Read Psalm 95:1-11. The ninety-fifth Psalm starts with an invitation. It is a call to worship the Lord with thanksgiving: “O Come, let us sing unto the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation; let us come before his presence with thanksgiving . . .” (verses 1-2).
The invitation is followed by some reasons for coming to worship with thanksgiving—
Verse 3—“for the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods”
Verse 5—“the sea is his; and he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”
Verse 4—“in his hand are the deep places of the earth; the strength of the hills is his also”
Other nations sing to their pagan gods. David (in this psalm) invites us to sing to the true and living God (verse 3)! The Lord God Jehovah—is the God of the deep places of earth; and also He is the strength of the hills. That is, the God we worship is the God of valleys (the deep places), as well as the God of the mountain tops (the strength of the hills). The seas are His; He made them; and His hands formed the dry land (verse 5). The seas are His; they are in God’s hands. That was true of the Red Sea in the days of Moses, when the waters parted to make a dry path for God’s people to escape from Egypt. That was true on August 29, 2005, when the waters of the Gulf of Mexico washed up on the shores of Mississippi and Louisiana.
The God of the Bible rules the waves of the sea. He also made the dry land. That includes the fertile fields and the wastelands. David says, Come then—let’s honor the Lord as we worship Him with thanksgiving!
There is an old proverb that says, “I complained because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” One writer says, “Today, the attitude of many Europeans and North Americans is, ‘I was satisfied with my two pairs of shoes until I met a man who had four. So I hunted for another job with more pay.'” Most of us in North America have been blessed with plenty, and certainly we don’t want to display the attitude of many pagan neighbors who never seem satisfied.
William Stidger (writing in Guideposts magazine) tells how he wrote a brief letter to his boyhood school teacher—to thank her for giving him a love for poetry, and a love for reading good literature. Weeks later the lady teacher wrote back to him: She said, “I want to let you know how much your letter meant to me. I am an old lady now, in my eighties, living alone in a small apartment. I taught school for fifty years, yet in all that time, yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. Thank you—thank you so much.”
I hope that ingratitude is not one of our failings. I hope we take time to write notes of appreciation. Perhaps the time has come in this Thanksgiving season, for all of us to pray the brief prayer of the English poet George Herbert: “Lord, Thou hast given so much to me! Give one thing more—a grateful heart!” One of the beautiful verses found in the 23rd Psalm is verse 5: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” We want to think more today about “the cup that runs over.”
1. Our cups should run over in light of the many evidences of God’s love for us.
The Apostle Paul prayed that we might be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the height and depth and breadth and length of the love of God (Ephesians 3:18-19). Although we can’t fathom its dimensions, we can see some evidences of God’s love.
What are some examples of God’s love for us?
Jesus spoke about the shepherd who left the ninety-nine safely in the fold, and then scoured the mountainside to find the one sheep that had gone astray. It was His way of saying that each individual human being is loved and sought out with an unchanging love.
Philip Bliss says in one of his hymns:
“I am so glad that our Father in heaven
Tells of His love—in the Book He has given;
Wonderful things in the Bible I see,
This is the dearest—that Jesus loves me.”
God’s love is seen in the good circumstances of life which day after day He sends our way. “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And James 1:17 says that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” That includes not only the big things—food to eat, reasonable health, good crops, the rains that fall, and the sun that shines. It includes also the little things—the rustle of falling leaves, the smell of wood smoke drifting through the air, the kiss of a little child, the ticking of an old clock, and the patter of raindrops on the roof. God’s love is seen in the many blessings that come our way each day.
The first chapter of James tells how to deal with trials and hard places in life. We are to “count it all joy” when trials come our way—because God uses trials to develop within us the qualities of perseverance and endurance, and to build within our lives a well-rounded character. The Lord is not asking us to rejoice because a family member has been stricken with cancer, or because we have lost our job, or because we have an illness that brings constant pain. But we can rejoice because God has assured us that, in His love, He controls every circumstance of life—and all this will ultimately work for our good.
The section on trials is concluded in James 1:12, which says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptations (trials), for when he is tried (when he undergoes difficulties) he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him.” There are rewards for responding properly to our trials. There will be a crown of life—eternal life, everlasting life, a life with God which will never end! And so trials and difficulties are an evidence of God’s love for us.
Paul put it another way when he said, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature—shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
Day after day we hear about wars and rumors of wars—about a world that’s full of chaos and confusion and strife and conflict. We must remember that God is still on the throne! The events taking place in the world around us are still under His control. And so our cups should run over because of God’s love for His people. He has given all of us so much more than we deserve!
2. Our cups should run over in light of the blessing of God’s comforting presence.
The psalmist says, “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me . . . Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).
All of us will experience valleys and shadows in life. We read in the book of Job that “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). We are not immune from the sorrows and heartaches of life. But in the midst of sorrow, God has promised to be with us.
The home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus was a home to which Jesus loved to go. He graced the home with His presence many, many times. But that little home in Bethany did not escape from the trials and tragedies of life. Martha and Mary and Lazarus dealt with the normal anxieties of life. There was sickness and death and grief. Lazarus died. The presence of Jesus did not exempt them from these things.
When Lazarus died, Jesus did not show up for several days. When He did arrive, Martha said that if Jesus had been there, her brother would not have died (John 11:21). Jesus said, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Martha believed in a general resurrection on the last day, but Jesus said, “I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Those who live for Jesus will not lose communion with God—even though the physical body dies. That is an amazing promise—a promise which the Christian accepts by simple faith.
