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The Blessed Benefits (Psalm 103:1-5)
"Bless the Lord, O My Soul!"
The Blessed Benefits
Psalm 103:1-5
This week I was having a conversation with a fellow who mentioned one of our church members by name, and then went on to tell me how critical he was about everything.  And I have to say, I would agree with him! 
But I would also have to say, that is true of most of us!  We're a whole lot better at complaining and criticizing than we are at being positive and helpful and thankful.  Right?  Am I speaking the truth?
And unfortunately, that applies not only to our relationships with one another, but our relationship with God.  I recently reread Numbers 10-13 which contains the sad story of the children of Israel complaining against the Lord in the wilderness. After all he had done for them, after the great miracle at the Red Sea, they were griping and complaining and moaning and groaning.
God sent manna and they didn’t like it. They missed the good food they had back in Egypt. In Egypt they were slaves, but they were willing to trade their freedom for a better menu. So God sent quail until they choked on it. Unhappy people, those Jews in the wilderness. I would be harder on them but we are like them and they are like us.
And the truth is, sometimes we just need to give ourselves a good talking-to. That’s what Psalm 103 is all about.
It’s a prayer by David in which he talks to his own soul and reminds himself to “bless the Lord” and “forget not all his benefits.”  So for tonight and the next three weeks, we're going to listen in on this lecture David gives himself  because, like him, most of us are a whole lot better at criticism than at praise.
We’re good at telling the Lord what we want him to do for us and then talking bad about him behind His back when He doesn't do what we expected. And what we need is a good dose of Psalm 103 to wash out that complaining spirit and replace it with a heart of gratitude to the Lord.
This psalm has been called by some the greatest of all the psalms. Spurgeon called it “a Bible within itself” and said it contains “too much for a thousand pens to write.” We know from the superscription that David wrote these magnificent words. I believe he wrote them late in his life when he could look back and speak from experience about the tender mercies of the Lord.
He begins by calling himself and us to a wholehearted, intentional praise of God.  Then he connects that attitude to a reminder to not forget "all His benefits".
verse 1
In other words, we need to "think" before we "thank".  We must ponder before we can praise. We must remember before we can rejoice.
Then he lists five benefits in particular that we need to keep in mind. The first one is
1. Pardon
verse 3a
David begins by reminding us that God forgives all our iniquity. It is not surprise that he starts here because this is the foundation for everything else. Our greatest problem is the guilt we feel because of our sin, and our greatest need is to know forgiveness from the Lord.
And notice that David says that God forgives “all” our iniquity. That’s good news, isn’t it? Some of us have really blown it big time, and we have messed up over and over and over again. And we’ve done the same dumb things repeatedly even after promising never to do them again.
And but notice the verse includes the little word “all”.  Now think about that.  God intends to make sure that all my sin, past, present and future is forgiven. 
I think most of us deal fairly well with God forgiving our past sins.  We come to Christ in repentance and wonder of wonders, he wipes the slate clean and allows us a brand new start. 
But many believe they are then on their own.  They've got to make sure they stay ahead of the devil and stay current on their confession until the end of life, and even then, for some, it's still anybody's guess on whether or not they are saved. 
you're just kind of left hanging in the balance until Jesus weighs the good against the bad and makes a ruling on our salvation.
But David understand that God is to be praised with everything he has because "all" our sins are forgiven.  That includes the past, it includes right now and it includes the yet-to-be-committed sins, ones that would shock us if we knew about them right now.
I had a lady in the first church I served who would say, "I believe you gotta pray and get forgiveness."  i would tell her, "I already did!  I did that when I got saved and in that moment, God forgave all my sins—past, present and future.
That is an amazing insight because it affects how we view God.  We need to know and never forget that He's much more willing to forgive than we are to be forgiven.  In fact, He is eager to forgive.  He is ready to forgive.  He wants to forgive you.
And once we come to realize that He has freely pardoned and forgiven us, we won't have any trouble being motivated to bless His holy name!
The second thing David mentions is
2. Healing
verse 3b
This benefit is close to my heart because I have been sick most of my life.  I've never acted very sick, and I have never allowed my sickness to stand in the way of doing what I'm supposed to or be an excuse for being less than faithful. 
I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was 12, but in 12 years of school, I only missed three days.
In over thirty-two years of pastoral ministry, I've never missed a Sunday because of sickness.  In fact, I've never missed a Sunday.   And I say that only as  testimony to God's grace and goodness. 
But it doesn't do away with the fact that I've dealt with sickness and disease and physical problems and I'm glad to know that God is the One who heals all our diseases. 
I praise the Lord for doctors and medicine and science and technology, but I will tell you, after doctors and nurses have done all they can do, and after we have used all the latest technology and taken the newest drugs, healing must still come from the Lord.
