The Benefits of Praising the Lord (Or, “What’s In It For Me?”) (Psalm 103:1-20)

Main Idea: Jesus served the Lord, and we reap the benefits.

Text:

I read a story about a severely overweight man with a gym membership. He got a membership at his local fitness center because he knew he needed to get some exercise, but he never ever actually went to the gym because he knew it would be a lot of work. And yet month after month, year after year, he renewed his membership out of wishful thinking.

He saw the benefits of diet and exercise, but didn’t see them as valuable enough to actually change his lifestyle.

That all changed when he fell in love. While he used to think, “What’s in it for me,” his attitude then changed to want to do what was best for his girlfriend, who later became his wife. He started eating better and going to the gym, and after awhile realized that he didn’t even need to go to the gym. He cancelled his membership and continued to get healthier just by being more active, not because anyone told him he had to, but because he wanted to as he loved his family. He saw the benefit of a healthy life.

The title of my sermon this morning is “The Benefits of Praising the Lord.” But really that’s just a fancy way of asking, “What’s in it for me?” And I’m sure that’s a question we’ve all asked at some point.

Many people refuse to worship the Lord because they don’t see the point. They don’t see the benefits. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. What are the benefits of praising the Lord?

Please turn with me to Psalm 103. We’re going to be looking at the whole psalm this morning, but we’re going to start with verses 1 through. Psalm 103:1-5. Please stand with me for the reading of God’s word.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)

The word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Have you ever had a bad boss? I had bad bosses at times when I worked at a home for troubled boys, and it just makes the job miserable. A bad boss abuses his or her authority and makes employees feel unappreciated. A bad boss blames others and takes no responsibility. And they definitely don’t do anything to benefit their employees.

And the sad truth is that a lot of people feel like God is a bad boss. Like He demands that we praise Him, but doesn’t reward those who do. But I hope to show this morning that there are great benefits in praising the Lord.

Our psalm this morning was written by King David. David had the highest authority in all of the land of Israel. He was the boss. He set and enforced the laws. He commanded armies. He decided who lived and who died. And in verse 1, as the king of a nation, David commanded himself to bless the Lord.

It doesn’t matter how much authority you think you have. God has authority over you. You might be the head of your household, or the boss of your company, and you might think that you don’t have anyone to answer to. But everyone must answer to God, because God is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

So we ought to all have the attitude that King David had in verse 1. We ought all to command our souls to bless the Lord.

To bless the Lord simply means to praise Him, but it also emphasizes the truth that God delights in our praise. God loves when we gather together to sing and encourage one another with his word. He loves when we tell others about Him. He loves when we serve and obey Him, even just giving someone a cup of cold water in His name.

But maybe when you’ve thought about such things, you’ve wondered, “What’s in it for me?” What’s in it for me to go to church? What’s in it for me to give money to the church? What’s it for me to worship God, or serve others, or even be a Christian at all? What’s in it for me?

I’ve had some of those kinds of questions. Sometimes I still wrestle with those kinds of questions. After all we don’t want our lives to be pointless, so it’s very natural to ask, “What’s the point of all of this?”

Well, I think David had many of the same kinds of questions, too. Or at least his people had many of those questions. King David most likely wrote this psalm late in his life, after he had gone through fighting with King Saul, and fighting with the nations around him, and fighting even with his own children. King David had experienced so much aggression from those around him that it would have been easy for him to blame it all on God, saying that He doesn’t care, or, like many people today do, just say that God isn’t even there.

But instead of that, David goes the other direction. He writes in verse 2, “forget not all his benefits.” When reflecting on the command to bless the Lord, David reminds himself that there are thousands of reasons to bless the Lord.

Verses 3-5 give us some quick, yet huge reasons to praise God. We’ll look at them briefly one at a time.

Verse 3: “who forgives all your iniquity.” Through Jesus, all our sins are forgiven. David didn’t know the name Jesus, but it’s clear that he did understand that a Savior was coming.

