Preached at the San Diego Rescue Mission on Wednesday morning, November 22, 2017.
Sometimes we don’t feel like being thankful. Sometimes life is so chaotic, so full of junk, so broken, that it seems there is nothing to be thankful for. Without God, life is meaningless. It will feel hopeless. God has given us hope in Christ. When we believe in Jesus, we become thankful. Thankfulness is ultimately our response to God.
I spent a lot of years not being thankful. I was angry. I was frustrated. I was depressed. I was not thankful. I spent much of my teenage years and early 20s feeling depressed. I was an artist, but everything I painted looked dark and dreary. So, I stopped doing art, because I got tired of looking at my depression. I then picked up the guitar, and started playing rock music. I was this Bronx kid that liked grunge music. I started writing songs, and the songs would all sound dark and depressed. My depression eventually led me to a few different therapists.
But, when I compare myself to others, I didn’t have much to be depressed about. I had two parents, when a lot of my friends did not. I lived in a home with parents that went to church. That was different then my friends living in the projects. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we had enough. My parents were not alcoholics or drug addicts. My dad worked full-time, and my mother stayed home. I got married young to a girl that loves me. We struggled, but we made it through. I have a lot to be thankful for! But when you are depressed, you can’t see that. When you are depressed, you can’t see that there are people out there that care for you, people that don’t want to see you hurt. You can’t see that there is a way out of the chaos.
How can we start to get a different perspective, a different way to see life? How do we get out of feeling stuck in our depression, and start to see the hope that we have in life? We all have things to be thankful for. You may not see it, you may not believe me, you may think, “I don’t have the things you had to be thankful for.” The Bible says that, in a life with God, we all have great things to be thankful for.
We will be in Psalm 100 today.
We should respond to the goodness of God.
The psalmist breaks this psalm into, “What we should do,” and, “Why we should do it.” The first part of this psalm states that we should respond to the goodness of God. We should respond to the goodness of God.
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing. Psalm 100:1-2
The psalmist says that we should respond to God’s goodness with joy. This psalm is emotional. The goodness of God overwhelms the psalmist. He experiences immense joy over the goodness of God. The goodness he is experiencing is expressed through joyful affirmations.
The psalmist starts with a call for joyful praise. The praise that he wants to express is overflowing out of him. It is a joyful shout to the Lord, and not just for him or his own people. Everyone, everywhere, should praise God. It is a joyful shout because God is good. When you know the goodness of God, it overwhelms you. You can’t help but tell the world about His goodness and mercy in your life.
We hear people say, “God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.” When we say that God is good, what do we mean? We mean that God in His character is perfect, and He freely allows His perfection to benefit us.
- God is good in His actions. “You are good, and do good” (Psalm 119:68). “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).
- God showed that He is good through His creation. “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
- God shows that He is good in His love. “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5).
- God shows that He is good in giving spiritual gifts. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
- God shows that He is good in His promises. “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses” (1 Kings 8:56).
- God shows that He is good in His commands. “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good” (Romans 7:12).
When my wife was pregnant, I saw her stomach grow. I could feel the movements and kicks of the baby through touching her stomach, but I still could not see the baby. I knew in my mind that something was in there. But it was at the hospital, when I first saw my son, that the reality of my son affected me. As I held my son, I was affected and thought, “Man, this boy is now counting on me. Wow, is this kid in trouble!” The birth of my first-born child deeply affected me. God’s goodness should affect us in that way. When we see the good things that God starts to do in our life, how He is healing us from our addiction, our negative thinking, how He is changes us from hateful people to loving people, that should move us, and affect us. We should shout praise to God for His goodness.
Not only should we joyfully proclaim the Lord’s goodness, but His goodness should also move us to want to be obedient and serve Him. Now, I was thinking about this the other day. What does God get from us serving Him? What could we possible give Him that He does not have? Nothing. We don’t serve God because He needs something from us. We serve God because it fulfills His design in our lives. God has designed us for His perfect work.
