Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content


Home > Sermons

A Picture of Praise

God is worthy of our worship.


Thanksgiving Day was near. The first grade teacher gave her class a fun assignment—to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful. Most of the class might be considered to be from poor families, but still, many would celebrate the holiday with turkey and other traditional goodies of the season. These, the teacher thought, would be the subjects of most of her student's art. And they were.

But Douglas made a different kind of picture. Douglas was a different kind of boy. He was the teacher's true child of misery, frail and unhappy. As other children played at recess, Douglas was likely to stand close by her side. One could only guess at the pain Douglas felt behind those sad eyes. Yes, his picture was different. When asked to draw a picture of something for which he was thankful, he drew a hand. Nothing else. Just an empty hand.

His abstract image captured the imagination of the other students. The teacher asked the class, "Whose hand could it be?" One child guessed it was the hand of a farmer, because farmers raise turkeys. Another suggested a police officer, because the police protect and care for people. Still others guessed it was the hand of God, for God feeds us. And so the discussion went—until the teacher almost forgot the young artist himself. When the children had gone on to other assignments, she paused at Douglas' desk, bent down, and asked him whose hand it was.

The little boy looked away and murmured, "It's yours, teacher."

She recalled the times she had taken his hand and walked with him here or there, as she had the other students. How often had she said, "Take my hand, Douglas, we'll go outside." Or, "Let me show you how to hold your pencil." Or, "Let's do this together." Douglas was most thankful for his teacher's hand.

Today this psalm encourages you to think about God's hand in your life. On this Thanksgiving let's remind ourselves that his hand is always there for you, even when you might not sense it.

Of 150 psalms, this is the only one that has the title "A psalm of praise." This unique title was then passed to the whole of the book of Psalms by the Old Testament believers so that it was called "The Book of Praises." David says, "Every day I will praise you." Whether in good times or in dark times he will offer up praise to God. Psalm 145 gives us four ways that God's hand touches our lives and why we should praise God.

God is mighty

God's mighty acts are awe-inspiring and his greatness is without limit and that even with intensive search no one can find its depths. Psalm 145:3 "Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom." The word "fathom" comes from the ancient word fadym which was the word for "thread." A thread was used to measure the distance between two things. Our word "fathom" then came to mean to measure something, such as the depth of water under a ship to see if it can safely pass over. The question we ask this morning, "Is God sufficient for our needs?" Is God deep enough to supply what we are lacking? Can we safely trust God to be mighty enough, loving enough, forgiving enough, and near enough to help? Are God's resources adequate for our need?

We are used to limitations in life: We all have a limited amount of time. We have a limited amount of patience. We have a limited amount of money. We have a limited amount of strength. We have a limited amount of insight. But God has no limits. We can never exhaust the resources of God with our needs. How can we understand the unlimited nature of God's greatness? When I was a teenager I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time. I was impressed with the vastness (and coldness) of the lake. I also heard the legend that the bottom of Lake Tahoe has never been found. It was easy to believe when I looked at the beautiful blue lake.

The truth is that Lake Tahoe is the eighth deepest lake in the world. On July 4, 1875, two men actually discovered the deepest point in the lake to be 1645 feet by lowering a weighted champagne bottle on fishing line from the side of their boat. Following the invention of sonar, soundings by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed that depth. Lake Tahoe is so large that if the lake were tipped over, its contents would cover California in 14.5 inches of water. Tahoe could provide every person in the United States with 50 gallons of water per day for 5 years. The evaporation alone from Tahoe over the course of one year could supply a city the size of Los Angeles for 5 years. And Lake Tahoe is a small lake compared to Lake Superior (120 times as large) and the world's largest lake, the Caspian Sea (576 times as large).

Your use of water could never personally exhaust the limits of Lake Tahoe. In the same way whatever your need might be you can never exhaust God's supply. In Philippians 4:19 we are told "And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

In ancient Greece it was customary for peddlers who walked the streets with their wares to cry out, "What do you lack?" The idea was to let people know they were in the vicinity, and also rouse the curiosity of the people. Coming out of their houses they would want to know what the peddler was selling. It might be something they lacked and needed, or simply something they desired.