Continue reading verse 3. “Who heals all your diseases.” In the end, all sicknesses, illnesses, and viruses will be gone forever. There will be no more need for masks or social distancing, because everyone will be perfectly well. So I don’t know what doctors will do in heaven, because there won’t be any sick people! They’ll all have to find a new job!

Verse 4: “who redeems your life from the pit.” Even though we’ve all earned hell because of our sin, Jesus rescues us from hell so that we would enjoy His presence forever.

End of verse 4. “Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” We’re able to wear God’s love and mercy like a crown, knowing that we’re sons and daughters of the King. Even though we sinned against Him, we’re not discarded, but loved.

Verse 5: “who satisfies you with good.” So not only do we have heaven to look forward to, but we’re able to enjoy His goodness today.

And finally, end of verse 5, “So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” So even as we grow old, God gives us strength to endure whatever this life throws at us. And even though we will eventually die, we know that we’ll have eternal life.

In summary, God loves you, and you can trust Him, and know that He’s with you, and will be with you forever. That’s a huge reason to bless the Lord.

A couple years ago, the United Methodist Church asked the question on facebook: “When have you felt God’s presence in your life?” The question got hundreds of responses. Some people responded that they’ve never felt God’s presence, and others said that they felt it all of the time, but some of the most interesting responses were those that felt God’s presence when they were in the middle of horrible circumstances. Katie Cole wrote, “I felt God when I learned I had thyroid cancer at 30…I can remember the doctor telling me and then this unexplained peace.” Randy Nunley said he felt God’s presence on the night he saw his dad take his last breath, writing, “I felt a sense of peace in the room, which I know was the presence of God!” And Pat Schmidt-Zwarko wrote that she felt God’s presence when holding her son’s hand while he laid in his coffin.

It’s interesting that many people think that such tragedies are evidence against the existence of God. And yet to those who know God, such experiences help us to know God more. You see, God loves you, and He’s with you even during the worst of times. So praise Him.

Verses 6 and following give us even more benefits, or reasons, for praising the Lord. Verse 6.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:6-14)

Some versions of the Bible say that he remembers that we are but dust. Now, I don’t know the difference between “dust” and “but dust,” but I think it’s just saying that our existence isn’t as firm as we think it is. We’re like dust!

I recently watched a very interesting science video about the dust in our homes. There’s an old belief that 70% of the dust in our homes is made up of our dead skin cells. Well, it turns out that that’s not true. It’s at most only about 50%, which is still insane when you think about it. You see, our skin is constantly growing and shedding from our bodies like a snake. According to one estimate, we shed around 20,000,000 skin cells per hour, and they flake off of us and into the air, where they float around and land somewhere in the room. It’s kind of gross when you think about it. Every time you breathe in, you’re possibly breathing in the dead skin cells of the people around you.

Maybe that will make you want to put on a mask more than anything else!

Here’s the thing: we were made from dust, and to dust we will return.

And yet, even though we are but dust, God loves us. He’s merciful and gracious. He’s slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. It says in verse 9 that He will not keep His anger forever, which is extremely interesting in light of the doctrine of hell.

You see, Jesus died on the cross for us, so God does not deal with us according to our sins, but instead removes our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west.

If you start to travel north, you can only travel north so far before you begin to travel south. Once you reach the north pole, you can’t go any further north. At that point, any step you take in any direction will be going south. The same is true of the south pole. But there are no east and west poles. If you begin to travel east, you can continue traveling east forever. The same is true of travelling west. So when it says that God has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west, it means that our sins are infinitely removed from us. Because Jesus died for our sins, our sins are paid for, and there’s nothing we must do to earn God’s benefits. They’re given to us by grace.

You see, Jesus served the Lord, and we reap the benefits. And God treats us this way, even though we are but dust.

Verse 15.

As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. (Psalm 103:15-19)

It’s interesting that we’ve been talking about the benefits of praising the Lord, but these verses seem to introduce more qualifications for receiving these benefits. Verse 17 says they are for those who fear Him, and verse 18 says that they are for those who keep His covenant and remember to do His commandments.

