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Worship Message - I Will Bless The Lord At All Times

I Will Bless the Lord At All Times

In just a few days, Thanksgiving Day. To help us prepare for that day, and to remind us to give thanks to God every day, today’s message will center on three things the Bible teaches about giving thanks.
One of those things is found in the Old Testament. Several verses in Psalm 34 will be highlighted. Two are found in the New Testament - some instructions in I Thessalonians that those who are God’s people are to give thanks in all circumstances and an example of giving thanks that is recorded in the Book of Acts.

Today we are talking about giving thanks. Let’s begin with what is taught about that in Psalm 34, beginning with verses 1 through 3.

Psalm 34 was written by David, who began with a promise. He wrote, “I will bless the LORD at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

A bit later, we are going to look at the passage in I Thessalonians that instructs us to give thanks in all circumstances. The point will be made that all circumstances include circumstances that are not pleasant. That was the case for David when he wrote Psalm 34. David, at that time, had just narrowly escaped being killed by an enemy king. A king who had captured him when David was fleeing for his life from Saul, the king of God’s people he would one day replace.

Interestingly, David was freed after pretending to be insane. That had convinced the foreign king David, instead of being a threat politically or militarily, was too crazy to keep around.

But David’s life was, at that time, filled with turmoil and danger, which were some very unpleasant circumstances. But did we hear it? Despite the turmoil and dangers, David promised to bless the LORD. To praise God. To do so at all times. To do so continually.

To bless the LORD refers to expressing gratitude to - to thanking - God for what He has done. Most recently for David, that included giving him the idea of pretending to be insane and for allowing him escape from the foreign king. But also generally, even before the problem of his capture, David had received many good things from God. He promised to express thanks for those things, too.

To praise means to express joy over what God has done.

Why did David make that promise? Why did he want to bless and praise God? Well, one advantage of doing those things is that those who do them are themselves reminded of how good God is. But according to verse 2, David blessed and praised God for an additional reason. He wrote, “Let the afflicted hear and be glad.” In other words, David wanted to bless and praise God so others, in their times of trouble, would be convinced to also rely on God.

And by the way, right before those words in verse 2 are these. David wrote that his “soul made its boast in the LORD.” Isn’t it interesting that David did not claim credit for his recent escape from the foreign king? He did not claim any special skills for any of the other good things that had happened previously. All that was good in his life was from God. God, not himself, is the one in whom David boasted. What an important point that is for us.

But one of the reasons he blessed and praised God was so others who were suffering - others who were afflicted - would hear the goodness of God. The goal was that once they heard, they, too, would decide to rely on God so they, too, would be glad.

When that happened - verse 3 - they were, with David, to magnify the LORD.

Magnify, in this context, means to extol, glorify, praise. They were to do that together. David wrote, “O magnify the LORD with me.” He added, “Let us exalt God’s name together.” They were join together to bless and praise God, which means magnify is also the appropriate word in the more modern definition, which is to make bigger. Think of it. It was to be not just David’s one voice alone praising God. His voice was to be joined by other voices. Many, many others. Together the sound of praising would be magnified.

In Psalm 34, we are taught that David promised to bless and praise God. The purpose of that teaching is to convince us to do the same. Let’s do that, not only each Thanksgiving Day, but, as David worded it, at all times continually.

if you need some reasons for doing that, let’s think about a few more verses in Psalm 34

Verse 4. David wrote, “I sought the LORD, and He answered me. He delivered me from all my fears.”

I don’t know what they might be, but do you have some fears? If you do, they might have something to do with what we hear on the news. Wars and rumors of wars. What if ISIS comes here? Diseases - ebola, for instance - are kind of scary.

Or maybe you fear financial problems, especially with the holidays coming when there is so much pressure to spend.

Speaking of the holidays, maybe the busyness that comes with Christmas seems daunting.

Maybe you have problems now. Maybe you have had some fears in the past. Have you sought - are you seeking - the LORD? Are you asking Him to change your thinking away from the problems to the hope He can give? In that way you allow God to deliver you from your fears. As that happens, you can be thankful - certainly on Thanksgiving, but all other days as well.

And yes, He will help you if you ask Him to. If you will let Him help you.

Verses 17 and 19. David wrote, “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. Even the righteous have many afflictions, but the LORD delivers them out of them all.”

And verse 18. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Once again this year, we have experienced several deaths. Some have affected this congregation directly. Each of them has affected at least some individuals within our congregation. Broken hearts come through other things, too. Other losses. Sometimes it can seem as if we are crushed.

But do we hear it? The LORD in near to the brokenhearted. He is near enough to offer us comfort and peace. Near enough to offer us hope, even in crushing times. Near enough to help us accept comfort, peace, and hope. Near enough to get us away from dwelling on our problems. Near enough to get us thinking about the good things He has available. He will share those things if we ask for them. If we let Him share them.

And then, to put us in the frame of mind to allow Him to share His blessings, there are some specific things we are to do. Things mentioned elsewhere in the Psalm.

Verses 8, 13, and 14. “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” The challenge is to try Him out. If you do, you will be pleased with the blessings He gives you.

“Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him.” The challenge is to seek protection from God.

“Keep your tongue from evil, your lips from speaking deceit.”

We are to “depart from evil and do good.”

We are to “seek peace.” We are to “pursue” it. Peace is to be our goal.

All those things will help put us in the frame of mind needed to bless - to thank - to praise - the LORD. To bless and praise at all times. To bless and praise God continually. A frame of mind also addressed in today’s second passage, which is the first New Testament passage for this message. A passage that also has something to teach about giving thanks.

The second passage is in chapter 5 of I Thessalonians. The teaching begins in verse 12.

Paul is the author of this second passage. In verses 12 and 13, he wrote, “We [Paul was with Silas and Timothy at the time] beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work and be at peace among yourselves.” Respect of leaders and peace in a congregation. If those things happen, attention can be given to blessing and praising God. That instead of spending time and energy on conflict.

He added, “We exhort you, brethren, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” In those verses is the call to work with fellow Christians, encouraging them to grow in their faith. Part of that will be us encouraging each other to bless and praise God.

Then another call for peace. Paul wrote, “See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.”

Then verses 16 and 17.” Rejoice always. Pray constantly.” Part of rejoicing is blessing and praising God. Blessing and praising will certainly remind us - and others - that joy is possible. Our prayers are to include thanking God for all the good things He gives us and does for us.

Note we are to rejoice and praise always. Constantly. In the wording of Psalm 34, at all times. Continually. But listen to what we are to add to that. Something that will be possible as we do everything else just discussed. Verse 18. “Give thanks [as stated earlier] in all circumstances.”

We discussed that David, when he wrote Psalm 34, was going through some difficult circumstances. So was Paul going through tough times when he wrote I Thessalonians. And before that and later.

Many times, Paul faced difficulties. Problems with his health. Problems of nature as he traveled for his ministry. Problems with religious enemies. Enemies who often threatened him and beat him and imprisoned him. All that coming after he left a life of privilege and popularity. Leaving those things to serve Jesus.

Despite the problems he faced, Paul knew the importance of being thankful. Including thanking the Lord for getting him through the difficulties he faced.

Paul knew the Lord is worthy of thanks. He taught to be thankful also because, as he added in verse 18, for “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Like it is with fears, I do not know all you have suffered or are suffering. Of course, as it was with Paul, there are some with health problems. That is evident from our prayer list each week. Some of us might have travel difficulties from time to time, especially as winter approaches.

I do not think too many of us have problems from religious enemies. Not at this time anyway. But whatever problems we have, the message from Paul is as it was from David. Bless God. Praise God. Thank the Lord. All the time. That is God’s will for us.

It is His will so our attention will be, not on our problems, but on the fact God cares and is willing to help us, even through difficult times. That He will help us concentrate our thoughts and our energy on hope.

Shall we have an example of that? Let’s move to the third passage for this message, which is in Act 16.

Toward the beginning of Acts 16, Paul and fellow missionary Silas arrived at the city of Philippi. The word “we” is used when naming Paul and Silas, so it would appear the author of Acts, that being Luke, was with them.

They arrived at Philippi. Shortly after arriving - on the first sabbath day after arriving - Paul and Silas left the city, their destination being a place of prayer on the bank of a nearby river. There the missionaries preached about Jesus. There a woman named Lydia was so impressed by the message of Jesus, she made the decision to accept Jesus as her Savior.

Right after that, she was baptized. So was her family, which means she was so excited about her new faith, she was able to convince her loved ones to also accept Jesus.

After that, she hosted Paul and Silas, and maybe Luke, for a meal.

However, something happened on the way to the riverside. Paul and Silas met a slave girl who was demon-possessed. A demon that allowed the girl to tell people’s fortunes, which made her owners a lot of money.

The day after the sabbath, the girl began to follow Paul and Silas. As she followed, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God. They proclaim to you the way of salvation.”

That is the same thing the girl proclaimed the day she and the missionaries met, and it might have been that Paul and Silas at first appreciated being recognized as messengers of God. However, the crying out was not a one- or two-day thing. The girl continued to follow them. She continued to cry out for many days.

And being demon-possessed, it was likely not a gentle, polite sharing of who Paul and Silas were, but a very raucous expressing of who they were.

It eventually became very tiresome for Paul and Silas. I am guessing they were never free from the girl. Her crying out no doubt disrupted their ministry in Philippi. Because of that, Paul, being especially annoyed one day, turned to the girl and said to the demon in her, “I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”

That very hour, the demon obeyed. The demon left the girl. Which was of course a mighty fine thing for the girl. However, being rid of the demon meant she could no longer tell people’s fortunes. Which means she no longer made her owners any money. Which most certainly upset them.

So much so they seized Paul. They also seized Silas. The girl’s owners dragged both those missionaries into the market place of Philippi. They dragged them before the rulers of the city. There they accused Paul and Silas of two things - disturbing the city and advocating customs that were illegal.

Disturbing the city? I don’t think so. The only ones disturbed were the slave owners.

Advocating illegal customs? I don’t think so. All they had done that the accusers knew about was heal a slave girl.

