Date: November 24, 1996
Bible Text: Psalm 103 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
My text this morning is found in Psalm 103, one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. Thanksgiving time is upon us; and if you’ve been around me, you know that I love this season. I love the Thanksgiving service on Thanksgiving morning. We always determine not to allow the testimonies to go too long, but continually they go an hour and a half because it’s such a joy to hear people praise God for all the things He’s done for them. But we ought not just thank God during this Thanksgiving season. If we’re right with God, thanksgiving ought to be welling up within us at all times. If you want to know whether or not you’re a good Christian, ask yourself if you’re always counting your blessings and naming them one by one. Ask yourself how many times as you lay in bed you think about how good God has been to you.
We ought to be thanking God for everything in our lives. I Thessalonians 5:18 reads, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” In everything – not just in the things that we want but for everything He does because we know that all things do work together for good for the Christian who is right with Him.
David was an extremely thankful person. I don’t know of anybody in the Bible who went through so much hatred and so many people trying to kill him more than David. But he was always a thankful man, and you see that in the book of Psalms. Psalm 150:6 says, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.” So many of the Psalms start out in fear, saying, “God, please . . . I’m going to die . . . I don’t know how I can get out of this thing. . . ,” but by the end of that Psalm he’s praising God, and he’s reminded that God has always taken care of him and always will. Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the LORD’s name is to be praised.” We ought to be praising God. You say, “Well, I don’t have anything to praise God for.” Then you’re not right with God. God is so good to all of us, but you don’t even discern God’s goodness.
Our text is this wonderful passage in Psalm 103. “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: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
What an example of thankfulness David is for us. Did you know that gratitude and grace come from the same root word? Anybody who has experienced the grace of God ought to have gratitude welling up within his heart. But every man on the face of this earth -- every man, woman, and child who breathes the breath of life -- enjoys God’s goodness. God makes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Every person on the face of this earth has much to thank God for -- even things that we might not like.
I was reminded again about the goodness of God even in medicine. It wasn’t that many years ago when everybody’s teeth rotted out of their heads. I find it hard to thank God for dentists. If I have a dentist appointment, even to just clean my teeth, it ruins me for a week before because all I think about is the dentist. You say, “You’re a chicken.” When it comes to dentists, I’m a super chicken. I’ll sit in that office and just sweat. But we should thank God for everything. We ought to be thanking God, even for dentists. If you look at pictures of people from about a hundred years ago, they always have their mouths closed. You say, “Well, they were solemn.” No, their teeth were rotted, and they didn’t want you to see their teeth. Even in the not too distant past, false teeth were “one size fits all” and they were wooden. You couldn’t eat too much corn on the cob with those things. But again, we can thank God -- even for the dentist, believe it or not.
Somebody mentioned eyeglasses yesterday. I can remember when I thought I would never have to wear glasses. It wasn’t that many years ago, probably when I was about 45, that I could see as well as anybody. But now if I lose these glasses -- and I have a large print Bible -- I can’t even see my Bible. It’s just a blur. I can’t see anything. Without glasses I couldn’t read. So, as much as they irritate me, they get steamed up, they get broken, they are a pain -- praise God for glasses! I’m blind without them, and a lot of you know just what I’m talking about because you’re the same way. We ought to thank God. God has been so good to us.
Think about our jobs. I remember about 20 years ago people would complain about working at the mill. It used to be one of my biggest irritations. Around here back then a kid could graduate from high school, go to the mill, and make good money -- unbelievable money -- comparatively better than what a mill worker would make today. And they would complain; Christians would complain. They got their eyeglasses for nothing, they got their teeth fixed for nothing, they had a retirement program, they had good pay. I would ask, “What are you complaining for? You ought to be thanking God.” And they would say, “Well, Preacher, you don’t know what it’s like to . . .” I’d say, “Wait until you can’t work there.” And then about 20 years ago, many of them lost their jobs. The vast, vast majority -- I’d say 90% -- of the people in this church who worked in the mill lost their jobs, some of them permanently. I haven’t heard many complaints after that. Many times we complain about things that other people would love to have. We have full employment here in this area. Thank God. You say, "Well, I don’t make enough.” Thank God for the job that you have. If you’re thankful, God will give you a better job.
