According to an old story, St. Francis of Assisi longed to see his brothers. They agreed to meet in a remote monastery in the Umbrian mountains of central Italy. After arriving and enjoying their reunion, each reported what he had experienced on the road.
One Franciscan brother who had traveled on muleback said: “God protected me in a miraculous way. When I was crossing a narrow bridge over a deep mountain gorge, the mule jumped. I fell and narrowly escaped falling over the wall of the bridge into the gorge. God by his love saved my life.”
A second brother said: “I had to cross a river and I slipped and fell. The waters carried me down the river. But God in his grace provided a tree which had fallen across the river. I could grasp a branch of that tree and pull myself ashore, thanks to God’s miraculous mercy.”
Then St. Francis said: “Let us thank God for his wonderful works. I did experience the greatest miracle of all on my way. I had the smoothest, most pleasant, completely uneventful trip.”
How often do we take for granted the small blessings that God bestows upon us and neglect to give him proper credit, praise, and thanksgiving for these blessings? When was the last time that you thanked God for the air you breathe, the ability to talk, or showing his grace by giving you another day on this earth? I am guilty of this neglect. God has blessed us abundantly and I believe it is important to choose to live our lives with an attitude of gratitude.
We are continuing in our series titled Respectable Sins. The sermon topics are based around sins that many would not consider the “BIG” sins or even the ones that even though we may feel as though yes, they are sins but not really ones that are all that bad. God certainly will turn a blind eye to these sins… right? Two weeks ago, Cooper Wyatt spoke about Anxiety, last week Harry talked about loyalty and disloyalty, and today I want to talk about unthankfulness. However, I am approaching today’s topic a little differently, instead of looking at what the sin of unthankfulness looks like, I desire to talk more about what true thankfulness looks like.
A few years ago, when we lived in Spring Valley, Wisconsin, we had a wall in our house that was painted with black chalkboard paint and often each family member would write something they thankful for every day. This was a great way to reflect on the big and small blessings God gave to us regularly. It helped me keep in perspective that my family and I have so much to be thankful for. I loved reading what my wife and kids were thankful for (sometimes it was silly like “I am thankful for pickles” or other times it was thanking God for providing for us during a particularly difficult time in life. I also I loved taking the time to reflect on the things that I am thankful for as well. Giving thanks is something that Christians should do often because we have a God who has blessed us abundantly.
Psalm 138 (original intent)
The Psalms are filled with poems and prayers of praise and thanksgiving to God. Our text for today is Psalm 138 and it is a Psalm of David that it gives us a glimpse of the heart of a man who had dedicated his life to living in continual praise and thanksgiving to God. Psalm 138 is broken down into three divisions:
Vs 1a: “I will give you thanks with my whole heart” – David publicly and unreservedly proclaims that he gives God thanks with his whole heart.
Whole heart – inner part, inner man, mind, will soul… his whole being. David is not only giving ordinary or mundane gratitude; he is not just giving lip service (empty or vain words) to God. According to John Calvin, David’s heart is, “one that is sincere and not double.” It is a genuine heartfelt thankfulness.
Vs 1b: “before the gods” – These gods refer to mythological “lesser gods” in a pantheon. However, In the OT, this designation either refers to heavenly servant beings (Angels) or judges and governors appointed by God as political leaders. This is not an acknowledgment that other gods exist, it is a declaration that David makes saying he will praise His God amid those who claim other gods. David’s God is the one true God, and He will be worshiped above all things.
Vs. 2b: “I give thanks for…” – Three things David gives thanks to God for.
Above all God “exalts” or lifts on high his name (who He is) and his word (His promises). It is important for God to put above all else His reputation and His promises since the two go hand in hand. The meaning seems to be that He has not only done what He said He would do but He has done much more. More than we can ever imagine.
Vs. 3: “On the day I called you answered…” – David praises God for answered prayer. The result of answered prayer is his faith and spirit were strengthened in God. Aren’t we all encouraged or strengthened in faith when we experience an answer to prayer? When what we have prayed for comes to pass it certainly builds our faith and encourages us.
Vs 4 – 5: One day the kings of the earth and all the nations will join in singing David’s song of thanksgiving. (Psalm 22:27 – 28)
Vs 6: “For the Lord is high, he regards the low…” These are words of comfort and encouragement to David and should be for us as well. As great, magnificent, awesome, amazing, and awe-inspiring God still cares for the common person. He is a God who is for the broken, humiliated, lowly, and repentant.
We see this in Psalm 51 where David writes, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broke and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Those who are humble and know their place before the Almighty God; He will remain close to and give regard to.
Vs 7 – 8: “Though I walk in the midst of trouble…” David speaks of God’s protective hand in preserving him in times of tribulation, danger, and trouble. Even though his life is endangered by his enemies God has remained faithful in providing protection for him with his “right hand of power” – God’s almighty and divine power in physical and spiritual salvation. It is only God who saves.
Psalm 138 (For us today)
When I reflect on my life and the blessings, protection and promises God has given me I can do nothing but respond with the same amount of gratitude and praise towards God as David did. When I think back to when the Holy Spirit called me from the self-centered sin infested life I was living, and He invited to become an adopted son of the Almighty God how can I not thank God with my whole being? A casual “thanks” is not enough to express my heartfelt gratitude towards the God who reached down and calls me his child. It is not enough for me to give him lip service. I respond to God by giving him my whole being. I devote my life to serving Him as an act of thanksgiving and gratitude.
So, if God has been faithful even when we have not what should our response to Him be? Here are three ways we can show our gratitude and thankfulness for His faithfulness that are taken from this Psalm
God is faithful. He has not failed me in any way in my life. Sure, there were times when things did not go the way I had planned or hoped; but He has been faithful in fulfilling His purpose in my life. As followers of Christ, I believe we have the responsibility and pleasure of living lives of gratitude and humility. We can never say, “Thank you” to God enough and we can never be too dependent on Him. The things God has done for us are amazing and what He has in store for you and this church is just as astonishing; so, give him thanks for what He has done AND for what He is going to do. We serve a mighty God who can and will do more than we can ever imagine.
 Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed., p. 738). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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