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Worship Message "Cry...Be Delivered...Give Thanks", Thanksgiving Message #2 - 2015

Praise the LORD. O give thanks to the LORD. That is the theme of the messages during these Sunday mornings leading up to this year’s Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Praise the LORD. Thank Him. Thank Him personally, as in expressing our appreciation to Him. Thank Him by sharing our appreciation of Him with others. Thank Him by living in ways that will please Him.

Praise the Lord. O give thanks to the LORD. That is the theme for this season, including today as we will consider verses in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that teach that theme. May we learn the importance of being thankful. May we learn the rewards for being thankful. May we learn how to be thankful.

The Old Testament verses for this message are in Psalm 107, which begins with the theme. “O give thanks to the LORD [to God].” Why? “For He is good. For His steadfast love endures forever.”

In last week’s message, which began with Psalm 106, those same words were highlighted. In that message, some examples of God’s goodness were mentioned, including how He created the universe and how He made us to enjoy certain pleasures, such as the sense of taste. How He sent Jesus to save us and how He created Heaven so that those who are His people will be able to be with Him for all eternity. That is also a display of God’s wonderful love.

In Psalm 107 there are more examples of God’s goodness given.

For instance, verses 4 and 5. Some of God’s people wandered in desert wastes, finding no city to dwell in, hungry and thirsty. Their souls fainted within them.

That is of course not good news. The good part is coming a bit later. But speaking historically, that wandering had happened to the people of God a few times.

For instance, it happened in the Old Testament to Abraham when he was told by God to leave his homeland and his extended family and go to a place God would show Him later. Probably not all that was in desert wastes, but some of it was.

It happened for the people of God when, many years later, they left slavery in Egypt and took off for a land promised to them by God. As it turned out, because of the lack of faith of some of those people, it was 40 years before the people of God were allowed to enter the promised land. That 40 years was spent wandering in wasteland.

For both Abraham and the people in the wilderness, there was no city for them to dwell in. No permanent city for the people of God.

For those on their way to the promised land, thirst and hunger were problems. At least for them - maybe not Abraham in his journey, but for the people of God as they hungered and thirsted - time after time their souls fainted.

Verses 6 and 7. They cried to the LORD. Abraham cried to the LORD in his trouble. The people of God cried to the LORD in their trouble. And - here is the goodness - He delivered them. He did that by leading them. He led Abraham to where he needed to be. He eventually led the people of God into the land promised to them.

Historically, Abraham and the people escaping Egypt are referred to in the first part of Psalm 107. While I do not want to add anything to the Bible that is not there, may I suggest that in some ways, some of us may at times have felt - maybe we now feel this way - like we are going through some kind of desert waste, wondering where or even if we fit in, maybe struggling with how to afford to put food on our tables, being discouraged about life in general, especially if there are a lot of problems being faced.

Socially and/or spiritually, we may find ourselves in desert wastes. Hungry and thirsty, at least spiritually. If so, Psalm 107 teaches us to cry to God. The promise is that when we cry to Him, He will deliver us. He will help us fit in. He will help our needs to be supplied. He will encourage us.

Verse 8. When that happens for us, we, like the people referred to in Psalm 107, are to thank the LORD. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love and His wonderful works.

Verses 10 through 12. Some sat in darkness and gloom, prisoners in affliction and in irons.

For the people referred to, it was their own fault they were where they were. The wording is that they had rebelled against God’s word and spurned His counsel.

That refers to some extent to those in real prisons. In prisons because of breaking various laws. Since laws are instituted by God for the benefit of all, breaking them is rebellion against Him.

It also refers, I think, to emotional or spiritual bondage. The type of bondage that comes from not following God’s teachings, not answering His challenge to live well, not responding to the call of Jesus to accept Him as Savior. It might seem that people who disregard God often do quite well in the world, but it can lead to darkness and gloom. To being held prisoner by sins.

Verses 13 and 14. Those people cried to the LORD. That is what we are to do as well if we are ever gloomy or in darkness, feeling imprisoned when we fail to follow God.