Thank God for your homes. I know this is an old thing for me to say, but I want to remind you who complain about where you live, that there is not one person in this auditorium whose house wouldn’t be a mansion in the majority of the world. Not one. I’ve seen it. You can go all through Africa. Some people say, “America is so terrible.” Try Africa. The vast, vast majority have mud huts. Electricity? There is no such thing. Heat? Air conditioning? No such thing. Go to Africa, New Guinea, Haiti, much of Central America. Go to Russia where our missionaries are going. Russia might be a little better than the first places I named, but I venture to say that there are not too many nice places to live in Russia, either. Don’t complain. A large segment of our society is being taught to complain. As they are raised, they are taught to gripe and complain. God is good to you. You’re in America.
Medicine. There are a lot of things about our day that I don’t like. I don’t like the illicit drugs, abortion, homosexuality and all the hatred for God. I don’t like those things. But one thing I like about living today is medicine. If I’m afraid to go into a dentist’s office, can you imagine doctors telling me to “bite the bullet” while they saw off my leg? Medicine, luxuries. You say, “Oh, everybody has luxuries.” Oh, no. Even in Europe it’s not the same as America, at least from what I could see. It’s very common for us to have a microwave oven. It’s not like that around the world. If I were to poll the very poorest people in this auditorium, I would venture to say 100% have a television. That’s not poor. Praise God for what He’s given you.
God has been so good to us, especially as Americans. God has been so good to people in here. Don’t sit around saying, “Well, it’s easy for you to say, you have more than I have.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” That’s what is wrong with the welfare society today. That’s what is wrong with so many of our government officials today. They teach our people to be covetous. God says if you’re covetous, you’re a sinner and He can’t bless you. But if you seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, He not only can but He promises to bless you. You take care of God, and He’ll take care of you.
Many of you sitting here don’t even know what I’m talking about. You don’t believe – you’re not listening. James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights. . . .” Let’s be thankful always to God.
Psalm 68:19 reads, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits. . . .” The first time I was driving through Pennsylvania I went to Adams County. I couldn’t believe what I saw. I saw the apple-growing area near Gettysburg. As I was driving, I came across miles and miles of nothing but apple trees; and they were so full of apples that all the trees had two-by-fours and two-by-eights underneath them bracing up the boughs. They were so full of apples that they had to brace the trees or they would all break down. I thought of this verse, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits. . . .” Think of the benefits we have.
Again, think of living in America. Think of the freedoms we have because people have given their lives that we might have those freedoms. Think of the freedom of having an independent Bible-believing Baptist church and meeting together. Think of your friends. Think of your family. Think of your health. It’s wicked to be ungrateful. “I don’t have enough.” That’s wickedness. If you live in America and you don’t think you have enough, the Bible says you’re wicked. If you praise God, He’ll load you with blessings. That’s what the Bible says. You say, “I don’t believe it.” Then you’ll never be loaded with blessings. You’ll die bitter. You’ll die covetous. Again, that’s what’s wrong with a lot of the young people. “Gimme, gimme, gimme.” What about give, give, give? Give, and it will be given unto you.
Again, David said, “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. . . .” David said, “I want it to come from my heart, I want it to be sincere, I want all my being to thank God for all his benefits.” What was David so thankful for? The first thing we see is “who forgiveth all thine iniquities.” The greatest thing that could ever happen to you is to be saved. People today make professions of salvation, as if it were a light thing. When Fred’s brother-in-law, Kenny, was lying there thinking he was a dead man, salvation wasn’t a light thing. Salvation was the most important thing in all his life. He was very fortunate. Most people I know who put off salvation again and again, die and go to hell. He was very fortunate.
