A Thankful Heart*

There’s a wonderful Puritan prayer I love that goes like this: “Father, You have given us so much. We ask for one thing more—a thankful heart.”  There are so many things about the Lord that we can be thankful for, aren’t there? For life and breath, for all his goodnesses and blessings in our lives….If you’ve brought your Bible this evening and would like to follow along, let’s look at what the writer of Psalm 100 is thankful for about God.  It’s entitled A Psalm for Giving Thanks, and what the psalmist says he’s thankful for are things you and I can be thankful for, as well. (NIV)

Shout for joy to the LORD all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are His;

We are His people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;

His faithfulness continues for all generations.

 

The psalmist tells us in these 5 short verses that we can be thankful to God for three things: for what He does, for what He is, and for what’s still to come.

You and I can thank God for being our Creator and Savior, and for revealing Himself to us: He is our God—it is He who made us and we are His. He graciously opens our eyes, draws us to Himself, saves us by His grace. Do you know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior tonight? That’s something huge to be thankful for! Do your children know the Lord? Do your grandkids? Did your children grow up and marry believing spouses? All are things we can thank God for doing!  For it’s by grace alone, through faith alone that we’re saved, and not by any works that we may have done…

The Lord is also our Shepherd: he writes that we are his people—the sheep of his pasture. He watches over us, protects us, guides us—He knows our needs and day by day lovingly provides all we need and leads us in His paths of righteousness. He promises to stay by us, and  whenever we need Him He’ll listens however long we want to talk…No wonder we’re to enter God’s house with worship and thanksgiving—He’s given us so much! [BTW, I like what my seminary professor said this semester in my psalms course about praising God: “Praise clears the heart and dusts the mind of unselfishness.” Isn’t that good? It’s so easy to get the grumbles…]

The psalmist goes on in verse 5 to write that we can also thank God for what He is, and not just for what He does—we can thank Him for being good and loving—loving us forever. It’s interesting that the usual formula here is reversed—usually the OT says first that the Lord’s faithfulness continues for all generations—ie, in time—and then, that His loyal, covenantal love endures forever—i.e., in eternity….but here, the writer puts eternity first, almost as if he can’t wait to tell us that what’s still to come is the best of all things to thank God for….

A pastor and writer I like tells the story of a woman who came to see him. Now she was a very organized person, and wanted to plan her funeral ahead of time—so she said, “Pastor, I want to have an open casket service and to be buried with a fork in my hand (LIKE THIS).” A little shocked, but simply said, “Tell me more…” The woman replied, “You know how when we have church potluck suppers, when they tell you to keep your fork, then you know that something good’s coming for dessert—not pudding or Jell-O, but real biblical food like cake and pie! When people come to my funeral and see the fork in my hand, I want them to remember that this life is not all there is—that something better’s coming!

A day is coming when our faith will become sight, and the clouds will be rolled back like a scroll. The trumpet will sound, and the dead in Christ shall be raised, and the Lord Jesus will come back in power and glory to right every wrong and heal every heart and rule in righteousness and justice, in truth and grace and peace—and yes, in everlasting love and faithfulness!

Even in eternity, you and I will never run out of things to thank God for, will we? He’s given us so much—ask  Him tonight for one thing more—a thankful heart—and then share w/ someone how He’s faithfully answering in your life right now—you don’t have to wait for eternity to thank Christ….

*A Thanksgiving-Eve message given by Beth Svoboda at Bethany Baptist Church in Puyallup, WA.