Blessing God (A Thanksgiving Sermon)
Pastor Richard E. Powell
Fort Caroline Baptist Church
November 22, 2009
Big Idea: I can bless the Lord when I remember how He has blessed me.
Scripture Introduction: We often talk about wanting God to bless us, but today I want to talk to you about blessing God. Open your Bibles please to Psalm 103.
Back during the dark days of 1929, a group of ministers in the Northeast, all graduates of the Boston School of Theology, gathered to discuss how they should conduct their Thanksgiving Sunday services. Things were about as bad as they could get, with no sign of relief. The bread lines were depressingly long, the stock market had plummeted, and the term, “Great Depression” seemed an apt description for the mood of the country. The ministers thought they should only lightly touch upon the subject of thanksgiving in deference to the human misery all about them. After all, there was not much to be thankful for. But Dr. William L. Stiger, pastor of a large congregation, rallied the group. This was not the time, he suggested, to give mere passing mention to Thanksgiving; just the opposite. This was the time for the nation to get matters in perspective and thank God for His blessings always present.
I suggest to you that the Dr. Stiger struck upon something. The most intense moments of gratitude are not found in times of plenty, but when difficulties abound. Think of the Pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day. Half their number dead, men without a country, poverty and fatigue; yet they offered thanks to God. They realized that there are always reasons to be grateful to God. It was that same sense of gratitude that led President Abraham Lincoln to formally establish the first Thanksgiving Day in the midst of national civil war, when the butcher’s list of casualties seemed to have no end and the nation struggled for survival. Citation: adapted from www.eSermons.com.
Perhaps in your own life, right now, intense hardships are making it difficult to feel grateful. You may be experiencing your own personal Great Depression. Why should you be thankful? Psalm 103 gives us five reasons to give God thanks. No matter what your circumstances, every child of God can give God thanks for these five blessings. Let’s look at each one.
Psalm 103:1–5 (NKJV)
Sermon Introduction: Do you ever talk to yourself? Talking to yourself may be the sign of a mental problem, especially if you start answering yourself! But sometimes we need to talk to ourselves. King David, the author of Psalm 103 is talking to himself. He is giving himself a pep talk. Most Psalms are addressed to God or other people, but in this one the psalmist is speaking to himself. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…” He is calling himself to bless, to extol, to give thanks to the Lord. David is urging himself to praise the Lord.
And notice that David is not content with half-hearted praise. No! He says to himself, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Psalm 103:1). Some of you look like you have a drug problem this morning. You look like you were drug here against your will! You haven’t put your whole heart into worship this morning. You barely tried to sing the songs of praise, your mind is elsewhere, and you are half-heartedly listening to the message God has for you. Maybe instead of me talking to you, perhaps you should do like King David and talk to yourself! When is the last time you talked to yourself like this? Some of you are long over due to say, “Self, you’ve been down in the dumps, fretting, faint-hearted, and depressed. Shake it off. Cheer up! Count your blessings! Tell God that you are grateful for His goodness to you.”
Perhaps you are thinking, “Ricky, what do I have to be thankful for?” That is our problem isn’t it? We are forgetful. It is easy to forget God during the good times of life. We take His blessings for granted as if they came by our own hands. It is also easy to forget God during the difficult days of life. We focus on our struggles and we forget Him. That’s why David had this little talk with himself. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psalm 103:2). David intentionally took inventory of God’s blessings upon his life. He decided that while others may forget God, he would remember. While others may curse God and complain about God, he would bless God and praise His name.
Big Idea: David discovered the truth that I can bless the Lord when I remember how He has blessed me.
In this Psalm David lists five personal blessings of the child of God for which we can give thanks. First…
“Who forgives all your iniquities…”
David begins by expressing his gratitude for the forgiveness of his sin. This is the right place to begin. All other blessings we enjoy flow from the fountain of God’s forgiveness. The greatest need anyone has in life is to be forgiven of their sin so they can be in a right relationship with God. And the greatest blessing you will ever enjoy in life is not fame, fortune, or success, but is forgiveness from a holy God!
It is proper to give thanks to God for our homes, our jobs, our family, and our material possessions. But the greatest gift we can receive from God and the greatest blessing we need from God is to be forgiven of our sin. You can have all the material blessings the world has to offer, but if you die unforgiven then you will spend eternity in Hell. Jesus asked, in Matthew 16:26, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Note that David says we have a God who forgives “all” our iniquities. Aren’t you grateful that God forgives all your sin, those twisted distorted deeds and thoughts that we harbor in our hearts? He forgives them all! The Bible teaches that just one sin will condemn you to Hell, so what good would it be if God only forgave some of your sins? Praise God, He forgives all our iniquities. David would later write in this psalm, “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:10-12).
How is this wonderful forgiveness available and possible? There is only one who can absolve sins and that is God, through His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The Savior declared: “…the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins…” (Matthew 9:6).
The Bible says, “In Him [meaning Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7a). Jesus died on the cross as payment for your forgiveness. He took the punishment you deserved for sin. The moment you turned from your sin and placed your faith in Christ you were forgiven!
