Gratitude is Essential for Freedom
In a recent Pure Life Ministries service, Pastor Ed Buch spoke on the topic of gratitude and how essential it is in the life of a believer. Listen in, as he describes attributes of God that can always prompt our praise and thanksgiving.
Pastor Ed: I'm going to share a couple of thoughts out of Psalm 103. It’s a familiar passage, but it came to mind, because it's been one of those difficult days for me. Maybe you have had days where things just don't seem to go the way you want them to. And for me, Psalm 103 came to mind as a good place to go get reset inside. David writes this Psalm, saying in verses 1-2 (NKJV), “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits.” That's what was real to me when I read this, because that is exactly what I needed to do. I needed to go back and just count some of my blessings. I needed to not forget all His benefits and remind myself that I am not lacking anything. It may feel like I am lacking a lot at times, but that is a lie. The truth is that I am not lacking anything and truly have more benefits than I can use.
Psalm 103 continues by saying that the Lord forgives all our iniquities, He heals all our diseases, and He redeems our lives from destruction. Wow. Thank you, Lord! Thank you for doing that. My life was destroyed. Most of us who come to Pure Life Ministries understand that firsthand. We destroyed our lives in one way or another, but praise the Lord because He redeems us from the pits of destruction that we place ourselves in. Was someone else going to come along and do that? Did you have some other hope left? I did not and I think most of us did not. We were at that point where we said to ourselves, “this is horrible, there's no way out and no way to fix this.”
At one point the idea of our life being redeemed may have seemed like a mirage or a false hope. But then God comes along and He does it. He actually does it! He turns our lives around and uses them for good. Personally, He made it better for me than if I had never done some of the wrong things that I did. I’m not saying I should have done them. I’m not saying He needed me to do them in order to make good happen. But He is so good at redeeming things that He can turn the worst things that have happened around and make them work for good and bring glory to Himself through them.
<pull-quote>He is so good at redeeming things that He can turn the worst things that have happened around and make them work for good and bring glory to Himself through them.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Psalm 103:4b-8 (NKJV) says, “Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things, so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” Oh, I wish I was more like him. Merciful, gracious, and slow to anger.
We need to slow down sometimes and rein in our feelings. It is not the Lord speaking when your feelings are racing and your thoughts are racing, because panicking like that is outside of His character. He is slow to anger and abounding in mercy, but He will not always strive with us, nor will He withhold His anger forever. There is limited time on this earth to respond to the Lord and repent. Billy Graham said in a sermon one time, “You think that you can come to the Lord whenever you want, but you can't.” Scripture says that we're drawn to the Lord. God has to draw us. If we're not drawn, we can't come. Don't miss those drawing seasons in your life because it's not going to be on any day that you want it to be. It's not like you can say, “Yea, I feel you drawing me Lord, but I'm going to choose a different day to respond.” That different day to respond doesn't always come. Look in Scripture for yourself and you'll see that there were men who sort of barely missed the Kingdom of God in their encounters with Jesus or their encounters with the Apostle Paul. They heard preaching, but they didn't receive it with fertile soil in their hearts. They were drawn, but they didn't respond the way that they needed to.
<pull-quote>It is not the Lord speaking when your feelings are racing and your thoughts are racing, because panicking like that is outside of His character.<pull-quote><tweet-link>TweetThis<tweet-link>
Psalm 103:9-10 (NKJV) says, “He will not always strive with us nor will he keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor punished us according to our iniquities.” With those verses in mind, no matter how bad things have gotten for us, and no matter what you feel like you're overcome with, as far as consequences and punishment, it's nowhere near what it should be or could be. That's the truth of God's Word. He spares us. He never lets it get that bad. He's kind to unthankful and evil people.
Can you find something that you want to say thank you for today? I'm preaching to myself in all of this. That's what I was telling myself today. I'm looking at this passage in Scripture and thinking about how I need to get back to a place of giving gratitude to the Lord. I need to quit asking Him for things and just give gratitude, give thanks and be grateful for what He’s already flooded into my life with His goodness and mercy. I’m reminded too that the first step into the spiral of degradation mentioned in Romans 1 was that they chose not to give thanks. Let's get up, out and away from that spiral as far as we can and start giving thanks. I want to be free from that spiral. I don't want to live right on the line of falling into the spiral of degradation.
If you want to live in the center of God’s will, gratitude will help you get there. But you have to open your mouth and say thank you for the things that He has done. You need to bring those things to mind, because like the beginning verses of Psalm 103 says, we must not forget all His benefits. Some are even listed there to help you get jump started. And you have the whole book of Psalms that mostly does that. It helps us jump start the thanksgiving process in us.
One of the things that really helped me was when someone once told me there are four things that you can always give thanks for. These are things God is never tired of hearing you say thank you for. He never could hear it enough. He never gets tired of you coming to Him and saying thank you for these four things. Those things are Jesus Himself, His blood, the Word of God and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, you have four things that you can say thank you for from your heart at any time to the Lord and you can get right into His throne room with gratitude. I’m telling you the Lord’s heart opens wide if you give thanks for those things with any kind of fervency and sincerity. Remember those four things to be thankful for: Jesus, the blood, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. If you've got a bad memory, write them down and practice them until it becomes something that is natural for you to do. Every morning I start my prayer time with one of those and I usually get all four in there somewhere. But one of them just takes off in gratitude in my heart and then I'm on a tangent about the blood or about His Word. Through gratitude you can become obsessed with God for a change instead of all the vile thoughts that you are accustomed to. You can use gratitude to change your inside world.