Spirit of Grace Ministries
Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Give Thanks for Temporary Blessings

sand through fingers

by Dennis Pollock

Years ago, I came across a short article which spoke powerfully to me. I have lost the article and I may get a few of the details wrong, but the essence of it went something like this:

A woman described an incident in her childhood when a friend of her mother was about to leave the area for an extended time. She would take many of her smaller things with her, but she would need to sell or otherwise dispose of her larger possessions. Knowing that she would probably be coming back in a year or two, she made an arrangement with the girl’s mother. She offered to allow her to keep and use her washing machine while she was gone, if she could make a place for it. The girl’s mother agreed. Their family was quite poor and had never had a washing machine before. (This happened a long time ago!) They enjoyed the washing machine and marveled at how much easier it was to use this new device rather than washing their clothes by hand as they had always done before.

Finally, after more than a year the lady returned, set up housekeeping in town, and retrieved her washing machine from the family. The daughter was sad to see the newfangled machine go, knowing that they would have to return to their old practice of washing their clothes by hand. She complained to her mom about it, wishing the lady would have stayed away forever and left them to enjoy the washing machine as long as it lasted. The girl’s mom gently scolded her daughter, saying, “We must not be bitter about having to return the washing machine. It never really belonged to us. That machine was a gift God gave us for a season, and it was a great blessing. Now it is gone, but instead of complaining about not having it anymore, we must thank the Lord for giving it to us for as long as He did.”

The Things We See

Many times throughout my life I have thought about that little story and endeavored to live by its simple but powerful life lesson. Almost everything about our life on this earth is temporary. Blessings come and go, seasons of our lives arrive and depart, friendships develop and disintegrate, and children are born, grow up, and leave. The apostle Paul wrote, “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

We all recognize that our time on earth is limited, but sometimes we get upset and disappointed to find that many of the blessings we enjoy are more limited than we are. Even though our seventy or eighty or more years truly represent a very short time, by the time most of our years are finished we have managed to pack in quite a lot of activities, events, and pleasures into those years, and we find our gracious God has poured out many, many blessings upon us. Most of those blessings are not permanent. They come with an expiration date on them. The problem is, we never get to see that expiration date. How long will this blessing, this season, this relationship, this ministry, this car, this house, this way of life last? God keeps the time of expiration a secret, and our only answer to those questions is, “Probably not as long as we will.”

It is vital that we recognize God as the Giver of every blessing and give thanks to Him. We must thank Him when the blessing arrives, and we must also thank Him when the blessing is taken away. In my early adult years, I barely had enough money to live on and consequently drove some pretty terrible cars. Finally, I was fed up with driving junkers and managed to purchase a three-year-old Toyota van, which our family of seven badly needed. I can remember admiring that beautiful van shortly after we bought it, thrilled to have such a nice-looking, reliable vehicle. But as I was admiring our new van I had a slightly depressing thought: This van will never look this good again. As the years go by it will look worse and worse and eventually it will wear out completely. I am no prophet, but that was exactly what happened. That van gave us many years of good service, but it finally wore out, and I sold it for $75. I thank God for that van. We put a lot of miles on it and it was a great blessing to us for a long time.

Jonah and His Plant

Most of God’s blessings to His children are like that. They do not come with a “lifetime guarantee.” And if we begrudge God every time a blessing is taken from us, we will be constantly in a place of frustration and irritation rather than a place of gratitude. Even the shortest blessings are still blessings. After Jonah preached at Nineveh, declaring God’s coming judgement upon them, he went to a hillside outside the city to see what God would do. The sun grew hot, but the Bible says:

And the LORD God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. (Jonah 4:6)

So far, so good. God blessed Jonah with shade, and Jonah was properly grateful. But then the shade was taken away:

But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:7, 8)

Jonah throws a pity-party and wishes he were dead. Had God not provided the plant for shade initially, he would have simply endured the sun and made the best of it. But since he had the shade the first day and lost it by the second, he finds the situation totally unacceptable. It is amazing how hard we find it to let blessings go which we somehow have assumed to be our “right.”

Job said it pretty well: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). Rather than complain and moan over Day 2 without shade, Jonah should have thanked God for Day 1 with shade. Fifty percent shade is better than no shade at all.

