I believe as Christians living in the United States, we have so very much to be grateful for, more things than we can even fathom. I'm reminded of the wealthy Texan who was in the habit of giving his father unique gifts every father's day. One year it was hang-gliding lessons. The year before it was the entire record collection of Slim Whitman's Hits, autographed by the singer himself. But this past year he had outdone himself. He purchased a rare kind of South American bird, called the translator. This bird could speak five languages and sing "Yellow Rose of Texas" in any key while standing on one foot. The talented bird cost $10,000, but the felt it was worth every penny. This would be the Father's Day gift his dad would never forget.
A week after Father's Day he called his father. "Dad, how did you like the bird?" His father responded, "It was delicious."
We have so much that sometimes we can't see the great value of all God has given us. That is ingratitude.
Francis Schaeffer once said, "The beginning of man's rebellion against God was, and is, the lack of a thankful heart."
Nowhere is that sentiment more eloquently expressed than in W. E. Henley's famous poem entitled "Invictus," which in Latin means "unconquered." It is a testimony to the unconquerable human spirit. It's imagery is that of a person standing at the gates of hell, unafraid because he is sufficient unto himself. You've likely heard the final stanza, which says
"It matters not how strait the gate,How charged with punishments the scroll,I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul."
How well this summarizes the sentiments of our day. It is an attitude that sees ones self as the source of strength, happiness, and prosperity. We, as Christians, are influenced by this sentiment and live with the ever-present danger of thinking that we are what we are, or have what we have, solely because of what we have done. It is an attitude that runs against scriptural teaching and is inconsistent with the Spirit-filled life.
Those of us who know Jesus, who have been born again, washed in His blood and given the gift of eternal life, should never give in to this sentiment. We have so much for which to be grateful. We have the gospel - the good news - and the privilege of sharing it with the rest of the world.
Here in Psalm 100 we are given an admonition to thank the Lord for who He is and what He has done. We are told how to thank Him, and when and where to thank Him.
Let's take a look at the passage and then draw some practical applications we can put into practice in our own lives. There are five verses, so we'll examine five points.
1. He is worthy of praise
"Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth (v. 1, HCSB)"
The KJV says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands."
Kaufmann Kohler states in the Jewish Encyclopedia that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew. In the Old Testament 13 Hebrew roots, found in 27 different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship.
Hebrew religious ritual demonstrates God as the source of joy. In contrast to the rituals of other faiths of the East, Israelite worship was essentially a joyous proclamation and celebration. The good Israelite regarded the act of thanking God as the supreme joy of his life. Pure joy is joy in God as both its source and object. The psalmist says, "You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures" (Ps 16:11).
We are to express our gratitude to the Lord in an audible and public manner. Make a joyful noise
The word "noise" means to break forth with, or to burst. It sends the imagery of someone who is so full of an emotion that they are unable of containing themselves.
I've been to professional sporting events and I've seen the emotion people express when someone makes a good play. They get excited. They get enthused. Do you know the history of the word "enthused?" It comes to us from a Greek word that means to be possessed by God. If that's the case, there are very few people in Churches today possessed by God because they show such little enthusiasm.
Look at verse 2.
2. He is worthy of service
"Serve the Lord with gladness come before Him (His face) with joyful songs."
Service to the Lord implies three things:
Humility - you can't serve someone unless you have a humble attitude.
Fidelity - service implies faithfulness, otherwise it would not be service but betrayal.
Activity - you can't serve someone if you don't do anything.
Many people think that service to God is confined to those in vocational ministry, but scripture tells us that all who know Him as Lord and Savior are ministers or servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember, God is more concerned with what we are than what we do because what we are will determine what we do. When God was giving the Law to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 28:47, He told them they would be cursed if they did not serve the Lord with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things.
So many people who claim to know Jesus as Lord and Savior live lives devoid of joy or gladness. That's because they have focused on the wrong things. Some serve Him out of greed. This person does what they do for the Lord or His church only for what they can get in return.
A man who is greedy is destined to a life of unhappiness. Why? Because physical things, earthly position, or human accomplishments cannot meet spiritual needs. A person whose treasure is on earthly things has some deep spiritual needs, but will never have them met as long as his focus is on the material. So, the more he seeks happiness, the further away from it he is driven. It's like drinking salt water. The more you drink the thirstier you become.
Others serve the Lord with a grudge. This attitude asks, "Why do I have to do this for God? Haven't I done enough already?" These folks honesty think they have paid their debt to God and that somehow God owes them something. They are blind to the blessings of God and to how undeserving they are.
I like how John Maxwell puts it: "The instant we are born, we already owe someone for nine months of room and board . . . and we never really pay that back."
We can never do enough to say thanks to our Lord.
While some serve out of greed and others with a grudge, others see service to our Lord as a grind.
These people have lost the Joy of their salvation. Just like our marriage, our relationship to the Lord does not have to become a grind, lacking passion and zeal. It only gets that way because we allow it to.
We are not to serve the Lord out of Greed, with a grudge or as a grind. We are to serve with gladness.
It is easy to do this if we remember what verse three tells us.
3. He alone is God
"Acknowledge that Yahweh is God."
No one else deserves our service like He does. He is God. He must be first in our lives. Before our career, before our family, before our children, before our wife, before our own desires, before everything. God must be first. Here is our motivation for service with gladness. This is how we can live with an attitude of gratitude, because the Lord we serve is God.
He made us and we are His. This is a stinging rebuttal to the thought that we may give ourselves credit for the blessings that fill our lives. He made us and He owns us, and when we sold ourselves out to sin He bought us back with the blood of His precious Son Jesus.
We have no claim, no right to our own lives. They belong to Him.
