I threw out some older maps recently. Who needs them, since now I have Google Maps? Not that they always lead me correctly. One time I was going to a tennis tournament and my printed off Google Map told me to turn right when I should have turned left. I drove for a couple of kilometers before it became clear I was not going to locate the tennis courts in that particular direction. But mostly the directions have been helpful. Even more so now that I have my phone and data, so I can be informed of traffic congestion before I actually see it. And when I encounter a road that is unexpectedly closed my phone will within minutes find the quickest alternate route.
All that preamble to say that there are some clear directions in Scripture too. I especially love the one in Psalm 100. This Psalm gives us clear directions on how to enter into God’s presence. The first step is giving thanks. Verse 4 tells us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving.” If I ask people very rarely will someone tell me that they have nothing to be grateful for. And the one person who did say it to me, well, she was walking around with her eyes closed. Seriously, we should all be able to come up with twenty things right off the bat. Have we eaten today? Did we like anything that we ate? Do we have clothes to wear? Did the sun shine today? If it didn’t, did we have a home to be in, an umbrella to keep the rain off, a shovel to remove the snow? I could go on, but hopefully you have got the point. There are probably many things that we take for granted, and maybe we need to start giving thanks for them instead. Doing so will not only help us feel better, but it will also cause us to enter the gates of God’s Kingdom!
Our next direction, in the same verse in Psalm 100, tells us to enter God’s courts with praise. We praise someone who has done a good job, well God has done a good job of creation, for a start. I love to row on the river near my home, and I get to enjoy something of God’s wonderful creation. I gaze at the trees, so many different shades of green. And there in one of the tall dead looking trees I see one, no two, no five, six, seven or more cormorants. Sometimes I see an osprey, or a fox, or otters. Frequently I see herons, ducks, geese. I cannot help but declare out loud that God did a great job of creation!
I praise God for his wisdom too, for the way that he lives, and all the incredible things that he does. I praise him for his goodness, and for the fact that he never does anything wrong. He is strong, incredibly powerful, yet extravagant with his love and care for humanity.
I often flip between thanks and praise. It is important to recognise, however, that even when a person might feel that they have nothing to thank God for, they can always find reasons to praise him. And when our own situation may seem to be grim, we still need to declare that God is good. Goodness is a part of God’s character, that is who he is. And should I feel that God has not given me what I might want right now, that does not change who he is, that does not change his character.
The last verse in Psalm 100 says “for the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” That is the truth. Your answer to prayer may not have arrived yet, but that does not mean God has forgotten you. Give thanks for how God has already blessed you. Praise God for who he is. Doing so will take you into his courts, and there you can experience his wonderful love and acceptance of you.