If you’re saved and you think, “God has a pretty good person in me,” you don’t know yourself. We are all so fortunate when we’re saved. Peter in his second epistle reminds us of those who are “. . .blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” How eternally thankful we ought to be for salvation. Verses 11 and 12 of our text passage says, “For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. And as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” If you’re not thankful for the mercy of God, you don’t even know what the word means. If the thought of a merciful God doesn’t make you praise God, then you don’t know what sin is. We are dirty, rotten, filthy sinners. We deserve hell, and God saved us. The Bible says he took our sins as far as the east is from the west. The Bible says our sins are buried in the bottom of the sea, and He can’t see them anymore. Now if that doesn’t excite you, you have forgotten what salvation is, just what the Apostle Peter talked about. Get excited! God is good to us.
He “. . . healeth all our diseases. . .” You who are my age or a little older, do you remember polio? Remember the iron lung? I had friends in the iron lung. It was a feared disease. I have heard my mother talk about plagues before that era that she saw, and that her brothers and sisters died from as little children. Plagues would go through America and Europe and all around the world. God is good. You might say, “Why not give the doctors the credit?” I give them credit. But as Benjamin Franklin said, “God heals, and the doctor takes the fee.” Over and over again doctors say, “I can only treat the symptoms.” If they’re honest, they know that. All they can do is treat the symptoms and they may say, “Nature has to heal.” God made our bodies to heal. God is the great healer. It’s not always His will to heal, but it usually is. Praise God!
If you have an appetite (and you know I do!), you ought to thank God. Can you imagine not even having an appetite? So many times I hear people say they can’t sleep. Thank God if you are able to get a good night’s rest. Are your children healthy? Don’t take it for granted. When you talk to expectant parents, you ask, “What’s it going to be, a boy or a girl?” They’ll say, “I don’t know; the main thing is that it would be healthy.” I’m not so old that I can’t remember thinking that. I prayed and prayed, “God, give us healthy children.” After He does it, we shouldn’t be flippant about it. Let’s thank God for the good things that so many times we take for granted.
You don’t think you’re fortunate? Follow me some day to the hospital. Walk through some of those wards. An old miserly-type guy once said, “I don’t have anybody to thank for what I have. I’ve earned everything I have by the sweat of my brow.” And the guy standing next to him said, “Who gave you the sweat?” We can do nothing if God doesn’t give us the strength to take care of it. We shouldn’t ignore even the simple things. A group of people were watching the sun set, and there was one particularly unromantic-looking man who just kept watching until the last rays disappeared. A couple of people said, “I wonder why he loves that so much.” Somebody went over and asked him, “Are you an artist?” He gave a kind of funny smile and said, “No, I was blind for five years. And when you’ve been blind for five years, you appreciate things that perhaps other people don’t.”
Next, we should thank God for preserving our lives and keeping us safe. David said we should thank God “. . .who redeemeth thy life from destruction. . . .” David was probably thinking about the time that he fought Goliath. We say, “David was quite a guy.” But he knew it was God. He was just a scrawny kid, and all he had was that slingshot. He let that stone go, but God guided that stone. Goliath was about 10 feet tall, his spear was as big as a weaver’s beam. He could have broken David in half. But God allowed that scrawny little kid to kill the giant. David knew that. King Saul did everything he could to kill David. The Philistines tried also. He should have been dead over and over again. That’s why he says, “God redeemed my soul, my life, from destruction.” David tells his deepest soul, “Don’t forget that.” We ought not to forget it. How many people were killed in automobile accidents this year alone? Tens of thousands. I heard on the news about that Ethiopian plane that went down over there. Hi-jackers told them to fly -- they didn’t know it needed fuel. “Fly to Australia,” they said, but the thing crashed. Some people were living right off the shores there. The news said that people were out on the tail of the plane not that far away. You could see them from the shore, but the people sitting on the shore were too busy having a barbecue to help.
Praise God for your life. I know, I should have been dead several times from car accidents. When I nearly drowned, it wasn’t an accident that somebody dove in that muddy water at just the right place and grabbed me by the head. I know that God has redeemed my life from destruction, and I thank God for it.
Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” One of my favorite stories is of Matthew Henry after he was robbed. He wrote in his diary, “Let me be thankful first because I was never robbed before. Secondly, I am thankful because though they took my money, they didn’t take my life. Third, I am thankful because even though they took everything, it wasn’t much. And fourth, I am thankful because I was robbed, and I wasn’t doing the robbing.” There is always something to be thankful for. Think about it. Most of us if we were robbed would be mad. He was thankful. He was truly thankful.
