Past Blessings are Great Reminders

Several months ago, I was totally bummed. It seemed that life was falling in on me. Nothing was the way it should be. Among other things, I had lost my voice. Being a full time Retooled and Refueled Seminar speaker, you can see how this could be a concern. This wasn’t a three-day bout with laryngitis. The doctor had informed me that I had a hemorrhaged left vocal cord. For someone who makes his living as a public speaker that’s serious! For most of four months

I wasn’t allowed to say a word, cough, or even clear my throat. Bottom line: I was doing a lot of whining.

At some point through this period I finally came clean with my best friend (and bride of thirty-three years), Bonnie. I complained about my predicament. I told her how ticked-off I was. I communicated that I wasn’t even sure that God was hearing my prayers.

Bon has always been more spiritual than I am. Maybe that’s why she tends to remain calm when I’m red-faced and those things on the side of my neck are bulging out. In times like these, Bonnie’s first comment often starts with the phrase, “Well, the blessing in this is so and so.” Bonnie has a way of seeing the good in the bad. She has the ability to look down the road far beyond where human eyes can go. She has spiritual eyes that depend more on Who she knows, than on what she is presently looking at. Bon has 20/20 vision of the soul. She is one of the few people I know who really gets the big picture.

That day, my best buddy gave me some advice. Fortunately, I was smart enough to take it. I’ve been glad ever since. Maybe, if you are more like me than Bonnie, this little strategy will serve you well, too.

First, let me share the back story. (You can read the full account in 1 Samuel 4-7.) Here’s the Readers Digest version. It all goes back to a time about 1100 years before Jesus was born. Things with the Israelites weren’t good. Most of their problems were self-inflicted because of their disobedience to God. They were in constant battle with five Philistine kingdoms. And with over 30,000 battlefield deaths, the people had given up hope. Even Eli, the old judge, had fallen over dead from the bad news. The Ark of the Covenant, their most cherished symbol of God’s presence, had been stolen by enemy forces. For years things went from bad to worse. In the words of the widow of one of the priests, “The glory has departed from Israel.”

Finally, after decades of humiliation with the nation flat on its back, the Israelites finally began to look up—and repent. In his love, God gently wrapped them in his powerful hand. Their situation began to improve, and their enemies were again on the run. Finally, after a decisive battle, and with Israel the clear victor, Samuel, the prophet, decided to act: “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the LORD helped us.’ So the Philistines were subdued and did not invade Israelite territory again. Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:12- 13, NIV).

What was this curious “Ebenezer” stone that Samuel erected? It was a monument like the monuments we have today. When you stop to think about it, many of our most important monuments were set up to help future generations remember something, someone, or some event that is too important to forget. Literally, “Ebenezer” means “the stone of help.” This was Samuel’s way to help the Jews remember the power of God and his unswerving love for their nation. He knew that by remembering their past, it would build faith in future times of uncertainty and doubt. I suspect that for scores, if not hundreds, of years Hebrew fathers often stopped before the Ebenezer stone and said, “Son, let me tell you a story about the goodness of our God.”

Now, back to present day. This was exactly Bonnie’s advice to me. “Steve,” she said, “you’re acting as though God has never proven himself to you before. What about all the answered prayers? Have you ever made a list of God’s answered prayers in your life—your own Ebenezer stone? Then, you could look at it anytime the doubts blacken the horizon of your life—and see the glory of God.”

Talk about a guy who really married up! That was a great idea. So I got busy. Sadly, I could only recall a small fraction of the prayers God has answered in my life. Still, I was able to make quite a list. Today, I carry my “Ebenezer List” in my Bible. And when the worries smash into the coastline of my life, I pull out that list

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