Psalm 138:1-8 How to Have a Thankful Heart
Let’s begin with a question: What are you thankful to God for? Send that answer to the phone number on the screen. I will share some of these answers during the sermon.
Dr. Michael Guido, author of “Seeds From the Sower,” in his sermon on Psalm 138, mentioned the importance of expressing thanksgiving in praise. he states:
Paganism has its prayers, but not any praise. It has teaching, but not any thanksgiving. Sometimes unthinking Christians express no thanksgiving. But praising, like praying, should be a habit.1
Although David’s name appears with the psalm, certain manuscripts of early translation add the names Haggai and Zechariah. Perhaps the older Davidic poem was given this revised form after the Exile.2
David’s praise, in this case, came from a thankful heart. As we approach this Thanksgiving season, I may spend time celebrating with friends and family a wonderful American holiday. Yet, if I really want to enjoy the Thanksgiving season, I should ask myself this question: How can I express a thankful heart to God? In this psalm, David describes how he shares a thankful heart for God.
5 REASONS TO HAVE A THANKFUL HEART3
1. I can praise God for His love (Psalm 138:1-2)
“I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing Your praise before the heavenly beings. I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your constant love and truth. You have exalted Your name and Your promise above everything else.” (Psalm 138:1–2, HCSB)
God’s love is the most basic reason to thank God. He loved me enough to create me, save me, and help me. I can thank God for Who He is. His love is God’s basic characteristic.
The so-called “gods” in Psalm 138:1 may have been supernatural beings who filled God’s heavenly court, or the term may refer to pagan powers and rulers.4
The words “Thank” and “Think” hail from the same root, reminding us that thanksgiving comes from thinking about our blessings.
Helen Keller once said, “I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. It would make him more appreciative of sight and the joys of sound.”
Senator Richard Neuberger once said the experience of contracting cancer changed him. “A change came over me which I believe is irreversible. Questions of prestige, of political success, of financial status, became all at once unimportant. In their stead has come a new appreciation of things I once took for granted—eating lunch with a friend, scratching Muffet’s ears and listening for his purr, the company of my wife, reading a book or magazine in the quiet cone of my bed lamp at night, raiding the refrigerator for a glass of orange juice or a slice of coffee cake. For the first time I think I am actually savoring life. I shudder when I remember all the occasions that I spoiled for myself—even when I was in the best of health—by false pride, synthetic values, and fancied slights.5
2. I can call God for answers (Psalm 138:3)
“On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.” (Psalm 138:3, HCSB)
There are times when I need answers. God is there to give me His answers to my difficulties and problems. I can be thankful for providing answers during difficult times.
“It’s no use,” said Tom to his youth minister. “I’m unable to resist the temptation to sin. I’ve tried again and again to resist the devil and run from him when I’m tempted but it never works. Something must be wrong with my will power, so why should I try any longer?”
“Perhaps that’s the problem – trying to resist temptation with ‘will, power.’ No doubt it’s time to turn to God’s power,” said Jeremy.
Then he opened his Bible to Psalm 138:3 and read, “As soon as I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me strength.”
The Psalmist had it right: Rather than using his power, he depended on God for His power. And as we read that verse we can learn from his struggle how to be faithful to God. Obviously, there must have been a period of time in the life of the Psalmist when he tried to “make it on his own” and was unsuccessful. From his failure came his success because he was willing to turn from will-power to God-power. Notice that he wrote, “As soon as I pray…”6
He learned an important “life-lesson.” He could not resist the temptation to sin if he depended on himself. But “as soon as” he turned from himself to his Savior, he got exactly what he needed: “encouragement and strength” that comes only from God. So, he literally “gave up” on himself and his will power. His power did not work.
There is nothing that pleases God more than for one of His children to depend on Him for “survival.” And we must never forget that “as soon as” you call, He answers!
3. I can publicly exalt God for His ways (Psalm 138:4-5)
“All the kings on earth will give You thanks, Lord, when they hear what You have promised. They will sing of the Lord’s ways, for the Lord’s glory is great.” (Psalm 138:4–5, HCSB)
Kings are public officials. They share words in public. In the same way, when I thank God, I can do it publicly with others. I can take my time that I have with others in public and make a public praise for God. Thanking God in public shows a heart of and reveals that a person who is willing to proclaim God in front of others.
We exhibit a degree of thanksgiving in life in reverse proportion to the amount of blessings we’ve received. Martin Luther wrote in his book Table Talk: “The greater God’s gifts and works, the less they are regarded.”
A hungry man is more thankful for his morsel than a rich man for his heavily-laden table. A lonely woman in a nursing home will appreciate a visit more than a popular woman with a party thrown in her honor. A Russian who finally gets his own copy of the Holy Scriptures after seventy-five years of state-imposed atheism is more thankful for his little book than we are for all the Christian books and magazines and translations that overflow our shelves.
Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they’re there every night, we barely give them a look.
One of the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is a gradual reversal of that twisted pattern. God wants to make us people who exhibit a thankfulness in proper proportion to the gifts and blessings we’ve received.7
4. I can depend upon God in difficult times (Psalm 138:6-7)
“Though the Lord is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty from a distance. If I walk into the thick of danger, You will preserve my life from the anger of my enemies. You will extend Your hand; Your right hand will save me.” (Psalm 138:6–7, HCSB)
Difficult times will come. People will walk through the thick of danger. I can depend upon God to help me with dangerous circumstances, people, and challenges. This part of Psalm 138 has echoes of Psalm 23.
“Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff —they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, HCSB)
Judy Gordon Morrow shares the following illustration:
Think of a child holding on to her father in a boat out at sea that is being battered by wind and waves. Yet in her father’s arms she knows security and serenity, because none of the outside forces can get to her. That’s how I protect you, My child. Like a father with his child, I will not let outside forces and circumstances rob you of the peace and rest found in Me. Be that trusting child, and cling to Me. I will not fail you. I have only your best interest at heart.
Today dwell on who I am and all that is available to you in Me. I lack for nothing, and therefore, as My child you will lack for nothing either. In Me is all you need.
Be at peace, My child. I am with you. Always I am with you. You will see great and wondrous things done by your mighty, unfailing God who loves you beyond measure.8
5. I can know that God will use me when I ask Him for help (Psalm 138:8)
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Lord, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands.” (Psalm 138:8, HCSB)
God is to be worshiped because He renews us and delivers us in the midst of our troubles from our enemies.9 God wants to use me. I can thank God for His help. He wants to fulfill His purpose in me. He wants to do this not for any selfish reason. He wants to help me fulfill my purpose because He loves me.
God has a whole lot invested in you. He’s chosen you. He’s redeemed you. He’s training you—and He’s going to perfect that which He’s begun no matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes.
In Ephesians 2:10, we read that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. The Greek word translated “workmanship” is poiema, from which we get our word, “poem.” Thus, God is saying, “You are My poetry. You’re special to Me. I’m not giving up on you.”10
1 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook, 2008 Edition. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 67.
2 Russell H. Dilday Jr. and J. Hardee Kennedy, “Psalms,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 351.
4 Duane A. Garrett, “The Poetic and Wisdom Books,” in Holman Concise Bible Commentary, ed. David S. Dockery (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 232–233.
5 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 736.
7 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 736. “Reverse Proportion” comes from a sermon by the author.
8 Judy Gordon Morrow, Listening Heart, the: Hearing God in Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2013).
9 Donald Williams and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Psalms 73–150, vol. 14, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 468.
10 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary: Volume Two: Psalms-Malachi (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 162.
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