*Photo Credit: Jason Long, Unsplash.com
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened…”
When I first began pursuing my Seminary degree, one of my mentors and advisors warned me, “Seminary is a dangerous place to because it has the power to crush your soul.” The reason is because when we come to Seminary we take an internal passion (for God, the Scriptures, the Church, etc.) and we incentivize it. What I mean is that suddenly the Bible isn’t a way of connecting with God. Rather it is a textbook to be parsed, studied, analyzed, and dissected. Likewise, studying theology is not about growing your devotional life, but about giving you correct knowledge for the purpose of writing systematic papers. And, sad to say, he was right.
Seminary has been a difficult road to walk, and an exhausting exercise for my own spiritual life. And there have been times where I have felt incredibly dry spiritually. There have been stretches…long, long stretches…in which I have not felt close to God and been entirely unmotivated to read my Bible, to journal, to pray. It has been hard and, at times, discouraging.
However, recently I came across something that has helped me be more present to the day-in-day-out realities of faith. In reflecting on the Apostles Creed Martin Luther writes the following:
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.”
What does this mean? Answer:
I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
What I love about his explanation is that he grounds our entire lives in the gracious provision of God our Father. It means that everyday, in the apparently mundane moments of life (meals, mowing the lawn, sleeping and waking, shopping, etc) God is providing us with all that we have. And too often I miss this.
Furthermore, I think that we live in a culture that constantly calls us to pursue the “more”. Each commercial, each advertisement, is designed to make us uncomfortable with what we already have. But even more fundamentally, we have this internal tendency to compare ourselves to those around us, feeling like we need to measure up to our neighbors in order to have value and find internal peace. So we pursue “more”, ever dissatisfied with what God has already given us. The result is that we are never satisfied and always left wanting.
And the problem here is that this can prove fatal to our walk with God. Because when we stop thanking God for what he has given us we start to look to other things to provide the peace and satisfaction that only He can give. I think that this is the reason Paul wrote:
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)
However, Luther’s teaching reminded me that everyday God has provided me with so much; that daily He loves me and sustains me. Even on my worst days, I have breath in my lungs, food in my belly, clothes on my back, and everything I need to survive because of His generosity. And because of that He is worthy of thanks and praise.
This is part of the reason that I have started a little discipline to help me be present to the blessings of God around me. Once a day I write down one thing I am thankful for. It can be big and profound or small and seemingly ordinary. The point is to be actively aware of the ways God is at work in my life and the lives of those around me.
Today I’m #thankful for story time with my kids
— Nicholas Price (@prodigalpreachr) April 22, 2015
As I have started to do this, I’ve noticed that it is getting easier and easier to see God at work in my life around me. Furthermore, there is a deeper desire to pray, return to the Scriptures, and talk with others about faith. Learning to appreciate the small things has cultivated a deeper appreciation of that which truly matters: my relationship with God the Father. Thank you, God, for all that you daily give me.