What do you lack? God has exactly what you need.

God is gracious

To know that God is powerful is good. To know that God is gracious takes our praise to the next level. A person who recognizes that God is gracious, loving, and merciful understands God more completely than a person who merely realizes that God is powerful. God's glory is in his grace to people, his generosity and goodness. God is gracious, which means he is full of generosity, kind, good, and his gifts are given freely to his people.

In spite of all the wrong that I have done, the Lord is gracious and compassionate to me. Like the prodigal son who was welcomed home after his rebellion, so God welcomes home his children. During a British conference on comparative religions, experts debated what, if any, belief was unique to Christianity. They began eliminating possibilities. The Incarnation? Other religions had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from the dead. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. "What's the rumpus about?" he asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity's unique contribution among world religions. Lewis responded, "Oh, that's easy. It's grace." After some discussion, the others had to agree.

The notion of God's love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of Karma, the Jewish covenant, and the Muslim code of law, each of these offer a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God's love unconditional. God's grace sets us free from trying to earn God's forgiveness. Common sense tells us that we can never meet the standards of God's holiness. Grace tells us that everything is all right in spite of so much in you being so wrong. God is patient and does not punish us as we deserve. He is compassionate with those who are weak, make foolish mistakes, and are discouraged.

In an earlier psalm we are reminded of God's grace and mercy toward us. "He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities." This Thanksgiving we are grateful for what God has given to us, such as a job, home, friends, family, possessions, and good health. But are you ever grateful for what has not given you? He has not given us the consequences and punishment that our sins deserve. "Grace" has been defined as God giving us what we don't deserve and his "Mercy" is not giving us what we do deserve.

If I were to ask you to make a list today of what God wants from you, I am sure that all of us could come up with a substantial list of requirements: God wants you to obey. God wants you to serve. God wants you to be pure. God wants you to witness. The list could go on and on. But did you realize that you left off the first thing that God wants from you? It is easily forgotten in a rules oriented relationship that is caught up in doing things for God so that He will be pleased with you. Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." Again in the New Testament Jesus further cements this idea with an answer to the question "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

God is good to all. The Israelites were preoccupied only with themselves and forgot or overlooked the fact that God is good to all the people he has created. Both the righteous and unrighteous are loved by God and receive grace (John 3:16, Matthew 5:45. Acts 14:17, Luke 6:35). The story is told of an ancient kingdom whose king had just died, and whose ambassadors were sent to choose a successor. They had to make a choice between two twin infants. They found the little fellows fast asleep, and looking at them carefully, agreed that it was very difficult to decide. That is, until they noticed a curious little difference between them. For as they lay there, one infant had his tiny fists closed tight, but the other slept with his little hands wide open. Instantly, they made their selection of the latter, and sure enough, the story very properly concludes with the record that, as he grew up in his high station he came to be known as the King with the Open Hand.

This is the great truth about God. We do not have a tight-fisted deity, but a God with an ever-open hand, for our God is the greatest of all givers. We rejoice and praise God because of his great grace, love, and mercy. God's nature is not some abstract set of qualities that are studied in a classroom. Christians know the nature of God in a personal and life-sustaining way.

God is faithful

In addition to God's power and love, we should praise God because he helps those who are bowed down with grief or adversity. He has promised never to desert us. God has proven throughout history he is faithful. God keeps his promises. God lifts up those who have fallen. God sustains those who are ready to fall. God provides for our needs and desires. In Psalm 94:18 we read, "When I said, 'My foot is slipping,' your love, O LORD, supported me." And again in Psalm 37, "The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand."

God's attention is attracted by our weakness. A mother responds in exactly the same way. She loves all her children, but if she has one who is weak and sickly, while the others are healthy and strong, her care and attention are lavished upon the one who has most need of her protection. Her other children are able to take care of themselves, but the little delicate one, whose life hangs almost by a thread, appeals by his very weakness to her strongest instincts of maternal love. So it is with our gracious Savior. He loves us tenderly because of our very weakness.

