Ps 103 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
When someone is interviewing for a new job, one question they will likely ask is, “What kinds of benefits does this company offer?” They will want to know about health insurance, vacation time, and various other goodies that the company provides its employees. Once we get the job, we tend to think less about those benefits, which seemed so important when we were job-hunting.
Well, the Scripture we just read tells us that the Lord also has a benefit package. When we come to Jesus on His terms, He offers us forgiveness of sins, and a great deal more. And we are commanded to “forget not all His benefits.” That's an order. So let's look at some of the benefits God offers us. And let us use this time to be properly thankful for those benefits, and not be forgetful.
Benefit #1 is the vacation plan. Everybody likes to take vacation days – two weeks a year, three weeks a year, or however many. We need that time to recharge ourselves and spend time with our families. The Lord knows this. In fact, the very concept of vacation time was His idea; you don't find it in other religions.
God's vacation plan is quite generous, too. He gives us one day off out of every seven. It's called the Sabbath day of rest, and it's not optional. We've kind of set that one of the Ten Commandments aside, to observe it when we can and ignore it when we think we have to, but God never set it aside. He made us to run six days and then recharge. We're making a mistake if we think we can ignore the way God made us. And, of course, we're violating one of the Ten Commandments if we do that.
You might say, “But those Sabbath days aren't paid vacation days, so that doesn't really count as a vacation package.” If you recall, when God sent manna for the children of Israel to eat, He provided a double portion on the day before the Sabbath, so the Israelites would have enough to eat on the Sabbath without having to work. Many of us have had instances in our lives, or know people who have had instances, where obeying the Sabbath meant they might lose their job. They chose to honor God, and either God worked it out so they kept their job, or they found a better job that let them stay home on Sunday. So God does, indeed, provide for His people when they take their divinely ordained vacation days. That's a benefit you won't find in other religions. But it's provided for every Christian. That's something to be thankful for.
Another of the Lord's benefits is prophet sharing. That's P-R-O-P-H-E-T, prophet sharing. Consider other religions and faiths: do their gods tell their followers what is going to happen in the future, or what their god's will is? Most of them don't even try. The ones that do try, come up with nothing but lies and contradictions. The Jehovah's Witnesses have set at least three specific dates when their Jesus was supposed to set up His kingdom on earth; they're still waiting. The head of the Mormon church is called the President and Prophet, even though they haven't had any prophecies in nearly a hundred years, and the prophecies they did make have all failed to come true. Muslims have no idea what Allah is up to; they just do what they think is right, and if it works, they rejoice and say “Allahu akbar” (God is great), and if it doesn't, they shrug and say ldquo;Inshallah” (it's God's will), without any clue why.
But our God has given us this wonderful Book, which is unlike any other book. It contains statements like Amos 3:7 —
Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
God has, indeed, shared His prophets with us, and revealed to us exactly what He is up to. He told the Israelites what blessings they would receive if they obeyed Him, what curses they would earn if they disobeyed, and He even told them in advance exactly which nation would enslave them and the name of the king who would free them again, centuries before he was even born.
He told the world that He would send a Messiah. He told us where that man would be born, what His tribe and family line would be, many details about His life, the exact day and year when He would enter Jerusalem in triumph, the way He would be put to death, and how long He would stay in the grave before He rose again. And all of these prophecies were fulfilled literally and in detail – unlike the so-called prophecies of Nostradamus, they did not require any interpretation or guesswork.
So when we read that Jesus will come back for His church at an unknown moment, or that He will return seven years after a worldwide leader signs a peace treaty with Israel, or that He is going to judge the world and right all wrongs, we can be confident that this is exactly what is going to happen. No "inshallah" for us; we don't have to guess. God sent His prophets to reveal these things and write them down for us, for our benefit, so we don't have to worry or wonder about the future, and that's something you won't find in any other benefit package anywhere. That's something to be thankful for.
Another very common benefit is health insurance. We want a plan that will pay most of the bills if we get sick or injured. God would be a poor master indeed if He didn't provide us with some kind of health insurance, and He does. His plan, in fact, is the best health plan available. Never mind Blue Cross; God offers us a cross that leaves Blue Cross in the dust.
Remember that verse we started with? Psalm 103:2 —
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Well, the very next verse says —
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
Now, we all know that Christians get sick, just like everybody else (except for the Christian Scientists, of course; they don't get sick, they just have errors of belief, some of which are as fatal as the diseases). God never promised that we would never get ill, and no matter what some so-called theologians may say, He never promised to heal everybody. Here's what He insures: He promised to be there to hear our prayers for healing, any time, any place, any situation. He promised that we don't have to propitiate Him with a sacrifice in order to be healed; He already offered Himself as a sacrifice to propitiate Himself. He promised that we don't have to send in our tax-deductible faith-promise gifts to prove our faith in order to be healed; He made the paper our money is made of, and He is not very impressed with it. He promised that He can work through doctors, or through our bodies' own healing mechanisms that He Created, or through His own almighty healing touch, whichever He deems best, so we don't have to guess what kind of healing to ask for. And, best of all, He promised that when He heals us, there are no co-pays, there are no deductibles, there are no maximum outlays per year, and there are no government death panels telling us when we're all done. That's God's decision and His alone. I don't have to tell you that there are a lot of religions and belief systems out there that get these things wrong. But these things are freely available to every believer.