Thankful for Past Blessings

One of the wisest and most powerful things we can do when blessings evaporate is to thank God for the time that He allowed us to have them. I was married to my first wife for thirty years when she became involved with another man and left me. At first there was deep hurt, and when the hurt subsided it was replaced by anger. I never wanted to see her again or be reminded of her. I threw out all kinds of family pictures and did everything I could to purge the house of every remembrance of this lady who had betrayed me and our children.

But as the Lord healed me, my attitude began to change. He reminded me that for most of those thirty years we had a happy and blessed marriage. We had five children, and enjoyed all sorts of happy, busy, noisy family times that make up the stuff of life. Those final months of our marriage had been horrendous, but the first twenty-nine years were filled with lots of good times. Had I lived as a bachelor all that time, I would have missed out on so much! The time came when I knew the Lord was encouraging me to give Him thanks for the twenty-nine good years, and not constantly focus on that terrible last year. I gave thanks for the gift of my first wife. The Lord gave, and the Lord took away – Blessed be the name of the Lord.

The same principle applies when a spouse is taken by sudden premature death, leaving the remaining spouse to either complain bitterly about their loss or give thanks for the years God graciously gave them to be together. It would be nice if couples could marry, live happily together for the next sixty-five or seventy years, and then die within two months of each other. It rarely happens that way. We must not allow ourselves to say, “Why did God take my sweetheart from me?” but instead declare, “How good of God to give us these many (or few) years together!”

Country House

When I went to work as Dr. David Reagan’s assistant at Lamb & Lion Ministries, I was able to save some money and contract for a house to be constructed for us. It had two stories, four bedrooms, two living areas, and a study for me. It sat on an acre of land. For some it might not seem too impressive, but to me it was the near-perfect house. We raised our five children in that house and it became truly a home. I was entirely satisfied with the house; I had no desire for anything bigger, better, or fancier.

When I founded Spirit of Grace Ministries, I knew I would have to take a drastic reduction in salary to make the ministry work. There was no way we could stay in that house and make the payments with my smaller salary. There was only one solution that I could see: we would have to move to an inexpensive apartment. I was no longer a country squire; I was an apartment dweller. Instead of looking out my window and seeing my acre of land and trees, I now could only see other apartments. On the other hand, I had the freedom to take less salary, and put more money toward missions and ministry needs.

God clearly blessed the ministry and that step of obedience. Since then I have traveled throughout the world, and especially Africa, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. As I write this, I am still in an apartment, thirteen years later, although we are reaching a point where we may soon be able to buy a house. Do I miss that house? Not too much. Sure, it was a pleasant place to live, and far superior to the apartments I have lived in since then. But living in apartments has been God’s designated and appointed place for me and my wife, Benedicta for some time, and I am satisfied. From our little apartment I have written hundreds of devotional articles, recorded numerous videos, and planned all kinds of mission trips which God has been pleased to use and to bless. Sinners have come to Christ through sermons I have prepared in my little apartment, and believers have been encouraged through the many Biblical teachings I have written and recorded there.

No Going Back

As I look back to my time in our country house, I am grateful and give thanks to our generous and kind Heavenly Father who made those years of comfortable country living possible. But I am not looking to rewind the clock. When our family moved into that spacious country house, we didn’t think about it, but it came to us with an expiration date. When I started a new ministry, our time in that house “expired.” I have no problem with that. I know that my last thirteen years, my apartment years, have been the most fruitful and the most productive years of my life. I would not trade them for the most expensive Hollywood mansion.

Sooner or later we will all be stripped of every temporal blessing and go back to the God who created us. We will take nothing with us but Jesus Christ and His gift of eternal life. This gift and this grace represent the one blessing from heaven that has no expiration date. When we receive Jesus Christ by faith and are born again, we receive the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and eternal life, and these blessings go on and on and on. While we are on this earth it is right for us to enjoy the material and relationship blessings and gifts of our kind and generous Heavenly Father. But hold to them lightly. And when they are taken away, be sure and give God thanks for allowing you the time you had them. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; He positions and He repositions. Blessed be the name of the Lord.


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