Next we’re told not to forget His lovingkindness and His tender mercies. If you have a heart for God at all, you can just look around you and see that God is good. You can praise Him for your friends, you can praise Him for your husband or your wife. You kids ought to be thankful. I think a curse of today in America is that kids are not thankful for their parents. “Oh,” they say, “I love them.” How many times do you thank them? How thankful are you for your father providing for your food. You say, “That’s what he ought to do.” How thankful are you? A huge percentage of fathers in America don’t even stay home. A huge percentage of American kids don’t even know who their father is. Half the people in America are divorced, and kids spend one weekend a month with one. Why don’t you thank your parents for not divorcing? Why don’t you thank your parents for being good Christians? Why don’t you thank your parents for being providers for you instead of just griping all the time? That’s an irritation to me. You say, “Well that’s what I deserve.” I can tell you what you deserve.
I read about a guy who was going to sell his house. He got a friend who was a realtor and said, “Now I’ll describe the house and then I want you to read it back as far as what you’re going to put in the paper for an ad.” So he told him about the house, and then the realtor read it back. The man said, “Wait a minute. Read it again.” And he read it back again. Then the man said, “The house isn’t for sale. All my life I’ve dreamt of a house like that, and I didn’t even realize what I had.” We ought to be thankful.
The old song goes “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” Count your blessings. Do you ever do that? If you get “down,” that’s what I would advise you to do. I’ve had times when I was down and thought I had nothing to be thankful for. Get alone with God and make a list. Write them down and start counting your blessings, and you’ll find you’re one of the most fortunate people in the world. Count your blessings. It will make you jump for joy.
Imagine if tomorrow morning the sun didn’t come up. No sun. I would venture to say there would be a lot of praying going on. I’d venture to say there would be a lot in the newspapers about it. I would venture to say that churches would be full of people praying. I would also venture to say that everybody on earth would be awake at sunrise the next day; and when the first rays of sun would come, everybody would be praising God. If some of the things we take for granted didn’t happen, it would be a catastrophe.
“Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things. . . .” God willing, every one of us this Thanksgiving will sit down at a bountiful table. I may irritate some people, but if anybody is not eating and eating well in America, it’s only their or their parents’ fault. People say a certain percentage of kids are malnourished. There is no reason for it whatsoever in a country that has food stamps, food banks, and the abundance ours has. The only reason is parents don’t love their kids enough. Maybe they’re selling their food stamps to gamble or something like that. There is no reason in America that every kid, every person can’t sit down at a bountiful table this Thanksgiving.
That little group in Massachusetts at the traditional first Thanksgiving had a lot to be thankful for. If I remember correctly, about half of them died the first year. They didn’t know if they would have a harvest; but they had one, and that’s what it was all about – thanking God for the harvest. It meant they would be able to live through the winter. Last week, I was right next to Jamestown, Virginia, on the James River. I read that Jamestown claimed they had the first Thanksgiving. So I went over to see it. They had a replica of the first ship to sail to America with 38 men on it. It was a small boat. Thirty-eight men! Reporters were there and were asking what Thanksgiving meant to those early settlers. I tried not to sound too much like a preacher, but I said just look at the ship! Thirty-eight men in a little tub. They were praising God because they were alive. They were praising God because they were on the shores of America and for opportunity. I gave them just what we would all believe, but it was not what they wanted to hear! The guy who was with me overheard the reporters say when I left, “Wouldn’t you know it? We interviewed a nut!”
Those first settlers knelt down and thanked God, and they had a lot to be thankful for. At Plymouth they got the Indians, and all the settlers came together. They didn’t have a Butterball turkey with a thermometer that popped up. They had a wild turkey. And they didn’t get oranges from Florida. They gathered some nuts, and somebody killed a deer and a wild turkey, and they praised God from the depths of their heart.