They cried to the LORD. We are to do the same. If we do, the result for us will be the same as it was for those referred to. God delivered them from their distress and brought them out of darkness and gloom. He brought them into the light. He broke their bonds asunder.

When that happens - verse 15 - let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love and His wonderful works.

Verses 17 and 18. Some were sick.

Interestingly, that, like those in darkness and gloom mentioned right before this, was their own fault. That is to whom the Psalm refers. It was their own fault because of sin.

Let me be quick to point out that to me, that is certainly not to say that all illnesses are caused by a person’s sins. On the other hand, it can happen.

The people referred to were sick. So sick they could not eat. Can you relate to that, as I can? They were so sick, they were near death.

I do not know that I have ever been to that point, although I remember after a surgery a few years ago, as it was taking a lot longer to recover than I expected, I was in bed one night. I happened to be home alone that night. I was laying there, feeling ill.

A storm was building outside. Suddenly there was a severe thunderstorm warning. The advice was to head for the basement as soon as possible because of very strong winds.

As I lay there, I thought, “I don’t think I can make it to the basement. And if the house blows down, so what? I am spiritually ready to go to Heaven.”

I stayed in bed. The next morning, I was still there on the second floor of the house. The house was still around me.

I do not take danger and illness and death lightly. I am not making fun of any of those serious things. They can be troubling. They can be troubling now. They were troubling for the people referred to in Psalm 107.

However, do you sense a common thread working its way through Psalm 107? Verses 19 and 20. They - those who were sick - cried to the LORD. And He delivered them. He healed them.

And verse 21. Let them - let us who are healed - and yes, I was healed following the night of the storm a few years ago - let all who are healed thank the LORD for His steadfast love and for His wonderful works.

Verses 23 through 27 refer to those who do business on the great waters - sailors, merchants, fishermen, passengers. People on the great waters who got caught in storms that produced great waves. At times their ships were mounted up to Heaven. Then they descended sharply into the wells between waves before they were shot back up again.

A few years ago - 2010 - a cruise ship a bit north of Antarctica got caught in a bad storm. It was hit by a 30-foot wave driven by 55-mile-per-hour winds that took out windows on the bridge. That caused the power and communications on the ship to be lost.

After that, the ship went up at sharp angles before dropping nose first into the area between waves before going back up. Back and forth. Back and forth. Over and over again.

A storm warning had been given ahead of time to the passengers. They had secured themselves in their cabins. They all survived. But the insides of the ship - pianos, chandeliers, furniture, kitchen and dining room supplies - were all destroyed.

The storms referred to in Psalm 107 caused the sailors, if they tried to walk, to reel and stagger like drunken men. The storms were so severe the courage of the sailors melted away. They gave up hope.

They would have died, except for one thing. We have heard it before in the Psalm. They cried to the LORD, and He delivered them. He made the storms be still. The waves He caused to be hushed. The sailors were glad for the quiet. They were glad when God directed them to their destination.

Verse 31. Let them thank the LORD for His steadfast love and for His wonderful works.

How is thankfulness to be expressed? Verse 32. Let those who are saved from their problems - all the types of problems listed in Psalm 107 - let those who are saved extol God.

To extol means to praise. To praise enthusiastically. Let those who are saved enthusiastically give thanks to God.

Where? In the congregation of His people. Let them praise God in the assembly of the elders. All that a repeat of verse 2. Let the redeemed of the LORD [for those of us today, let those of us who are Christians, those of us saved, not just from troubles, but from our sins] give thanks to God for His goodness and for His steadfast love.

Another way God saved people - and still saves people - is mentioned later in Psalm 107. It is raising the needy out of their affliction.

But again the call, this time in verse 43. Whoever is wise, let him give heed to these things. Let men consider the steadfast love of the LORD. Joined with the rest of the Psalm, whoever is wise - spiritually wise - let us give God thanks for His steadfast love, shown in His wonderful works

Are there problems in life? Of course. As mentioned in Psalm 107, some of the problems are hunger and thirst, having a lack of direction, experiencing times of gloom and darkness, illness, storms. That happened in Old Testament times. Such problems can happen now. That seems to be part of life.

