"One day at a time, sweet Jesus ... that's all I'm asking from You ... " My Dad liked the words of that song, especially in the last months of his life as he battled with cancer. That was 18 years ago, but the words of the song come back to me every once in a while. Actually, the words are based on the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6. Jesus says in verse 25: "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear." And in verse 32: "Your heavenly Father knows that you need them" (certain earthly things like food, clothing and shelter).
So Jesus says in verses 33-34: "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
"On day at a time, sweet Jesus ... that's all I'm asking from You ..." The writer of the song was expressing his trust in Jesus to give him strength for what he needed to face that particular day. He wasn't looking any further, just one day at a time. Some have taken that to mean that we should just live "by the seat of our pants," that we don't need to plan for the future because it's all up to God anyway. But while it is true that the future is in God's hands and He's already there ahead of us, God also expects us to use the brains and wisdom He has given us by His Word and Spirit to "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness," looking ahead and discerning where God is leading and seeking to follow His guidance.
The problem comes when we look ahead too far and don't include God in our plans. When that happens, we make our plans and then ask God to bless them. When something happens that doesn't fit with our plan, we get in an uproar, even questioning God and asking, "Why?" Jesus said, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." That doesn't seem very optimistic, does it? Thousands of people listen to pastors like Joel Osteen, pastor of a "mega-church" in Houston, Texas, because he is optimistic about everything. He proclaims that your best days lie ahead and that God wants you to have only the best of all that the world has to offer. Robert Schuller, former pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, proclaimed the "positive thinking" gospel for half a century. And he was not the first. Before him Norman Vincent Peale was the "founder" of positive thinking as he pastored the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City for many years.
Now, there's nothing wrong with positive thinking - if you know what God says about it. Paul was certainly telling the believers how to think positively in Philippians 4:4-9. He told them that they should not be anxious about anything, but rather, rejoicing in the Lord, praying and giving thanks, and then God's peace would be theirs - the peace that passes understanding! He said, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (verse 8). But that's not what the "positive thinkers" are talking about. They want you to believe that by thinking about positive things only positive things will happen - only good things. God will give you whatever you set your heart on (even if it's not good for you!). After all, He wants you to be happy. God wants your life to be easy and every day filled with only positive, good things. That's a lie. It doesn't "work." And it doesn't take into account that God knows better than we do what is "good" for us and what will bring Him glory and praise.
Jesus said "each day has enough trouble of its own." There are many believers all over the world for whom this has been a hard day. It has had "its share of troubles." When God blesses with a really great day, what does that look like? For some it means that everything goes right, just the way they wanted it to go, just the way they planned it to go. But what if that isn't a "great day" in God's sight? What if a great day is a day when you face the troubles of life with faith and hope and peace and joy, and God used you as a witness for Him to others that His grace is sufficient, that His strength is what held you together and held you up?
You see, God's grace is like the manna in the wilderness. God provided the Israelites all they needed for one day at a time. If they tried to collect more so they wouldn't have to go out to collect any the next day, it turned rotten overnight. God wanted them to come to Him every day for what they needed, and He promised to meet their need. The same is true for our spiritual needs. God gives us what we need one day at a time. When you and I feel overwhelmed and it seems that I've run out of strength before the day is over, it is because I have "borrowed" some of tomorrow's problems. God will give me strength for tomorrow's problems tomorrow. He gives us enough grace and strength for today, and I know He will do the same tomorrow. That's what it means to be one of His children and to know He loves you.
Paul writes in Romans 8:32: "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things." Everything I need, He will provide. I'm glad He doesn't give me everything I WANT. I'm glad every day isn't so easy that I can live it by my own strength and not seek Him. It was when things were going well that the people of Israel drifted away, or turned away from God. Somehow, they didn't think they needed Him that day. The same can happen with you and me.
So the words of the song are a good reminder: "One day at a time, sweet Jesus ... that' all I'm asking from you." His grace is sufficient. In Christ, I HAVE all I need, for I have the love of my Father in heaven and the empowering presence of His Spirit. I hope you do, too. If you don't, you can seek Him and find Him today ... just get on your knees and pray in the name of Jesus. He'll hear you, and He'll answer!