By Kathy Kelly
A friend recently landed a great job with our local power company. Corey’s salary is outstanding, his boss is friendly, and his commute is short. As Corey’s wife, Nancy, told me about his new position, she exclaimed, “And you can’t forget about his benefits!” Twenty days of paid vacation, awesome health insurance, a retirement plan, and more. Corey got an excellent deal, and I was happy for my friends.
Soon after my conversation with Nancy, I read Psalm 103. I smiled when I. got to verse 2: “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” It sounded almost exactly like my excited friend telling me about the new job.
As I looked at the next three verses, I realized the psalm lists five specific benefits we enjoy as believers-benefits that greatly surpass the most excellent career package! Let’s examine each of then’ more closely.
Psalm 103:3 assures us that God “forgives all [our] sins.” A recent incident demonstrated for me how valuable this forgiveness is.
A few months ago, Becky and her family joined our church. From the beginning, there seemed to be a wall between Becky and me. Though baffled by the tension between us, I tried repeatedly to be friendly, but nothing penetrated the invisible shell that surrounded her.
Then one afternoon I found an envelope taped to my front door. It contained a letter from Becky. She wrote about a passing remark I had made months earlier, right after she joined our church. The remark had hurt and offended her.
I hadn’t intended to hurt Becky and didn’t know my words had upset her. Immediately, I called and asked forgiveness. Becky forgave me, and we’ve begun to grow a friendship.
The wall of unresolved hurt between Becky and me had cut us off from one another. A much more serious and impenetrable wall stands between all humans and the Lord. Isaiah 59:2 tells us, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.”
When we accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, He forgives all our sins, destroying the wall that separates us from Him and completing the process described in Eph. 2:13: “Now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”
Psalm 103:3 reports that, in addition to forgiving us, the Lord also “heals all [our] diseases.”
I struggle with this verse because I have a child who desperately needs healing. Braden is four years old. He has bright red hair, blue eyes, freckles, and a rare and potentially life-threatening blood disorder. Treatments are toxic and must be used sparingly and cautiously. There is no cure.
For almost three years, our family has begged God to heal Braden. So far, we haven’t received the answer we seek. But God has used Braden to help me understand what it truly means to be healed.
Recently, as Braden and I drove to the local hospital to have his blood tested, he asked, “Mommy, when we get to heaven, where will the hospital be?”
“There won’t be any hospitals in heaven,” I answered.
Braden didn’t quite get it. “You mean Jesus is going to be the one who pokes me?” His voice betrayed amazement that Jesus might get this important job!
I stopped the van and turned around to look at him. “Braden, there won’t be any hospitals in heaven because you won’t need them anymore. In heaven, you won’t ever be sick again.”
His eyes got big. “Cool!” he yelled.
I realized then that because God graciously heals our sin through faith in Jesus Christ, Braden will also be healed of his disease – either on this side of heaven or the other. That’s a promise!
Forgiveness and healing are amazing benefits, but there are more! God also “redeems [our] life from the pit” (v. 4). The word redeems in this verse comes from the Hebrew word ga-al, which means to buy back, to purchase, or to pay the ransom.
Christians have been “bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:20). Christ’s sacrifice redeemed us from eternity in hell. But His redemption goes even further: It also frees us to live abundantly on earth.
My family is a testimony of Christ’s redemption. Both of my parents came from long lines of alcoholics, broken marriages, and shattered lives. But God reached down to interrupt the cycle of destruction.
My parents shared a common goal: to give their children something better. Early in their marriage, they made a point of bringing my siblings and me to Sunday school each week. My brother, sister, and I eventually came to know the Lord. Mom was curious. She too began to attend church, and soon she made a profession of faith.
Unfortunately, as the rest of my family clung to God, my father grew bitter and turned to alcohol. Through my teen years, my parents’ marriage was shaky at best. Our home was not a picture of happiness. It was a miracle when Dad finally accepted Christ while I was a freshman in college.
Although it took decades and we still have struggles, Jesus has purchased our family out of the pit of sin and destruction. We are deeply grateful for the benefit of His redemption.
Few positions in the world include the benefit of wearing a crown. Crowns signify royalty-the elite who are set apart to reign over others.
Yet the fourth benefit of being a child of the King involves a crown. Our Lord generously “crowns [us] with love and compassion” (v. 4). Though this crown is intangible and does not give us authority over others, we should value it. It allows us to stand-straighter and walk more confidently, and it gives us a reason to smile even in difficult circumstances. It is the invisible tattoo across our foreheads that say, “I am loved.”
God’s love for us is coupled with compassion. He empathizes with our troubles and wants to help. “As a father has compassion on his children,” explains Ps. 103:13-14, “so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”
As a mom, I especially relate to this verse. At a recent family function, my nine-year-old son, Nathan, behaved inappropriately. One family member, upset by Nathan’s actions, lost his temper. He called Nathan stupid and told him to stay by himself for the rest of the evening.
Nathan fled to a spare bedroom in tears. I followed him, also in tears. The scene brought back similar episodes in my childhood, and I felt Nathan’s pain. We sat together, prayed, and, after a while, apologized together to the offended relative.
Even amid childish and sinful behavior, my love and compassion for my children is strong and often fiercely protective. My responses, however, are nothing compared to the love and compassion God extends to us daily.
Dreams Come True
For several years, my husband and I contemplated buying a home. We looked at various houses for sale and discussed buying vacant property on which to build. It was a nice dream, but nothing suitable came across our path.
Then a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned our search to a close friend. I didn’t think more about it until she showed up at my house with a map. It contained a drawing of an 8.9-acre lot in a beautiful location. She told my husband and me that she refused to sell the property. However, she wanted to give it away – to us.
Our friend’s offer seemed too incredible to be real. I knew I was experiencing the fifth benefit described in Psalm 103: “[God] satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (v. 5). There is nothing more satisfying and invigorating than seeing God fulfill the desires of your heart.
But what about unfulfilled desires?
Even as my husband and I relish the beginnings of our dream home, our lives contain longing. We have prayed for several years to have another child, but we have not yet experienced this blessing. We are still waiting to see many friends and relatives come to faith in Christ. And we are eager to celebrate the day Braden is cured of his blood disorder.
These unfulfilled longings remind me that God does not promise to satisfy all our desires. He does promise to “satisfy [our] desires with good things.”
Sometimes that means we get what we want, and sometimes it means God gives us what is good for us, even if that is not exactly what we had in mind.
It’s awesome to recall how God forgives us, heals us, redeems us from destruction, crowns us with His love, and invigorates us by satisfying our desires. But what can we do with that information?
For me, the answer lies in another question: “What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me?” (Ps. 116:12, NKJV). The greatest way I’ve found to show my appreciation for this remarkable “benefits package” is to remember what God has provided for me and, in a spirit of thankfulness and praise, be willing to give my all back to Him.
This article “Bountiful Benefits” written by Kathy Kelly is excerpted from Discipleship Journal a November/December 2007 edition.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”