The Stewardship of Thanksgiving

Steve Viars November 24, 2007 Psalms 107:

 

- every so often we become aware of a story that is nothing short of scandalous...

- this week in Iraq American soldiers were handing out toys to children...

- and then a suicide bomber walked into the middle of that scene and detonated his vest...

- three of the children, and three of the soldiers were killed...

- one child who survived named Rasoul Issam, 16 years old , said he and his friends were playing soccer when the U.S. soldiers came.  “We ran toward them and I caught a ball when suddenly an explosion took place about 20 meters from us,” He made that statement from his hospital bed...

- Another 11 year old boy named Mohammed Sabah said, “The soldiers gave me pens and I thanked them. After this the explosion took place and I was hit by shrapnel.”

- regardless of what you think of the war and our country’s place in it...such behavior in the name of any god or political ideology is nothing short of scandalous...

- another story came out of Iraq where the insurgents used a handicapped child as one of their suicide bombers...

- they took a boy who had down’s syndrome and strapped explosives to him and sent him into a polling site filled with people...

- who could possibly hear of such things and not be outraged by such behavior?..

- Often Jesus was involved in events that when recorded, were purposely designed to create a sense of outrage on the part of the hearers...such behavior was nothing short of scandalous...

- of course then the punch line to them often was...sometimes you are like that...

- one such occasion is recorded in the gospel of Luke...where Jesus was passing between Samaria and Galilee...and Scripture says that as he entered a village, ten leprous men stood at a distance to meet him...

- leprosy was a terrible disease of the skin that was so contagious that such persons were often forbidden from having contact with anyone else...

- you can imagine how miserable it would be to be suffering from a terribly painful disease, and at the same time not be able to have any contact with your family or friends...

- apparently most of them were Jewish which meant they were also ceremonially unclean and could not come to the temple...

- and the Bible goes on to sayLuke 17:13 - and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

- which was a common way to request for healing in that day...which showed that they believed Christ had the power to remove their disease...and the next verse says...

- Luke 17:14 - When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.

- now, what would you expect next?...ten men to spin around on their heels [if sandals have heels] and begin thanking Christ and glorifying God for His amazing power and compassion...

- but that’s the scandal...

- Luke 17:15-16 - Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan.

- that’s the reason this event is recorded in Scripture...the focus isn’t on the healing in this particular case, but on the fact that 90% of the people who were healed did not take the time to express thanks...

- such an omission was nothing short of scandalous...you can’t believe that anybody, especially men from the nation of Israel who would have heard about the importance of thanking God their entire lives, would fail to be thankful when such an obvious opportunity presented itself...but they did...

- which is why Jesus said...Luke 17:17-18 - Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? “Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”

- where are the nine?

- this morning we are talking about The Stewardship of Thanksgiving...The Scandal of Ungratefulness.

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Psalm 107?...page 440 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- most of us, if we were honest would say that we could do better at the matter of being thankful...

- we’re not always good stewards of the opportunities God gives us to cultivate a thankful heart, or thankful speech, or a thankful life...[is it fair for me to say that on behalf of all of us this morning?...]

- on the other hand, when we do get it right...when we do choose to be good stewards of thanksgiving...it can be a beautiful thing...we just know that it’s the right thing to do...

- and when someone expresses thanksgiving to you, it can have a profound effect on that relationship...

- it shouldn’t surprise us then that the Bible talks about this subject...a lot...

- sometimes its in shorter snippets...1 Thessalonians 5:18 - in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

- sometimes it’s through the telling of a story, like that of the ten lepers...

- sometimes it’s a more extended discussion, like Psalm 107...now, before we read it, please just notice the way it is organized...it breaks down very easily...

- [read vs. 1, 8, 15, 21, 31]...

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon – titles this Psalm Thanksgiving and the motives for it.

- if we would all say that we can be better stewards of thanksgiving, let’s dig deeply into this passage for more truth to motivate us to change in the days ahead...Read Psalm 107

- in the time we have remaining, let’s look for Five blessings from God for which we should be thankful.

I. Direction in Times of Wandering – vv. 1-7.

A. We were redeemed from the hand of the adversary – v. 2

- there’s no way to know for sure which specific adversary the Psalmist was alluding to...

- And we always want to be careful not to read more into Scripture than is actually there...

- but from the perspective of NT theology, there is no question that people like you and me were born dead in trespasses and sins...

- Paul explained that in Ephesians chapter 2...

- Ephesians 2:1-2 - And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

- ultimately we’re talking about a fight with the adversary...and He’s a powerful foe, and one of the main tools he uses is deception...lies...confusion

- that’s why Paul said in the next verse... Ephesians 2:3 - Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

- and certainly that is a matter of degrees...but many in our church could speak about the confusion that comes from trying to make life work apart from a relationship with God...that’s is why the text goes on to say that...

B. We were like people wandering the wilderness – v. 4

- have you ever been good and lost?...

- where you’re wandering around, perhaps in some woods, or maybe in this day and age...in your car...

