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If all we are and all we have is a gift from God, then the best we can do is to give back to God what is already his. But this leads to a problem. The problem is, it seems like much ado about nothing. Our giving to God is like giving a thimble of water to the ocean, or like giving a candle to the Sun. It seems so insignificant that we tend to lose the thrill of Thanksgiving. Sir Michael Costa, a famous composer and conductor from Naples, was once rehearsing with a vast array of instruments and hundreds of voices. With the thunder of the organ, the roll of the drums, the sounding of the horns, and the clashing of the cymbals, the mighty chorus rang out. You can understand the mood that came over the piccolo player who said within himself, “In all this din it matters not what I do!” So he ceased to play. Suddenly, Costa stopped and flung up his arms, and all was still. He shouted out, “Where is the piccolo?” His sensitive ear missed it, and it’s absence made a difference to him. God has a sensitive ear as well, and he misses any voice that is not lifted in Thanksgiving to Him. Besides the angelic host of heaven, millions on earth join the chorus with all sorts of spectacular things to thank God for, and it is easy for us to feel like that piccolo player and say, “How can it matter what I do? In the colossal symphony of voices, what does it matter if I remain silent? God’s blessings are more than I can count, but my ability to express my thanks is so inadequate.” Simon Greenberg expresses the frustration of the thankful heart as he deals with the gifts of God just in nature alone: Five thousand breathless dawns all new; Five thousand flowers fresh in dew; Five thousand sunsets wrapped in gold; One million snowflakes served ice cold; Five quiet friends, one baby’s love; One white mad sea with clouds above; One hundred music–haunted dreams, Of moon–drenched roads and hurrying streams, Of prophesying winds, and trees, Of silent stars and browsing bees; One June night in a fragrant wood; One heart that loved and understood. I wondered when I waked that day, How–how in God’s name–I could pay! He never even got into the greatest gifts–the gifts of love and salvation and eternal life in Jesus Christ. We can’t even pay for the gifts of natural life let alone for the gifts of eternal life. So let’s face up to the reality that Thanksgiving is not a way to pay God back. All we can give is what is already His, and we can only give a fraction in return for the fullness He has given us. So forget the idea that thanks is to pay. It is not to pay, it is to pray, and to say to God, this is how I look at life, history, nature, and all that is, because I acknowledge you as my God. Thanksgiving is the expression of an attitude, or a philosophy of life. The thankful person is a person who looks at life from a unique perspective, and, therefore, sees what the ungrateful do not see. At best we see only a part, a mere fraction of God’s grace. We see through a glass darkly Paul says, and so none of us can be as thankful as we ought to be, for we are all ignorant of so much that God has spared us from, and even of what He has given us. We can get tiresome and superficial when we try to enumerate all the things for which we are thankful. One author describes the boredom of going through and endless litany of thanks: For sun and moon and stars, We thank Thee, O Lord. For food and fun and fellowship, We thank Thee, O Lord. For fish and frogs and fruit flies, We thank Thee, O Lord. By the time you are finished, what you are most thankful for is that the list is over. David here in Psalm 30 does not give us a long list, but focuses on just a few ways of looking at life that expresses the grateful heart. I hear him saying here, thank God for the past; thank God for the present, and thank God for the permanent. I. THANK GOD FOR THE PAST. David looks back and recognizes that had God not loved him, led him, and lifted him, he would have been long gone, and a part of the population of the pit. The only reason any of us are sitting here, and not lying in a cemetery is because of the grace and providence of God. There have been millions of people just our age who have gone into the grave because of war, accidents, or disease, but we are alive, and not because we are more worthy, but because we have been spared. David knew he was alive for that same reason, and he says in verse 3, “O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.” Life has its burdens and sorrows, and sometimes we even get depressed enough to want to chuck the whole thing. David knew these dark depths as well, but most of the time we feel like David does here, and like the modern poet who wrote, Thank God I’m alive! That the skies are blue, That a new day dawns For me and you. The sun light glistens On field and on tree, And the house wren sings To his mate and to me. The whole world glows With a heavenly glee! I know there are heart–aches, A world full of strife, But thank God, O thank God, Thank God just for life. We could not say that or feel that unless we could look back to the past and see how God has spared us and protected us to this point. David saw many a good man go down in battle. Israel was a winner, but even the winners lose men, and often a great many men. Some of you have no doubt survived wars. Some of us could have been killed in the wars of our nation, as many thousands were. We were spared, and we got the chance to live, to marry, to raise children, and to have grandchildren. We have been granted the gift to be a part of history, and not because we are more worthy, but because of the grace of God. It is good for us to reflect on this, for it can help us to develop a more thankful perspective. So often we forget the enormous privilege it is just to be alive, that we become resentful and even bitter because we are only among the riches people of the world, and not literally the richest people around. The curse of comparative thinking takes its toll on all of us at come point in life. We compare ourselves to others who have been more materially blest, and who have acquired more things, and we envy them, and this envy quenches the spirit of thankfulness. Many of the most blest people alive are not happy to be alive because they are caught in this curse of comparison. There is no level of life you can arrive at where you can escape this curse. Millionaires compare themselves with multi-millionaires, and they grieve. The multi-millionaires compare themselves with billionaires, and they grieve, for they have been deprived of the highest place. Art Linkletter actually has a friend who has eight million dollars, but he is always depressed because all of his friends have at least 10 million dollars. The only cure for this curse is to change your perspective and look at life like David is doing in this Psalm. He is not comparing himself to the Pharaoh of Egypt, or to the kings of the world. He is comparing himself to those in the grave, and he likes his place better. If you have to compare, don’t look up, for by this foolish logic everybody is nobody except the man at the very top. The only one who can win the comparison game is the one that has nobody he can look up to because he is on top of everyone else. In other words, only one can win this game, for anyone else is below him and thus, by comparison are failures. But if you look the other way, and compare yourself to those who are in the grave, you are the very essence of success and superiority. How do you measure the degree of value between you and those not alive? Are you fifty percent, seventy five percent, or one hundred percent better off? Keep in mind, we are not talking about eternal life, but temporal life. The dead in Christ are with him, and are blest beyond our knowledge, but they have zero potential to enjoy the gifts of God in this earthly life. Compared to them we are infinitely blest. Therefore, let us look back, and thank God for the past and for all the ways by which He preserved us so we could be alive this day. In our pride we often think we are who we are because of our labor and wisdom. There is some truth to this, but if it hinders our sense of thankfulness to God, we need to see life from a new perspective. Did you choose to not be raised by the Mafia, and learn to live by crime? Did you choose not to be born in Ethiopia, and be starving? Did you choose not to live in Mexico City and be killed by a earthquake? Did you choose not to be a farmer in Columbia and be killed by a volcano? The list could go on for hours of all the evils you have escaped, not by your own choice and wisdom, but by the grace of God. Henry Ward Beecher said, “A proud man is seldom a grateful man for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” David is a grateful man for he knows he has received so much more than he deserves. Let us join in the spirit of David, and thank God for all His deliverance’s of the past that bring us to the present, alive and full of potential. Thank God for the past.
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