I will be in Ecuador by this time next week. Excitement doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling right now! I finished the last book I was writing, most of the shopping is done, and I’ve actually started the packing. One by one, many of the things on my lists are being crossed off. There is still one thing on my lists, though, with which I am struggling.
While I am in Ecuador, I will be speaking to the ladies at Laurie’s church. I have been giving some thought to that for weeks now, and asking the Lord to give me the right words to say. Two things have been going through my mind to bring to them. One is that we are sisters in the Lord, and that I, as well as the women in my church and family who have been praying for their church, truly love them as sisters because of the fellowship we have in Jesus. The second thing is to speak about giving thanks to God, referring to our American holiday of Thanksgiving. Somehow, I want to intertwine the two into a message that will be relevant and a blessing to each of them.
The thing I am struggling with is something that is common to all American missionaries, I am sure, who are trying to reach beyond the cultural and economic divisions to speak to the heart of people who are so different, so much poorer and who often have no hope of anything better in this life. How do I speak about being thankful for the homes God has given us, for example, when many of them live in nothing more than a tiny shack and wash their clothes in the river? How do I speak about being thankful for the way God provides for us when I (obviously) have too much to eat, and they are lucky to live on rice and beans and little else day after day and year after year? How do I speak about being thankful for family when many of them live with husbands who beat them, or who have no husband because he walked out on them and their children many years before, leaving them destitute and struggling? How do I speak about being thankful for religious freedom when for centuries they have lived under the oppression of a church who has ruled with an iron fist of fear and persecution for those who stray from her shadow, and who even now see their government, as well, slowly but surely turning towards communism and the eventual persecution of Christians?
Are not God’s promises as true for them as they are for me? Of course, they are. He promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory. (Philippians 4:19) He promises that just as He cares for the flowers of the fields and birds of the air, He will care for us. (Matthew 6:25-31) He promises that the vary hairs on our heads are numbered (12:7); that He knows us each by name better than we know ourselves. (Psalm 139:17) The differences in how the Lord provides for us as Americans compared to most of the rest of the world is vast, and in some ways is a mystery to me when I know that His promises are the same to all believers regardless of where or when they live.
All I can think is that we are blessed in earthly abundance far beyond what our actual needs are. Perhaps it is because of the way this nation was founded on the premise that we would follow after God and His principles. Perhaps it is because this nation always has blessed Israel and He promises to bless those who bless Israel. Whatever the reasons for God’s outpouring of earthly blessings upon us, when so many of his children in other countries suffer, we know that He is just and loving and we simply need to trust that He is in control and knows what is best for each of us. And who is to say if all our earthly abundance is the best thing in the long run? Are we as strong spiritually as we would be if we had to suffer for our faith as many do around the world? Are we more, or less dependent on Him alone in our abundance here in America?
You can see my dilemma, I think. I almost feel I will be ashamed to stand before them and speak on giving thanks when I have so much more than they when it comes to earthly blessings. Praise God, though, He has blessed us all with far more than these temporal things! Here is just a partial list of all the things for which we can thank the Lord:
That before the world began He had a plan for me - II Timothy 1:9 - Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.
He loved me enough to die for me even though I was a sinner - Romans 5:8 - But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
That I am a daughter of the King – Psam 45:13 - The king's daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold.
God's righteousness and holiness - Psalm 7:17 - I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high.
All God's marvelous works - Psalm 9:1 - I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.
My body - Psalm 139:14-16 - I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
God's guidance and instruction to me - Psalm 16:7a - I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel…
The hope God has given me - Psalm 16:9 - Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
Salvation - Psalm 16:11 - Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
God is great and worthy of praise - Psalm 48:1 - Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
When I was in trouble, God heard my cries for help - Psalm 18:6 - In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Deliverance – Psalm 54:7a- For he hath delivered me out of all trouble…
Mercy and kindness – Psalm 100:5 - For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.
For not staying angry with us and not giving up on us - Psalm 30:5 - For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
God's blessings and benefits - Psalm 68:19 - Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation.
God's power - Psalm 21:13 - Be thou exalted, LORD, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power.
His faithfulness – Lamentations 3:22-23 - It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
For the strength and confidence God gives me – Psalm 56:4 - In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.
For listening to my prayers - Psalm 28:6 - Blessed be the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications.
God's Word – Psalm 119:105 - Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
For being truthful – Psalm 117:2 - For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.
For filling the earth with His love and goodness - Psalm 33:5 - He loveth righteousness and judgment: the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
He is always thinking of me - Psalm 139:17-18 - How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.
God’s spiritual blessings far outweigh His earthly ones, don’t they, and they are eternal! Those women in Cuenca, Ecuador are just as much the daughters of the King as I am and every bit as rich in spiritual blessings! My earthly blessings could disappear in an instant, but these far greater spiritual riches are the true things for which we should be praising God this Thanksgiving. They are not all about us – my provisions, my protection, my health, my needs –- but many of them are all about who and what HE is!
And one of the special spiritual blessings for which I will be praising and thanking God this year is the fellowship we have within the body of Christ as one family, brothers and sisters in the Lord for all eternity. I am looking forward to worshipping with my Ecuadorian sisters in the next couple weeks. Can you imagine the joy when we are gathered from every tribe on earth into His presence to worship the Lamb who was slain for our salvation – together as one family for all eternity?
That is the message I want to bring to my sisters in the Lord. Thank you, Father, for making me your child, a joint heir to all the riches of heaven through Jesus Christ, and a part of Your family for all eternity! You can’t get any richer than that! Gracias a Dios!