That’s why we pray for the sick. They may be healed by medicine or by surgery or by some other course of treatment or they may find healing through prayer or by a miracle from the Lord, but ultimately that healing comes from the Lord.
And by the way, all of those things are possible, and they are not mutually exclusive.  i think we ought to take advantage of the medicines and treatments, and when they work, we ought to give God the glory! 
He is the God of Healing.  And by the way, every human alive has known the healing power of God.  If you've ever had a skinned knee and it scabbed over and healed, it was the hand of God at work.  If you used to have a runny nose and stuffy head from a common cold, and you don't have it any longer, you need to praise God for the healing you've received.
Why is it that we only think it appropriate to praise God when it's a big and life-saving healing, and then just take it for granted when it's a common, everyday problem? 
You can't do anything about either one of them and if you get better, it is only by the grace of God!  If you used to be sick and are now healthy, you need to give thanks to the Lord.  If your cancer is in remission, give thanks to the Lord.  If you nearly died after an accident but somehow survived, give thanks to the Lord.  If you took an aspirin and now the headache is gone, that too is from the Lord.
And remember that any physical healing in this life is limited and temporary. Our ultimate healing comes when we are raised immortal and incorruptible. In that happy resurrection day, when Jesus comes and the “dead in Christ will rise first” then at last we will be totally, completely, and finally healed once and for all.
Every so often someone will ask me if I believe in divine healing.  I tell them that's the only kind there is!  It just comes in many different varieties.
And until either the Lord comes to get me or I die and go to be with him and I receive the ultimate healing of all my diseases, I am going to give thanks to the Lord for every bit of the temporary healing that I experience! 
Third thing:
3. Deliverance
verse 4a
To redeem means to rescue from danger in the time of trouble. And notice, our rescue was from the danger of destruction.  The old KJV uses the word “pit”.  It is a reference to death itself.
Now I don't know about you, but I struggle a little bit with what it means to be "redeemed or rescured from destruction or death". 
Obviously, there are lots of people who've been in life-threatening situations, and lived to walk away from it, but outside of a couple of near-misses in a car, I can't think of any times when I've been rescued from death. 
But there is another way to llok at this concept. Think about the speedometer in your car, or more specifically, the odometer, the thing that registers the mileage. 
Most of us travel thousands of miles over the course of our life and never have a major accident. And yet every day people are killed on the highway.  In fact, just this week, a lady was killed not far from here when she pulled in front of a semi. 
A friend and fellow band member of TJ was killed, and the woman whom he pulled in front of were both killed north of Tishomingo a few days ago.  Now you and I could have been killed.  A couple of weeks ago c car in front of us hydroplaned on I-35 and skidded of the road in front of us.  Our truck swerved a little, but stayed under control. 
It could have been disastrous, but it wasn't.  you and I could have been killed a hundred different times, but we weren't.  You're not dead.  You're sitting right here looking a little pale and sickly, but certainly not dead. 
Why not?  It is because God has redeemed your life from destruction.  He has preserved you to this very moment and has protected you every step of your journey. If God willed it to be so, you would die today—and you might die today—but it cannot happen without God’s permission. Satan himself cannot touch you with God’s permission.
Let me give you a little saying that, when I first heard it, I had to stop and ponder it for a while.  “If you’re going to die by hanging, you’ll never drown.”
That is a profound statement regarding the sovereignty of God!  If you’re going to die by hanging, you’ll never drown so don’t worry about it either way. You can only die one way, and since all our days are written in God’s book, and He alone knows how our earthly journey will end, we don’t have to live in fear of the future.
We’ll all die someday, and when the moment comes we may hang or we may drown, but we won’t do both.  So cheer up and enjoy the journey!
Live life free from fear because we are safe in the care of God.  Every day the Lord rescues us in a million ways that we don’t even see. His angels encamp around us to deliver us from trouble. And when the time comes to die, we will die. But we are immortal until our work on earth is done.
Therefore, be thankful for the care and protection of God.  We are far too flippant about that.  Someone asks, “What happened today?”  We say, "Nothing.”
But think of what's involved in that little word "nothing":  No one robbed you. No one shot you. You weren’t fired. You arthritis didn’t flare up—or if it did, it wasn't bad enough to keep you out of church.  A truck didn’t hit you. You weren’t rear-ended. No one scammed you on the Internet (though some people tried). Your identity wasn’t stolen (as far as you know). Your wife still loves you. Your husband is still happy to see you. You don’t have cancer—or if you do, you’re not dead yet. You’ve got your health (what there is of it), your friends (most of them, anyway), your money (maybe not as much as a three months ago but you’re not broke), your job (if you don’t get let go tomorrow), and on and on it goes. Think of all the bad things that could have happened to you today that didn’t.
