If you grew up in a Christian home, you almost certainly sang a number of hymns as a child that have stuck with you (for good or ill) throughout your life. I distinctly remember singing the chorus to the hymn, “Count Your Blessings,” with my sister in the back of our parents’ car. The last two lines of the chorus seemed to play on repeat in my little mind: “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your many blessings see what God has done.” There is a world of theological wisdom in that short stanza. Imagine how much fuller our Christian lives and service would be if we would simply count God’s many blessings—giving Him thanks for each of them. When we return true heartfelt thanksgiving to God for the blessings that He has bountifully given us, further benefits develop. Consider the following:
1. Greater Contentment in Christ. Contentment is a rare commodity in this fallen world. It is not something to which we naturally gravitate. We sometimes foolishly allow ourselves to think that if we simply had a better job, more money, a bigger house, a more loving spouse, or even a better church, we would be content. However, our outward circumstances will never improve the inward condition of our hearts. The Apostle Paul explained the secret to contentment, when he wrote,
“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:11–13).
If the great Apostle Paul had to learn contentment in Christ, how much more do we! The first step toward learning contentment, is to learn to be thankful for who God is and what He has done for us. The Puritan, Jeremiah Burroughs, wrote, “God expects that every day you should spend some time in blessing His name for what mercy He has granted to you. There is not one of you in the lowest condition, but you have an abundance of mercies to bless God for.” God has provided for us, protected us, forgiven us, instructed us, disciplined us, been longsuffering toward us, and showered His kindness upon us in Christ. How can we not be thankful for all that we have received from His loving and merciful hand! Above all blessings He has showered on us, He has made us citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, heirs of eternal life, and His sons and daughters through the saving work of Jesus Christ.
2. Increased Victory over Sin. When we are thankful for the many ways God has blessed us, we grow in our desire to overcome sin. The more we return thanksgiving to God for all of His blessings, the less we want to do what is displeasing to Him. Although this is only a part of our growth in grace, it is an indispensable part of it. Without it, we become much more susceptible to succumb to the evil desires of our sin nature. When we count our blessings, we start to see what is of supreme spiritual value. We begin to prioritize the Kingdom of God, and to value God Himself above all else. We start to treasure Christ above any circumstantial aspects of our lives. We find that we long to know Him more. As we grow in our gratitude to God, we grow in our desire to do what is pleasing before Him. We may falter, but—as we return to Him for pardon and power—we find that we gain increasing victory over sin as we live in a state of gratitude for His countless blessings.
3. Encouragement to Fellow Believers. In some ways, the Christian life is better caught than taught. What a powerful example Joni Eareckson Tada has been to so many Christians throughout the world. I have never listened to her testimony without wanting to grow in gratitude to God. In the midst of her extreme suffering, she has—by God’s grace—exemplified exceeding great joy. In this way, she has become an overwhelming encouragement to the church universal. As we begin to count our blessings—especially in the midst of trying situations—we become examples of encouragement to other believers. This is not to say that we will never have burdened hearts, downcast spirits, or times of sorrow. The Psalms are full of expressions of these experiences in the life of believers. However, it is to highlight what the Apostle summarizes in 2 Corinthians 1, where he says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3–4).
4. Witness to Unbelievers. Sinclair Ferguson once speculated whether many artists and musicians live in a constant state of depression, at least in part, because they spend the better part of their time working with great beauty without knowing who to thank for it. If the unbelieving world witnesses Christians counting their blessings—rather than complaining about what they wish they had—it would serve as a powerful witness to the grace of God in Christ. When we offer true spiritual thanksgiving to the triune God—even in times of difficulty (as the Psalmist often did)—we reveal something about God’s saving and sustaining grace to those around us. After all, no one will be truly count their blessings unless they know the God of blessing “from whom every good and every perfect gift comes” (James 1:17).
While so much more could be said, it will suffice for us to take an inventory of the many ways that God has blessed us in Christ, and to return thanks to Him for them. We have much for which to be thankful, and a great God to whom we can direct our thanksgiving. As the Psalmist declared, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble… Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man” (Ps. 107: 1, :8, 15, 21, 31, 48). May our God grant us the grace name our blessings one by one.
*This post is an adaptation of a pastoral letter that was written for the members of Wayside PCA on Signal Mountain, TN.