“Thanksgiving – New Expectations,” Psalm 119:27-32

Our recent celebration of Thanksgiving – as a holiday of thanks, family, feasting, and shopping – is an outward expression of gratitude. It is mostly outward. We spend time with family. We outwardly express to them we are thankful for them. We are thankful to God for them and we let them know it. This is, of course, a good thing but it is mostly an outward human thing.

This morning I want to point us in the direction of a different kind of gratitude. It begins with thanksgiving to God but it expresses itself only to God, this gratitude is directed to God and it stays there. It is fixed upon God! It becomes an anchor, a tether, to God; a lifeline for transformation.

We’ve got to change and constantly renew our thinking about the purpose of our life. This is where ultimate joy, purpose and meaning comes from.  

CIT: Our life is not our own. CIS: We are used by God… not using God.

Genuine gratitude is the path to real joy, lasting joy! In the midst of trial and pain, suffering and hardship, disappointment and sorrow in this life, hope grows out of shifting from thinking “What do I want out of my life,” to “What does God expect of me and what is He doing in and through my life circumstances, the hills and valleys, all that I’m going through…?”

The foundation of joy and the fountain of purpose is gratitude for the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. My life isn’t about my life. He saved me for Him.

We need to return to old disciplines. Let’s start with, “Sacrifice, [that is] having for effect the detachment of the soul from created things.” Shift expectations. Reframe the purpose of life from my wants to His glory.  
“If we detach our hearts from created things, it is not simply to place it in a void, but to fill it with love.”[1] That’s the point of the passage. Gratitude for grace causes us to be ever reframing our expectations. [My wants/His glory]

(v27) I am thankful that we have “a way.” Because the alternative to the way or teaching of His precepts we would be lost wonderers. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.”(Matthew 7:13) The Pilgrim Path is one of direction, purpose, and eternal value following Jesus!

(v28) The Pilgrim Path is not an easy path. Manton writes, “God’s children oftentimes lie under the exercise of such deep and pressing sorrow as is no incident to other men.”[2] Following Jesus brings with it unique challenges. [responsibilities, heartaches, seeing the world through Holy Spirit eyes, heaviness of sin] These are not present apart from following Jesus.

But we are not without strength and sword in God’s word to sustain us and give the tools and weapons necessary for victory! Don’t give up! New challenges and better victories come from shifting our expectations.

(v29) Pilgrims with shifted expectations find joy in obedience to God! There is a new level of joy that comes from seeing God at work in and through us!

(v30) We have to decide daily that our life is not our own. The pull backward is strong. Set His rules before you! Stay on the path! Where are you going??

(v31) Pilgrims with shifted expectations cling to the Word of God like shipwrecked clinging to life preservers. Their success is obedience to God! 

(v32) [Comparison] The “heart” is viewed here as the seat of the psalmist's volition and understanding. The LORD gives the psalmist the desire and moral understanding foundational to willing obedience.[3]  

·       (ESV)  I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
·       (NASB)  I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.
·       (NIV84)  I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.
·       (NLT)  I will pursue Your commands, for You expand my understanding.
·       (NET.)  I run along the path of your commands, for you enable me to do so.

I’ll conclude with Philippians 2:13, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear [phobos – awe-reverence] and trembling [tromos – extreme humility – fearfully cautiously pressing on] for [WHY?] it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (NIV)

Joy, contentedness, a sense of real meaning and purpose, all of these things come from being what God has made you to be. They come in being what we are in Christ. They come from recognizing and walking in what God is doing in and through us today. This life is not my own. It is His for His glory!

Speaking of walking… Cupcake is probably never ever going to catch a squirrel. But to her it clearly doesn’t matter. Her joy is in the pursuit! We’re never going to grab hold of perfect clarity, pure righteousness, uncontaminated sense of purpose in Christ, but it doesn’t matter! Like her, our pursuit is rightly one of the right chase! That’s what the with-God life is!

This is a pilgrim’s life and it is in the journey that we find connectedness to God in Christ. It is in strapping on our sandals, picking up our walking stick, and following Jesus that we find Jesus. That’s where He is. He’s on the road!

God sends the wind but I must put forth the sails. So thankful for salvation ought we to be that we are ever willing to hang onto the tether, the anchor, the rope of thanksgiving to God for saving us and placing us on the way, His way, the way of Jesus, that will are ever shifting our focus from thinking like, “What do I want out of my life,” to “What does God expect of me and what is He doing in and through my life circumstances, the hills and valleys, all that I’m going through…?” We run along the path of His commands because He enables us to do. Our lives begin and end with His glory. Amen.

[1] Union With God According to St. John of the Cross, Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, Carmel of Maria Regina, Eugene OR.
[2] Thomas Manton, Complete Works of. Volume VI, Solid Ground Christian Books, pages 324-339
[3] Adapted from NET Bible note at Psalms 119:32.