By Pastor Glenn Pease
You will, no doubt, think me strange for saying it, but I am thankful for my ignorance. It gives me so much to be thankful for. My vast ocean of ignorance is my playground where I can fish for new insights, and I can dive for the sunken treasure of golden truths that lay hidden in God's Word. Paul said, "Now I know in part and I see through a glass darkly." That is why even when he was in prison he wrote, "Bring me the books and the parchments for I must be to my dying day growing in my knowing of what God has revealed." Paul was ever pressing on, for there is never an end to discovery in God's Word.
The continents have all been discovered. The oceans and seas have all been discovered. Even the planets have all been discovered. But there will never come a day in history when it will ever be said that the exploration of God's Word has ceased, for all truth and wisdom have been discovered. Because God is infinite, discovery is eternal, and that is one of things I am most grateful for, for I desire to make discoveries forever. This is not to say that this should also be your desire. The palmist David says in verse 5, "He satisfies my desires with good things." You desires may be altogether different. It may be torture for you to do research and seek to discover new insights. That is okay, for God gave the body many members with a variety of gifts and interests. What satisfies my desires may not do so for you. It is whatever renews our youth like the eagles that satisfies our particular desires.
In other words, you are most thankful to God for those things that make you feel young and alive again. Those things that fill you with energy and enthusiasm are the real high of thankfulness, and they are the things that renew your spirit. What do you anticipate doing when you are free to make the choice of how you use your time? That is a life renewing activity, and when you want to be filled with the spirit of thanksgiving think of that desire that is satisfied.
This will vary because all of us have many things in common, but we thank God for those specific desires that make you soar with the eagles. These are the ones you need to focus on to be filled with gratitude. This Psalm is loaded with examples that fit all of us at various times in our lives. In verse 2 he says to his soul, "Forget not all his benefits." We are not likely to forget those things that give us an eagle high, but there are many other things that we can forget if we do not give effort to remember them. The poet mixes in the trivial and the tremendous to recall to our memory that we have endless reasons to be thankful.
Thank you, God, for a hundred things-
For the flower that blooms, for the bird that sings,
For the sun that shines,
And the rain that drops,
For ice cream and raisins and lollipops.
Thank you God for the gift of time-
For the clocks that tick, and the bells that chime,
For days gone by,
And future cheers,
For seasons, and moments, for hours and years.
Thanks for the people who give life pizazz-
For folks who play sports, those who act and play jazz,
For friends and for families,
For folks of all races,
For hands that give help and for bright smiling faces.
Thanks for the planet you give as our home-
For the sky with its clouds, for the oceans' white foam,
For the creatures and critters,
The lakes, falls and fountains,
For hills and for valleys, for canyons and mountains.
Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son-
For the love Jesus shared, for the battle He won
Over death, for the promise,
That He would be near
To lead and to guide and to hold us so dear.
Thank you, God, for a hundred things-
For autumn and pumpkins, for dragonfly wings,
For Thanksgiving dinners,
For seasides and shore,
For a hundred things, and a thousand things more.
The poet has captured the idea of this Psalm by ranging all the way from the God centered level of grace, forgiveness and salvation to the more self-centered level of personal desires. The point is, the reasons for thanksgiving is endless. Variety is the spice of life because God is the God of variety, and He has given so many benefits that there is no way to become overly thankful. Whoever heard of someone say of another, "He is just too thankful, or she is a fanatic for being so grateful?"
When President George Washington proclaimed the first Thanksgiving in 1789 he stressed this very issue of the variety of God's blessing. This is what he proclaimed: "Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly implore His protection, aid and favors....Now, therefore, I do recommend assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these states to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, and for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us."
David begins this great praise Psalm by talking to himself. He is giving his inner man a pep talk on praising the Lord. It can be a good thing to talk to yourself, for the fact of life is that you are more likely to listen to what you tell yourself than to what others tell you. The most effective form of communication is that which goes from your mind to your body. Tell yourself to praise the Lord and you will do it. Tell yourself not to forget the Lord's benefits and you won't. You listen to yourself, and so we need to tell ourselves often to be thankful. If you quit telling yourself, you will become less and less thankful.
David starts this Psalm by telling himself to praise the Lord, and he ends it by telling himself to do it again. If we would tell ourselves as we begin the day to praise the Lord and not forget all His benefits, and if we would end the day by doing the same, we would be different people. We would be grateful people, and grateful people are the happiest people.