Suppose you are the creator of a pencil. You’ve created this pencil, and you know what you designed it to do. But the pencil has its own ideas. The pencil decides that being sharpened and writing or drawing won’t work for him. Instead, the pencil decides it wants to be a dancer.
Well, it tries to dance, but can’t do that very well, since it doesn’t have any feet to move. The pencil is just getting frustrated and miserable. So, it thinks, “Well, let me try cooking.” It tries, but it doesn’t have any arms or hands. It can’t cut any food, or hold a pan, or work a stove. The pencil just gets angry. Eventually, the pencil gives up. It turns back to you, the Pencil Creator, and says, “I give up. Everything I try to do gets ruined. Help me!” The pencil allows itself to be picked up, to be sharpened, and to be used. It starts being used by the Creator to create a drawing. The pencil starts feeling excited, and becomes joyful. The sharpening was tough, but it was good. The drawing is exciting! It sees a beautiful drawing coming together through the work of the Creator.
When you trust the Lord and serve Him, He starts to use you the way you were designed to be used. He will use you in your family, in this program, in your work therapy or work site, the way you were meant to be used. It will be exciting!
We should respond to the goodness of God.
We should respond to God because He is our Creator.
The second point is that we should respond to God because He is our Creator. We should respond to God because He is our Creator.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3
We respond to God because He is the reason that we exist. Like the story of the pencil, we need to know where we come from to know what we should be do with the experience we call “life.”
Some of us like the Rescue Mission because it gives us structure. We recognize structure as a good thing. We realize that we need certain boundaries in place, a certain way of keeping things in control so we can stay on the right track.
Well, there is a structure in the universe. God is the Creator of all reality, so He is the boundary marker. We need to stay within the boundaries that He has set up for us. We know that His boundaries are good, and perfect, because He designed them for our success. We bump up against His boundaries all the time, and when we go past them, that’s when chaos happens. We need to stay within His boundaries. That begins by knowing God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The simple fact that God created us is a challenge for some. It shouldn’t be, but people are challenged. I think people, at deep down, must know that there is a God, but they challenge it because if they do believe in God, then they have to be accountable to Him. So, it’s easier for them to pretend God does not exist. Yet, the evidence for the existence of God is overwhelming. Just the fact that we wake up in the morning, breathe, exist, have blood pumping in our veins, can contemplate on things like the meaning of life, that our bodies and brains are so perfectly designed to sustain us, in a world that has all we need to exist and grow… it’s all amazing. Every day is a miracle! Think about it: Right now, we are standing on a ball that is circling a huge ball of fire, and we are being perfectly held down by just the right amount of gravity, but yet we just take it all for granted.
And then there is the existence of Jesus. That Jesus existed in real history, real time and space, that He lived, died, and rose again from the dead, all things that are some of the most attested to facts in history, point to a God that exists, pointing His finger to Christ. The evidence for the existence of God is overwhelming.
But, too often we act like reality has something to do with us. We have done nothing to create anything. Everything we create came from something. All our most amazing creations are made from things that existed already. It takes physical things to make a car, or a house, or a computer. We have never created something out of nothing. We don’t have the power to make a rabbit appear out of thin air. We need something to create something. Only God creates out of nothing.
God continues to create life out of nothing. Our lives were spiritually dead. There was no life in us. But God, who is rich in mercy, gave us life through faith in Christ. He created a new life inside of us where there was none. He made us a new creation. The old man has gone, and a new man created in Christ now lives in all who have put their faith in Him.
“We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” God is our provider, giving us all that we need to live. We should be thankful because of who He is, our Creator and our Provider.
We should respond to the goodness of God. We should respond to God because He is our Creator.
We should respond to the presence of God.
Third, we should respond to the presence of God. We should respond to the presence of God.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. Psalm 100:4
The knowledge of knowing about God, our Creator, moves us into the reality of His presence. God is present, and real, because He exists all around us. He has shaped together all creation, and created it for His purpose. God is omnipresent, meaning that He transcends the limitations of space, and is present in all places always. David wrote, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:7–10). The presence of God is real.
