Summary: Christianity is not a “What’s in it for me?” religion. The Bible views thanks-giving as the sincere overflow of gratitude for all that God has given to us. Thanks-giving is not self-centered; it’s God-centered. (PowerPoints Available - #341)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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ILL. “What can I do for you, Madam?” Abraham Lincoln asked an elderly lady who had been ushered into his office.
Placing a covered basket on his desk she said, “Mr. President, I have come today not to ask any favor for myself or for anyone else. I heard that you were very fond of cookies, & I came to bring you this basket of cookies!” (From Steve Shepherd on Sermon Central)
A. As Christians, we’re well aware of how important the attitude of thanksgiving should be in our lives. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul says, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
But I wonder if some people see thanking God as some sort of business investment. What I mean is that they enjoy all the good things God has blessed us with, & they want those gifts to continue. So, to insure that those blessings continue, they pause every now & then to thank God.
That was the attitude of the ancient pagans. Pagans were concerned about keeping the gods happy; keeping them appeased. So, from time to time, they would offer sacrifices, sometimes even human sacrifices, to placate the anger of their gods & to insure future blessings. It was a “what’s in it for me” type of religion.
But Christianity is not a “What’s in it for me?” religion. The Bible views thanks-giving as the sincere overflow of gratitude for all that God has given to us. Thanks-giving is not self-centered; it’s God-centered.
B. In the Bible, it’s in the book of Psalms that thanksgiving is really stressed. At least 16 of the psalms were specifically written for the purpose of giving thanks to God, & many more than that include words of thanksgiving.
Of those 16 psalms, about half are psalms of community thanksgiving, giving thanks for the blessings everyone is able to enjoy.
The other half of the thanksgiving psalms are about individual thanksgiving. In them we get a glimpse of David & others giving thanks to God for things that happened in their own personal lives.
Psalm 116 is one of individual thanksgiving. We don’t know who wrote this psalm. It could have been David. Whoever it was, it was someone God had helped through difficult times. And as he thinks about what God has done for him, his heart overflows with thanksgiving.
Psalm 116 actually has two parts. In the first half, the psalmist praises the love of God & lists the many ways that God has blessed him. Then, in the second half, the psalmist tells how he responds to God’s blessings.
I. THE PSALMIST’S REASONS FOR THANKSGIVING
So let's look at Psalm 116. It begins with the words “I love the Lord because...”
ILL. In the 19th century, there was a young English girl, Elizabeth Barrett, who suffered a spinal injury which left her a semi-invalid for many years. Then she met a man whom she came to love very deeply & eventually married - Robert Browning.
Her love for him was beautifully expressed in her writing of poetry - particu-larly in her “Sonnets From the Portuguese." Now, that title may not be familiar to some of you, but I think the words which she wrote will sound familiar, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...”
Then she went on to describe the depth of her love for her husband. And that’s what the psalmist does here. Why does he love the Lord? Let him count the ways.
A. Because God "heard my voice."
The psalmist says, “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” (Psalm 116:1-2)
He’s saying, “When I spoke, God listened. God paid attention to what I had to say.” And that is not always what we do.
ILL. One father wrote: "As they were growing up, my children often wanted to talk to me when I was home. Most of the time, that wasn’t a problem. But some-times I was in the middle of something important. You know, like working a crossword puzzle.
"Or maybe I was watching an important television program, like a football game. And my kids would say, 'Daddy, look at this paper I brought home from school.' And I would quickly glance at it & say, 'Uh, huh, that’s nice.'
"Now I tried not to be that way, but I know I didn't always succeed."
But the psalmist is saying that it’s not like that with God. He hears our voice. He listens to our prayers. He pays attention to us.