Does your church sing the hymn (song) "Now Thank We All Our God" around Thanksgiving time? It is one of my favorites. As you listen to the video below, listen for some reasons we have to thank God. (Click this link for the lyrics only.) This hymn begins by saying, "Now thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices." That sounds a little strange, doesn't it? Let's look at what this means.
From the Bible
The hymn "Now Thank We All Our God" was first written in German by Martin Rinkart. It was translated into English by Catherine Winkworth. Read the verse below and look for something Jesus says that Mr. Rinkart might have been thinking of when he wrote the first lines of his hymn.
"One of the teachers of the law came and heard the Sadducees arguing. He noticed that Jesus had given the Sadducees a good answer. So he asked him, 'Which is the most important of all the commandments?'Jesus answered, 'Here is the most important one. Moses said, "Israel, listen to me. The Lord is our God. The Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind and with all your strength.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) And here is the second one. "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) There is no commandment more important than these.'" Mark 12:28-31 (NIRV)
How did Jesus say we are to love God? That sounds similar to the strange phrase found in the words Mr. Rinkhart wrote, doesn't it? Let's look at what it means.
"With all your heart"
Why do you think we use a hearts as a symbol of love (like on Valentine's Day)? Traditionally, the heart is the symbol of love. We talk about the heart as the place where our feelings are kept. You may be a "brave heart." Someone may tell you to "take heart" or have courage. You may feel "heart-sick" or "broken-hearted" if you are sad. You may hear of someone loving a person "with all their heart." When you love God "with all your heart," you love God more than anything or anyone else. When you thank God "with all your heart," you are truly, honestly thankful for who He is, what He has done, and what He has given you.
"With all your soul"
What do you like to do the most? What are your hopes and dreams? What are some of your favorite things? What are some things that you say differently than other people? What are some things you do that no one else does? If someone were to describe you without saying what you look like, what would they say? All of these things are part of your soul. Your soul is what makes you different inside from everyone else. It is the part of you that thinks, dreams, loves, gets sad, hurts, and wants to do something. It is what makes you, you. When you love God "with all your soul," you decide to listen to God and live for Him.
Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. They know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I give my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this sheep pen. I must bring them in too. They also will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:14-16 (NIRV)
When you love God “with all your soul,” you decide that since God made you special, since God sent His only Son to take your punishment for sin, you will love Him and live for Him. (See more in this video.) You decide that, like Jesus, you love God enough to do what He wants, even if it is different from what you want.
Your mind is the part of you that makes decisions. You reason. You think. You decide. When you love God “with all your mind,” you decide to follow Him. This decision is not based on feelings which can change. This decision is based on the promises of God Almighty who always keeps His promises.
“Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the good news I preached to you. You received it and have put your faith in it. Because you believed the good news, you are saved. But you must hold firmly to the message I preached to you. If you don’t, you have believed it for nothing. What I received I passed on to you. And it is the most important of all. Here is what it is. Christ died for our sins, just as Scripture said he would. He was buried. He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as Scripture said he would be. He appeared to Peter. Then he appeared to the 12 apostles. After that, he appeared to more than 500 brothers and sisters at the same time. Most of them are still living. But some have died. He appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-7 (NIRV)
“With all your strength”
When we love God with all our strength, we live out what we believe. It is not enough to just say, “Yes, I believe in God.” Look at what the Bible says:
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James 2:19 (NIV)
Simply believing that Jesus is who He says He is, believing in God; that is not enough. Look at what this same part of Scripture says:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:14-17 (NIV)
Why should we love God with all we are and all we do?
Jesus says in John 15 to “abide in the vine.” That means to love God with all we are. It means to read His Word, the Bible. It means to talk to God and pray. It means to live for God. Look at what happens when we do these things:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)
This verse is very exciting and gives us hope. Here is why. We cannot love God the way we should by ourselves. We are human. We mess up (Romans 3:23). The Good News is that Jesus took our punishment for sin when He died on the cross and came back to life again. If we “seek God’s face,” if we “abide in the vine,” if we read the Bible, pray, and do our best to live for God, God has promised to help us. God will help us love Him. God will help us live for Him. God will keep teaching us more about Him. He will also use us to help and bless other people. God is so good! Take some time right now to thank God with all you are. Ask Him to show you how to love Him with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.