All Of God, None of Self

November 23, 2003 / No. 3177

Dear Radio Friends,

          In our message today we turn our attention to the annual Thanksgiving Day that we hope to celebrate on Thursday.  As we do so and look into the Word of God concerning thankfulness, we begin to discover anew how little we know about thanksgiving and how little we express of gratitude to God in our lives.  I suspect that when the Word of God shines upon you, you must say the same about yourself and your life.

          Looking over the past year, which is crowned with God’s faithfulness, love, and goodness, we can blush over how little we praised and thanked Him.  How many were the moments of complaint, doubt, worry, gross blindness.  And how few and skimpy are the times of heartfelt thanks and praise to Him to whom we belong.  Do we know the grace of gratitude?  Is humble, joyful praise and thanks and the fruit of contentment part of our day-by-day life?  For this is true thanksgiving to God, that we live our life in contentment with His perfect will.

          We have so much.  Yet, as strange as it may sound, in the midst of that abundance we become so unthankful.  I know that, for some, the times are very hard, and perhaps still it does not look very encouraging in the economy.  In this past year many of us have had to spend more effort and more time in maintaining our jobs.  It has been difficult.  There is lots of competition.  And there are many changes.  Some of us live with the question whether we are going to have a job and whether we are going to be able to make it financially and be able to care for our families.  Those are great burdens.  There is, my beloved brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ, perfect comfort for us in such a situation.  The comfort of the Lord’s words, “Your heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of.  He feeds the sparrows; will He not, much more, take care of you, O ye of little faith?”

          But, although it is true that we work now in the sweat of our face and often under great stress, nevertheless, it is also true that we have an abundance.  Do we know the value of a piece of bread?  Do we know the gift of a warm house?  Do we know the blessing of clothing in a world where children starve, where homes are destroyed in war-torn lands, where there is not enough to eat?

How few and skimpy are the times of heartfelt thanks and praise to Him to whom we belong.

          And spiritually.  Oh, how God has blessed us spiritually.  God has blessed us with the truth of His Word.  When throughout the world there are many saints of God who are famished and are being given stones for bread, we have been given to know the wonderful truths of the Word of God.  Do we gather together to say thanks to the Lord?  Do we do that every day?  Are we conscious of our debt of praise and gratitude?  We do not reserve that for one day of the year, do we?  That is our whole life.

          We turn today for our instruction in thanksgiving to I Chronicles 29:13-15, these words of David:  “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name.  But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.  For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers:  our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”

          David certainly knew what thanksgiving was.  It is very striking that he expresses his thanksgiving in a day of great affluence and abundance.  He is able to do so because there were two things that were living in his heart:  the knowledge that all things come from God, and the knowledge that he deserved nothing.  He was thankful.  He was thankful for the grace and love of God that had been given to him, who was, as he considered himself to be, not only a speck of dust but a sinner before God.  He thanked God even for the willingness that he found in his heart to offer praises to the Lord.  He confessed that everything that he had, especially that which was good, was from God.  That is true thanksgiving.

          In the text that I just read to you, we must remember that David is speaking at the end of his life, at the end of his reign, and at the moment that he is about to install his son Solomon to be the king.  He has just offered a very beautiful prayer of thanksgiving.  And you remember that David’s great concern was that there be material gathered for the building of the house of God, a work that would be entrusted to his son Solomon.  David had prepared huge stores of materials so that the work could proceed immediately upon his death without any delay.  He had gathered gold and silver, brass, iron, marble, precious stones, wood in abundance.  He himself had contributed three thousand talents of gold out of his own store, and seven thousand talents of silver.  And the people, seeing his willingness, had gathered together to contribute to the cause of the Lord’s house as well.  The chief of the fathers, the princes, the captains and the rulers of the land — they had all offered willingly, out of their hearts, so that there was a great stockpile being gathered for the future building of the temple.

          And David gathers the people to give thanks.  He does not thank the people for their generosity.  He does not pat himself and the people on the back.  But he beholds it all and his heart is filled with thanksgiving and his soul is aglow with praise.  He says, “All of it, absolutely all of it, is of God, and none of it is from ourselves.  For all things,” he says, “come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.  Lord, what we gave was only what Thou hast first placed in our hands so that we could give it.”