- Psalm 107:4 - they did not find a way to an inhabited city.

- and there’s great pain that comes from that... Proverbs 13:15 - ...the way of transgressors is hard.

- Proverbs 28:13 - He that covers his sins shall not prosper...

- but what does the second half of verse 6 say?

C. God was willing to deliver us when we were wandering.

- Psalm 107:6 – He delivered them out of their distresses.

- and what did He provide in verse 7?...

D. He leads us by a straight way.

- Psalm 107:7 - He led them also by a straight way, To go to an inhabited city.

- A few weeks back, I was traveling...and Heather had printed off these directions to the airport...and it was going to be a tight connection anyway...

- and then the exit I was supposed to take was torn up by construction so I’m stuck on the interstate, go sailing by the airport with no way to get off...and I looked at my watch and thought---I’m in trouble...

- so I pulled off at the next exit, which was not in a very nice part of town...and there were two guys leaning over a car on blocks trying to fix it...and I thought, they’re my only hope...

- so I stopped and asked them directions...but while I was doing so, I remembered a game we used top play in our neighborhood...sometimes when people would stop us and ask directions...we would purposely tell them the wrong thing...oh yea, you go down the road to the stop sign, turn right, then take your first left, then go through three stoplights...and then they’d drive away and we’d laugh...

- so now I’m in real trouble...and I’m looking at this guy thinking, Lord, please help this not to be one of those payback moments...please don’t make me reap what I’ve sown...

- and the guy seemed pretty legit...a little drunk, but pretty legit...and frankly, I really didn’t have a choice---I only had once chance to make it to this airport...and sure enough...though I had to go through some rough places, he took me in a straight line to the right place...

- now, here’s the picture...our adversary the devil – is like me when I was a little kid (probably in more ways than one)...

- he thinks it’s funny to jam people up...and fill their lives with confusion and disarray...

- and if there has been a definite time in your life where you’ve trusted Christ as Savior and Lord...one of the reasons for you to be thankful this morning is that you’ve been given direction in time of wandering...

- that’s why Jesus told His disciples...John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

- Can I ask you this morning, if you know Christ, are you truly cultivating a heart of thanksgiving for the direction God has given you?...

- and I realize that many here this morning can say yes...some could say that finally you have principles to help you know how to function as a husband or a wife...you have a clearer understanding of your role in the home than every before...

- or you have direction about the kind of friendships to cultivate...

- you have clarity about how to communicate and solve problems...

- and your heart is filled with gratitude for that...and you praise Him for that...a lot...

- That’s why verse 2 says...Psalm 107:2 – Let the redeemed of the earth say so...

- and if you gratitude in your hearts for this, it will eventually find its way to your lips...

- but do you know what the scandal is?...it’s actually twofold...

- for some who call themselves Christians...they actually chafe under God’s directions...

- they don’t like what His Word says about certain topic...and in some cases, they have absolutely no intention of following...

- such a possibility is nothing short of scandalous...

- we know a new stanza is beginning in verse 8 because he says...[read v. 8]

- but what are those next verses about?...how God gives...

II. Satisfaction in Times of Thirst.

A. Life without God is like great hunger or tremendous thirst – v. 9

- I was just reading about a man in Bangladesh...after the terrible cyclone there...

- and he was talking about the relief effort...and after several days with absolutely nothing to eat...he was finally able to get his hands on a little cookie that one of the relief workers gave him...

- and he was expressing thanks but he said...cookie not enough...

- I think most of us would say that we don’t know anything about that kind of hunger, or that kind of thirst...

- perhaps just after thanksgiving, people like should think about it from the other perspective...what’s it’s like for the thirsty to be “satisfied”...and the hungry to be “filled”...

- it’s like you felt Thursday afternoon...

- now, I’m sure there’s a few who said---I was watching my calories...

- most of us would say...so was I, as I was eating them...

- and then at some point in the day...hopefully not past the line of gluttony but perhaps pretty close, you said...I am full...I am really full...

B. God stands ready to fill your soul.

- v. 9 – He has satisfied the thirsty soul...

- v. 9 – The hungry soul He has filled...

- Can I ask you this morning, is that your testimony?...

- Is your heart thankful because your soul is satisfied?...

- when we worship together, are you able to do it out of a soul that is full?

- when you opened your Bible this week, and spent time praying to the Lord, did you marvel at the way God fills your soul?

- when you listened to godly music, were the words like water quenching your thirst?...

- when you were tempted to sin, did you find yourself saying---why would I do that, my soul is already filled?...

- would you agree with St. Augustine who said... My soul is restless until it finds its rest in thee, O God.

- now I realize that some might be here today and would say...PV, I don’t have the kind of direction you’re talking about [things for me are very confused---I’m wandering around]...or, I don’t have the kind of satisfaction you’re talking about---I’ve been sticking my head in all sorts of places that turn out to be garbage cans filled with junk that can’t really satisfy...

- friend, what we’re talking about this morning is...

