His work and his creativity helped define a genre of music. His first album went four-times platinum. Many of his singles sat on top of the Billboard 200. Seventeen Grammy nominations. One American Music Award. Ninety-six nominations for other awards with 27 wins. Needless to say, he got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
At that ceremony he had a chance to reflect on his career and to thank his family who supported his long hours, his friends who encouraged his music, and the producers who discovered him and promoted his work. He waited until the end to thank the person who had the greatest influence on his career. “I want to thank me for believing in me, I want to thank me for doing all this hard work, I want to thank me for having no days off, I want to thank me for never quitting, I want to thank me for always being a giver, and trying to give more than I receive, I want to thank me for doing more right than wrong, I want to thank me for being me at all times.”
Now, this musician might have overcome some serious adversity and dug deep to persevere, but his success did not come from his efforts. His personal success came from others. Studio managers put in the long hours to evaluate and produce his music. Stores set aside self-space for his albums. Fans used their hard-earned money on his music. Doctors and medicine, farmers and grocery stores kept him healthy. Accountants managed his wealth so he could keep working. You realize many other factors contributed to his personal success.
Many factors contribute to our personal success also. You have received gifts and inheritances. You have purchased health items. You bought the clothes and food you need. You have received unexpected good news. You have received toys and gadgets you never expected, but still enjoy. Expected or not, many factors contribute to where you are today. Forgetting this reality can morph into dangerous self-reliance.
As you prepare for another Thanksgiving, take a moment to Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Provider and He is your Strength.
That is the central theme of our Scripture reading: Remember the Lord Your God. Listen to Deuteronomy 8:10-11. When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day.
The Israelites stand on the cusp of entering a new land. The moment they enter, 40-years of wilderness-living is over. No more rocky cliffs, scorching sun, and desolate landscapes. No more poor farming soil, no more hauling water for cattle. No more setting up tents and taking down tents. No more packing and moving, repacking and moving. An entirely new way of life lies ahead.
Just think of the possibilities! They can build lavish homes! Their cattle and flocks can spread and multiply! They can buy and sell; silver and gold will fill their bank accounts! A permanent way of life will lead to new opportunities.
So, Moses prepares them for that future. Do not forget the Lord your God. “Forgetting” does not mean that Israel no longer remembers important information or historical events. “Forgetting” means to intentionally dismiss help received. For example, that singer intentionally overlooked the fans who gave him money and wanted his music. He ‘forgot’ to credit them for his success.
Israel is to remember that the Lord [their] God brought [them] out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. It is the Lord their God who gave them a chance to build homes and an opportunity for their cattle to multiply. It is the Lord their God who allowed their wealth to increase. It is the Lord their God who deserves their trust, their praise, their credit. Without him they would have nothing. Yet, when eyes lock onto possessions and achievements, that’s all that’s left: nothing. Hearts Forget the Lord Our God.
I am convinced that intentional forgetfulness contributes to today’s decrease of Christianity. More and more focus on what they have instead of how they received it.
Instead of seeing God at work in life, the temptation is to see you at work in life. We can think science brings us healing. After all, the doctor touches our illness, he prescribes medicine, she gives us exercise. It is science who manages our health, not God! We can believe our wisdom accumulates wealth. After all, we invested, we traded, we sold. We found the sales, we decided how much to spend and when. It is we who hold onto our wealth and dispense at our pleasure, not God! We can consider our abilities the reason work gets done. We have the knowledge of building. We have the strength for hard labor over long hours. We are the reason cars are fixed, daily chores are done, and families thrive. God has nothing to do with it!
Ever so gradually the spotlight starts shining on you. No longer is trust placed in God to provide. Instead, trust is placed in ‘self.’ You praise ‘You!’ for your health and wealth, your strength and wisdom. If you praise ‘You!” then you no longer credit God for what you have received. If you no longer credit God, then it means you are not worshiping him. You have a new god— a god who stands opposed to the living God in heaven above. You have a new god who is not as powerful as he might think.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth… Remember how you receive anything at all. Remember that God gives some the gift to diagnose illness, unlock new medicine, and recommend appropriate treatments. Remember that God gives you the health, ability, and strength to work the job you do, he gives time and weather to complete your tasks. Remember that God blesses the economy so you receive money, that God gives you wisdom to manage your wealth, that God allows you to take advantage of sales at the right moment. Remember the Lord Your God who is the reason you have many good things, the Lord your God who gives you a reason to give thanks.
Remember the Lord Your God who did not condemn a world that left him, but rather sent his one and only Son to bring the world back to him (John 3:15-16). Remember the Lord Your God who does not take away everything because of your pride. Rather, Remember the Lord Your God who takes away the life of his Son because your (and my) pride deserves death (Romans 6:23). Remember the Lord Your God who remembers your pride no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
Remember the Lord Your God who satisfied your only real need. When our hearts drifted from our God, our God never left us. He removes the pride which locked us out of heaven. He removed it! It’s gone! In its place lives the title ‘Child!’ God is Your Provider. He provides every physical and spiritual need. Now, He is Your Strength.
Israel would have to admit all their success came from God’s blessing. They’re thirsty and grumble, he gives water from the rock. They complain for food and he sends quail meat. They plead and he wipes out armies. He does this for two reasons. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, (1) to humble you… Israel ran out of food. They could not hunt enough to feed over 2-million people each day for 40-years. They could not grow crops in sand. This demonstrates how little control they had at the moment. (1) They could not provide food. (2) Even if starving, they could not change their condition. (3) They needed help.
So, God gives them manna [wafer-thin bread]. He does something they could not. God’s miracle shrunk their self-reliance. Israel is not god. God is God. So, their hearts could find security in him. They could boast the Almighty provides for them. They could live content like children under the perfect care of their parents. As we realize how little we control, we do not need to despair. Rather, we have strength because the Almighty God controls and manages every single thing for us!
[God] gave you manna to eat in the desert, (2) to test you… Tests reveal the right and wrong answers. After a test, you correct what is wrong and you function in the right. When you are in need, you encounter the wrong: Trust yourself. Doubt God. Criticize God. Grow angry. You also face the good: Rely on God. Trust him— even when time passes. Rely on the truth that he is good and gracious. He has proven that in the past and you know it will continue into the future. Cast your needs and anxieties on God. Testing removes what is wrong so that you grow stronger. As a result your reliance on God increases.
This testing and humbling is meant for your good. You stop relying on yourself. If you stop self-reliance, you stop growing anxious. If you’re not anxious, you stop worrying. You know God has more power than you ever could—and you thank him for that because he will continue providing for you in the most perfect of ways. That makes you strong. You can stand up under any pressure because God is Your Strength.
In the end, God still remains your God forever. You will join him in heaven. No self-reliance will choke him from you. Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Strength
Many factors contribute to our personal success. You have received gifts and inheritances. You have purchased health items. You bought the clothes and food you need. You have received unexpected good news. You have received toys and gadgets you never expected, but still enjoy. Expected or not, many factors contribute to where you are today.
This Thanksgiving, take time to count your blessings. Reflect on your financial gains. Appreciate completed projects. Restudy your health. See the many changes you confronted— and thank God for them all. He gives you ability and health, strength and wisdom. God is your Provider and Your Strength. Because of that you get to live at ease. Remember the Lord Your God. He is your Provider and He is your Strength.