Have you been forgiven? Do you know the peace of a pardoned life? Can you say with David: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1)? Can you eulogize God for this blessing in your life? Needless to say, it is basic to all other blessings. Without forgiveness nothing else can follow.
The Duke of Wellington was about to pronounce the death sentence on a confirmed deserter. Deeply moved, the great General said, “I am extremely sorry to pass this severe sentence, but we have tried everything, and all the discipline and penalties have failed to improve this man who is otherwise a brave and good soldier.” Then he gave the man's comrades an opportunity to speak for him. “Please, your Excellency,” said one of the men, “there is one thing you have never tried. You have not tried forgiving him.” The General forgave him and it worked: the soldier never again deserted and ever after showed his gratitude to the iron Duke.
You, too, were once condemned to die by your sin. You stood under the righteous condemnation of a holy God. But He forgave you for Christ’s sake. May we ever be faithful and true to Him! Will you whisper a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God right now for the forgiveness of sin? Tell God how grateful you are that He has forgiven you.
Give thanks to God for the remission of your sins. Next…
“…Who heals all your diseases…”
The second blessing of God for which the psalmist is grateful is healing. This passage has led to an erroneous theology that teaches if you have been saved by Christ then you have been immediately healed of all diseases or have the right to be healed of all diseases in this life by faith. By the way, have you ever noticed that many of the preachers who preach that God will heal you of every infirmity if you will just have enough faith usually have to put on their glasses to read the next verse they want to preach? Hmmm…
The Scriptures clearly teach that believers can and do get sick and that God often uses trials to strengthen our faith. The Apostle Paul suffered all his life with a terrible and painful affliction he called a thorn in the flesh. He prayed repeatedly for God to remove it, but God withheld healing. “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Here are two truths about healing you need to remember.
God can heal immediately using medical means, mundane means, or miraculous means. When you take an aspirin for your headache and the headache goes away, give thanks to God. He is the one who heals. When you pray and God miraculously answers and brings healing that confounds the doctors, give thanks to God. He is the one who heals. God can heal using medical means, mundane means, or miraculous means, but in all cases, the healing comes from God. Let me add, God is not opposed to medicine and doctors. The Gospel writer Luke was a physician. Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailment. Utilizing doctors and medicine is not a lack of faith.
We know that God heals, but God does not heal every time in this life. We will eventually die. An older gentleman once said to me, “God is going to heal me of everything but the last thing.” He knew that one day, unless Jesus returned, he would die. Does that mean that he missed out on healing? No. Healing is often immediate in this life. But remember, healing is always ultimate in the next life.
The Prophet Isaiah declared that, “by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). There is coming a day when we will have ultimate and permanent healing. We will have brand new bodies that will be free from the curse of sin. There will be no more sickness, sorrow, or death! One day we will have glorified resurrection bodies just like our savior! This is what the Apostle Paul means when he writes, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
Paul elaborated on what awaits us when he wrote 1 Corinthians 15:50–57 (NLT).
50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that our physical bodies cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These dying bodies cannot inherit what will last forever. 51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The question is not, “Will God heal me?” The question is, “when and how?” God may heal me down here, or He may heal me up there. Either way, I will praise the Lord who heals all my diseases!
Give thanks to God for the remission of your sins, the restoration of your health, and…
“…who redeems your life from destruction…”
David is literally saying that it is God, “Who saves, or rescues, and preserves your life from the pit.” In past days, cruel masters threw their slaves into deep holes where they sunk into the brackish mud. The holes were sealed shut, and the slave was left hungry, cold, and alone in the dark. This pit was a place of destruction and death. David has the same thought in mind in Psalm 40:1-2 when he says: “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And Set my feet upon a rock…”
God certainly saves us from the destruction of Hell. Jesus reached down and extricated us from the muck and mire of our sin. He lifted us out and placed our feet on the solid rock! But I think there is more to it than this. David probably wrote this Psalm after a close brush with death. Perhaps he escaped death when God healed him of his sickness or delivered him from his enemies. Whatever the case, when David looked back and saw how he had escaped destruction he did not chalk it up to good luck. No, he gave God the praise! I think we will look back one day and be amazed at how God saved us from imminent destruction. We may never realize in this life just how close to death we have come before God delivered us. Perhaps it was a car accident that we should not have walked away from. Perhaps it was an accident at work from which we were spared. Maybe it was a life-threatening disease caught early. It has been said, “Only when we get to heaven will we realize how often we were protected by the personal intervention of our God from premature death.” MacDonald, William and Arthur Farstad. Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments, Ps 103:4. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.
So far we have seen three personal blessings for which we can give thanks. We can give thanks to God for the remission of sins, for the restoration of health, and for the redemption of life from destruction. But there is a fourth blessing for which the child of God can be thankful.
“who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies…”
This is a metaphor drawn from the common custom of wearing wreaths and garlands on festive occasions. We Americans don’t know much about crowns. But in the Tower of London are the British Crown Jewels. The Imperial State Crown, the one Queen Elizabeth wears for state functions, is covered with 3,733 jewels, including 2,000 diamonds, 200 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and five rubies. It is perhaps the most precious collection of stones and jewels on earth.
