It has been a wonderful privilege to preach at Struthers Cumbernauld Church since I had to retire from full time ministry with the Church of Scotland due to health problems. It may interest you to know that from a preacher’s point of view, there are churches that are difficult to preach in and churches that are easy to preach in. Struthers, in all its branches I am sure, most definitely falls into the latter category.
What makes the difference? Well, in the Old Testament we are told in various places to “wait” for the Lord. One of the words used in the Psalms for waiting actually means “to set an ambush.” The picture being suggested to us, is of trying to attract an animal that we intend to capture. What do you do to ensure that? You either create conditions or seek and search for the conditions that are likely to attract the animal you are seeking and wait there patiently and quietly and with alertness to the slightest sound or sight of the animal you seek approaching. At such a moment, you become extra careful to make sure you do nothing to scare the animal away.
It is a mystery beyond human words or logic, that although God’s presence is by definition everywhere, there are times and places where His Spirit falls, comes down, in a particular way and in unusual measure. God is sovereign, free to do whatever He wants at any time and need give no explanation for granting or withholding His favour, but at the same time in His Word, the Bible, He has made it clear that there are certain scents that attract His attention and draw forth His intended blessing.
I have a few ideas as to what it is about Struthers that attracts God’s attention in a manifest way, but I am too much a new comer, after a long absence, to venture what I think these things are!
Rather I want to just mention one or two things that Scripture makes clear God notices, for you to think about for yourself as an individual believer.
Do you remember the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus? As they went on their way after meeting Him, they were all healed, but only one, and in a sense the one who would have been least expected to do so, came back to Jesus and gave thanks. Jesus noted that both positively and negatively. Negatively He noticed that nine were missing and commented upon that fact. Positively He commends the one who returned to give thanks and glory to God. God is forever who He has revealed Himself to be in Jesus Christ. He notices thankfulness which we offer Him for His goodness toward us.
There is something else that He seems to notice and be drawn to. It is almost an extension of “Thanksgiving.” You could perhaps call it “Extreme Thanksgiving.” What do I mean? I mean living for God and thanking Him when as yet no help from heaven seems to have arrived, praising God at times when an onlooker might reasonably suggest to us we have nothing to thank or praise God for. Praise at such a time merits the label “A sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving”. The promise of the Bible is that when we offer that to God, He sees in that a prepared road along which He may travel toward us to help us, save us and deliver us. Psalm 50 verse 23 puts it like this:
“Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving glorifies me, and prepares his way so that I will show God's salvation to him.”
So let’s try and wait for God in the place of favourable conditions. Let’s offer Thanksgiving and the Sacrifice of Thanksgiving to Him in every changing season we may live through.