Living the Joy

Psalm 126, 1 Timothy 2:1-7, Matthew 6:25-33

Psalm 126

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

1 Timothy 2:1-7  Pray and Give Thanks

Matthew 6:25-33  Do not worry – God cares for you

There are few things better than sharing a moment of great joy with people you love. You just find yourself saying ‘thanks’!

Today we say “Thanks” to our God. It is very good to do because thanksgiving is no mere optional extra of our life together in God, but a dynamic thing that has spiritual power to transform us and make us joyful, and therefore useful and fruitful in our calling.

It is where joy is to be found.

The Scriptures are full of expressions of thankfulness to God: thanks for who he is and what he has done as a result of who he is.

We could speak of three things:

Praise: Telling God and others how good God’s character and actions are.

Ps 126 – a pray thanking the Lord for what he did.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
         we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Thanks: There are other prayers telling God how good he himself is in his character, not just in what he does. Ps 136;

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures for ever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords:
His love endures for ever.

Adoration – When you witness some majestic landscape or experience some wonderful moment, you just have to say something! Getting lost in adoring just him – his character, his nature, his greatness and holiness. Ps 150 does this….

Psalm 150

1 … Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

You would think thanksgiving to God would be easy for everyone. But it is not.

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities –… have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been created, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, …… (Romans 1:18-21)

Not everyone gives thanks to God and often we don’t. Is that it. Is that what sin is? Not giving thanks? Is that really such a big deal? Isn’t God being a bit ‘precious’ here?

One commentator uses the example of plagiarism to help us know that God is not being ‘precious’ but is giving us precious gifts that rightly deserve our thanks.

“….. Why is plagiarism taken so seriously? It is claiming that you came up with the idea yourself when you did not. It is NOT acknowledging dependence, that you got the idea from someone else. Plagiarism is a refusal to give thanks and give credit and is, therefore, a form of theft”. (Prayer, Tim Keller, 196)

Refusing to give thanks does two things:

  1. It wrongs the author
  2. It shows you up as incapable and flawed.

So, not giving thanks to God is like plagiarism. Not giving rightful thanks to the One who not only had the good idea of you being born, but also has the heart to love you and sustain you is bare faced theft.

It is living in the illusion that you made you, and still are. It is pretending that you’re self-sufficient and not the Lord reliant. It’s taking the credit for all the things that are actually his gifts.

This major flaw to deceive ourselves and live ungratefully toward God is what makes it difficult for us to live thankful.

We don’t like the truth that every breath we take, every move we make and everything we know, own and produce is dependent on the graciousness and gifting of God. Especially if we are going quite well.

But there is a good news gift this morning.

The very act of simple words of thanks deal with this major flaw. Giving thanks to the Lord by yourself and with others is actually the Spirit’s gift that re-orders your life into God’s love again.

Remember St Augustine and his famous insight that it is not that we human beings do not love, it is that we love too much. He says our loves are present but out of kilter; out of godly order.

“We either love what we ought not love, or fail to love what we ought to love, or we love more what we should love less, or love less what we should love more” (On Christian Doctrine vol I, 27-28 St Augustine, Prayer, Tim Keller, 193).

The result of this is damaged people and damaged you. If you love anything or anyone that much – more than you love and trust the Lord, you will crush that hobby, that house, that farm, that dream, that husband, wife, partner, boss, employee, friend with the weight of your need. Nothing and no one will ever be able to love you perfectly or fully in the way you want to be loved all the time!

Keller gives this example:

If you partner’s love is more important than the Lord’s love for you, then you will get far too angry and despondent when your partner fails to give you the support and affection you need, and you will be too scared of his or her anger and displeasure to tell him or her the truth. (Prayer, Tim Keller, 193)

So what do we do?

On the one hand, we don’t DO anything! We simply receive. Only the Lord Jesus can love you fully and forever – and he has. It is Easter season! He was crushed by the full weight of your need, your brokenness and your disordered love for you and rose from it all intact and in love. You don’t need be crushed yourself, or crush other people by your need.

When you receive his unearned fully committed and spiritually healing love, you know his restoration:

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
          we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.

Your loves are re-ordered; put back into God’s life-giving love for you today.

Now you love him even though you cannot see him. Now you know you are always loved no matter your disorder, your offense, your damage, your thankless heart.


25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:25-33)

Yes. Now you know. Now you can trust. Now you can rest.

But then, we DO something. Somehow, in the very act of giving thanks to the Lord alone and especially with others, the thankfulness and the joy are more complete.

As we said, there are few things better than sharing a moment of great joy with people you love.

As CS Lewis discovered for himself, that thanksgiving to God with others completes the enjoyment of God’s character and actions for us.

“It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed…” (That Hideous Strength, CS Lewis, p 318 quoted in Prayer, Time Keller, 192).

That is the Spirit’s gift to you. Praising God, thanking God and adoring God completes the enjoyment of his love for us, and so, draws us back into his great love and re-orders us for the day.

But because we are still living with this interminable problem of plagiarism, self-deception, the tendency to be dis-ordered in our loves, we need some spiritual disciplines; spiritual practices to stay thankful and so, in God’s joy.

Many great Christian preachers and prayers have arrived at many spiritual practices over the centuries that help the everyday Christian person live in God’s loving character and will each day.

These are best taken on as habits, or practices done with a regular rhythm and a commitment, despite our circumstance or emotions or general state.

This public worship gathering is one way the Spirit re-orders our loves, so find thankfulness and then new joy.

The regular habits of praying together but also alone in your own day are all there to be said and done so that you can trust that he has done and said it all for you and still does.

Thanksgiving draws you back into Jesus’ new life every time you speak, pray, think, listen and act in his promises. Thanksgiving is how we live the joy.

Thank him well. Praise him before others and to him. Try a spiritual habit; a practice.

We thank the Lord today for every part of our life.  Holy spirit bring us the joy that comes from a thankful heart!