An old preacher over a hundred years ago, said this about a popular church hymn, “Men sing it, boys whistle it and woman rock their babies to sleep to it.” The hymn referenced was Count Your Blessings written by Johnson Oatman, Jr. in 1897. The story goes that Johnson father was a local merchant and was known as the best singer in Lumberton, N.J. Young Johnson wasn’t even close to singing as well as his father. During his growing up years, he had a deep desire to make a positive musical contribution of his own. After working in the family business he gave it up to go to Divinity School to study for the ministry. After finishing school and ministering in a church he continued to dream of making an even greater contribution during his life.
During his 36th year, Johnson realized that he had musical talent, not for singing but writing Christian songs for others to sing. It is estimated that every year after making his decision an average of 200 songs flowed from his pen. He eventually authored 5,000 and felt so blessed that his musical compositions he had discovered a way to “preach the Gospel.”
From the catalog of songs Oatman wrote, two were his favorite, “No, Not One” and “Higher Ground.” Yet in reality, people everywhere adopted a song he wrote in 1897 “Count Your Blessings,’ and remains among the most popular hymns today more than 120 years later. John Oatman died in Norman Oklahoma in 1922. Through his songs, he continues to bless and minister to millions. Here is a verse and the chorus:
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
When upon life billows you are tempest tossed
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
Count your blessings name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one
Count your many blessings see what God has done.
How many times have you heard the phrase “God bless you” or said it to someone? I venture to say, that on an average, from the clerk to the person passing us through a doorway, we hear is almost daily. Many waiters and waitresses write it on the bill they hand us. There words. God Bless You. Wait a minute! What do these three words mean? What is actually being said and understood by these three words?
If we dash to Webster for a definition we find three basic words, Bless, Blessed, and Blessing with a total of 18 categories of usage. The definitions include, “good wishes or approval; enjoying happiness; bringing comfort and joy; to favor or be endowed; praise or glorify; holy, sacred, dedicated, consecrated; to pronounce, well wishes, etc. Thus, the meanings all seem to be expressions of “good future, happiness, joy, and gifts, etc.” When the word is used by a Christian it is usually related to “gifts and favors from God Himself.” In John 1:16 we read, “Out of the fullness of His grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another” (GNT Version).
Here’s our bottom line question, “How can we give and receive blessings if we don’t understand what they are? More importantly, “How can we count them if we don’t know what they are?”
I once heard a story about an older preacher who had been roughed-up and robbed when walking to his car one night. The next Sunday he preached a sermon titled “The Blessings of Being Robbed.” As you can imagine the building was filled as attendees had come to hear what the old preacher had to say about being robbed. The gist of his sermon was, “I had never been robbed before. He robbed me, I didn’t rob him. He hurt me, I didn’t hurt him. He didn’t get much because I didn’t have much. He is the one who sinned, not me. He stole my Bible but not my message. I forgive him, what he does is between him and God. I learned from this experience what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “It was good for me to be afflicted, that I might learn thy testimonies (Psalm 119:71), and what Paul meant when he wrote, “In everything give thanks” (1 1 Thessalonians 5:18).
ONE STEP BEYOND COUNTING YOUR BLESSINGS
There can be no doubt from a practical and biblical perspective that counting our blessings is sage advice. When we recognize the amazingly positive things—gifts—which come into our lives every day brings a measure of joy and happiness occurs in difficult situations, etc. However, knowing the basic truths about the benefits of blessings doesn’t mean that we deeply appreciate them at the core of our being. The key is related to HOW does the blessing make your life better? We need to remember the sequence used in making a change in life:
FIRST, there must be an AWARENESS. This is the first stage of recognizing the event, thing, person, etc. causing the blessing. “Name them one by one.” This is internalizing the blessing.
SECOND, there must be an UNDERSTANDING of what the blessing means to your body, soul, and spirit. The goodness and benefit you see in the blessings actually touch your being.
THIRD, there must be an intentional asking and answering this question: “What difference will this make in my life? How can I share it with others?
FOURTH, there will be an added blessing (or blessings) as you take time to really pay attention to your blessings (“It will surprise you what the Lord has done.”)
FIFTH, there must be a continual recognition and commitment to practicing acknowledging, counting, and being thankful for your blessings. This will be a physical and spiritual blessing to you and others. Remember, “Even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice” (Luke 11:28, NLT).
What is your total for today? How many blessings have you counted? Name the three that really blessed you:
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