C. This emphasis is an important aspect of the gospel.

- Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

- it is possible that, even if you have been around church for a long time, that you may not have thanksgiving in your heart for these things because you have not truly ever experienced them...

- and the good news is...what have we read over and over in this passage...the central reason to be thankful is...v. 1, 8, 15, 21, 31 – For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

 - and if you have never genuinely come to Christ in repentance and faith, today would be a wonderful way to start the Christmas season around here...[develop]

- now, let’s even make this more practical...

D. One of the evidences of this kind of thankfulness is growing contentment.

- if in Christ, we have direction from His Word and satisfaction for our souls...what else do we really need?...

- Philippians 4:11-12 - Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

- 1 Timothy 6:6 - But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.

- 1 Timothy 6:8 - If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.

- Hebrews 13:5 - Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”

- can I ask you this morning, is that the kind of impact you have in your home?...

- Proverbs 21:9 - It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.

- and let me no mistake, that is equally true for a brawling man...

- now, let’s dig a little further in the text...

III. Humility in Times of Rebellion – vv. 15-20

- this emphasis actually begins as early as verse 11 when the Psalmist speaks about rebelling against the words of God...

- and in verse 12 needing to be humbled with labor...

- but that idea becomes the focus in the third stanza...

A. Some of us were foolish in our rebellion – v. 17.

- is there anybody here who would say...there has never been any evidence of that at all in my life?...

- prone to wander, Lord I feel it...prone to leave this God I love...

- and it is stated in an especially powerful way in verse 18...

B. Some of us despised the very nourishment God was trying to provide – v. 18.

- v. 18 – Their soul abhorred all kinds of food.

- can you remember times when a parent, or a friend, or a teacher, or some other person was trying to reach out to you...and trying to help you...and you “bit the hand that was trying to feed you”?...

- and what did God do?...for many of us, He kept sending others to try to help us anyway...

- how many of you repented and trusted Christ the first time you heard the gospel?...

- some perhaps...but for many of us...we bloodied a few of the mailmen before we were willing to receive the message...

- but what is it we are supposed to be especially thankful for, and amazed by?...

- His lovingkindness is everlasting....

- now, I realize that some might say – PV, I realize that I need to be a good steward of thanksgiving...and I want to let the kinds of truths that we are studying here motivate me to greater thankfulness, and to have that kind of an impact in my home, and with my friends, and at our church...

- but what if there is something happening that I think is wrong...a problem that I believe needs to be solved...something that has to be confronted...

- does that automatically make me a brawling woman, or a brawling man, if I bring it up [whether it be at home, or the office, or the church]?

- what’s the answer to that?...

- not necessarily...

- because the Scripture is clear that we have to solve problems quickly...

- we have to communicate about things...

- we have to confront sin in certain situations...

- but here’s the key---some people do that on a foundation of thankfulness for all that is right...and therefore the problem they perceive is seen in a balanced way...

- whereas others have been poor stewards of the opportunities to be thankful, and therefore, the way they think about problems is very unbalanced...there’s no appropriate foundation of thankfulness...

- the fourth stanza, verses 21-30 are considered by many as the most picturesque...because they emphasize...

IV. Peace in Times of Storm.

A. Life without God is like being in a storm at sea.

- Psalm 107:26-27 - They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end.

- have you ever been on the water during a storm?...

- Psalm 107:28-30 - Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.

- what’s the point?...

B. God stands ready to give peace in the storm.

- can I ask you this morning?...are you thankful for that?

- if you’ve come to the place where your life has some stability, and has some normalcy because of what God has done for you?...is the response of your heart one of thanksgiving?...

- please think about it from this perspective for a moment...

- what is the relationship between stewardship of thanksgiving, and joyfully serving Him?...

- part of it is a desire to share the peace of God with others that has already been given to you...

- [could describe the new miracle scene in the LN– thank Ken and Arvid – cf. Pastor Gray – this isn’t Mickey Mouse – this is like Disneyland]...

- but can I ask you to think about this as you serve in the LN?...

- how many of those who come are still living in the midst of a storm?...

- and we have a great message to share...about the coming of the Prince of...Peace.

- what about Christmas for Everyone --- just a simple act...but think about the difference that could make...and to be able to have our distribution day at the CC – what a great way to serve and minister...who knows how God might use that?

- the last stanza begins in verse 31...and there’s a lot there, but a key emphasis is that God provides...

V. Protection in Times of Opposition.

A. Some people in this world are “diminished and bowed down” through “oppression, misery, and sorrow”.

- some here know exactly what it is like to be oppressed by a parent, or a sibling, or a boss, or another person in your life...

- and we want to think about that in a balanced way...

- we don’t want to walk around treating everyone like helpless victims where they define themselves through the lens of their abuse...

- but on the other hand, we dare not neglect to sympathize with those who have been abused simply because we have never experienced such treatment ourselves.

- don’t you love verses 41-42?...

- Psalm 107:41-42 – But He sets the needy securely on high away from affliction, And makes his families like a flock. The upright see it and are glad; But all unrighteousness shuts its mouth.

B. God sets the needy securely on high.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video