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COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!

(A THANKSGIVING SERMON)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, November 22, 2015

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1, 2).


“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2). Dr. John R. Rice told us about the first Thanksgiving Day in America. He said,

      The Pilgrim Fathers who had come to America to make a home in the wilderness where they might have freedom to worship God...had the first harvest in 1621.
      So at Plymouth, Massachusetts, the little handful of devoted people, hewing homes out of the wilderness amid many perils, set apart a day for thanksgiving to God. On that day they feasted and gave thanks.
      President Lincoln appointed the last Thursday of November, 1864, as Thanksgiving Day. [It has been a national holiday in America ever since]. Every person who has a grateful heart should devoutly thank God...and count his blessings (John R. Rice, D.D., “Count Your Blessings,” Great Preaching on Thanksgiving, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1987, p. 65).

I will never forget the last conversation I had with my mother, Cecilia. She was in the hospital, after having surgery. It was just a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving. We talked about the Civil War, and we talked about her favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. We talked about how he established Thanksgiving as a national holiday, as the war was drawing to a close. Then Cecelia said, “Let’s sing that song.” And there, late at night, in her hospital room, Mother and I sang that little song,

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done!”

Then Mother said, “O Robert, it really is surprising what God has done for us!” Yes, it was true! She had been saved at the age of 80. We had a house. We had my wife, Ileana, who was the light of our lives. We had two sons. We had a good church. We had wonderful friends in the church. We counted our blessings as I sat beside her hospital bed. I never got to have another conversation with her, for she had a stroke later that night, which took her life a few days later. But I thank God for that hallowed experience with my mother, thanking God for His blessings in our lives, in our home, and in our church. And the last thing she said to me as I left her room was this, “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Robert.” I will never forget that as long as I live.

“Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.”
   (“Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1856-1926).

“Come before his presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2).

In these few moments that we have this morning, I am going to tell you about the three greatest blessings God gave me across the years. I could add many more. I could add the blessing of having the best wife any preacher could have. I could add little Hannah, the baby girl my daughter-in-law will give birth to in the spring. I could add all the wonderful men and women who help me lead our church. I could add the names of every member of our church. But it would take all day to mention all the blessings God has showered upon me in my long life of nearly 75 years. But I have chosen to mention the three greatest, most important blessings God has given – for they are blessings He has given you as well. And now I will name them, so we can all “come before his presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2).

I. First, I give thanks to God for the Bible.

Without this sacred, God-breathed Book I know that I would either be dead already – or a very lonely and hopeless old man, just waiting to die. But this holy book has led me in the paths of righteousness and hope. I can say with David, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (119:97). “For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven” (119:89). “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (119:130). “Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it” (119:140). “Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God” (119:115). “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation” (119:99). “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (119:105). “I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed” (119:46). “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (119:11).

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”

“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:7, 10).

The Bible led me to Jesus. The Bible gave me strength in my weakness. The Bible gave me hope when I was hopeless – gave me wisdom when I was foolish – was my friend when all others forsook me. In the bleak darkness and gloom of a liberal seminary, I went to sleep many a night with the Bible open across my chest.

Thou truest friend I ever knew,
Thy faithfulness I’ve tried;
When all were false, I found thee true,
My counselor and guide.

The mines of earth no treasures give,
That could this volume buy,
In teaching me the way to live,
It taught me how to die.
   (Author unknown).

“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16, 17).

Yes, let us give thanks to God for the Bible!

II. Second, I give thanks to God for Jesus, His only begotten Son.

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:12-15).

“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-7).

“Man of Sorrows,” what a name,
   For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
   Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
(“Man of Sorrows” by Philip P. Bliss, 1838-1876).

He saw me plunged in deep distress,
   He flew to my relief;
For me He bore the shameful cross
   And carried all my grief,
And carried all my grief.
   (“Majestic Sweetness Sits Enthroned” by Samuel Stennett, 1727-1795).

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
   That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
   Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Dr. Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

Beautiful Saviour! Lord of the nations!
   Son of God and Son of man!
Glory and honor,
   Praise, adoration,
Now and forever more be Thine!
   (“Fairest Lord Jesus,” from the German, 17th century).

Yes, let us give thanks to God for Jesus, our Saviour!

“Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving” (Psalm 95:2).

