The Necessity of Being Thankful

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It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High… (Psalm 92:1 AV)

Like the psalmist wrote, it really is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord! For all kinds of reasons, being thankful to God is a vitally important attitude for all Christians to adopt. Being thankful doesn’t come naturally; it takes work to maintain a thankful attitude. In a world that always disappoints, being thankful can be difficult sometimes. That’s why it’s a good idea to always remember what God has done for you in the past and give Him thanks in the present. David did that all the time in his psalms: he recalled the good days of yesterday during the hard days of today. If you can’t be thankful for today, you can be thankful for yesterday. And you can be thankful for tomorrow, where God’s promises wait.

Psalm 32 – The blessing of forgiveness

Psalm 32 is a psalm of thanksgiving, but it is also one of seven penitential psalms. It holds a special significance in the life of the Christian and of the church because it is driven by God’s forgiveness of sin. David sinned and experienced God’s forgiveness firsthand, as we all have. In a sense, every believer could write Psalm 32. Dave Hunt observed –

Our love for God and our appreciation of His love and forgiveness will be in proportion to the recognition of our sin and unworthiness.

Mr Hunt is correct, for if we take our sin lightly, we will take God’s forgiveness lightly.

Blessed is the one whose lawless acts are forgiven. His sins have been taken away. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord never counts against him. He doesn’t want to cheat anyone. (Psalm 32:1, 2 NIrV)

This psalm of thanksgiving begins on the highest note possible. One who has been forgiven of his sin is “blessed.” The Hebrew word could be translated, “happy.” Indeed, what a wonderful feeling to know your sins have been forgiven and your guilt taken away.

Paul alluded to these two verses in Romans 4 when he wrote about the imputation of sin –

King David says the same thing. He tells us how blessed some people are. God makes those people right with himself. But they don’t have to do anything in return. David says, “Blessed are those whose lawless acts are forgiven. Blessed are those whose sins are taken away. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord never counts against him.” (Romans 4:6 – 8 NIrV)

The great doctrine of imputation is a precious yet misunderstood one. Verse 2 isn’t implying that there are some people who haven’t sinned or that some sinners can’t be forgiven. Every human being is a sinner, and God is able to forgive the sins of any sinner, and when those sins are forgiven, they are never brought up again. Only a person who understands what God has done can experience true and lasting happiness. Because David was living during the Old Testament dispensation, his understanding of God’s plan of salvation was incomplete, but one thing he did understand was this one big truth: God must forgive the sinner’s sin; He must remove the sin from the sinner. Nobody can be right with God until his sins are taken away. That is something only God can do for the sinner. This is cause to be thankful!

Then I admitted my sin to you. I didn’t cover up the wrong I had done. I said, “I will admit my lawless acts to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5 NIrV)

Here’s another truth David understood: the necessity of confession. How can God forgive your sins if you don’t think you need to be forgiven? Good question! David found out that the more he hid his sins and the more he kept what he had done to himself, the more he suffered. That suffering helped him understand that only confessing those sins would set him free. The agony of unconfessed sin in unbearable and it robs the believer of his joy and peace, and as David found out, health.

Let everyone who is godly pray to you while they can still look to you. When troubles come like a flood, they certainly won’t reach those who are godly. (Psalm 32:6 NIrV)

Remember, God can forgive anyone. That being true, it follows that anyone can be a godly person. Anyone can pray. As far as the believer is concerned, while any kind of trouble may threaten him, it won’t harm him. Why? Because God is the hiding place for the believer. God not only forgives the sin, but He offers protection and preservation.

You are my hiding place. You will keep me safe from trouble. (Psalm 32:7a NIrV)

As was his custom, David offered a bit of instruction to those who would be reading this psalm. Some think it is the Lord who is speaking in verses 8 – 9, but it’s probably David. Forgiveness and faith must lead to obedience and righteous living. The “believing side” of the gospel must be followed by the “behaving side.” Those who have experienced such great forgiveness; those who have been blessed beyond belief; those who are full of joy because of what the Lord has done for them want to live right. They don’t need to be forced to live right.

Don’t be like the horse or the mule. They can’t understand anything. They have to be controlled by bits and bridles. If they aren’t, they won’t come to you. (Psalm 32:9 NIrV)

That’s right! True believers should not behave like animals with no understanding and no free will. We who have been forgiven of so much should want to live lives pleasing to God solely because of what He has done for us. There is a dignity in choosing to serve the Lord. True believers are not robots; they are not animals. True believers are the freest people on earth; they are the happiest people on earth; and they are the most positive people on earth not only because of what God has done for them, but because of what He is doing for them:

... the Lord’s faithful love is all around those who trust in him. (Psalm 32:10b NIrV)

Psalm 116 – The blessing of God’s compassion

Another psalm of thanksgiving is Psalm 116. In the Greek and Latin Bibles, this psalm is actually two psalms, with the first one ending with verse 9. Both halves, however, tell the story of God’s compassion and faithfulness during a time of sickness. Because of the subject matter of Psalm 116, it is one of the most personal of the psalms.