However, we, like God’s people did in the Old Testament, have a remedy available to us. It is to cry to the LORD. When we do that, the promise is that God will deliver us. Ad when that happens, may we always remember to thank Him for His steadfast love for us and for His wonderful works on our behalf.

Which leads us to the New Testament verse for this message. A verse in chapter 5 of I Thessalonians. Verse 18. Give thanks in all circumstances. Yes, even in the midst of the problems mentioned already, but also when things go well for us. Then we need to remember that God is the source of all the good things that happen to us. Give thanks in all circumstances.

Last week I invited people to write down some of the things for which they thank God. In this message and the next three, I will share some of those things. Here are some of the things shared, which are evidence of giving thanks in all circumstances.

And by the way, it was good to read so many positive words about our congregation. How refreshing that I am not the only one who enjoys being a part of us. Church and church family were mentioned many times, including the words, the love and peace of this church. And this. It is good being here with everybody including me.

I might also mention that thanks for family was shared many times, including three who specifically wrote about their wonderful husbands. I wonder if that was on my wife’s list of things worthy of thanks in her life.

Here are some more of the things shared last week, evidence of giving thanks in all circumstances.

School. You know, if you are a student or a teacher - if you are neither, you can remember - that not all school days are good and happy. There are days of struggles and tests intertwined with the fun and the friendships of school. But the one who expressed thanks for school understands the blessing of education. A blessing that will help in all aspects of life, including the development of skills and the discipline needed to read and understand and obey the Bible. What a wonderful understanding that person displayed with that item for thanks.

One person wrote about a difficult family time as one family member is experiencing a penalty for an earlier problem. That is of course a less than positive circumstance, but the one who is thankful can see how the situation is changing the spirit of the one in trouble. How good for that person to be able to see the good that is coming from a difficult time. To be thankful for it.

Helping me forgive myself and others is what someone shared. If forgiveness is needed, there must have been some tough times with others and personally. But using the gift of God - accepting His forgiveness and sharing that gift with others - has given God the opportunity to deliver from such times. That is good.

Health was listed by four people. Another added quick recovery from surgery. How good it is to see and experience God’s healing power.

And this was shared. “The many experiences bad and good that have helped me grow spiritually stronger.” What a wonderful understanding that in all circumstances, thanks can be given, in this case because bad times and good times alike promote spiritual growth.

Of course, times that start good are worthy of thanks as well. Two people wrote they are thankful for their homes.

I Thessalonians 5:18. Give thanks in all circumstances. Right before that challenge are two others, that are related. They are to rejoice always and pray constantly. It seems to me that being joyful and praying all the time about everything can help us to be thankful, but give thanks in all circumstances.

And listen to this. It finishes verse 8. Give thanks in all circumstances, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Being thankful all the time is what God wants us to do.

Are you experiencing a time in a desert of life? Cry to the LORD, let Him deliver you, then thank Him.

Are you experiencing a time of darkness? Maybe a gloomy time caused because you are not as close to God as you need to be? Cry to the LORD, let Him deliver you, then thank Him.

Are you sick? Are you experiencing some kind of storm in your life? Cry to the LORD. let Him deliver you, then thank Him.

Or is this a happy time for you? A healthy time for you? A peaceful time for you? Give thanks even now. As taught, being thankful all the time is the will of God in Christ Jesus.

Today’s closing song is the hymn Now Thank We All Our God.

Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things hath done, in whom His world rejoices;
Who, for our mother’s arms, hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him who reigns with them in highest Heaven,
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Our God in Heaven, life provides more than enough difficult times. Times that are dry. Times of darkness or sickness or storms. But You teach us that all we need to do during such times is cry to You. You promise that when we do that, You will deliver us.

Thank You. And yes, we are to thank You when You deliver, but we are to thank You on our good days, too. Help us to rejoice and pray and be thankful always, in every good and bad situation. Thank You for the strength to do that. Amen.

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