Saturday, November 21, 2009

Give Thanks

On October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day was established when President George Washington asked Americans to unite in giving thanks to God for His care and provision.  However, as Christians, our thanks to God should not be confined to one day out of the year nor should we get so busy with holiday festives that we forget the true meaning of Thanksgiving.  If you need a reminder of why we should be thankful, look to Psalm 116.

We can be thankful that we serve God who created the entire universe and has everything within it in His sovereign control, and yet He has time to listen to us when we speak to Him (verse 1) and He answers our pleas (verse 2).  Yet, He is never too busy for us.  Instead, He actually waits for us to stop our busy schedule and talk to Him.  Why?  Because He cares for each of us and has a vested interest in our wellbeing.  "The reality of God's intervention in our lives serves as a constant source of encouragement." (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide - Fall 2009, p. 100)

We can be thankful that God has and He will continue to deliver His children from adversities. (verse 3-4)  During these times, God is our only hope for relief.  However, challenging times should not be the only times when we are praying to God and praising and thanking Him. 

Verse 5 reveals three character traits of our Heavenly Father, namely gracious, righteous and compassionate, all of which we should be thankful because we as His children have benefited greatly because of who He is.  First, it is by God's grace and not our merit that He sees us through stormy times and mends our hearts when they have been broken.  Second, everything that God does is right, and it is done at the right time.  Accordingly, we be reassured that God will never take an action that will harm us no matter what our circumstances may be, what we may feel or what others are telling us.  Third, God's compassion is demonstrated to us over and over again by the tender mercies that He extends to us of us.

We can also be thankful that God guards us (verse 6).  He knows that we are weak and that we need His protection.  Being helpless as we are does not mean we are without help!

Also, a source of thanksgiving is that God restores us mentally, physically and spiritually after the turmoil of life events has taken its toil on us (verse 7).  God has saved us from spiritual death and at times, for some of us, physical death; He restores our joy when trouble has diminished it, and He removes all snares and pitfalls from our path so we will not stumble spiritually (verse 8). 

We can also be thankful that we are so precious to God that He is not only concerned about our physical life on this earth, but also our physical death when we will leave this earth and join Him.  Regardless of our state, physically alive or physically dead, we are valuable to Him. 
We can learn much from the psalmist's responses to his circumstance and his subsequent deliverance by God and how we should respond in the similar siutations.  In response to God's faithfulness and motivated by his deep gratitude to the Lord, the psalmist was determined to live a way that would be pleasing to God (verse 9).  He had a servant's heart (verse 16), and he was aware that God would give him opportunites each day in which to serve and walk with the Lord.  If our eyes are on God, we will see the opportunities that He lays before us, and we will want to make the most of them for His glory. 

He was also willing to fulfill his vow of living a righteous life before others when they assemble for worship. (verse 14)  This shows that he was not ashamed of God by making his commitment known to others, and he was taking his vow seriously, as anyone should who makes a vow to God.  Also, those who witnessed his vow would be able to act as accountability partners to ensure that the psalmist did indeed fulfill his pledge to God.

The psalmist had endured much agony and grieve due to sickness and the hurtful comments of others, who were basically kicking him when we was down (verses 10 and 11).  However, he states that he never doubted God (verse 10).  This was possible because the psalmist lived by faith not by his feelings.  "Living in obedience to God as a response to His goodness serves as an excellent way to show our gratitude to Him." (Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide - Fall 2009, p. 103)  We can never repay God for all that He does for us. (verse 12) However, if we are grateful for the many blessings we receive, then our actions should reflect it by being obedient to Him. 

Another way that the psalmist was going to praise God was through worship.  In verse 13 the psalmist refers to "the cup of salvation".  The term "cup" was often used by the Hebrews to denote plenty or abundance, and the psalmist, as well as all of God's children, have benefited from the generosity of God.  Also, drink offerings were one form of worship during the time the psalimst lived (Leviticus 23:10-18; Numbers 15:3-5 and 28:4-8).  Also, the third cup of wine during the Passover meal is called "the cup of salvation".

The psalmist intent was to make a sacrifice at a public worship service to show the depth of gratitude. (verses 17 and 18)  Like the psalmist we should praise God before our brothers and sisters in Christ when we gather together (verse 19); this will provide others an opportunity to rejoice with us and will glorify God.  God has done so much for us that we should never keep it to ourselves.

Application Steps:
  • "Thank God  for being personally involved in your life.
  • Express your gratitude to God for giving your spiritual rest and security as you face tough times.
  • Reaffirm your willingness to live in ways that please Him.
  • Take time to worship Him and to share with others your testimony of gratitude."(Explore the Bible Adult Learner Guide - Fall 2009, p. 105)

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