“GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS”

It’s hard to believe it is November, which ushers in the “holiday season” and catapults us to the end of another calendar year. I used to think that my birthday on November 10 (the same date Martin Luther entered the world) was what kicked off the celebrations, but a couple years ago someone explained to me that is not the case. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday, and of course its origin is all about honoring the One to Whom we are giving thanks—the One True GOD, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you ever considered that in giving thanks to God, you are giving? And, as per John 3:16, isn’t giving what our God is all about? And how about His Son, who gave his very life for you and me? Loving means giving, and both God and His Son are lavish givers; they love to astound us with their goodness. Well, don’t you love to give to someone you love? I assert that anyone who is not a “hilarious” giver in all aspects of life does not fully understand that Jesus has his back, and he therefore thinks he must provide for himself. You can’t give if you don’t know what you have to give, and you probably won’t give if you don’t know it will be replenished.

Of course, the greatest gift God and Christ have ever given us is holy spirit, their divine nature, and when we use that gift to ”give thanks well” by speaking in tongues, we are offering them a “sacrifice of praise” (Heb. 13:15). God’s Word makes it clear that for us, every day is to be Thanksgiving—and a thankful heart is a holiday! Giving thanks to God is one way to jump start a prevailing attitude of gratitude that can extend to all aspects of our lives. As 2 Corinthians 9:7 famously says, “God loves a hilarious giver,” and we can learn to love giving hilariously! Hey, you could start by giving someone a smile. Go on, flex those zygomatic muscles!

Most likely written by Jeremiah, who wasn’t smiling, but grievingly lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, the Book of Lamentations is filled with language that seems to attribute to God the devastation that came upon His chosen people. Few Christians stop to think how incongruous, if not psychotic, that is: the God who is trying to preserve the bloodline of the coming Savior is killing them right and left. Huh?

NOW HEAR THIS: If you cannot clearly explain to someone why God uses such self-incriminating language in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis—Malachi), please get (or re-read) our book, Don’t Blame God, which should be required reading for humanity—seriously. Chapters 4 and 5 lay out why God chose to “take the rap” for what Jesus later showed that the Devil was doing. This is a truth that almost no Christians understand, and it too often cripples their concept of a loving heavenly Father and thus dilutes their faith in Him.

Ever since his first recorded words in Genesis 3, the Devil has relentlessly hammered away to impugn God’s goodness so that people will not want to know Him, love Him, trust Him, serve Him. Without faith it is impossible to please God, because what pleases Him is being able to lavishly give to us, which He cannot do if we do not trust Him. YOU MUST BE ROCK SOLID IN YOUR UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD IS ALL GOOD ALL THE TIME, THAT HE IS ALWAYS FIGHTING FOR YOU, AND THAT HE NEVER WITHHOLDS ANY GOOD THING FROM YOU. Otherwise, you have a chink in your “shield of faith,” and that ain’t healthy.

After 18 verses of such “God-did-it” language (e.g., vs. 1: “I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Yahweh’s wrath”) in Chapter 3, the writer then proclaims:

Lamentations 3:19-23
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:22It is of Yahweh’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.23They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.

In 1923, inspired by the last two verses, Thomas Chisolm wrote the now- famous Christian hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. It is very appropriate for Thanksgiving, and is one of my absolute favorites, the words to which are as follows. I hope you will sing aloud as you read them.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father.
There is no shadow of turning with thee.
Thou changest not; thy compassions they fail not.
As thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.
 
(Refrain)
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
 
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. 
 
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Suffice it to say that this ever-faithful God miraculously brought Elizabeth and me together—twice—and above our bed is a beautiful plaque displaying the words: GREAT IS THY FAITHFULNESS, which are very personal to us. We look at it every day and rejoice in His compassions, mercies, and provisions for us. Those include the total healing He is bringing to pass for me now. Of course, He will do no less for you.
 
Here are some verses I used to teach quite often, “back in the day,” and I was recently reminded of them.

Psalm 34:1-8
1 I will extol Yahweh at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. 2 I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. 3 Glorify Yahweh with me; let us exalt his name together. 4I sought Yahweh, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.5Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. 6 This poor man called, and Yahweh heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. 7 The angel of Yahweh encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. 8Taste and see that Yahweh is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

I’m guessing you once tasted and saw that chocolate is good—and aren’t you glad you did (although you might not want to take refuge in chocolate too often)? The more you and I experientially know God’s faithfulness, the more we will be “faith-full” to Him, which means we will trust and obey Him. Then He will be able to provide us with “new mercies” morning by morning.
 
Therefore, focus on Jesus Christ, the perfect image of the invisible God, who vividly portrayed for us the beautiful heart of our Father. It is Jesus who makes God real to us, so study him (see Four Gospels), embrace him, and cleave unto him by pouring out your heart to The Man who adores you so much that he died in your place. Work with him so he can show himself through you to others. Be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

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