Absolute Praise – 1. The Blessed Benefits
Psalm 103: 1 - 5
In his runaway bestseller The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard recommends that leaders develop the practice of the “one-minute praising” in which they “catch them (their employees) doing something right.” We’re all used to bosses who catch us doing something wrong. How rare it is to be praised when we have done something well.
Blanchard’s idea is to “catch them doing something right” and then give them a one-minute praising right on the spot. Don’t wait, he says, because waiting takes away the impact. Tell them right then, right there, how much you appreciate the good job they are doing.
This actually is more difficult that it appears. Most of us are better at criticism than at praise. Catch someone doing something right and praise them right on the spot. It could revolutionize your marriage, change the way you relate to your children, encourage those who report to you, and in general make you a much nicer person to be around.
But it needs to be intentional. That’s Blanchard’s point. And it applies very much to our relationship with God. Many of us are better at complaining. The sad story of the children of Israel complaining against the Lord in the wilderness. After all he had done for them, after the great miracle at the Red Sea, they were griping and complaining and moaning and groaning. God sent manna and they didn’t like it. They missed the good food they had back in Egypt. In Egypt they were slaves, but they were willing to trade their freedom for a better menu. So God sent quail until they choked on it. Unhappy people, those Jews in the wilderness. I would be harder on them but we are like them and they are like us.
A Good Dose of Psalm 103
Sometimes we need to give ourselves a good talking-to. That’s what Psalm 103 is all about. It’s a prayer by David in which he talks to his own soul and reminds himself to “bless the Lord” and “forget not all his benefits.”
I wonder how many of us could give God a “one-minute praising” for all his blessings. We’re good at telling the Lord what we want him to do for us. We need a good dose of Psalm 103 to wash out that complaining spirit and replace it with a heart of gratitude to the Lord. We know that David wrote these magnificent words. I believe he wrote them late in his life when he could look back and speak from experience about the tender mercies of the Lord.
We can outline Psalm 103 this way:
Personal (v. 1-5) – David reviews the mercy of God to him. National (v. 6-18) – David reviews the mercy of God to Israel. Universal (v. 19-22) –David calls all created beings to praise the Lord.
He begins by calling us to wholehearted, intentional praise of God. “Let all that is within me praise his holy name.” “Forget not all his benefits.”
We must think before we can thank.
We must ponder before we can praise.
We must remember before we can rejoice.
Here are 5 blessed benefits of the Lord that we must not forget.
“Who forgives all your iniquity.” It is not surprising that he starts here because this is the foundation for everything else. Our greatest problem is the guilt we feel because of our sin, and our greatest need is to know forgiveness from the Lord. David says that God forgives “all” our iniquity. That’s good news, isn’t it? Some of us have really blown it big time, and we have messed up over and over and over again. We’ve done the same things repeatedly even after promising never to do them again. I’m glad the word “all” is included because it means that God intends to forgive my future sins.
Most of us secretly imagine that when we come to Christ, all our past sins are forgiven, but then it’s a race with the devil until the end of life. But when Christ died, all our sins were in the future. When we come to Christ, all our sins are forgiven, even the yet-to-be-committed sins, ones that would shock us if we knew about them right now.
What a God we serve! What grace! He forgives all our sins—past, present and future. That’s a huge insight because it touches how we see God. He’s more willing to forgive than we are to be forgiven. He is eager to forgive. He is ready to forgive. He wants to forgive you.
“Who heals all your diseases.” After doctors and nurses have done all they can do, and after we have used all the latest technology and taken the newest drugs, healing must come from the Lord. That’s why we pray for the sick. They may be healed by medicine or by surgery or by some other course of treatment or they may find healing through prayer or by a miracle from the Lord. All of those things are possible, and they are not mutually exclusive.
If you were sick and are now healthy, give thanks to the Lord. If your cancer is in remission, give thanks to the Lord. If you nearly died after an accident but somehow survived, give thanks to the Lord. Remember that any healing in this life is limited and temporary. Our ultimate healing comes when we are raised immortal and incorruptible. In that happy resurrection day, when Jesus comes and the “dead in Christ will rise first”, then at last we will be totally, completely, and finally healed once and for all.
Between now and then give thanks to the Lord for every bit of healing you experience. If you took an aspirin and now the headache is gone, that too is from the Lord. Good medicine and good prayer go together. People say, “Do you believe in divine healing?” That’s the only kind there is. It just comes in many different varieties.