Yet, the Bible says that when we put our faith in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, and gives us the power to live the Christian life. God exists in Christians in a special way, in a way that He doesn’t exist in others. The presence of God in the Christian life is powerful, it is radical, it is magnificent, and it is life-changing. When you put your faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit comes into your life in a new and powerful way, and you are in awe. All you are left with is to say, “Thank you!”
“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” What is thanksgiving? What does it mean to be thankful? Being thankful to God is presenting a sacrifice to Him. It is presenting the best that we have. It is from your spirit, saying, “This is the best that I can give you, from the depth of my soul. My life is yours, I am so thankful God, take all that I have because life is better with You.”
The Israelites would offer a thank sacrifice to God. “And when you offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the LORD, offer it of your own free will” (Leviticus 22:29). We don’t offer thanksgiving out of compulsion, or because we must. Christ has given us a freedom in Him, freedom from our chaotic life of sin and rebellion against God, freedom from the chaos of living without God. We use that freedom to turn to God, and say, “Thank you, Lord! Thank you!” We thank God because we want to. We love life in Christ, and we want to live in Him always.
We should respond to the goodness of God. We should respond to God because He is our Creator. We should respond to the presence of God.
We should respond with thankfulness because of God’s character.
Fourth, we should respond with thankfulness because of God’s character. We should respond with thankfulness because of who God is, His character.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:5
The psalmist has told us what we should do, and why we should do it. We should be joyful and glad about God because He is our Creator. We should also be thankful and praise God because of His character. He highlights three things about God’s character that we should be thankful for: The Lord is good, the Lord is merciful, and the Lord will never change.
We have talked about the goodness of God. God has shown His goodness to us in many ways, and we should be thankful to Him. God ultimately showed His goodness to us in Christ. Jesus was perfect in every way. He healed the sick, cast out demons, made the blind to see, and the lame to walk. He showed that everything God does is good. We should be thankful for the goodness of God.
We should also be thankful for His mercy. God’s mercy has to do with His love and compassion. God’s mercy is a direct result of His love. Since He loved us so much, He sent His Son to die in our place, showing us mercy. Mercy says that, even though you have messed up, you have made mistakes and don’t deserve it, even so, I love you; in fact, I will take on your punishment because I love you so much.
Some of us didn’t have great fathers. Mercy is the father that some of us wish we had. You were making mistakes that was hurting your family. You left home, or maybe you got kicked out, because you were causing too much drama in the house. Your addiction created chaos. Maybe you stole from your parents, or other family members, or did things to hurt people to get money. You robbed people, you stole, you cheated, you lied, you did all kinds of things to keep feeding your bad choices. Mercy is that father sitting there, knowing every bad thing you’ve ever done, yet still sitting waiting for you to return home. The Bible says that your Father in heaven is merciful. He is waiting for you to come home to Him, and will welcome you home with open arms.
The best part? We know God is love. We know He is merciful. The Bible says that we can be assured, that God will never change. God will never change. “For the Lord is good, His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.” We can trust in God’s love and in His mercy, because it will never fail us. It will never change. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Isn’t that something to be thankful for?
We should respond to the goodness of God. We should respond to God because He is our Creator. We should respond to the real presence of God. We should respond with thankfulness because of the goodness of God. He is good, and merciful. His love will never change.
When we realize the many miracles that God has done in our life, and continues to do, we become thankful. Every day that we are alive is a miracle.
God wants us to know Him. When we know God, we will know how good knowing Him is. We need to know God. Knowing God begins by putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. When we put our faith in Jesus, He will direct our path. God is loving, He is merciful, and He will never change.
Thankfulness is ultimately our response to God. It is the response that we give back to Him, because of the perfect love He has given to us. May we all be thankful for the good that God has done for us, today and forever. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!