However, the charges were made forcefully enough that the crowd also in the market place joined in accusing Paul and Silas. That caused the magistrates of the city to order Paul and Silas to be stripped, beaten with rods, and thrown into prison. All that happened because Paul and Silas, in the name of Jesus, had healed a slave girl of demon possession.

Such unfair treatment could certainly have discouraged Paul and Silas, but listen to verse 25 of Acts 16. About midnight, Paul and Silas… According to verse 24, they were in the inner part of the prison, which means it would have been very dark, probably cold, certainly damp, and their feet were in stocks, meaning they could not move very easily, even more so because they had been beaten so badly. But about midnight, Paul and Silas, in prison after being falsely accused and beaten, were “praying and singing hymns to God.”

The word “hymns” suggests the singing was of praise and thanks to God. Thanks? For what? I mean, Paul and Silas had been badly mistreated. They were in a horrible place of confinement. Thanks?

Yes, thanks.

Why? Well, many times in his letters, Paul expressed thanks for the privilege of suffering for Jesus. This time in Philippi was most surely suffering. But it was in service to the Lord. Paul was thankful, as he worded it other places, for, being considered “worthy to suffer.”

Maybe Paul and Silas also gave thanks for what had been accomplished in Philippi. Lydia being converted to faith in Jesus. She and her entire family being baptized. a slave girl being freed from demon-possession.

Maybe they were thankful for what they were confident would be future opportunities to serve, which interestingly happened very soon.

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them. Think of it. Those other prisoners were probably never going to attend any of Paul and Silas’ services. But by being in prison with them, those two missionaries had an opportunity to tell those prisoners about God and His Son Jesus. That may have been something for which they were thankful.

But then, there was suddenly an earthquake. A great earthquake. So great the very foundations of the prison were shaken. Which caused all the doors of the prison to open. Everyone’s fetters came loose.

What a miracle that was. A miracle that, when he woke, terrified the jailer. When he saw the prison doors were open, the jailer drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped, which would have resulted in him being executed. He thought it better to take his own life than to wait for prison officials to take it.

But Paul cried with a loud voice. “Do not harm yourself,” he said, “for we are all here.” Which they all were. Not only Paul and Silas, but all the other prisoners as well.

When that was discovered to be true, the jailer fell down before Paul and Silas. He then took them out of their cell and asked - nothing about the charges against them or about the earthquake - but, “What must I do to be saved?”

Isn’t that amazing? Just like the fellow prisoners, I am guessing that jailer would never have attended any services led by Paul or Silas. But face-to-face with them in prison, he asked about salvation. Which in essence is what had put Paul and Silas in that prison.

The answer? “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

The jailer did believe in Jesus. He showed his conversion by serving Paul and Silas. HE did that by taking them to his house, where he washed the wounds from the beating and then fed them. He allowed Paul and Silas to speak of the Lord to him and his family.

And one more thing. The jailer was baptized, as were all his family, which means they, too, not only listened to Paul and Silas, but accepted Jesus. All that because Paul and Silas had been arrested and put into prison, which turned out to be a good thing for the jailer and his family. Which is another reason Paul and Silas were thankful in even their horrible circumstance in Philippi.

For you and me, probably nothing as dramatic is going to happen when we are thankful. But the challenge is the same. It is to give thanks.

As is taught in I Thessalonians, let’s give thanks in all circumstances, knowing that is the will of God for those of us who are Christians.

As is taught in Psalm 34, let’s give thanks at all times - continually - so that others who need the Lord will hear about Him.

And yes, even if it is not as dramatic as happened in Acts 16, may our thanks have a positive effect on others so more and more people will be redeemed and then join us in growing in our Christian faith.

Today’s closing song is suggested by Paul’s answer to the jailer in Acts 16. The answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer being, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” The song has been selected as a reminder that no one is going to thank God - no one is going to thank Jesus - unless he or she believes in the Lord.

As we sing, let’s each of us examine our hearts. Do you believe?

If you do, sing joyously. Sing with thanksgiving for salvation.

If not, please stop singing. Use the time instead to believe in Jesus - to express repentance for your sins, to ask for forgiveness, to invite Jesus to be the master of your life.

Do that, or sing the hymn Only Trust Him.

Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
There’s mercy with the Lord;
And He will surely give you rest
By trusting in His word.
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood,
Rich blessings to bestow;
He offers now the crimson flood
To wash us white as snow.
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

Yes, Jesus is the Truth, the Way,
That leads you into rest:
Believe in Him without delay,
And you are fully blest.
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.

Lord, may our promise to You be like that of David in Psalm 34. To bless You, to praise You, to thank You at all times continually.

May we learn to do that, as it is written in I Thessalonians 5, in all circumstances.

May the results of our thanksgivings be, like they were in Acts 16, others being led to You.

And help us to know what is the most important thing, which is to accept You as Savior. Help us make sure we have taken care of that, for we will not truly thank You unless we believe in You.

Thank You, Lord, for all You have done, all You are doing, all You will do. Thank You for loving everyone and for helping all who accept You. Thank You. Amen.

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