“Who redeems your life from the pit.” To redeem means to rescue from danger in the time of trouble. The “pit” refers to death itself. This benefit may be hard to grasp so think of the speedometer in your car. Think of the thousands of kms you have driven with no accident. Yet every day people are killed on the highway, but you were not killed when you could have been. God has preserved you to this very moment and has protected you every step of your journey. If God willed it to be so, you would die today—and you might die today—but it cannot happen without God’s permission. Satan himself cannot touch you with God’s permission.
Every day the Lord rescues us in a million ways that we don’t see. His angels encamp around us to deliver us from trouble. When the time comes to die, we will die. We are immortal until our work on earth is done.
Often we are too flippant about God’s protection, as if we were in charge of everything.
“What happened today?” “Nothing.” But think of what didn’t happen. No one robbed you. No one shot you. You weren’t fired. You arthritis didn’t flare up—or if it did, you made it through the day. A truck didn’t hit you. Your wife still loves you. Your husband is still happy to see you. You don’t have cancer—or if you do, you’re not dead yet. You’ve got your health (what there is of it), your friends (most of them, anyway), your money (maybe not as much as 3 months ago but you’re not broke), your job, and on and on it goes. Think of all the bad things that could have happened to you today that didn’t.
The fact that you think nothing happened today means that God has been doing his job!
While we are on earth, with all its dangers and troubles, God is constantly at work behind the scenes, working to protect us from trouble, to clear the way ahead, and to give us strength for each new day.
“Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” It’s the loyal, unending, unchanging love of God toward us. He heaps up his blessings—and then he pours them out on us.
Then he crowns us with “tender mercies.” Mercy implies failure and defeat. Tender mercy means he knows what we are going through and he meets us where we are. If we were to receive what we truly deserve from God, we would stand no chance.
The crown reminds us of our position as the children of God. In our day only kings and queens wear crowns, but it is the privilege of every Christian to be crowned with loving kindness and the tender mercy of God.
”Who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” There is nothing on earth that can satisfy us deeply except God himself. The “good” comes from God—not from anything we see around us. “He fills my life with good things” (NLT), which is true enough but that might leave the impression that God promises certain material benefits—money or status or promotion or some sort of earthly prosperity if we will only serve him. The emphasis is not on what we possess but on what possesses us. The Message: “He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.”
To be satisfied means to be so full that you need nothing else. David speaks of satisfaction deeper than anything the world can offer. We are here today, gone tomorrow. God says to his fading, frail, perishing children, “I will give you whatever you need so you can soar like the eagle.” All of us need this. I know I need it.
There is a way to renew yourself, your energy, your outlook and your attitude. It’s better than aerobics, cheaper than health food, quicker than dieting, and altogether less strenuous than jogging. What is this “miracle cure”? Fill your life with God’s good gifts to you. If you will let him, the Lord will give you something the world cannot match.
So we come to the end of this magnificent succession of benefits. They form a perfect summary of thanksgiving for anyone who wants to wake up his soul and praise the Lord.
If you don’t know where to begin in praising God, start right here.
What is the application of all this? It is not hidden or complex, and it seems more important to me today than it did twenty years ago. As the years roll on and life teaches you some important lessons, you learn that not all your dreams will come true. That’s a good thing. The wise among us have learned to thank God for prayers that God never answered and dreams that never came true. It is good to dream big dreams and to imagine all that you might do someday. But living forever in the future tends to make you unhappy where you are today.
If you don’t know where to begin in applying this sermon, let’s circle back to the beginning and take the advice of Ken Blanchard. Let’s do some “one-minute praising” this week. Catch your spouse doing something right. Catch your children doing something right. Catch your friends doing something right. Catch your pastor doing something right. Catch you co-workers doing something right. When you do, give them a “one-minute praising.”
That alone will do your soul good. Just focusing on the positive will lift your spirits. But then give God a “one-minute praising.” I know that sounds trite. But start there. Try praising the Lord for one minute without stopping. Do it every day for a week and see how it strengthens your heart and brings you closer to God.
There are 2 kinds of people in the world -
–Those who dwell on what they want. –Those who dwell on what they have.
As we count our blessings and name them one by one, let us join the ranks of those who dwell on what they have and so glorify God and enjoy him forever. Amen.