You know what’s wrong with us? We take that Butterball turkey for granted. We take all those good things for granted. We have a lot to be thankful for. Half of the settlers’ relatives were dead. That made them thankful for their lives. They didn’t have much. That made them thankful for what they had. We have too much! And it makes us not thankful if we don’t watch it. He’s the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.
Psalm 84 verse 11 says, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” If you mark your Bible, you ought to mark that last phrase. No good thing, He promises, will He ever withhold from them that walk uprightly. How good He is! We could go on and on. This same passage tells us that He’s merciful, that He has pity on our weaknesses. Aren’t you glad about that?
John 14:1-3 tells that He has prepared for our future. Jesus is talking here, and He says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Aren’t you glad? He not only takes care of us here, but He’s prepared much more importantly for the future, for eternity. One verse is all you need: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” He’s merciful, He’s loving, He’s kind. Do you thank Him?
Unsaved friend today, only ingratitude would ever allow you to pass Christ by. We make decisions, “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” He died for you. That should answer it. Can you imagine some friend dying so that you might live and your saying, “Do you think that’s good or not?” He died for you. Only ingratitude would be shown when you forget the great price He had to pay for your salvation. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame thereof. The Bible says in Hebrews 10, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. . .” If you broke the Ten Commandments or the law of Moses, and if there were two or three witnesses, they would kill you for it. It goes on and says, “Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, and unholy thing. . .” If they would kill you or stone you to death for breaking the law, what do you think is going to happen when you just take God’s gift of salvation and push it aside? Don’t be found guilty of refusing the blood of Christ. Don’t step on that nail-pierced hand as He holds out the bread of life.
The Literary Digest on September 15, 1923, read, “History knows no disaster which parallels the earthquake and fire which visited Japan this month.” The New York Tribune called this earthquake “undoubtedly the greatest disaster in recorded time.” That earthquake destroyed three-fourths of Tokyo. Three-fourths of the city was burned to the ground. The whole city of five million was scattered. The Red Cross estimated the dead at 300,000 and the homeless at two-and-a-half million. Then came help from America. Food, clothing, medical supplies, volunteer helpers – shipload after shipload after shipload. Millions and millions of dollars all the way back in 1923. It was thought that those who lived through the tremors and the fire would die of starvation or of disease; but they didn’t because America sent help, because they remembered them in their need. How grateful the Japanese people were. The Japanese newspapers said, “Japan will never forget.”
But we all know Japan did forget. They sent their planes over to Hawaii only 20 years later and they said, “We’ll bring America to her knees.” The Japanese aren’t the only ones who forget. There are a lot of people in America who forget also. The Lord said long ago, “My people have forgotten me days without number.”
What have you done with John 3:16? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son. . .” to be nailed to the cross to die for your sins. “. . .that whosoever believeth in him should not perish. . .” (should not go to hell), “. . . but have everlasting life.” What have you done with that verse? You say, “Well, I haven’t made up my mind.” What ingratitude! You say, “I don’t want to be a Baptist.” We’re not talking about being a Baptist. We’re talking about God loving you so much that He sent his Son to die on the cross that you might be saved. You would think any decent human being the first time he heard this story would be so grateful. “Oh, thank you, God, for dying on the cross. Thank you for sending your Son. Thank you for enabling me to be saved. What do I have to do? I’ll do anything. I’ll pay a million dollars if I have to.” No, it’s free.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God. . . .” What have you done? He died for you. You say, “I haven’t made up my mind.” You’re spurning his death. Just turning your back. The Bible talks about walking in the blood. Picture Him dying on the cross. The Bible says he wasn’t even recognizable as a human being. So beaten, so terrible. Listen to Him cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Are you just going to walk by, walk through the blood, wipe it off, and keep on going? That’s what you’re doing if you’re not saved. You say, “I don’t exactly know how to be saved.” We’ll show you. Come at the invitation. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make. I like to think that if I had been an adult when I was saved (I was saved as a five-year-old) and I had never heard the plan of salvation before, when I heard what God did for me, I’d get saved just because of His love for me. Nothing else. Just the fact that He died for me. I don’t know how we can turn our back on Him. What ingratitude. What a time to get saved.