The Second Step

We’ve officially entered November, so all of the usual suspects of the fall season are showing up: color-shifting leaves, quickly vanishing daylight hours, nervous Facebook posts about the College Football Playoff, and of course: pumpkin-flavored everything.

Along with these aforementioned fall favorites are the “what are you thankful for” discussions that start around Thanksgiving and carry us into the Christmas season. Taking a moment to reflect on our blessings is certainly a great use of time; some Christians even have journals so they can keep track of the many good things and events God has put in their lives. Here’s an example from Amazon.

The goal of these “blessing journals” is an admirable one: We start to think more about the donut and less about the donut hole when we make a habit of focusing on the good things in life. However, there can be a missed opportunity - a missed second step - that should be encouraged after listing all of the things for which we’re thankful.

And this opportunity starts with a question:
“God has been good to you. So what are you going to do about it?”

Indeed, what are we going to do about it?

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately as I plan our youth group’s involvement in a service project this December, and I’m recognizing that we should do good works as a response to God’s blessings in much the same way that we share the gospel after receiving it from someone else. We count ourselves as lucky for having been placed in the right location and time to hear Jesus’ good news, and we can’t help but tell others that they don’t have to live under the bondage of sin and directionlessness.

I write these words to encourage you to go ahead and think of your responses to the “what are you thankful for” question. Write them down if you want. But take the next step after that: Determine how you’re going to bless someone else in response to the ways God has blessed you.

1 Chronicles 29:12-14 (NIV) documents David praising God and beautifully summarizing the way we should respond to God’s gifts to us:

“Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

What wonderful, humble words. David recognized what we all must see: God loves us, blesses us, and allows us to give back to Him and to others. David understood that - even though God could do it Himself - He often allows us to be the givers. And this act of giving, this act of seeing the world through a lens of love, helps us better understand the heart of God.

It’s not surprising, that David’s son, Solomon, would eventually write the following words:

“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9, ESV)

Giving is not available only to those who have a lot to give; if that were the case, we would not be moved so deeply by stories of children giving up their piggy-bank-savings to help others in need. Rather, giving is available to anyone who chooses to look at the world with bountiful eyes...understanding that God has blessed us, so we should give joyously - as if culling from a deep bounty - when we have the opportunity to bless the world around us.

So count your blessings. Name them one by one. Count your many blessings. See what God hath done.

Then respond.