We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. We are His representatives here on earth. As His sheep He leads us, provides for us, guides us, comforts us, protects us, and prospers us. He alone is the source of all our blessings.
An ancient Chinese proverb says, "When you drink from the stream, remember the spring." If we drink from the stream of His goodness we must remember that He is the fount of every blessing.
Now, look with me at verse 4.
4. He is worthy of our praise
"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name."
The Israelites could only experience the presence of God through the Ark of the Covenant. That's where God resided. But now, because of Jesus, He lives inside of all who will place their trust in Him for forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation. So for the New Testament Christian, we are always in the presence of God. We cannot escape His presence. So, our attitude should always be one of thanksgiving, and one of praise. We are to be thankful and bless His Name.
"Praise/bless" - normally the blessing is transferred from the greater to the lesser. Thus throughout the Old Testament you find people seeking God's blessing. You recall the story of Isaac's son, Jacob, who wrestled with the angel of God till dawn, in Genesis 32. He tells the angel that he won't let go of him until he blesses Jacob. This was a blessing that would bestow abundant and effective life upon the recipient. Thus, it was given from the greater to the lesser. It was normally a blessing for the future.
But the ancient Hebrew understood one thing about this blessing for abundant or effective living: It could only come from God. So, when the blessing is being directed toward God it it not with a view of bestowing it but of acknowledging that He alone could grant it. It became a description, an expression of thanksgiving, a recognition that He was the sole source of a rich and meaningful life. A person could not be separated from their name. That's why we are to bless the Name of the Lord.
When the Scripture tells us to bless the Lord it is telling us that we must profess, acknowledge, accredit, recognize, and confess with our words and deeds that God alone is the source of all true happiness and blessings in life. When we do this we have no choice but to give thanks. That's why it is impossible to be in right relationship with God and be void of this attitude of gratitude. This is the natural result of a proper understanding of who God is and what He has done for us. If you are living without this gratitude you are living with the deception that you or someone else is responsible for the good things in your life. Gratitude displayed is the evidence of a proper understanding of who God is.
If you want to know why He is worthy of our praise, look at verse 5.
5. God is good
"For the Lord is good, and His love is eternal. His faithfulness endures through all generations."
Here's why we are to give praise to God. Here we are told why we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and to serve Him with gladness. He is good. He has mercy on us. His truth is without end.
There is no one else about whom these things can be said.
Allow me to make three simple suggestions that I think will help you gain and maintain an attitude of gratitude in your life.
A. Take note
This means to Live with awareness. As Americans, we are so often tempted to see nothing but our own reality. It takes little more than a brief trip to the Mexican border to be reminded of the great blessings we as a nation and as individuals have received.
It has been calculated that if you were to reduce the world's population to a city of 1,000 inhabitants, 46 of those people would be Americans and the other 954 would represent the rest of the world's population. Those 46 Americans would receive half of the income of the city, and the other one-half would be divided among the remaining 954 people. The 46 Americans would have a life expectancy of 75 years, while the other 954 would live less than 40 years. The Americans would have 15 times as many possessions per person as all the rest of the people. While the Americans would receive more than their daily food requirements, 800 wouldn't have what we call a balanced meal. The dogs and cats of the American people today have a better diet than most people around the world. We have a great deal to be thankful for.
Take note. Become aware. Open your eyes to the world around you. It will shock you, but it will also cause you to be grateful.
2. Take inventory
. . . of your blessings. I like the old song, "Count your Many Blessings." When upon life's billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all is lost, count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Have you stopped to count the blessings in your life lately? Many of us have a tendency to focus on what's wrong, which gives us a distorted picture of life. Barry Siegel pointed this out in one of his columns in the Los Angeles Times. Siegel says
Consider what some scientists predict.
If everyone keeps stacking National Geographics in garages and attics instead of throwing them away, the magazines' weight will sink the continent 100 feet sometime soon and we will all be inundated by the oceans.
If the number of microscope specimen slides submitted to one St. Louis hospital lab continues to increase at its current rate, that metropolis will be buried under three feet of glass by the year 2224.
If beachgoers keep returning home with as much sand clinging to them as they do now, 80 percent of the country's coastline will disappear in 10 years.
If we focus on the wrong things we will never see the good things. Take inventory of the blessings and stop focusing on the things that could go wrong.
3. Take action
Turn your attitude of gratitude into an action of appreciation. Do something good for someone else.
God has given you plenty, so share it. God didn't give it to you to solely for your own benefit. He placed it in your hands to see what kind of servant you will be. He gave you all you have so you can be His person, His ambassador, so you can do with it the same thing He would do. Jesus says when we act in kindness, blessing others with even as much as a cup of cold water, it is as though we have done it unto Him.
And do it while you are here to see the good it will do.
A rich man once asked his friend, "Why am I criticized for being miserly? Everyone knows I will leave everything to charity when I die."
"Well," said the friend, "let me tell you about the pig who lamented to the cow one day about how unpopular he was. 'People are always talking about your gentleness and your kind eyes,' said the pig. 'Sure you give milk and cream, but I give more. I give bacon and ham. They even pickle my feet! Still, nobody likes me. Why is this?' The cow thought for a moment and replied, 'Maybe it's because I give while I'm still living.'"
Some of you have more money than you will ever need. And you can't take it with you. Find some good to do and do it. Show your appreciation to God by how you serve Him with what He has given you.
On April 30, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln read his Proclamation for a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer. This is part of what he said.
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, the many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
How about you? Does your life presently demonstrate a sense of gratitude to God? When others see you, are they aware that your live your life for Someone else to whom you owe a great debt? Is there joy in your life? Does it show? How have you demonstrated your gratitude to Christ lately?