          Shall we take some inventory today, some inventory of our possessions and of ourselves?  Shall we take inventory of the property, the clothing, the homes, the cars, the money, the investments, the toys, the books, the bikes, the furniture, the barn?  Shall we take inventory of ourselves — the health, the talents, the skills, the strengths, the looks, the knowledge?  Where did all of this come from?  Whose is it?  In any sense of the word, can you say that it came from you?  In any sense can you say that it belongs to you?  Can you?

          Listen to the answer of God in Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof.”  God says, absolutely none of it is of yourself, all of it is of Him.  The commodities, the stocks, the raw materials of the earth, the ability to convert energy and resources, the wealth, the property, the skill, the possessions, the life — everything is absolutely God’s.  He created it.  He owns it.  He gave it.  He put it into your hands.  Not one speck came from you.  Not one speck is owned by you.  David says, “All things come of Thee; none of self.”  Indeed, David even asks this question, “Who am I, and what is my people?”  The answer to that question is this:  “David, you’re a creature.  You’ve been made by the hand of God.  In reality, you’re nothing but dust piled up high and held in place by the fingers of God.  You’re dependent upon God for everything — for strength, for breath of air, for lungs, for beat of heart, every part of your life, every chromosome, every cell of your body — is dependent upon the eternal God.”

          We spend so much of our time in this life getting our daily bread.  We spend hours behind the wheel driving the truck, or behind the desk in the office.  We begin to think that we have gotten these things.  But everything is given to us.  The strength of the body and of the mind, the paycheck, down to the last crumb that we brush away off the table, the smallest thread that we pull off our clothes — it is all of Him and it is not of ourselves.

          The Holy Spirit wishes to drive that point home.  Not only what we call our possessions, but what we call our giving, our contributions, which we like to sort of pat ourselves on the back about — contributions that we have made this year to the church, to the Christian schools, to the causes of God, to the poor — “All of thine own,” says David, “have we given thee.”  In what we have given, we have not given our own.  We cannot take the credit for it if it is not our own, can we?  What you put into the collection plate was something that God put into your hand.

          Now, surely, we say sometimes when we come to church, “Here is something that we give to God.”  Does God not say, “Render to Him the offering of praise; bring offerings into His courts”?  But the Scriptures are telling us that especially then, in our religious life, in our life of faith, when we offer to Him thanks and praise and when we contribute the check for the poor, the church, and for the school, it is something that God gave to us.  All we can say is, “Thanks, Lord.  Thanks for the privilege of rendering to Thee what Thou hast first given to me.”

          Six times, in I Chronicles 26, David speaks of the fact that the people have willingly offered to the Lord.  Then he says that this willingness, this desire, the cheerfulness to offer unto the causes of God came of God.  It was a work of spiritual grace.  All spiritual good in us, absolutely every ounce, every gram (if we can refer to spiritual good in terms of human weight) — all of it comes from the hand of God.  None of it is of ourselves.

The cheerfulness to offer unto the causes of God

came of God.

          Our proud nature ought to get that straight once.  It is very plain in the Word of God, is it not?  We do not bring to God something forged out of our own will or nature that is acceptable to Him.  How preposterous!  We are sinners.  When we bring to Him faith and love and thankfulness and joy, and we bring it to Him willingly and we want to praise Him, all of this, too, is of the Lord.

          Let us acknowledge that today.  Let us acknowledge it together.  Let us do it with great joy.  All that I am I owe to Thee; Thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me.  I give my Maker thankful praise; Whose wondrous works my soul amaze!  Let us do that from our hearts.  Let us do that heart and soul.

          That is a very beautiful thing, a very beautiful confession that we might make.

          But that confession that everything that we have is of God leads to another confession.  It leads to the confession that we are, therefore, strangers and sojourners on the earth and that our days on the earth are as a shadow and there is none abiding.  That is what David goes on to say immediately in verse 15, after that beautiful expression of thanks that everything was of God and nothing of himself.  “And we are strangers…and sojourners.”  He is saying there that, as what we have given to God does not belong to us, so also we do not belong to this world anymore.  We are passing through.  By the grace of God, the Christian remembers that we are pilgrims and sojourners, that our citizenship is in another land — eternal glory (Beulah land), and we are presently traveling through a country that lies between us and our homeland.  Therefore we are strangers.  We know and we feel that we really do not belong here.  The citizens of this land cannot understand us, do not really understand the longings and the struggles of our heart, that we cannot settle down with them.  “We are strangers and pilgrims before Thee,” says David, “as were our fathers.  Before Thy eyes, O Lord, as Thou dost look upon us on the earth.  Thou dost not only look upon us on the earth as those to whom Thou hast given everything; but Thou dost look upon us as those who do not belong in this present world, whose portion is not here below but above.”

