One of the hymns we often sang in church was “Count Your Blessings.” I don’t mean the Gaither version sung by The Martins or the Bing Crosby song from White Christmas (though I prefer that song). I mean the old hymn that says “Count your blessings, name them one by one; count your blessings, see what God has done” (or “hath done” if you’re really old school).
I sang that song for years. I love the sentiment and message of the song, but the tune and style just doesn’t appeal to me any more. Besides, I can’t sing (if you’re a patron you can see what I mean because I filmed it and shared it with my patrons).
Being blessed is good. It can be great. However, God showed me that what matters as much–maybe more–is how we respond to being blessed. Here’s the passage:
50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
– Luke 24:50-53 (ESV)
The Setting: Jesus’ Ascension
This passage takes place during Jesus’ ascension into heaven. He has died, rose again, and is giving final instructions to his followers, especially the Great Commission (cf. Matt 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8).
As he’s ascending, Jesus blesses his followers. Now, this could mean a departing word of good will, but it’s likely words of encouragement regarding the coming Holy Spirit. Regardless, it’s clear that Jesus wanted to bless his followers.
God showed me something in this passage that I believe can be overlooked: the response of the disciples.
The Lesson: Respond with Joyful Worship
How did the disciples respond? Well, as soon as Jesus blessed them, the disciples opened up their abacus apps on their iPhones and began tallying up all their blessings.
No, that’s not right.
They walked away with their heads high, relishing in how much God loves them as evidenced by all their blessings.
Oh, no, that’s not it, either.
Let’s see: verse 52 says, “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” That’s it! They worshiped Jesus with great joy!
This is the lesson God showed me when I read this passage. He reminded me that we should respond to blessings with great praise and worship.
Look at it this way. Jesus blessed his followers, who then began worshiping and praising the risen Savior. They were having church.
There were no big buildings, no rehearsed worship team, no organ or piano, no liturgy. They were on a hill. They had Jesus. So they had church!
Not only did they have church and worship Christ, they were full of joy! Their worship was joyful. Today we like to call that praise. However it’s labeled, the fact is that the disciples responded with joyful worship.
Bringing it Home
How do we respond to blessings? Do we count them or puff out our chests in pride? Or do we turn to Jesus and worship him with great joy?
Sometimes, though, worshiping with great joy can be difficult. There have been times when simply counting my blessings makes things worse because I follow each with a “yeah, but”:
- I have a roof over my head, but it’s leaking
- I have a job, but it doesn’t pay enough
- I have a God who loves me, but I don’t feel it enough
We’ve all been there. As a result, even when we want to worship, there’s no joy and our worship seems inadequate or even non-existent.
So, how do we get filled with joy when we don’t feel joyful?
Look again at the passage. Six times we have a plural referencing the disciples. While that may seem inconsequential, it’s actually quite informative. It tells us they weren’t alone. They had others around them who were full of joy.
When we don’t feel joy, we need to get around others who are full of joy. Yeah, it may be irritating for a bit, but that joy can be infectious. When we surround ourselves with joyful people, we’ll begin to experience great joy ourselves. God uses the joy of others to fill us with joy.
So, as you contemplate your blessings, consider how you will respond to them. Will you merely dwell on how you’re blessed, or will you joyfully worship the risen Savior who blessed you?