Pleasant Words to God
In preparing for today’s message, a whole lot of things swirled around in my mind. I have chosen three of the things, all of them directed toward what I hope will give us - me, you individually, and us as a congregation - some important direction as we prepare to go into the new year of 2018 in such a way that fits today’s theme, which is Seek the Lord.
Most of today’s message is devoted to one of the things that have swirled, that being pleasant words we can say to God. In three earlier messages this year, we considered the same topic, highlighting a total of 21 pleasant things to say to God. In this message, five more examples.
For a quick review, in the earlier messages referred to, pleasant words to God have been these.
That God is the creator, the one and only God, the Almighty God, the Everlasting Father, the loving God, the God of justice, and the faithful God.
That God is merciful, a refuge and a fortress, the only wise God, holy, a generous giver, our generous provider, and the shepherd of His people.
And that God is my victory and my peace, the God who heals and comforts, the God of miracles, including the miracle of forgiveness, and the God who is the burden bearer.
As mentioned, today five more pleasant things to say to God, which will be the bulk of this message. But before that, a challenge.
In July, a cross section of us took a survey of church health. As reported when the results came back, the survey indicated we are a very healthy group of Christians.
Because of the level of our health, we should, according to the organization that sponsored the survey, see growth in our church, including numerical growth. In 2018, let’s think of original, ingenious, visionary ways to take advantage of our health. Let’s not sit back and just feel good about our health. Let’s think of and work on ways to use our health to attract others to the Lord.
Let’s also be dedicated to promoting spiritual growth, including praying. Prayers for numerical growth and prayers in which we will say pleasant things to God.
Words like these. God, You are the one who answers prayer.
There are many, many Bible verses that proclaim God answers prayer. One Old Testament example is Isaiah 65:24, which is part of a section in which God gives promises of good times to come. The people of God had been and were suffering. Suffering that resulted from their sins. But better times were coming, including the promise of answered prayer. Isaiah wrote, which are words from God, “Before they call, I will answer.”
Did we catch it? Not only will God answer. “Before they call, I will answer.” In other words, God knows our needs before we can express them to Him. He is so knowledgeable and so generous that He will at least begin His answers even before we pray. As the verse continues, while we are yet speaking, God will hear.
Now, there is a condition. The promise of answered prayer is not given to everyone. It is reserved for His people. Those who follow Him. Those in our times who accept His Son Jesus as Savior. But for all who are His people, there is the promise of answered prayer.
A promise also given by Jesus Himself. Just one example of that is Matthew 7:7. Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened to you.”
No doubt, that can refer to physical things. It most certainly refers to spiritual things. Including our desire for not only spiritual growth, which prayer will bring about, but also numerical growth, which, again, I challenge myself and us to pray for. Not so we can brag, but for the purpose of drawing more people to the Lord.
The other times we have thought about pleasant words to God, we practiced saying them together. We are going to do that again. Please join me in these words to God.
We praise and honor You, Father, because You are a God
who loves to answer prayer. Thank You that You hear us when we pray. Thank You that You answer us even before we begin to pray.
Thank God for answered prayer. That is one way to give Him pleasant words. Other pleasant words? Words that relate to Him knowing and answering our individual prayer? Proclaim that God is a personal God, which keeps us in Matthew, this time in chapter 8.
One day a Roman army officer went to Jesus. The officer explained that one of his servants was at home paralyzed.
Though there was no actual request for anything to be done, it can be assumed the officer told Jesus what was going on because he wanted Jesus’ help, which Jesus offered, saying He would go with the officer to the servant and heal him.
What an example of God, in the form of Jesus, being personal. Jesus was willing to interrupt whatever He had planned for that day to take care of a need presented to Him.
Interestingly, the military officer declined Jesus’ offer. He declined because he did not consider himself worthy of Jesus being under his roof.
Jesus still healed the servant, doing so with just His words from a distance. What proof that Jesus is never too busy to help anyone who calls on Him. Anyone includes you and me and us. He is never too busy because He is a personal God. He will be personal to all who will let Him be.
Do you have a need? Do we have a need? As already mentioned, we need - we want - to grow spiritually and numerically. We want to come up with original, ingenious, visionary ways to promote growth, thereby taking advantage of the spiritual health God has given us.
Let’s remember what God offers. Let’s say it often, including now. Please join me.
We praise You, God, because You are a personal God
who gives us the honor of knowing You, being with You,
and asking for Your help personally.
Throughout the Bible there are examples of people who had discouraging times.
I am thinking, for instance, of David in the Old Testament. Despite the many successes he had, he also had many problems - family problems, unhappy people in the kingdom he ruled, threats from foreign nations.
I am also thinking of Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah who spoke words from God that the people of God did not want to hear. The people persecuted those prophets.
I am thinking of so much suffering in the New Testament. People who were sick or lame or blind or demon-possessed.
And the apostle Paul who suffered so many things, including verbal and physical attacks and imprisonment because he obeyed the call to be a minister for Jesus.
Even now there is much suffering going on with many of the same problems. Family issues, illnesses, at least some minor levels of persecution because of our faith, in some cases, financial problems.
There are a lot of discouraging things going on. That has always been the case. That is why we, like David and Jeremiah and Paul and everyone else needs the help of God, which leads to another pleasant thing to say to God, which is to proclaim to God that He is the lifter of my head.
That proclamation takes us to Psalm 3, which begins with David admitting he had many foes who were rising up against him and taunting him by saying God was not going to help him. It certainly looked like God did not care about David. That was caused by David’s foes being successful at the time Psalm 3 began.
But David was able to keep going. Why? Because he knew God, first of all, was able to be a shield around him, protecting him. David trusted God’s protection. And, David added, “O LORD, You are the lifter of my head.”
