Are you building a legacy of gratitude?
by BEN MANDRELL
SOMETIMES WE ARE too busy being bitter.
An aspiring actress finally catches her break. She wins the coveted award and ascends the stage to receive the trophy. When the microphone goes hot, she goes cold, bashing the critics who said she wouldn’t make it.
During her rant, her parents — seated in the audience — recall the hours of driving her to the school theatre, thousands invested in private lessons, their life savings devoted to the prestigious college of thespians. Their daughter makes no mention of these things. She’s too busy being bitter.
Few things feel more repulsive than a spoiled, ungrateful person.
But on the bright side, it’s uplifting to observe a person who is content and happy. Grateful people challenge me to find contentment and joy in the little things of life. And that’s what Psalm 100 does. Here, God tells us exactly how to thank Him.
By Singing Joyfully
“Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!” (v. 1).
My family and I once lived in a house that backed up to an elementary school. On the days I worked from home, I could hear the kids at recess. They were loud. They used their “outside voices” to demonstrate enthusiasm.
A Christian at worship should be like the kid at recess.
James Montgomery Boice writes about this “joyful shout” (NKJV) in The Psalms: “It is helpful to know that the Hebrew word originally meant a glad shout, such as loyal subjects might utter when the king appears among them, the emphasis being on the gladness.”
In ancient times when a king walked into public space, the peasants rumbled in excitement. What a privilege to be this close to royalty! And this Psalm, it was sung by the Jewish people as they processioned to the temple at certain times of the year.
I think about what my kids will say about me when I’m gone. I don’t know what my children will remember about me. I hope they will recall how much their dad loved the Lord and His people, how he enjoyed worshiping and celebrating God’s good gifts. I hope my kids say, “My dad was like a boy at recess.”
By Serving From a Pure Heart
“Serve the Lord with gladness” (v. 2).
Some translations render this “worship the Lord with gladness.” The context in the mind of the psalmist was public worship, but in the New Testament, Jesus challenges us to serve with the towel. We love God by washing the feet of others, by ministering to their needs.
In Matthew 18, Jesus told a story about an unmerciful servant. The man held an enormous debt to his master, and as a result of his financial woes, he, his wife, his children, and all he had would be sold to pay off the debt. The desperate man begged and pleaded for mercy. The master showed him grace and canceled his debt.
But soon after, that same man went and found a neighbor who owed him money; he demanded repayment.
When his master caught wind of this, he beckoned the man to whom he had shown mercy to report in. The master tossed him into jail until he could repay his debt. And Jesus said: “So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart” (Matt. 18:35).
Notice those last three words: from your heart. Serving the Lord with gladness means serving up grace to those around you — being fast to forgive and reaching out in love.
By Applying Yourself to Learning
“Acknowledge that the Lord is God. He made us, and we are his — his people, the sheep of his pasture” (v. 3).
The word acknowledge is the command here. This Psalm, in fact, is a staccato of commands. “Shout to the Lord!” it says. Then “Serve the Lord with gladness.” And “Acknowledge that the Lord is God.”
The church fathers used to say it this way, “Knowledge is the mother of devotion.” What we know gives birth to our feelings. In 1911, Benjamin Warfield addressed a group of college students, with these words: “Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.”
Reading plus prayer is a powerful formula, and it is a way to continually make God a priority.
It is hard for me to overestimate the difference reading has made in my life.
When I was in college, I was handed a copy of More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, and I was astounded at the empirical evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In seminary, I read Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones and was overwhelmed by the way he explained expository preaching.
When my wife, Lynley, and I got married, we started reading books together aloud at night. We read The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot. This challenged us to shape our home culture rather than letting it shape itself.
The word disciple means “learner.” How are you learning? Do you know more about God than you did last year?
By Giving God Credit Publicly
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name” (v. 4).
In the old Jewish days, there were public courtyards surrounding the temple. As you came into the temple precinct, you passed through a gate. Your demeanor and posture mattered. The Word says that God loves a cheerful giver. You will feel closer to God when you’re giving Him thanks.
We not only should praise Him privately but also in the company of people. I have heard of some people who keep a daily gratitude journal. At the end of each day, they write down a few things that they want to be thankful for.
There are many ways we should thank Him, but why should we? The last few lines of this Psalm speak to the character of God. “For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever; his faithfulness, through all generations” (v. 5).
God is good, loving, and faithful. Some see God as justice-oriented only — cold and stern and ready to pound the gavel. Others see Him as a cruel taskmaster — always demanding a little bit more.
A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when you think about God is the most important thing about us.” That is, your vision of God shapes your outlook on life more than any other thing.
The psalmist says God is good, He is loving, and He is faithful. He’s the Giver of all good things. As we enter this season of thanksgiving, let’s commit to heralding the goodness of God through our speech, our motives, our devotion, and our praise.
BEN MANDRELL is the president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. Prior to joining Lifeway, Ben spent nearly two decades in pastoral ministry at churches in Tennessee and Colorado. Ben and his wife, Lynley, have four children: Ava, Max, Miles, and Jack.