The pastor who started my own pastoral training was a mixed bag, doctrinally. But one of the two best and most memorable principles he ingrained on us stands out to me still, nearly forty years later; and it may be personally very relevant to some of our readers today.
This was the early seventies, and Vietnam still raged. Here's a paraphrase of what my pastor said:
If the Gospel you preach could not equally be preached in the trenches of Vietnam and in the dining rooms of Beverly Hills, it isn't the Gospel.This simple (and true) principle smashes prosperity "gospel" heresies and "contextualized" perversions, and gets us down to the raw, timeless, transcultural dyamism of what Paul says is God's power resulting in salvation for every believer in every culture at every time.
I'll leap to make application for our day, on this day of Thanksgiving.
It is impossible not to think of Americans (or non's) who view our day of Thanksgiving with bitterness. "Yeah, right; easy to say thanks if you're employed, healthy, young, popular, happily married, in a growing and united church, borne on the shoulders of grateful, godly, loving children. And then there's me."
To that person, I'd just say: if you have Jesus Christ, you have reason to overflow with thanks, regardless of your situation.
I don't say this as a theoretician, though I'll not take you with me into the sloughs I've rented over the years. It's an ongoing lesson. So let me just turn to a better, a familiar friend to us all, Charles Spurgeon. One of the greatest, pithiest, truest, most encouraging little points he ever made was a meditation on Jeremiah 31:33 — "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Spurgeon wrote this:
Christian! here is all thou canst require. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? If thou canst pour this promise into thy cup, wilt thou not say, with David, “My cup runneth over; I have more than heart can wish”? When this is fulfilled, “I am thy God”, art thou not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death, but he who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? But the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask thee if thou art not complete when God is thine? Dost thou want anything but God? Is not his all-sufficiency enough to satisfy thee if all else should fail? But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this thy portion, for God is the Maker of Heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings, can yield such melody as this sweet promise, “I will be their God.” Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come, bathe thy spirit in it; swim an age, and thou shalt find no shore; dive throughout eternity, and thou shalt find no bottom. “I will be their God.” If this do not make thine eyes sparkle, and thy heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly thy soul is not in a healthy state. But thou wantest more than present delights—thou cravest something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love. Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields thee. Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.There it is: "I will be their God" is "the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above."
Think about it, Biblically. Make yourself, if your feelings aren't "there." Pray for God to help you think about it. What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has everything but that promise to call his own? Family, friends, health, wealth... but God is not his God?
Then think: What is the lot — the long-term lot — of the person who has nothing but that promise to call his own? Little material good... God is his God?
Wherever you are, whatever your lot, look to Christ your Savior, Christ your Lord, and thank Him today.
You have reason, Christian friend.
I know this for a fact.