"Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." (Psalm 103:2)
Psalm 103 speaks about the fortunate life of those who know the Lord. We are told to "Bless the Lord, o my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Praise is not simply saying "Praise the Lord!" "Hallelujah." Anyone can say that. We need to praise God for specific things.
What are the specific "benefits of believing?" that Psalm 103 tells us?
What a blessing to have our sins forgiven! There is nothing in the entire the world to compare to knowing peace with God!
We can only have this peace when we ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive us of our sins and to turn us around from following Satan to following Christ. Do you say you're not following Satan? Jesus said, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad." (Matthew 12:30) I read an interesting item that said "You don't have to make a decision to go to Hell." (from Speaker's Sourcebook by Eleanor Doan, p. 124) Have you turned from Satan to the living God?
The greatest "benefit of believing" is forgiveness of our sins.
Do those who love the Lord ever have diseases and disasters? Yes, because we live in a world distorted by the effects of sin. This verse says "heals all your diseases" - so they obviously had diseases in need of healing. There are diseases that come to us because of the mistreatment we have made of our own body. We are affected by that. And, even those who have looked after their body properly can still be affected by disease. We know that. We have all known people who love the Lord and have experienced sickness. If we as Christians did not have to face suffering - people would become Christians just to escape problems. It would not be a true change of heart. We always need to go right back and look at Jesus. Did He ever suffer? Yes, of course we know He felt the effects of hunger, of exhaustion, of despair, of the horrible pain of crucifixion. He is our Lord and Master. How do we expect to not experience suffering? And, sometimes in times of suffering we can come to close fellowship with the Lord because He shares with us in our pain.
This Psalm says He heals our diseases and redeems our life from destruction. Sometimes the Lord does a miracle and takes away the disease, and sometimes He takes us away from the world of disease. We have nothing to lose as Christians. Paul said, "to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:8)
In what ways does the Lord show us His love and kindness? Look all around you. See His creation, feel the wind on your face, see the glories of His design from every tiny grain of sand to the huge trees and animals. People have spent lifetimes studying just one animal or plant. The more we learn about each plant and animal, the more we find out.
What about His kindness to us? A heart that pumps blood to every part of our body. Lungs that breathe spontaneously. On and on we could go. God's love and kindness is shown to us in the physical world over and over. But His greatest act of love was shown in His gift of His one and only Son to die on the cross for us, to take our punishment we deserve for the sin in our life.
Yes, the Lord gives us good physical things to enjoy in this life. He supplies food and clothing, houses and all that are needed. But, what if disaster or poverty stripped all those things from us?
I read a story recently about a family that were in their two story house as floods came higher and higher. The father was a doctor and he stayed rather than go to higher ground so he could help the sick people in the floods. Gradually, the family moved higher in the house until they had to escape from it. Their little girl kept trying to use a stick and fish things from the flooded first floor of the house. Just as they left the house to go to safety, she was able to rescue one chipped china gravy boat from the prized dinner set that had been passed down to her mother. As the family was huddled in a tent on higher ground, the little girl pulled out that prized possession from inside her coat and gave it to her mother. It was a point of encouragement to the mother in the midst of losing all they owned. Years later when the girl grew up, that chipped gravy boat became her own possession. It was a reminder that, in spite of life's tragedies, we can have peace and satisfaction. Only God can do that in our spirits. Are you satisfied in your soul? If all you treasure were stripped away from you - do you know Him - whom to know is life eternal? In John 6 we read how many disciples of Jesus turned away from following Jesus when they would not fully accept Jesus as the only Bread of Life. Jesus said to Peter, "Do you also want to go away?" Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."(John 6:67-68)
We live in an unjust world, even here in this country where we have far more justice than most of our world. There are still times when we see some very unfair things happen.
I know a case of a marriage break-up where a mother had her child taken off her and the father was allowed to raise the child because he had more money and a nicer home than she would be able to provide. I know a situation where the father had money withdrawn from his pay to support his child, yet the mother who had custody had a job earning more than the father. He was not objecting to his fair share of support, but the way the court ruled was not fair.
There are cases of elderly people being neglected by their children and left to struggle along without proper care. We see poor legislation that often protects the criminal more than the victim. On and on we see unfairness in our society.
The Lord is just. He is not unfair with us. He is merciful and just to all who are oppressed. When true Christianity has gone into society, that is where you will find the doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc. that care for the oppressed. Look around the world. Despite what critics say, it is where genuine Christian missions have spread that suffering people have been helped. The most poverty stricken and unjust countries are where there is witchcraft, communism, Hinduism, Islam, and other pagan religions. It is only the LORD who "executes righteousness and justice." Why is that so? Because "he who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (1 John 4:8) And how was that love shown to us? "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." (1 John 4:9)
Where would we be without the mercy and grace of God? How many times did we doubt Him, or disobey Him, or disappoint Him? Just as well that He is "slow to anger!" We do not deserve His great grace. Praise Him for His mercy and grace! Verse 12 tells us that when He forgives us He removes our transgressions from us, as far as the "east is from the west." How far is that? Infinity!
We see here in this Psalm that God is a God who forgives, heals, shows love and kindness, satisfies us, is just, and shows us mercy and grace. What is our role, then? Can we just sit back and sing praises to God for all these things and live life how we choose? Is there any warning given here?
We are told "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes, for the wind passes over it, and it is gone." (verses 14-16) Have you ever blown the seeds of a fluffy dry dandelion? We used to love to do that as children. (We must have kept the ground reproducing many dandelions, as we loved to blow those seeds to the ground!) Our lives are like those dandelions. Flourishing one day and gone the next. Life is so fragile, so short, isn't it? Often you hear someone start a sentence with "it seems only yesterday...." We must remember to "number our days" as Psalm 90:12 tells us. Do not waste your life doing what you think is best. Ask God to show you HIS WILL for you and live your life serving Him. For it is only in doing His will that we can have the "benefits of believing." What are you living for? Is God and His will the most important focus of your life?
The warning given to us is that these promises of Psalm 103 are to "those who KEEP His covenant, and to those who REMEMBER His commandments to DO THEM." (verse 18)
Verses 20-21 remind even the angels (who excel in strength) to DO HIS WORD, "heeding the voice of His word." And He reminds His servants who "do His pleasure."
Do not take for granted the benefits of believing. We must keep on walking with Him, or we will lose those benefits.
(ILLUSTRATION): Years ago we got caught when we did not have ambulance coverage. We had to call the ambulance for an emergency and later had to pay a big bill. And, then, because we had that bill to pay and couldn't also pay to get the coverage, would you believe it, before we took out that coverage we had to call the ambulance again - and ended up with yet another bill. We find that so in the everyday world, don't we? If we do not keep up with our commitments, we lose the benefits of that commitment. DO you think that it is different in the spiritual world? (Of course, in the spiritual world, God's love and forgiveness are FREE - there for the asking. But, we must accept that free offer of grace to us.)
Do not play around with the things of God. "He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever." Don't think you can keep one foot in the world and one foot walking with the Lord. He doesn't accept that. He wants full obedience, a "walking in the light as He is in the Light." And, He is our source of power to walk with Him. Don't lose out, like some of those mentioned in John 6 lost out. Keep walking with Him.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour? There are great "benefits of believing." Why don't you open your heart and mind to Him and become a part of His Company - the Company of the Family of God. Have you already joined? Keep up the commitments of the contract! Pray! Read His Word! Worship with others in the family of God! Serve Him with your life! And, you will be overjoyed at the benefits!
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life