by Shannon Caughey
At the beginning of practice, a coach can often predict how that practice will go based on the demeanor of players as they come to practice. If they come with an upbeat attitude and good energy, it’s likely that practice will go well. But if they come with low energy, grumbling about things and focused on what’s going wrong in life or sports, that practice will probably be a struggle.
As a coach, perhaps you’ve used the latter scenario as a teaching opportunity. You point out that whether or not current circumstances are favorable and enjoyable, each player can choose the demeanor with which they approach practice. Even when things are not going well, they can recognize that the chance to play sports is a wonderful gift. It’s a privilege to compete, to be part of the team, to have the health to be able to play, to learn and grow, etc. No matter their current circumstances, players can choose to come each day with the right perspectives and intentions.
We have a similar choice in how we respond to God’s invitation to come to him. In this series of devotions, we’re working through Psalm 100 and considering what it says about how we come to God and why we come to him. According to what we’ve seen so far in this psalm, we come to God with joy (v. 1), we come in worship (v.2), and we come knowing that we belong because we are his (v. 3). Psalm 100:4 addresses our demeanor as we come to God: “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.”
“Gates” and “courts” are references to the temple. For the people of God in the psalmist’s day, the temple was far more than a building. It was believed to be the means through which God fulfilled his promise to dwell with them, to be present in their midst. To “enter his gates…and his courts” is a way of saying, “Come into the presence of God.”
How are we to come? With thanksgiving and praise. Verse 4 is simultaneously an invitation and a command—because we need both. When things are going well for us, verse 4 invites us to direct our gratitude to the One from whom every good gift comes (James 1:17). When life is hard and circumstances aren’t what we’d like, we are still directed to “give thanks to him and praise his name.” Why? The psalmist tells us in verse 5: “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
It comes down to what we choose. We can choose to allow our circumstances to define our perspective. Or we can choose to focus on what is true of God in every situation. God is always good, always loving, and always faithful. He is therefore always worthy of our gratitude and worship. When we choose to “give thanks to him and praise his name,” it reinforces the truth of who he is in our minds and hearts—leading to even more gratitude and praise to him.
Christmas reminds us again that in Jesus Christ, God has come to us to rescue us, reconcile us to himself, and restore us to life with him. In Christ, God has come to us so that we can come to him. Sometimes the holiday season is wonderful and it’s easy to remember what the Lord did for us. We feel eager to thank and praise him. However, at other times the holiday season is stressful and we just feel like grumbling and complaining. But we can choose instead to follow the directive of Psalm 100:4. We can come to God with thanksgiving and praise, recognizing all he does for us and how worthy he is of our gratitude and adoration.
“O come, let us adore him; O come, let us adore him; O come, let us adore him, Christ, the Lord!”
For reflection: Take a few minutes to express your gratitude to God and to praise him. Thank him for specific things he has done. Praise him for specific truths regarding who he is.