But most importantly, He heals us of the most awful disease of all. That's the disease of sin. It's a universal disease, handed down from each generation to the next, no one is immune to it, and left untreated, it will kill every one of us. But if we put our faith in what Jesus did on the cross for us, and in nothing else, then He takes away the consequences of that sickness, it can no longer grow in us or dominate our actions, and some day, He will heal us completely by giving us a new body that has no sin in it, or any other sickness, for that matter. That is something to be thankful for.
Next, we come to life assurance. That's not life insurance, it's life assurance. This benefit is unique to the kingdom of God. Is there any other faith that assures you of eternal life?
If you're Catholic, you have to keep being good to stay saved, and if you die with unconfessed mortal sin, you don't go to Heaven. If you're Muslim, the only way to be sure of Paradise is to get yourself killed in a holy war, which, you have to admit, is kind of drastic. If you're Mormon, you have to memorize all kinds of secret handshakes and passwords, because the angels will test you on them in the afterlife, and if you forget one, that ruins your chances of becoming a god. If you're Hindu, there is no realistic hope of Heaven; you're just going to get reincarnated, come back here, and do it all over again. If you're a charismatic, Jesus can save you, but you can lose that salvation if you're bad (nobody knows how bad). And if you're a good humanist, or a bad humanist, there is no Heaven; this is as good as it gets, and when you're done, that's the end of it all.
But God promises us something better in John 10:28 –
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
That's an offer that no other religion even tries to match. No matter what else they may promise you, when it comes down to eternity, they can't help you. You have to earn your own salvation, by your own efforts, and you have to keep it by those same efforts. You never know if you've been good enough, or if that last sin undid all your good works for the past year, so you're left endlessly trying to be better and do better, without any assurance at all. God is not as unkind as that. How could God call Himself a god of love, and then make us spend our whole lives worrying if we were good enough to get to Heaven? That's not loving. But we don't have to worry about being good enough, because He is good enough. He promised us eternal life if we come to Him on His terms, and He promised in I John 5:13 that we wouldn't have to spend our lives wondering about it –
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life
Not think so, not hope so, not wish so, not talk yourself into believing it's so, but that you may know and be certain. That is something to be thankful for.
That brings us to the best benefit of them all. The retirement plan. God doesn't offer us a 401(k) plan; He offers us a 21:3-4(r) plan. That's Revelation 21, verses 3 and 4, and that adds up to more than just a monthly payment when our days of work and service are done –
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
Harold, I'm sorry to have to say this, but I don't think there's any retirement account you could set up for us that can even come close to a promise like that. No other religion can offer that to you, either. The Islamic Paradise is filled with wine and willing women, the same things that destroy men's souls in this life, but their god isn't there. The Catholic Heaven is pretty nice, once you've endured a few centuries in Purgatory, suffering for the sins that the perfect blood of Jesus wasn't strong enough to forgive. If you believe in reincarnation or annihilation, there's no Heaven at all for you. But God offers it freely to whoever wants it, and is willing to take it on the very generous terms He offers. We don't have to work for it, we don't have to earn it, we don't have to worry if it's going to lose value by the time we need it, and we don't have to worry if it's going to last long enough to get us through our entire retirement, because “eternal” means forever.
There are some who disagree on whether Heaven means standing around worshiping Jesus, or whether it means ruling the nations and judging the peoples alongside Jesus. You can make a good Scriptural case either way. Me, I'd be content if God gave me a musical instrument, sat me down with other singers and musicians, and let me praise Him in song as eternity rolls by. But whatever Heaven turns out to be, I can assure you of one thing: we are not going to be disappointed when we get there. John saw a vision of the new Jerusalem, and he tried to express its beauty by saying the streets are paved with pure gold. In case you didn't know, pure gold is a very soft metal; your shoes would leave footprints in it; pure gold would be a terrible thing to pave a street with. What John was trying to tell us is that, compared to the wonders that await us in Heaven, the most precious substance we can imagine is no better than cobblestones.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
That's I Cor 2:9. We just cannot conceive of what our eternal retirement package is going to be like. Even the parts that are explicitly defined for us, like no more pain, are hard to imagine, because they're so different from everything we're accustomed to. That may be one reason why many Christians have trouble living with eternity in mind –we don't think about it because we can't form a mental picture.
Also, let's consider the matter of eternal rewards. What kind of a reward can you expect from your company when you retire from your job? Maybe a party, and a cake, and a card signed by everybody in the department, and perhaps a small gift of some kind. The god of the universe can do better than that. I Cor 3 says that, if we do well, our reward will be something like gold, silver, and precious stones. Better yet, those rewards aren't just for us to keep; they will bring glory and honor to Jesus for all eternity, long after our working days are done. And that, my friends, is something to be thankful for.
Ps 103 Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
This little message has had some light-hearted moments, I admit. But it's a serious matter. We are commanded to forget not all His benefits, and I've only scratched the surface of what He offers us. At this time that our nation sets aside for being thankful, we should find ways to be as thankful as we can to the God who made us, saved us, keeps us, blesses us, uses us, and someday will welcome us. I hope this message has given you some ideas about how to be even more thankful to our amazing God.