David deals with major negative issues in this song of praise. He stresses the forgiveness of all his sins, and the healing of all his diseases. Everyone of us is here only because God did not judge us for our sins. We have all sinned, but we are not dead because God has forgiven us in Christ. There is not one of us who is alive who could not have died with some disease we have had. If we had the time to compile the list, we would be able to reveal an amazing example of the providence of God right in this room. There are many disease that some of us have had that have killed others, but we are still alive. We have been redeemed from the pit of death by the grace of God. Everyday we live we can thank God for the gift of life.
Spiritual and physical healing are the two major themes of David's gratitude. In the midst of these gigantic reasons for being thankful he slips in a sort of generic reason in verse 5. He says, "He satisfies my desires with good things." The terms here-desires and good things-are very general. They cover all the varied things that each of us may be thankful for that mean little or nothing to others. Each of our unique and trivial reasons to be grateful are covered by the Hebrew word used here. The word is adi, and it refers to any desirable thing. It is most often used in the Bible to refer to ornaments. For example, in Jer. 2:32 we read, "Does a maiden forget her jewelry, a bride her wedding ornaments?" Ornaments is the same word David uses here for desires. A bride loves her accessories that beautify her and make her feel good about herself. They are the basis for a thankful heart, even though they may seem trivial to us.
This word refers 11 times to the ornaments of both men and women. My tie is an ornament. If I am a person that is growing in my awareness of things to be thankful for, I will be thankful for my tie. I confess I do not ever remember thanking God for any of my ties. I thank Lavonne for she is the one who buys most of them for me. But I do enjoy an attractive tie, and it does satisfy a desire. It is one of the positive good things in my life, but I have never done what David does here and include gratitude for my tie in the same prayer where I thank God for forgiveness, healing, and redemption.
David links the trivial with the tremendous, and he teaches us a lesson on thanksgiving that most of us have not yet learned very well. The lesson is this: The major things of life cannot sustain a spirit of thanksgiving without the aid of the minor things of life for which we are to be grateful. If all you can be thankful for is forgiveness, healing and salvation, you will grow cold in your thanksgiving because the emotions become weaker and weaker. You are not healed everyday, so your gratitude for your recovery of last year is weakened by time. Even your thanks for being saved grows weaker, and becomes a mere habit after thousands of times.
That is why we need the trivial to keep our thanksgiving fresh. What good thing in your life is currently making you grateful? Is it a new watch, a new video game, a new book, a different responsibility at work, or a new recipe? You can go on endlessly looking at all kinds of things and experiences that are adding some excitement to your emotions. Use these relatively trivial aspects of life as a basis for your daily songs of praise. God loves to be thanked for the little things. The poet put it this way:
Thank you God, for the little things
That often come our way,
The things we take for granted
But don't mention when we pray.
The unexpected courtesy, the thoughtful kindly deed.
A hand reached out to help us
In time of sudden need. Oh, make us more aware, dear God,
Of little daily graces
That come to us with "Sweet surprise"
From never-dreamed of places.
Burbank Gardens Newsletter.
The value of this focus on the little things of life is twofold. It enables us to do what David urges his soul to do in verse 2. It enables us to forget not all his benefits, which includes the trivial as well as the tremendous. This will make us more grateful people, and the little things will open our hearts anew to the major things of forgiveness, healing, and salvation.
The second thing it will do is open us to the awareness that God uses little things to accomplish big things. Little acts of kindness that are a trivial part of life can lead people into the kingdom of God. Get a person to be grateful for some trivial act like washing their windshield and this can lead them to one day praising God for forgiveness, healing and salvation. The road to heaven for many starts with the first step motivated by a trivial act of kindness.
Steve Sjogren in Conspiracy of Kindness tells of some of his youth group who volunteered to shine shoes free in downtown Cincinnati. A young man named Paul who was a scary looking guy with his black leather clothes and black boots was amazed that Christians would polish his black boots free just to demonstrate the love of God. He was a tough guy and a criminal, but this act of kindness touched the gratitude button in his mind, and he came to the church. Several months later he asked Jesus to enter his life and he became a Christian. He only got to the major league of thanking God for salvation because someone got him started in the minor league of thanking God for a free shoeshine.
The major mistake Christians have made in evangelism is thinking that people leap to the level of salvation in one huge effort. Studies show that most people get to the decision to trust Christ as Savior by a series of small steps that prepare them for the final step. The trivial becomes the foundation for the tremendous, and the more we are aware of this the more we will be thankful for the trivial, and the more we will practice trivial kindness.