          So David is saying that we have been born again by a new and spiritual life, by the grace of God.  And now we are the citizens of that kingdom which is above, and we are seeking that kingdom whose foundations have been laid by the eternal God.  Our life now is a pilgrimage on earth.  Do you believe that?  Do you live that way?  Do you know that?  That is the confession of the child of God so that his goal in life is not in terms of earthly things.  But his goal, his desire, is the life that is to come.  Then those earthly things that we have, we see them not as ends in themselves, but as provisions given to pilgrims so that we might go forward in our spiritual journey and might be prepared for our final home.  We do not look, then, to earthly things for fulfillment, for satisfaction, for peace, for security.  But we find those things in our Father and in the citizenship that we have from above.

          And we realize then, as David goes on to say, that our days on earth are as but a shadow and there is none that abides.  We do not last very long here.  We have no real substance.  We are like a shadow.  There is nothing really permanent or solid about us in this present life.  When the sun sets, quickly the shadows disappear.  So our life, our days, are like a shadow — soon gone down.  And we leave no permanent mark here below.  There is none abiding.  There is nothing in this present life that has enduring power.

          So we confess that we seek a land that is to come, a land full and rich, abiding, satisfying, flowing with rivers of the love of God, covered with the fruits of His goodness, endless days, good days, peace and joy and happiness with our Lord.  Now we are pilgrims passing through the vanishing, perishing world.  But we are provided for by God!  He gives us everything we need.  Oh, yes, He does!  And we confess that what we have has been given to us by His will in order that we might go forward in our journey to eternal life.

Now we are pilgrims passing through

the vanishing, perishing world.

          Then, you see, we are ready to give thanks.  Then you can give thanks if, with David, you are aged and looking at the grave.  Or, no matter what your condition may be in this present life, you are ready to give thanks.  You are ready to say, “Now, therefore, our God, we thank Thee and we praise Thy glorious name!”  We must be thankful!

          I cannot be thankful, you say?  If you knew my life, what do I have to give thanks for?  I cannot be filled with praise and contentment.  You cannot?  With the gravy on the potatoes, and the meat, and the finest of desserts, and clothing and shelter, with family and church of God, with Bible in your hand, with the oath of the eternal God that He has loved us for His name’s sake and He will never forsake us — you and I do not have something for which to thank Him?  With God’s faithfulness upon us every step of our earthly way, guiding and defending us, bringing us at last to Canaan’s shores?  Oh, when we see these things, how can we not give thanks?  Why are we so often irritable?  Why do we grumble, why do we complain, why are we crabby?  It is because we forget that we are nothing, we deserve nothing.  It is because we forget that life is not abundance, and life is not the way I want things.  But life is being rich toward God.  That is life.

          So we thank Him.  We throw out our hands (that is what the word thank means here) to encompass everything that is around us.  We point to absolutely everything.  Let us do that:  home, food, possessions (point to it!), clothes, shelter, church, school, family — it is all of God — grace and mercy, love, salvation, forgiveness, heavenly promises, Holy Spirit, adoption as the children of God — it is all of God!  No matter where you turn, no matter what you look at, it is all of God!  It is not of us.  Also those trials, those sorrows, those fears, and those worries — those things, too, which cause us to tremble — they did not come by chance.  They came by His Fatherly hand.  It is not true that God sleeps and the devil sneaks in a few past Him.  Oh, no!  All of those trials fulfill His sovereign purposes.  They are necessary to work out our salvation.  Let us give thanks, thanks for everything!  Thanks that He is our God; thanks that He is faithful and true, that He is abundant in mercy, that He is the pilgrim’s guide, that He is the faithful friend and guardian.  Let us do it with joy.  Let us praise and exalt His glorious name.

          Praise Thy God, O Zion.  Remember all His goodnesses.  In happiness and abundance, in houses full; or trials, threatening future, difficulties, and burdens — let us cry to heaven and praise Him.  For He is thy God.  And all things come of Him.  He will be our guide even unto death.  And He will receive us to eternal glory.

          What do you have that He has not given to you?  Can you name one thing?  No, you cannot.  Thank Him.  Praise Him.  For He will be faithful to you even unto death.

          Father in heaven, to Thee be thanks and praise, world without end, for everything; for all comes of Thee, and all of it is ordered by Thy hand for our eternal good.  Thanks, Father!  Amen.