Do you have some enemies rising up against you? Physical or emotional or spiritual foes? Are you discouraged about that or anything else? Do you seem to have a downward cast to your eyes and demeanor? That can change. It will change as you proclaim to God - when You thank God - for His ability and willingness to be encouraging.
Let’s say it together.
Father God, we praise You because You are a shield around us.
Thank You for being the lifter of our heads.
What a wonderful gift that is
when we are weary or discouraged.
Other pleasant words to God? Thank Him for being patient.
I dare say God is patient with those of us who are Christians. At least I can see times when I have to trust His patience. Not every day is my attitude as bright as it could be. Not every day do I display as much spiritual discipline as I should show. I am sure there are opportunities I miss to tell others about Jesus or serve Him. In other words, I am not perfect. I dare say, neither are you.
God could become so disgusted He would turn His back on us or strike us dead, but that does not happen because He is patient, happy when we are at least trying to do what is right.
God’s patience does apply to those of us who are Christians. Listen to II Peter 3:9 for good news about His patience toward non-Christians. “The Lord is not slow about His promise.” His promise that He would - that He will - one day return. Those words do speak of God’s patience because God and Jesus are one. God is not slow. Instead, the delay in Jesus’ return is a result of His forbearance. His patience. His hope that no one would “perish, but that all will reach repentance.”
It has to be mentioned that one day, God’s patience will be gone. One day - at any individual’s death or when Jesus returns - those who do not accept Jesus will be condemned. That is a spiritual fact.
But Jesus is patiently waiting, giving more and more people more and more time to hear about Him, accept Him, and worship and follow and serve Him.
Which again fits with what I hope I and you and we will pray for, which is spiritual and numerical growth right here. With that in mind, let’s say it together.
Father, we thank You for Your patience with us.
We praise You because You are patient with all,
not wanting anyone to perish,
but that everyone will come to repentance and acceptance of You.
God answers prayer. God is a personal God. God is the lifter of our heads. God is patient. Those are all pleasant words to say to God, as is proclaiming this. God is the Ruler.
I Timothy 6:15. This is part of one of the letters the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, a young pastor. Before 6:15, Paul challenged Timothy to aim at, among other things, righteousness, faith, love, and gentleness. He encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight. To do that by staying true to the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus was and still is worthy of all that. That is expressed in how Paul described Jesus. Again, God and Jesus are one, so these are words pleasant for God to hear. Jesus is “the blessed and only Ruler.” It is not Mohammed or David Koresh or Mother Nature who rule. God and Jesus - He is the Ruler. As Paul continued, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
God wants all to know who He is, including that He is the Ruler. Therefore, we are, in 2018, to seek the Lord, through Him finding original, ingenious, visionary ways to promote spiritual growth here and attract others to Him, hopefully here as well.
With that in mind, let’s say these pleasant words together.
All honor and praise be to You, our God,
the blessed and only Ruler,
the King of kings and Lord of lords.
* * * * *
At the beginning of today’s message, I shared there were three things that have been swirling around in my mind, all of them directed toward what I hope will give me and you and us as a congregation some important direction as we prepare to go into the new year of 2018.
As mentioned, one of the things is the reminder to pray, including stating in our prayers words that are pleasant for God to hear, including that God answers prayer, that He is a personal God, that He is the lifter of our heads, that He is patient, that God is the Ruler. Let’s use those and other pleasant words to God, not only for the next week or so, but beyond that. How good it will be to know God is pleased with our prayers.
The second thing that has been swirling around in my mind entered in when I read the December 13 devotional in Our Daily Bread.
Here it is.
“Father in Heaven, without You we would have nothing.” Do we know that? Are we therefore thankful for all we have - food, shelter, friends, adequate finances, freedom, salvation, the opportunity for spiritual and numerical growth.
“Without Jesus’ grace we would be hopeless.” None of us deserves God’s love, but Jesus died so our sins can be forgiven. The result is a good relationship with God. A relationship that will provide blessings now and eventually Heaven. Do we believe that? Will we share that with others in 2018?
“Without the Holy Spirit we would be helpless.” With the Holy Spirit, we can be strong enough to grow personally and share Jesus with others.
“Please show us how to give You the honor You deserve.” May that include praying.
And then this, which I developed from something I heard from Handel Smith. Handel is from the national office of the Church of God. I have had the privilege of working with Handel at the state church level most of this year.
Here is what was developed. “In 2018, be FAT.”
At first glance, it seems kind of light-hearted. It is not a bad thing to hear or read following Christmas and on this New Year’s Eve. But the challenge is serious. in 2018, may we be Faithful to the cause of Christ, Available to serve Him in whatever ways He calls us to serve, and Teachable. Teachable in all spiritual things, including - here it is one more time - in original, ingenious, visionary ways to promote spiritual and numerical growth, individually and at Fellowship Church.
Let’s pray. God, help us today and all through 2018 to remember to give You pleasant words, including proclaiming that You answer prayer and are a personal God, that You are the one who is ready and willing to lift our heads, that You are patient, and that You are the Ruler.
help us to remember that You are the giver of all good things, including hope and help.
Lord, help us to be FAT - faithful, available, and teachable - throughout the year You are about to give us.
And yes, our prayer is and will continue to be that growth will be evident all through 2018. May that happen for Your honor and glory. Amen.
The closing song is appropriate as 2018 is just hours away. It is Another Year is Dawning, which repeats many of the challenges presented in today’s message.
Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.
Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.
Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in Heaven.
Another year for Thee.
The benediction is a simple statement. Happy New Year. To all of us and to God, Happy New Year. Amen.