Many years ago a skid row bum found a dollar bill, and he was excited about going to the bar and treating some friends to a drink. But on the way he passed a sporting goods store and saw a bat in the window. It brought back memories of his youth when he longed to play ball but had no bat. Seeing the price for the bat was just a dollar, he went in and bought it. He took it to the local orphanage. He put it by the door, rang the bell, and ran away. The keeper of the orphanage found the bat and decided to make it a Christmas present to an awkward gangly boy who loved to play ball but had no bat. That boy who benefited by the trivial act of kindness from a bum was none other than Babe Ruth.
The point is, you never know how big an impact will be made in another persons life by some little act of kindness. The key to getting any person to move in the direction of seeking God's forgiveness and redemption is by awakening in them some degree of thankfulness. When people are unthankful they are in a state of sinful darkness where they cannot even see their need for God's grace and forgiveness. The unthankful heart is among the most deadly of sins. In Rom. 1:21 Paul says that the whole world of lost men is under the wrath of God because, "For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him." In II Tim. 3:2 he describes the terrible times of the last days, and he says that people will be unthankful.
The deadly characteristic of lost people from the beginning of history to the end of it is an unthankful heart. The best way to get such people to move in God's direction is to give them something to be thankful for that somehow connected with the love of God. The whole idea behind the conspiracy of kindness is to do acts of kindness that compel people to recognize that God is love, and that they ought to be thankful to Him.
Pastor Sjogren tells of one Friday evening before Labor Day when the rush hour traffic was backed up for a mile, and the temperature was 95 degrees. He got ten people to quickly ice down 400 soft drinks and set up a sign. The sign said free drinks ahead. People were amazed when they came to that spot, and they said we are giving away free soft drinks to show people God's love in a practical way. People would ask why, and they would reply, "Just because God loves you." All 400 drinks were gone, and they had talked with 600 people. Soft drinks do not save anybody, but they can give people a spark of thankfulness for this trivial act of kindness, and this spark can lead them to seek for more evidence that God loves them. They can become open to hear the good news of the tremendous kindness of God in giving them a Savior.
The point is, if you can get people to be thankful for trifles, there is hope that they will move on in the direction that leads to the tremendous. Any act of kindness can lead to people becoming thankful for what God has given them in Christ. This same principle operates within the kingdom of God with God's own people. Get Christians to be thankful for all sorts of trivial benefits and they will be in a praise mood making them grateful for all the wonders of God's grace. John R. Rice, one of the greatest evangelists of the 20th century, wrote, "Our first five-room house didn't have carpet on the floor. We had linoleum. But when Gerri and I bought our second home it was carpeted. I had never lived in a home with carpet. So I would take off my shoes and walk barefoot. I thought, 'That's the most wonderful thing in the world: I don't deserve this.' I would lie down on that carpet, pull the loops up, run my finger down the loop and thank God for each loop in the carpet. I really felt gratitude in my heart for such luxury."
He illustrates that when the trivial leads you to praise God it is no longer trivial. The good things of life may not be the main things, but they are more like the fringe benefits, but being grateful for them will make you more grateful for the major gifts of God in Christ. A major cause for Christians losing their spirit of gratitude is their focus on big things they don't have rather than little things they do have. Check your focus and ask, are you feeling bad because of the bigger house you don't have rather than being grateful for the smaller one you do have? Are you down because of the bigger car you don't have than up about the one you do have? Apply this all areas of life and you discover that the primary cause for every thankless thought in your head is due to a focus on what is not rather than what is.
You need to talk to your soul like David does, and tell it not to forget all God's benefits. Tell it to focus on desires that are being met with good things. Dr. Criswell, who was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for several decades, tells of a family who had a very strange thing happen to them. Oil was found on the property of people all around them, but none was found on their land. Everyone was becoming rich but them. It was a trial, but they focused on what they had and not on what they didn't have. Years later they were still reaping the benefits of this focus.
All of their neighbors moved into the city and bought big homes, new cars, and sent their kids to the finest schools. They joined country clubs and changed their life style completely. One by one their marriages failed, their kids rebelled, and none of them kept going to church on a regular basis. They were able to turn a blessing into a curse. The father of the family that didn't get rich said to Dr. Criswell, "Pastor, God did us a big favor by not putting oil on our land. We are all still together and love each other like never before. We thank Him everyday for giving us what is important and protecting us from the things that aren't." Here was a grateful Christian family that could have become bitter and out of fellowship with God had they focused on the big things that didn't happen rather than the precious little things that did.
When you find yourself being down and not being grateful for life, talk to yourself like David does in this Psalm. Remind your soul not to forget what already is, for all of us have much to praise God for if we have this biblical thanksgiving focus.