Most of us in the Western culture share a similar trait. When confronted with a new opportunity or challenge, one of our first thoughts is “What’s in it for me?” We want to know the benefits to ourselves. Granted, it’s a fairly selfish way to look at things. But, our nature rears its sometimes less-than-beautiful head.
Even when it comes to our life of faith, we often approach it in view of the benefits. Our sinful self wants us to sit in the place of God. In that moment exists a failure to realize that God is supreme and orders our lives according to His will. And, when that thought causes us pause, we can remember that because of God’s love, His will for His people leads to good for us. A familiar scripture reads:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 NASB
Christian Living: A Life with Benefits
So, when we approach the Christian life, we should not be looking for the benefits to ourselves. We look to the glory of God and then to the interest of others.
However, I was reading Psalm 103 and what I saw looked as close to a list of the benefits of following the Lord as one might find in the Bible. I encourage you to read the entire chapter. Portions deal with the nature of man and the nature of God. Other portions share what could be additional “benefits,” but I will focus on just the first few verses.
Note the abundance of praise and blessing given to God in the first two verses. And, in them, we get the clue that what follows are the benefits.
Bless the Lord, my soul,Psalm 103:1-2 NASB
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
And do not forget any of His benefits;
Then, the benefits begin:
The Benefits: Redemption
Benefit 1: Who pardons all your guilt, (verse 3a).
This thrills my soul. The first benefit mentioned shows that having a relationship with God leads to the forgiveness of our sins. Certainly as Christians, we believe this to be through a personal faith in Christ Jesus. We trust that His death on the cross was for our forgiveness, our salvation, our redemption. To be sure, if there were no other benefit, this would be enough. But, there is more.
Benefit 2: Who heals all your diseases; (verse 3b).
Wait a minute! Believers in Christ get sick and die. What kind of benefit is this? Well, to begin, David (the second king of Israel and ancestor of Jesus) gets credit for writing this Psalm. He obviously was aware that people get sick and die. As a result of the sordid story with Bathsheba, we see him fasting and praying to God for the life of the infant child who was sick and ultimately died. When he wrote these words, he was not overlooking the reality of life.
However, to me, the truth of these words come through in at least three ways. Firstly, God does bring miraculous healing in some circumstances: healings that even doctors don’t understand. Secondly, God uses what we call the miracles of modern science and medicine to facilitate some healing. Thirdly, I believe that death itself for the believer is the ultimate healing. In the life hereafter God’s Word promises that there is no more sickness, pain, or death. What could be better?
Benefit 3: Who redeems your life from the pit, (verse 4a).
In some ways, this statement and the first of the benefits in my list look to be similar. But, in this instance, I see a picture of our journey toward destruction, toward the pit, toward hell, and God in His mercy redeems, purchases back, ransoms us to turn us away from that destination. Perhaps in a way, our very journey in this life is transformed. In Paul’s writings we see that in Christ, we become new creatures. No longer is our destination hell, but our journey leads to an eternal dwelling with God we call heaven. You and I receive a new reason to live and a new purpose in life.
The Benefits: Christian Living
Benefit 4: Who crowns you with favor and compassion; (verse 4b).
In this phrase, these words sum up some of the most soul-stirring of the benefits we receive from our relationship with God. He places upon our heads, as a crown, favor and compassion. The King James Version of the Bible states these as “lovingkindness and tender mercies.” The first is one of my favorite Old Testament words. To me, in many ways, it is like the New Testament word “agape.” It tells of God’s great, deep love for me and for each of His people. The second word here conveys a sense of brotherly love; a love that contains a bond that is strong and true. However, to understand more, in other verses, this same word is translated as a mother’s womb. Thus, the picture of a mother’s love that surrounds her children.
Benefit 5: Who satisfies your years with good things, (verse 5a).
I’m no Hebrew scholar, but when I look at my resources, this wording seems a bit underwhelming. The Hebrew words, in my mind, carry the thought of being sumptuously attired. Our live overflows to the fullest with the blessings of God. The words pull up an image of sitting at my mother’s table for Sunday lunch. We finish eating and we can hold no more. “Satisfied with good things” is definitely true here. But, then realize that the word “years” here or “mouth” in the King James is more than a culinary event. The word here can also denote trappings or a fine outfit. We simply note that God is very good to His people. The benefits of knowing God are mind-expanding.
Yet, we know many Christians live in poverty. Therefore, it’s important to realize that physical riches are not the truest interpretation here. Those who have served God through the years can look back to see and understand the truth of these words. Even in lean years, God provides. And, when the believer goes hungry and lacks financial resources or suffers persecution, he or she knows the rich provision of a loving Lord.
Benefit 6: So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. (verse 5b).
God promises to us the strength we need for the journey. Perhaps it’s physical strength. Then again it may be emotional strength that we need. Or, spiritual strength may be required along the way. Whatever the path that God leads us on, He has promised to supply our needs including the strength necessary for the task.
Perhaps Isaiah was recalling this Psalm when he wrote these words that bring so much encouragement to us:
Yet those who wait for the LordIsaiah 40:31 NASB
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.
The Hymn: Blessings/Benefits
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings, money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
So, amid the conflict, whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your many blessings, see what God hath done.
“Count Your Blessings” by Johnson Oatman (1897)
Yes, the benefits of loving and serving our God are many and glorious. They may not come in the ways that we desire. And, definitely our selfish desires dare not express their expectations. God graciously invites us into His kingdom and lovingly provided the way through Christ. In humility then, we respond and receive the life that He gives to us.
Here is where you can read the entirety of Psalm 103 at BibleGateway.com (you can also select other translations).
You may also be interested to read my article Great Expectations.