There was a dynamic young couple in one of our churches. He was a song leader and a lover of music. At the prime of life, the young man’s wife died of cancer. The funeral was on Thursday. The following Sunday was his time to lead the singing. Some advised him to get a substitute for that Sunday morning. They said, “You know—music can tear at your soul.” But he insisted on doing his duty, and on that next Lord’s Day he stood before the assembly, and with radiance and great faith—he led the congregation in the old hymn:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry,
Everything to God in prayer!
The next stanza says:
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrow share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Christ Jesus makes a difference when people embrace Him in their daily lives. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. We may not always feel His presence, but indeed we are never alone, and we can always approach Him in prayer. And so our cups should run over because of the blessing of God’s continuing presence with us.
3. Our cups should run over in light of the firm assurance of a home in Heaven.
The psalmist continues: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6).
These words express the confidence that in the Father’s house, mansions are being prepared for those who live for the Lord here in this life. When the “earthly house” (our present body) is laid aside, we have the promise of receiving a new house “not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
We can be sure that the same Lord Jesus, who led us safely on our journey through this life, will see us safely into His everlasting fold. For those who can say with the Psalmist (in Psalm 23:1), “The Lord is my shepherd”—now in the last verse can also say “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psalm 23:6). At the end of life’s road, the Lord opens the doors of His palace and bids us to enter in—to live with Him forever. Think of stepping on shore and finding it Heaven! The hymn writer says,
We speak of the realms of the blest—
that country so bright and so fair;
and oft are its glories confessed,
but what must it be to be there!
We should be thankful, that for God’s people, there is a great eternity waiting.
When we think of our saved loved ones who have gone on to the eternal world—we should think of them in the presence of Jesus, resting safely under His tender care.
A Christian wife and mother who lost her husband, tells of her experience with death. She says, “For years Ben would go off to work—and almost every day I would wait at the window for his return. When I saw him pull into the driveway in the evening I would rush out to meet him, and embrace him, and then arm in arm we would often go into the house together. We did that for many years.” Now, she says, “Since his death, things haven’t changed all that much.” She says, “I used to wait for him to come home—now he’s in Heaven waiting for me to come home!” To the Christian, Heaven is very real.
Sometimes suffering comes to Christians. The road might become rough and stormy and hazardous before we reach the end of the journey, but in spite of the worst that can happen to us, we can be sure that the glory of the future far surpasses any pain and any disappointment that this present life can ever bring. Sufferings and trials may be difficult in this life, but the sum total of them all (rolled up in one great big bundle) will be nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed. There is something yet to come, behind the curtain of eternity that will out-shine all that we have ever experienced here in this life. Read about it in Romans 8:18. Our cups should run over with the firm assurance that this life is not all there is.
At this Thanksgiving time our cups should run over with gratitude—gratitude for the evidences of God’s continuing love; gratitude for the blessing of God’s ongoing presence; and gratitude for the firm assurance of a lasting home in Heaven.
Matthew Henry had a unique experience one day. He was the author of the well-known Bible Commentary that goes by his name. He was attacked one time by robbers; they took everything he had. This was 400 years ago, but as Matthew Henry meditated over the unpleasant experience—he later wrote in his diary:
“I want to be thankful because I was never robbed before; also, because, even though they took my money, they didn’t take my life; because, although they took all I had, it wasn’t much; and because it was I who was robbed, and not I who did the robbing.”
Matthew Henry knew the deceitfulness of the human heart, and recognized that (but for the grace of God that saved him)—he could have been doing the robbing. Matthew Henry was grateful for his godly upbringing. When you read of some crime—thank God that it wasn’t you—because each of us has the potential. Matthew Henry was grateful that God had spared him from harming others—and we are to be “giving thanks always for all things” (Ephesians 5:20).
Gypsy Smith was a down-to-earth preacher in earlier times. At a testimony meeting during one of his revivals in a rather rough section of the city, some rose to their feet and gave glowing testimonies.
One said, “I’ve spent 20 years in prison, but God saved me. I thank Him.”
Another said, “I’ve been a drunkard for most of my adult life, but I thank God that He delivered me from drinking booze.”
Still another said, “I’ve made counterfeit money and got into trouble with the law, and the Lord reached down and saved me.”
These testimonies were wonderful—but Gypsy Smith concluded the meeting by giving his own testimony. He said, “I was only a 12-year-old boy when I gave my heart to Christ; I didn’t understand everything, I still don’t; I was immature”—but he said, “God did more for this gypsy boy than He did for all of you men put together—He saved me before I got to where you did!”
Many of us need to thank God for the priceless heritage left to us by our parents. I thank God for the disciplined home in which I was born—and for the consistent example that was left, especially by my father. Our mothers and dads cared for us when we were unable to care for ourselves—and with very few exceptions, many of us need to pause today and thank our heavenly Father for the courage and bravery of our parents, who nurtured us during the turbulent years of childhood and youth.
Regardless of our backgrounds—our first waking moments each morning should find our spirits breathing out gratitude to God. And our last duty at the close of the day should find us giving thanks to the Lord for the blessings of that day.
All that was said in this message applies to those who have committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have never committed your life to Christ, you are like the majority of people living in our society today. They are saying, “I want to be king of my own castle; I want to run my own life.” In that case you will need to live your life day after day in great fear—for one of these days Jesus will come to receive His church, a great global dictator will rule the world, and all mankind will be plunged into darkness and chaos—the likes of which this world has never seen before!
When the Lord returns and judgment is poured out upon the earth—what will you be doing? Where will you be when the world is burning and the judgment is setting and the stars are falling and people are crying? Where will you be when God brings this age to an end?