing knowledge that he was the indirect cause of her death. If you have been spared the grief of causing harm to others, what a blessing that is!
Some medical personnel have had to stay away from home and family because of on-going exposure to the virus. One such x-ray technician, after protracted days of separation from her family, said, “I wonder whether I will ever see my kids again." If you, instead, have healthy children, have a job that allows you to safely live at home, and can be with them each day, count that among your many blessings.
On three occasions, David asked this similar question: “Who am I?” Each time it had to do with something he felt was a great blessing of which he was not worthy. The first is recorded in 1 Sam 18, when he asked, “Who am I … that I should be son in law to the king? … Seemeth it to you a light thing to be a king's son in law, seeing that I am a poor man, and lightly esteemed?” David considered it no small matter to be linked with royalty. However, time would prove that Saul was hardly a model father-in-law; Michal his wife was nothing to write home about; and the marriage would not make David a son or an heir but merely an in-law. (Apologies to all my beloved in-laws for that seeming slight. Since I am an in-law to you I am hoist with my own petard).
But think of what God has done for you. Is it a “light thing” to have been made a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with the Lord Jesus? Is it a “light thing” to have been lifted from the wreckage and ruin of our sins, to have God say to us “Live!” and to bring us into His family in a display of grace that must amaze angels and will be the marvel of the eternities? No wonder John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1). In 1993, the tennis star Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. He could have become bitter, wallowing in self-pity, but he maintained a grateful attitude. He said, “If I asked, ‘Why me?’ about my troubles, I would have to ask, ‘Why me?’ about my blessings. ‘Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?’” Many of us should be asking, “Why me?” “Why has God saved me?” “Why has God so richly blessed me?” "Why should God purpose for me to spend eternity in His glorious presence?" "Why should I be one of those 'ruined wrecks of sin' that has been raised 'above created thought'?" There are approximately 7,780,693,740 people on this sad, groaning planet. Many of them lead forlorn lives filled with pain and grief and have no hope for eternity. By comparison, the “problems" I may be facing seem very small. Instead of my becoming a chronic complainer, remembering how much I owe to God will make me a perennial “praiser.” We, who deserved nothing but judgment, have been blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Overwhelmed by God’s grace to him, David sat before the Lord and asked, “Who am I, O Lord GOD? and what is my house, that Thou hast brought me hitherto?" (2 Sam 7:18). Forgiven, saved, justified, regenerated, redeemed, reconciled, "preserved by Jesus when our feet made haste to Hell” – each of us has great reason to ask, “Why me?” After all -
When I think of how He came so far from glory,
Came to dwell among the lowly such as I;
To suffer shame and such disgrace,
On Mount Calvary take my place,
Then I ask myself this question:
Who am I?
Who am I that the King would bleed and die for?
Who am I that He would pray not my will, Thine Lord?
The answer I may never know,
Why He ever loved me so,
That to an old rugged cross He’d go
For who am I?