I love the Lord, because he heard my voice. He heard my cry for his favor. Because he paid attention to me, I will call out to him as long as I live. The ropes of death were wrapped around me. The horrors of the grave came over me. I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called out to the Lord. I cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Psalm 116:1 – 4 NIrV)

This psalm of forgiveness begins on a profound note. We can’t outdo God in love. We are only able to love Him because He loved us first. Fortunately for all of us, God’s love for us has nothing to do with our affection for Him or our obedience to Him. His love for us has to do with His divine character.

The writer of this psalm is happy just to be alive, and he’s not afraid to talk about it. He’s emphatic about the love he has for God. He’s not afraid to publicly declare what God had done for him. That’s not an insignificant thing for believers to do, by the way. And believers should never be ashamed to talk about the goodness of God toward them regardless of who may be listening.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“May there be peace and glory in the highest heaven!”

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd spoke to Jesus. “Teacher,” they said, “tell your disciples to stop!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:38 – 40 NIrV)

The psalmist was at death’s door apparently; his life was in great peril. This prompted a personal prayer for deliverance and health. Norwegian theologian Ole Kristian Hallesy once remarked –

Your helplessness is your best prayer.

He’s not wrong about that. When you’ve reached the very end of your resources, you’ll finally realize that God is the one who is your Provider. He is the one who can meet your needs because His resources are inexhaustible.

I said to myself, “Be calm. The Lord has been good to me.” (Psalm 116:7 NIrV)

What a marvelous perspective this person had! And it really is counterintuitive. When you’re suffering and sick and when there is no hope in sight, most people would be hard pressed to declare: The Lord has been good to me. Quite the contrary, in fact. But the psalmist is trying to teach us something truly life changing. In the midst of a trial of some kind, never forget – remind yourself, in fact – that God has been good to you. This is especially true in light of the first psalm we looked at.

Verse 10 is an interesting admission, especially in light of what this psalmist said in verse 7. Compare the two –

I said to myself, “Be calm. The Lord has been good to me.” (Psalm 116:7 NIrV)

I believed in you even when I said to myself, “I’m in great pain.” (Psalm 116:10 NIrV)

That’s a lot of “self-talk” going on! The psalmist really was a remarkable person. He trusted in the Lord but didn’t deny his circumstances. Christians are sometimes accused of doing just that, sometimes rightfully so. In our declarations of faith and trust in God and God’s provision, we shouldn’t be afraid to acknowledge the problems we are facing.  Admitting them does not equal doubt in God. Verse 10 bears that out. The apostle Paul quoted this verse (LXX version) in 2 Corinthians –

It is written, “I believed, and so I have spoken.” With that same spirit of faith we also believe. And we also speak. (2 Corinthians 4:13 NIrV)

Paul and his friends had the same “spirit of faith” as the psalmist had. That positive attitude sprang from a realization of utter dependence on God for deliverance. There’s nothing like seeing your limitations in light of God’s unlimited abilities to put things in perspective.

As with all psalms of thanksgiving, the psalmist is sure God will provide what he is asking for. There is no doubt about it. Even as he waits for his deliverance, the psalmist continues to publicly worship God. What a great testimony!

Verse 15 is a verse that is commonly recited at funerals, and it is a comforting verse. However, understanding its proper context makes it a powerful verse. Here are two translations to consider –

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. (Psalm 116:15 NIV)

The Lord pays special attention when his faithful people die. (Psalm 116:15 NIrV)

In this case, the New International Reader’s Version may be closer to what the psalmist had in mind. Contextually, the psalmist is not necessarily saying that the death of a believer is viewed as a good thing or that is pleasing to God. Rather, it means that the death of a believer is of great concern to the Lord; he takes special notice or, as the NIrV says, he “pays special attention.”  The Lord sees and He knows what’s going on.  The death of one who loves God is never accidental or a  mistake.  No believer dies “before his time.”

But for our psalmist, his time had not yet come. He had been delivered from certain death and he has made a conscious decision to redouble his efforts to serve the God who delivered him.

Lord, I serve you. I serve you just as my mother did. You have set me free from the chains of my suffering. Lord, I will sacrifice a thank offering to you. I will worship you. (Psalm 116:16, 17 NIrV)

The details surrounding this Psalm are unknown to us. It is evident, however, that all the writer’s needs had been met. His faith had been vindicated.

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