OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #237 Foundations of Praise
As we approach Thanksgiving in our own family, this letter is as much for us as it is for you. Jan’s hands continue to bother her, and we continue to search for answers. We pray constantly about this, but her hands still ache and fall asleep, and if anything they are worsening. She has a hard time sleeping through the night because of them. At times this takes its toll on Jan and she becomes discouraged.
We try not to say much because there isn’t much to say and we don’t want to inflict others with our afflictions. But it is our struggle currently and these words spoke to me this past week as I prepared for our church’s Thanksgiving newsletter.
And so I pass them along to you with the hope that they encourage you as they encourage us.
If you visit my office, you will see that there are always several piles of books, files, or papers sitting on my desk. These represent projects I am working on, but aren’t complete. In this way they are both reminders so I don’t forget, but also symbols of frustration over incomplete work.
With unfinished projects in mind, this verse stood out for me lately: “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’” (Ezra 3:11*) They sang this song at the completion of the foundation of the new temple. The original had been demolished about 50 years earlier in war, and as people returned from exile, they began work on the second temple.
It seems odd to me - Why stop to praise God when there was still so much work to be done? After all, it was just a foundation. There were still walls to put up, rafters and roof to install, doors to hang. Why pause to celebrate at the laying of the foundation? These simple verses teach us something about the nature of thanksgiving.
They celebrated even though the work was not yet complete. How many times do we become discouraged by projects we haven’t finished, work that isn’t done, and prayers yet to be answered? Every once in a while we need to stop so that we can look back and see what God has accomplished. This is what the returning exiles did, and they were able to praise God as a result.
I’m not very good at looking back. There is too much planning ahead to reflect in the past. But here is something I find at work in my own mind. I get frustrated if I only look ahead. I need to look back, to see the ground we’ve covered, the work that has been completed, the victories that have been won. God is good. I need to remember this to keep from getting frustrated about all there is to do.
They celebrated the work God was going to do in the future. The foundation of the temple was a promise which declared, “There will be a glorious building here someday!” We too can celebrate the fact that God continues to lay foundations in our lives.
A few days ago I drove past a building which someone had started but not completed. There was a foundation and a floor, but it must have been started years ago because it was falling in and trees were growing up from the cellar through the holes in the floor. There are times when our best-made plans come to nothing, but this is not the way it is with God. He will continue to build upon the work He has done in the past, and for this we can be grateful. God is not done yet.
At Thanksgiving we pause even though there is still much work to do because we want to celebrate the foundations of our lives. God has accomplished so much, and he has left foundations upon which he will build for the future. May we sing with the people in Ezra’s day, “He is good; his love endures forever.”
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church, Moncton NB Canada. This letter published Oct 6, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com