The fact that you think nothing happened today means that God has been doing his job!  God has preserved your life!  While you are here on this earth, with all its dangers and troubles, God is constantly at work behind the scenes, working to protect us from trouble, to clear the way ahead, and to give us strength for each new day.
The story is told that over a bed in a hospital in England there is bronze plaque with these words: “This bed has been endowed by the savings of a poor man who is grateful for an unexpected recovery.”
If we could only see life as God does, we would make a new plaque like that every day. God has redeemed your life from destruction!
4. Coronation
verse 4b
It’s the loyal, unending, unchanging love of God toward us. He heaps up his blessings—and then he pours them out on us.
Then he crowns us with “tender mercies.” Why doesn’t he say “tender justice”? There’s nothing “tender” about justice. Mercy implies failure and defeat. Tender mercy means he knows what we are going through and he meets us where we are. If we were to receive what we truly deserve from God, we would stand no chance. But instead of justice, God give us “tender mercy.”
The crown reminds us of our position as the children of God. In our day only kings and queens wear crowns, but it is the privilege of every Christian to be crowned with lovingkindness and the tender mercy of God.
5. Satisfaction
verse 5
The text literally says he satisfies you with "good". That means there is nothing on earth that can satisfy us deeply except God himself. The “good” of verse 5 comes from God—not from anything we see around us. One translation says, “He fills my life with good things” (NLT), which is true enough. 
But knowing how Americans think and the preaching they listen to, we might be led to believe that means  God promises certain material benefits—money or status or promotion or some sort of earthly prosperity if we will only serve him.
But the emphasis is not on what we possess but on what possesses us. Eugene Peterson captures this nicely in The Message: “He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.”
To be satisfied means to be so full that you need nothing else. It’s what happens at the end of Thanksgiving dinner when you simply cannot eat anything else. You have had two helpings of everything and even though there is more food on the table, you cannot eat any of it. If you are hungry, to be full like that is a wonderful sensation. But that satisfaction eventually wears off and you have to eat again.
Here David speaks of satisfaction deeper than anything the world can offer. All over our country are people who are searching for satisfaction. Like Solomon of old, they try wine, women and wealth.  They destroy their health trying to get rich, only to turn around and give all the money to a doctor or hospital. 
But God says to his fading, frail, perishing children, “I will give you whatever you need so you can soar like the eagle.” All of us need this. I know I need it.
There is a way to renew yourself, your energy, your outlook and your attitude. It’s better than aerobics, cheaper than health food, quicker than dieting, and altogether less strenuous than jogging.
And what is this “miracle cure”? Fill your life with God’s good gifts to you. If you will let him, the Lord will give you something the world cannot match. The result will be immortal youth.
That’s what Ponce de Leon tried to find in his quest for the fabled Fountain of Youth. He never found it because it’s nowhere to be found in this world. God says, “I want to satisfy you—not with gold but with good.”
Not with that which glitters today and is gone tomorrow but with that which is permanent, eternal, and ever increasing in value.
God intends to give us  . . .
So to all those with a bitter, complaining, critical spirit, I say, reflect on these benefits and I will dare you to complain.  Instead fill your days and nights with praise to the Lord for His pardon, healing, deliverance, coronation and satisfaction.
If you don’t know where else to begin in praising God, why not start right there?
Several years ago, a guy named Ken Blanchard wrote a bestseller called, "The One Minute Manager".  In that book, he recommended that leaders develop the practice of “one-minute praising” for those times when employers would “catch them (their employees) doing something right.”
He observed we’re all used to bosses who catch us doing something wrong. How rare it is to be praised when we have done something well.
Blanchard’s idea is to “catch them doing something right” and then give them a one-minute praising right on the spot. Don’t wait, he says, because waiting takes away the impact. Tell them right then, right there, how much you appreciate the good job they are doing.
This actually is more difficult that it appears. Most of us are better at criticism than at praise. We’re much better that “one-minute blaming” than “one-minute praising.” Many of us would do well to put this into practice this week.
But that was his counsel.  Catch someone doing something right and praise them right on the spot. It could revolutionize your marriage, change the way you relate to your children, encourage those who report to you, and in general make you a much nicer person to be around.
Let me encourage you to do some “one-minute praising” this week.  When you
  • Catch your spouse doing something right.
  • Catch your children doing something right.
  • Catch your friends doing something right.
  • Catch your pastor doing something right.
  • Catch you co-workers doing something right.
Just give them a “one-minute praising.”  That alone will do your soul good. Just focusing on the positive will lift your spirits.
But why not take it a step farther and then give God a “one-minute praising.”  Try praising the Lord for one minute without stopping. Do it every day for a week and see how it strengthens your heart and brings you closer to God.  After all, the Psalmist reminds us that "God inhabits the praised of His people."
Spend some time praising Him and be blessed by His presence.  It just might take the gripe out of our life and replace it with a smile and testimony to the goodness of God.
Let's pray.
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