Psalms 100 is one of the favorite Psalms. It’s easy to see why. It is full of energy and praise, calling God’s people to celebrate His goodness and love by shouting joyfully to Him, serving Him, coming before Him joyful singing and knowing Him as our God, our Creator, our Shepherd.
Verse four has an echo of thanks and praise: Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Then the second line repeats: give thanks to Him and praise His name!
The final verse explains why. Why should God’s people celebrate with such positive expressions of wonder? What’s the motivation? Simply put, it is God’s awesome, eternal goodness, His love and His faithfulness!
God, who is almighty and in control of the universe is good!
God, whose Spirit fills all space and time is love!
God, who knows everything there is to know about us is faithful!
The word for God’s love is often translated mercy or loving kindness.
The word for God’s faithfulness can be translated truth or stability.
As we continue our series on prayer, today we look at the concept of thankfulness to God.
At Memorial Hospital there’s a plaque on one of the elevator doors that asks: Have you said “Thank-you” to God today? What a refreshing bit of thought at a place of sickness, injury and hopefully, healing! Captain Kangaroo used to encourage kids to use these two magic words: “Please” and “Thank-you.”
Ungratefulness is one of the ugly sins we see in people. It’s a lot worse than you may think. Romans 1:18f is where Paul begins to show what stirs the wrath of God. Turn there with me and let’s let God’s word teach us. Verses 18-24a
What happens to those who know God, but don’t glorify Him? That would be praise and submission. Or give thanks to Him? That would be thanksgiving.
Notice what happens to one who refuses to give thanks to God. It doesn’t turn out well at all!
What happens to their thinking? What happens to their hearts? They may claim to be wise, but what does God’s word call them? He says that they exchange the glory of the immortal God for what?
Last week we talked about how God created us for the praise of His glory and how God has chosen us as His people, made us a royal priesthood, set us apart as a Holy People, a people who are His so that we would declare the glory of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light!
When we recognize the glory of God, we praise Him and when we realize all He has done, we pour out thanks to Him. Those who resist these things are unprepared to enter His presence. They find themselves under God’s wrath instead of God’s blessing.
Now it’s true that there are times in our lives that we cry out to God in our pain and sorrow. There are times when thanksgiving is not the first thing on our lips in prayer. Let me make it clear that God knows our hearts and He understands our struggles. God is not hostile toward those who are seeking His kingdom in the midst of trials. God is not angry at His children when we are hurting or in desperate need and come to Him begging for relief.
But for most of us sitting here today, we have much more to be thankful for than to complain about, do we not? Thankfulness is an attitude of the heart. It is not based solely on our circumstances.
Corry Ten Boone tells of being in a German concentration camp where she and her sister were imprisoned. They had a copy of the New Testament with them that Cory had managed to smuggle in and each evening they would gather with a group of believers to hear God’s word, pray and encourage one another in their faith in Christ. One night Cory’s sister read 1 Thessalonians 5 where it says: Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. What a challenging word to this poor circle of abused women living in this pit of horror. One of the women commented, “Well, I’ll never be thankful for these lice!” Then another one said, “Did you know, that’s why the guards won’t bother us?” It was the lice that actually protected them from further abuses. Then Cory whispered a prayer, “Thank-you God.”
We need to exercise our thankful muscles and grow stronger in thanksgiving.
When I think of what I am most thankful for, I think of the cross of Christ, where Jesus gave His life and died so we could live. I’m not thankful for the pain or suffering He had to endure, but I am thankful He endured it. I’m not thankful for the shame and mockery He faced, but I am thankful He was willing to face it.
If we look with faith, we can find reasons for thanksgiving in our times of trial too. Job did. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job could only utter those words because he had developed his praise and thanksgiving muscles to become strong in them.
Prayer of thanks and thanksgiving is a place of exercise of these attitudes, where we can come before God in the joy of His goodness, love and faithfulness and celebrate who He is and become more like Him in the process.