Summary: What's the Proper Way to Thank God? 1) Loudly! 2) Joyfully! 3) Continually!
Daniel Habben What’s the Proper Way to Thank God?
Psalm 100 1) Loudly! 2) Joyfully! 3) Continually!
October 9th, 2011
What’s the proper way to say “thank you”? Well that depends, doesn’t it? When someone holds the door open for you, a cheerful “Thanks!” will do. But that’s probably not enough if you’re expressing your gratitude to the firefighter who saved you from a burning building. You would at least want to send that individual a handwritten note. If you live in Japan, your thanks should always be accompanied with a bow. A pastor friend of mine reports that certain tribes in Africa express thanks by sitting on the ground in front of the person who did them a favor. This is all very interesting but the question we really want to answer today is “What is the proper way to thank God?” Psalm 100 tells us. We are to thank God loudly, joyfully, and continually. Let’s find out why this is so important to do.
A generation ago it was quite common to walk into a full church shortly before service and not hear a sound other than the organ playing pre-service music. That’s certainly not the norm now. When you walk into this church a couple minutes before the service you’ll hear the buzz of conversation all around you. To tell you the truth, that used to bother me. I wondered whether or not we were adequately preparing ourselves for worship. Studying Psalm 100 for today’s sermon has given me a different perspective, however. There the Psalmist urges, “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth…come before him with joyful songs…4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:1, 2, 4).
Apparently God’s ears can handle loud praises and we, and everyone in this world, have reasons to shout to the Lord as we enter this church to give him thanks. The psalmist explains why: “It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). You are not a cosmic accident but the product of God’s genius. More than that. You’re not something God created years ago and then forgot about when he went on to make other people. This is the amazing thing about the true God: he continues to intimately care about and care for his creation the way a good shepherd cares about and for his sheep.
Jesus demonstrated that kind of care in our Gospel Lesson (Luke 17) when he healed ten men who had been afflicted with leprosy. Surprisingly, only one returned to thank Jesus. He did so “praising God in a loud voice.” This cleansed leper did not care who heard him singing God’s praises. How do we compare? This same Jesus has healed us of our sins. He has given us eternal life. Do we shout for joy at this the way we whoop it up when our favorite quarterback connects for a 40-yard touchdown pass?
So am I encouraging you to be raucous before worship? That depends. What’s the reason for the buzzing before service? If it’s in anticipation of getting to learn more about the victory that Jesus won for you, great! If it’s the bubbling excitement of being surrounded by people who believe the same thing as you, fantastic! However, if your pre-service exuberance is about someone’s latest hair-do, well, use wisely those couple of minutes of meditation we give you before the opening hymn. Take that time to think about why your God is worthy of launching into the opening hymn with a joyful shout.
But of course just because we crank the singing up a notch doesn’t mean that we’re praising God in a pleasing way. Ever hear a child forced to say “thank you” for a Christmas present he’s not particularly fond of? He may say “Thank you!” loudly enough for the whole room to hear but if his heart is not in it, that expression of gratitude is as hollow and disappointing as an empty box of chocolates. And so our text reminds us that the second way in which we want to give thanks to God is joyfully. Listen again to these verses from Psalm 100. “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs… 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. 5 For the LORD is good” (Psalm 100:2, 4, 5a).
Why is God deserving of our joyful thanks? Because the God that we worship is indeed good. He gave us this warm place to worship. He gave us our comfy beds to sleep in every night. He surrounds us with caring family. It is he who made those Thanksgiving pies possible by giving us berries and pumpkins for ingredients, and mommies and grandmas to bake them.