We should read these verses in connection with the first part of verse 13. God remains stable and in control. We will often stumble and fall, but he is always ready to help us stand. We will find God to be secure, steady, and unmovable. Remember that God specializes in using people who are weak and inadequate to carry out his work. The Bible is filled with examples of God's powerful work being done through people who felt inadequate or had failed in their personal lives. People like Moses, Gideon, David, Sarah, Peter, Naomi—just to name a few.

God is near

The fourth characteristic of God we see in this psalm is his nearness to us. God is nearby to each of us and attentive to our special needs. He promises to hear our prayers and save us. These are great and powerful promises. We see this characteristic played out throughout scripture in three ways: he is near to all of us, he fulfills desires, and he watches over all.

Philippians 4:5-7 tells us, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This same point is emphasized in Deuteronomy 4:7: "For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the LORD our God whenever we call on Him?" Psalm 46:1 tells us that not only is God near and present, but a "refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

In 1 Kings 19 we can read the story of Elijah the prophet. Elijah had been working hard for God but he was exhausted. Then he was confronted by a seemingly impossible final challenge when his strength was completely used up. In fear and despair, Elijah ran. He ran far away trying to get away from his troubles and the feeling that God had let him down. He found shelter in a cave.

In the midst of the darkness of the cave finally came this voice. The voice came up close to Elijah's ear and whispered. And the voice said, "What are you doing here?" That's one of the most remarkable passages in all of Scripture. What do you mean, "What are you doing here?" Do you notice what the voice did not say? It did not say, "What are you doing there?" "What are you doing there, Elijah? Why are you there?" We're nothing talking there, we're talking here. God is in the dark. In fact, God is bigger than the dark. That's the promise. It is God's dark. God is the creator of the dark. And the promise is that God will be present. And so with the confidence of the children of the Most High God, revealed in Christ, we may dare to endure the dark. But in order to claim these promises we must come to God in a way that he accepts, on his terms, not on our terms or conditions.

God is near to all—who call upon him in truth. There are many empty prayers and false confessions offered to God but these cannot expect God to come near to them. He demands that we come to him in truth. That means an honest acceptance of who he has revealed himself to be, not what we have defined him to be. We must come in truth about ourselves and our sinful weakness. We must come in humility, for pride is a lie. We must be earnest and eager or our prayer is hypocritical.

God fulfills desires—of those who fear him. We must have an awesome respect of his great holiness. We must come to God with a sense of humility, for we are on the earth and he is in heaven.

God watches over all—those who love him. Jesus said if we love him we will keep his commandments (John 14:15). When we come to God and accept his love and love him in return, God will carefully watch over us.

At the end of this psalm we find a warning. God is freely offering his pardon and love to all who turn to him. He is currently patient and forgiving. Everyone has a choice to make about God. There is a time coming when those who refuse to turn from their sins will be sent to destruction. Psalm 145:20: "The LORD watches over all who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy."


We began by saying that of 150 psalms this is the only one that has the title "A psalm of praise." This is also the last psalm written by King David, Psalms 146-150 are not credited to any author, and it may be that he reserved this title for his last psalm to emphasize the fact that all his words should end in praise to God. This is also reinforced by the last verse of his last psalm which ends with praise, "My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever."

If you were to draw a picture of what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving would you draw an open hand like little Douglas? Psalm 145 encourages you in a very personal way to think about God's hand in your life. On this Thanksgiving let's remind ourselves that his hand is always there for you, even when you might not sense it. This year at Thanksgiving remember that God is to be praised. God is mighty—he can be your strength. God is gracious—he loves and forgives you. God is faithful—he can supply what you lack. God is near—he is close when you call him.

David Finch is a retired pastor, after 29 years in ministry, he is also a free-lance editor for Preaching Today.

Related sermons

A Christmas To-Do List

What's at the top of your list this season?

The Messy Family of God

Learning to choose the right way over the hard way
Sermon Outline:


I. God is mighty

II. God is gracious

III.God is faithful

IV. God is near