III. Third, I give thanks to God for our church.

Before I sat down to write this point in my manuscript, I was talking on the phone with Dr. Cagan. We talked about our church, and how we face a great challenge, since our church is in the inner city and it is so difficult for us to add new people from the world.  As I hung up the phone I felt a wave of sadness and hopelessness come over me. I picked up a book by Leonard Ravenhill, but I found no solace there. Then I opened a magazine and looked at a photograph of a Nigerian pastor standing in front of the ruins of his church, bombed out by Boko Haram Muslims. Just before the Muslims came the pastor placed his hands on the heads of the children of the church and said,

“[When] they do come here, never deny Jesus. If they kill your parents, never deny Jesus. If they take you away to the Sambisa Forest, never deny Jesus Christ” (World magazine, July 15, 2015).

A few minutes later someone shouted, “They are coming!” Then the bullets were flying. The associate pastor was shot and killed. At least 40 church members died in the onslaught. The rest of them fled into the surrounding wilderness. The Muslims held the town for the next five months.

Finally last February the military took back the town. The pastor came back to his torched church and found a corpse rotting under a tree. He walked into one of the bombed out rooms and saw only ashes. He said, “This was my library. I collected those books for 29 years. I cried for two weeks [before] God gave me peace.”

An estimated 13,000 people, mostly Christians, had been slaughtered. Women had been raped, girls had been kidnapped. It was the worst campaign of persecution in the 21st century. But the Christians remain. The pastor said, “God didn’t make a mistake in placing us here. It is our heart’s desire that the church will remain here until Jesus returns.”

The Muslims shot a man’s wife and butchered him with a machete. He lived with a missing right arm, and five motherless children. When Christian workers asked him how they could pray for him, he said, “Pray that I will stand fast.” A woman whose husband and two sons were killed, and who herself survived a severe machete wound to her arm and throat, said, “Pray that I will hold onto Christ with both hands.”

With tears in my eyes, I felt rebuked. We have it so easy. Our only enemy is the Devil – who whispers to us not to sacrifice ourselves to save our church. “Don’t give up too much! Don’t be a fanatic! Don’t lose your life for this!” he whispers. Away with Satan! Let our heart’s desire be to make a church here in this city that will be strong enough to remain until Jesus Christ returns!

Let us thank God that we have it so easy. Let us say with that Nigerian pastor, “God didn’t make a mistake in placing us here. It is our heart’s desire that [our] church will remain here until Jesus returns.”

Thank God for our church! Thank God for the easy life we have! Young people, come and pour out your life to save our church and make it great! Turn to hymn number 4 on your song sheet. Sing it!

More love to Thee, O Christ, More love to Thee!
   Hear Thou the prayer I make On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

Once earthly joy I craved, Sought peace and rest;
   Now Thee alone I seek, Give what is best;
This all my prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

Let sorrow do its work, Send grief and pain;
   Sweet are Thy messengers, Sweet their refrain,
When they can sing with me: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee, More love to Thee!

Then shall my latest breath Whisper Thy praise;
   This be the parting cry My heart shall raise;
This still its prayer shall be: More love, O Christ, to Thee,
   More love to Thee, More love to Thee!
(“More Love to Thee” by Elizabeth P. Prentiss, 1818-1878).

If this sermon blessed you Dr. Hymers would like to hear from you. WHEN YOU WRITE TO DR. HYMERS YOU MUST TELL HIM WHAT COUNTRY YOU ARE WRITING FROM OR HE CANNOT ANSWER YOUR E-MAIL. If these sermons bless you send an e-mail to Dr. Hymers and tell him, but always include what country you are writing from. Dr. Hymers’ e-mail is at rlhymersjr@sbcglobal.net (click here). You can write to Dr. Hymers in any language, but write in English if you can. If you want to write to Dr. Hymers by postal mail, his address is P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015. You may telephone him at (818)352-0452.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Psalm 95:1-6.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“More Love to Thee” (by Elizabeth P. Prentiss, 1818-1878).


THE OUTLINE OF

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!

(A THANKSGIVING SERMON)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1, 2).

I.   First, I give thanks to God for the Bible, Psalm 119:105; Psalm
119:97, 89, 130, 140, 115, 99, 46, 11;
Psalm 19:7, 10; Isaiah 40:8; II Timothy 3:16, 17.

II.  Second, I give thanks to God for Jesus, His only begotten Son,
Ephesians 2:12-15, 5-7.

III. Third, I give thanks to God for our church.