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Posted by Stephen Witmer on August 23rd, 2018

‘What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?’ (Psalm 116.12)

The ‘benefits’ to which the psalmist was referring focused on God’s preservation in suffering and God’s deliverance from suffering.

But God’s benefits extend well beyond situations of suffering. They include all the good things he does for us. Over the past two months our family has felt again and again God’s benefits to us.

We’ve just returned from a wonderful sabbatical. There are so many people to thank – the many kind folks who hosted us and served us while we were overseas, our church family who sent us and cared for our home while we were gone and filled our fridge with good food for our return and left a balloon and welcome home sign and cut-out heads of the youth leaders scattered throughout our house (we live in fear of finding more)!

We’ll treasure memories of these two months for the rest of our lives. It was a grace-filled time. Lest I paint too rosy a picture, I hasten to say that the grace included God’s forgiving grace when we were tired and snippy with one another during our travels. But for the most part the grace was simply abundant, lavish, unmerited gift upon gift upon gift.

Weeks with Emma’s family (what a treasure). Playing with cousins in the pool in France. Extended time with dear friends in England and sweet time with our two godsons Isaac and Ben. Walking Omaha Beach in Normandy and seeing the hallowed ground of the American Cemetery there. For me, days and days of working on my book in cottages with no wifi or telephone. For Emma and me, a marriage get-away and the opportunity to climb Slieve Donard. Saturday mornings at St. George’s Market, early morning jogs, times of prayer and reflection, visits to castles, the Bayeux Tapestry, I could go on and on.

I’m grateful to God that he allowed me to complete a first pass at the rough draft of my book on rural/small-town ministry. There’s more work to be done, but what I got done surpassed my hopes and prayers. And in the process I even grew a marvelous ‘Sabbata-beard’ that has since been shaved off (in deference to my wise and lovely wife). That’s not to say that I can’t occasionally rock a fake mustache (see below).

‘What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?’ (Psalm 116.12)

The psalmist goes on to answer his own question. ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 116.13, 17).

Like the psalmist, we’ll aim to do two things in response to God’s benefits to us. First, thank him publicly among his people. There will be stories to tell! Second, we’ll keep lifting up the cup of salvation, seeking to trust him and live for and from his gospel as we return to our town and church family. God is precious to us, his gospel is life for us, and we couldn’t be happier to be living where we are (in Pepperell) and worshiping God with the church family he’s given us (Pepperell Christian Fellowship).

Thank you, Lord