King David knew something about crowns, but he declared that when you come to God He crowns you with something far greater than diamonds and rubies. He crowns your life with his own loving-kindness and tender mercies! The crown we wear is woven out of loving- kindness and compassion. You are probably thinking, “I would rather have 2,000 diamonds.” That’s because you don’t understand the value of God’s loving-kindness and tender mercies.
Loving-kindness speaks of God’s steadfast, loyal love. Our world does not know much about loyal love. You hear every day of some husband who supposedly fell out of love with his wife. People say they drift apart and just don’t love each other anymore. We make a mockery of our vows “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Some people might as well be saying, “I Barney, take you, Betty, to be my awful wedded wife, to have and to scold, from this day fast forwarded, for better but not worse, for richer, sans poorer, forget sickness only in health, to loathe and to cherish, til suspicious debt do us part.” Citation: adapted from http://www.weddingvowsnow.com/funny-wedding-vows.html.
You can be grateful that God does not fall out of love with us! You don’t have to ask anew every morning, “Does God love me?” He loves us with a steadfast love, loyal love.
How can we define the term mercy? Perhaps we will understand mercy more clearly if we contrast it with grace. Grace can be defined as getting what we do not deserve. God, acting in sheer grace, sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to die for us on a cross. All who believe and trust in Christ as saved, “…by grace through faith. And that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). So grace is God’s unmerited love. You don’t deserve His love and forgiveness, but He gives it to you based on His grace. Grace is getting what you do not deserve. Mercy, on the other hand, can be defined as not getting what we do deserve. We deserve death and separation from God because of our sins. We deserve to be punished by a holy and righteous God for our sin. But God in Christ shows us mercy when we repent of our sin and believe on Him. In mercy God does not give us what we deserve! Every child of God can testify that God has been abundantly loving and merciful to him. He is tender and compassionate to us.
Jesus Christ wore a crown of thorns so we might wear a crown of loving-kindness and tender mercies! Praise His name! Give God thanks for the coronation of your life. But there is one more personal blessing for which the child of God can give thanks.
“Who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
I suppose it is impossible to talk about thanksgiving without eventually getting around to the subject of food and our mouths. Here David praises God for satisfying him, literally filling his mouth, with good, beneficial, pleasant, and right things. David is not talking about real food. He is speaking metaphorically of the good things of life. The Christian life is not one of misery and dullness. No! God brings satisfaction to the lives of His children in ways the world cannot match. This stands in stark contrast to the things of the world which can never truly and lastingly satisfy. Listen, Jesus can satisfy you with joy and peace and righteousness. These are a few of the good things of life! In fact Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). If you are not satisfied in life then perhaps you are hungering for the wrong things. Too many people hunger for power, position, prestige, plaudits, and pleasures. These things will never satisfy! Warren Wiersbe said, “There is no satisfaction in this world, but we have satisfaction in Christ who is the Bread of Life (John 6:33-40) and the Good Shepherd who leads us into green pastures (23:2). (from The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)
There are many believers here this morning who would testify that what the King of Beers could not do, the King of kings has! What a new relationship with a man could not do, a relationship with the man, Christ Jesus has! I once spoke to a lady who had been delivered from a life of drugs and alcohol. She had been clean and sober for several years. She said, “There is no higher high than Jesus!”
Notice the result of this satisfaction. “Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.” Psalms 103:5 (NKJV)
David is saying that even into old age God renews our strength so we can live for the Lord and soar into new heights of blessings from God! I can be assured of good things from God as long as I live! I love the senior adults of our church. They inspire me through their vigor and passion for the Lord. When many of their generation are content to retire and relax from the work of the Lord, they continue on in a strength that is not their own. And if you ask them what keeps them going, what keeps them young at heart, they will quickly tell you that it is the Lord! They have discovered the truth of the prophet’s words, “But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)
Conclusion: When I was sixteen years old I worked for a company named Famous Footwear. I was a salesman and a stockroom clerk. One of the first tasks I had to learn was taking the annual inventory. After the store closed for the day we would stay late, often into the early hours of the morning taking inventory. We had to account for everything we had on the sales floor and in the stock room. We inventoried everything from the shoes, to the socks, to the shoelaces displayed on the aisle end-caps. When I asked why this process was so important my manager replied, “Ricky, we have to stop once in a while to see exactly what we have.”
That reply has stayed with me all these years and I think it is a fitting summary of Thanksgiving. This is a time each of us needs to ask ourselves, “Have I taken inventory of my life lately? Have I stopped to count the blessings God has given me? Am I quick to complain and to forget God? Have I become bitter over the things I don’t have while neglecting to thank God for the things I do have?”
Psalm 103 has helped us to take an inventory of our lives. I pray that you have learned five of the greatest ways God has blessed you. Big Idea: I can bless the Lord when I remember how He has blessed me.
So this Thanksgiving you can declare with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul and do not forget all His benefits.” (Psalm 103:1-2)