Summary: How are we to handle all the wonderful things God has given us?
The Stewardship of Gratitude
October 15, 2005
Last weekend was a special weekend in Canada- it’s Thanksgiving weekend- and thousands of families enjoyed a special meal and special times together over the course of the weekend. Tables were heaped with special treats, including the traditional turkey and pumpkin pie. Because of the long-weekend, families were together, or traveling, who wouldn’t normally be together or traveling. It’s a wonderful time of year, too, with the colours of creation different than six months ago, as we began to come into the greens of spring- now the colours of red, gold, green, and brown are everywhere, delighting our visual senses.
How are we to respond in this weekend, in Canada, or the end of November, in the USA? How are we to respond, living a life of gratitude?
Please turn to Psa.116- and we’ll read this together and consider what it tells us.
This psalm is written against the background of a man who had experienced a severe sickness or some other situation of danger. Having been delivered, he then gave thanksgiving for what the Lord had done and made promises of what he would do in gratitude for his deliverance. An “attitude of gratitude” shows that one is a mature person. Ingratitude has been called the “chiefest of sins.” In Dante’s ‘Inferno’, his masterpiece concerning everlasting punishment, he did not put in the pit of hell those whose iniquity had sprung from passion. Rather, the pit of his hell was filled with sullen, ungrateful men frozen in ice. On this Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, let’s reflect on the many goodnesses of God and examine our hearts to see the quantity and quality of our gratitude. Let us look at what the psalmist said he would do in appreciation for al that the Lord had done for him.
1. I will take the cup of salvation- v.13.
Until we have seen ourselves as sinners and have received Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, we begin at no beginning and work toward no conclusion in developing our lives. A young preacher, mature beyond his years, was riding on a train with a group of military men during WW2. The conversation developed around religious themes, and a very ‘liberated’ preacher expounded some ideas that even unbelievers, if they had any biblical background at all, recognized were untenable. This young man, who was still a ministerial student, replied with several passages of Scripture. One of the soldiers came to the young preacher, who was also in the military, and asked him a word of advice about his spiritual matters. Very wisely, the young man said, “Now before we discuss the matter, let me ask you, am I talking to a saved person or not? In other words, if you have not settled the problem of your personal relationship to Jesus Christ as Saviour, the only advice I can give you as the ultimate answer to your need is that you repent of sin and trust Christ as Saviour.” This young student was wise. Trusting Christ as Saviour and becoming a Christina does not mean that we will automatically have all of the answers to life’s questions immediately, but it dos mean that we will have a working basis whereby we, with the help of our Saviour, can resolve the problems. Until people do become Christians, however, they simply do not have the inner working of the Holy Spirit to give them strength for the difficulties of life.
Sometimes we see a preacher or a lay witness trying to scare people into becoming Christians. Paul taught a different message:
Ro.2.4- it is the ‘goodness of God’ that leads to repentance.
People who can be scared into religion don’t usually last long in their commitment unless they learn soon in that Christian life to live by love and faith. When one of our greatest scientists, who as noted for his new approaches and creative thinking, was on his deathbed, someone said, “What are your speculations now?” He replied, “Speculations? I have no speculations.” He contended, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Tim.1.12).
2. I will pay my vows unto the Lord- v.14.
The psalmist does not go into detail concerning the vows he had made. Perhaps he had prayed in his crisis and promised that if God would deliver him he would change his way of life in certain areas. In all probability, he had agreed with God that he was deficient in his bringing of sacrifices to the altar. A seminary president, who had been a successful pastor, told the seminarians in a chapel service of a professional man who was at the point of suicide because he had lost most of his investments. The preacher sensed the man’s need and said, “There’s only one hope for you. You have majored on the material and, now that the material is gone, you have nothing left personally by way of resources. If you want deliverance, get down on your knees with me and promise that if God will give you strength for a comeback, you will dedicate a tithe to him of all that he gives to you.” The man did it. His entire life was changed. His family life straightened up and his medical practice was as good as or better than ever. The president closed with a strong statement: “Since assuming the presidency of this seminary, I have handed one of his sons two theological degrees from this institution.” When we get right with God on the matter of our finances, amazing miracles can take place in other areas of life. But we’d better be careful! When we make vows, we must keep them or we will be worse off than ever before. Jacob vowed a vow at Bethel (Gen.28.20-22), but, as far as we know, he stayed twenty years in Haran working for Laban and seemingly ignored those vows. Steward ship is an important part of living. In fact, for the Christian, next to accepting Jesus Christ as personal Saviour, it is probably the most important element of our live.