There are great blessings in serving God. And I’m not saying that life will suddenly start working out the way that you want it to when you start obeying God. Not at all. In many ways, life will get worse when you obey God. God might call you to give up luxuries so that you spend more time and money on meeting the needs of those around you. You may lose friends as you speak the truth of Jesus Christ in love to them. And you may begin to experience some degree of persecution for your faith. But even throughout all of these things, you’ll have a peace that passes understanding. You’ll have abundant joy in knowing Jesus, and being known by Jesus. You’ll have contentment knowing that you’re seeking to live life as it was meant to be lived: not by making as much money as possible, or by gathering as much stuff as possible, or even in having as many friends as possible, but by resting and rejoicing in the love of God. There are great blessings in serving God!

And yet, none of us serve God the way we ought. God calls us to praise Him, but we’re not able to praise Him. That’s basically the message of the Old Testament. At a pivotal moment in Israel’s history, Joshua gathered all of the leaders of Israel together and commanded them and encouraged them to serve the Lord. And this is what they said. Joshua 24, starting in verse 16.

The people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods, for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. And the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore [now, listen to this] we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

I mean, to me, that sounds like the perfect answer. They committed themselves to serving God! But check out how Joshua responded. Verse 19.

But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” (Joshua 24:19)

That would be like if someone came up to me after church and said, “Pastor Chris, I want to follow Jesus.” And I responded, “Forget about it! You can’t do it!”

You see, if praising God was just about singing songs at church once a week, most of us would probably think we could do it. But praising God isn’t just singing songs, it’s obeying Him. And none of us do that perfectly.

And this is a problem, because Scripture is clear that we receive the benefits of praising the Lord not just by singing, but by serving. And since we don’t always do a good job of that, none of us can earn God’s blessing.

But this is exactly where Jesus comes in. Because we could not secure God’s blessings for ourselves due to our sin, Jesus died for our sin and secured all of God’s blessings for us. And because of that, we’re set free to praise God not to earn His blessings, but to remember His blessings, and rejoice in them.

Jesus served the Lord, and we reap the benefits. And when you remember that, you find that Jesus Himself is the greatest blessing we receive.

So if you’ve ever wondered, “What’s in it for me,” don’t think primarily about things like mansions or streets of gold, or even everlasting life. Think about Jesus. He’s who makes all those other things worth anything. Eternal life isn’t great because it’s never-ending, it’s great because we can spend forever with Jesus.

But have you ever stopped to wonder what’s in it for Him? What’s in it for Jesus? Why should Jesus have served the Lord? Why should Jesus have gone to the cross to die for our sin? What’s in it for Him?

Verse 20.

Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will! Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul! (Psalm 103:20-22)

In the end, everything that’s under God’s dominion, which is everything, will praise the Lord.

That’s what’s in it for Jesus. And it’s not that Jesus didn’t already have all dominion. God has always been the Lord of all. And yet, for a time, He’s allowing rebellion in this world and under this world, but only for a time, so that in the end, He can display His victory over evil, and perfect mercy toward sinners.

Romans 11:32 says it this way:

For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Romans 11:32)

That, of course, benefits us, but it’s also God’s plan. It’s His desire. Maybe you’ve wondered before why God made us in the first place. Why would God create the universe and everything in it, and then allow us to rebel against Him? I think it’s because of exactly this. It was always His desire, His plan, to show us grace.

Ephesians 1:10 says that God’s plan for the fullness of time is to unite all things in Jesus. And God didn’t want to leave that to chance. In order to make it a sure reality, Jesus served the Lord, and we reap the benefits.

What I’m saying is that God is the best boss. He has all authority, and yet He’s the King who serves His people. And He’s more than a boss. He loves you! Jesus died for your sins! And He rose from the dead so that you can rise and live a new life in Him. So serve the Lord not out of mere obligation, or because you think you need to earn something from Him, but out of joy.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

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Bible Passages: Psalm 103:1-20
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