We started the sermon this morning by looking at photos from unusual angles. Can you guess what it is?!

The answers are:
1) spaghetti (taken from above)
2) a chair (taken from below)
3) a kebab skewer (just for Mark!)

How we view life largely depends on our perspective and on the vision we have. We can be focussed on the immediate (since this is clearly visible to us), but this is largely like living looking through a telephoto lens: good for close-ups, but not very good at seeing the whole picture. For that, we need a wide-angled lens. We need panoramic vision if we are to see life the way God sees it.

Peter tells us he needs to remind the church of basic truths if they are to be firmly established in truth (2 Pet 1:12-15). We need to ‘forget not all His benefits’ if we are to have true panoramic vision.

These benefits are listed in Psalm 103. There, we see that God forgives all our sins, the starting point for living a free life. This psalm reminds us that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Ps 103:12) It tells us “He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps 103:9-10) Forgiveness is the best cleansing agent we could ever have, unblocking our hearts from grudges, resentment and bitterness and leading us into freedom.

God brings redemption and compassion into our lives (Ps 103:4). When we look back at where we were (Eph 2:12-13), we see all the more how amazing it is that God has lifted us up and set us on solid ground (Ps 40:2). God is our healer (Ps 103:3). He satisfies us with good things (Ps 103:5). The revelation of God throughout the Bible is that He treats us as a loving father, showing care and compassion for us. God is good and what He does is good (Ps 119:68). His faithfulness toward each of us is perfect and everlasting (Is 25:1, Ps 119:90). His kind thoughts toward us are as numberless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world (Ps 139:17-18). His saving presence is everywhere (Ps 5:12, Ps 139:7-12). Ps 84: 11 tells us “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” James 1:17 tells us “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” This is the kind of God we have. He satisfies us with good things. Yes, there will be times when we don’t get our own way, when God says no to us, when we can’t have the things we think are what we want most in the world. But when God says no to us, it’s because He loves us. It’s because He can see the bigger picture. He knows what is best for us. We think we know what’s best, but we only have this limited telephoto lens to view our lives with and we often cannot see how refusal can ever be for our good. One thing a right view of God does for us, however, is it encourages us to trust the goodness of God even in the dark times of life when things don’t seem to be going our way. If God is good all the time, then even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we can fear no evil, for He remains with us and remains good.

God renews our strength like the eagle’s (Ps 103:5, see Is 40:31). He helps us to rise up above the circumstances and soar. He is at work in our world, even though there is injustice and oppression (Ps 103:6-7). God’s character is summarised (if you could ever hope to do that!) in Ps 103:8 (“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” See also Numbers 14:18, Ps 145:8, Jonah 4:2, Neh 9:17). This is the kind of God we serve – no wonder we have ten thousand reasons and more to praise Him! Nothing can separate us from that love or stand in His way, for He is firmly in control (“The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all” Ps 103:19). No matter what is happening in the close-up of our lives, we can know that the bigger picture includes a sovereign God who is over all and above all and in all (Eph 4:6).

When we look through a telephoto lens, there are two dangers. One is that we seem really big, important, the centre of it all. Ps 103:14-16 reminds us of the fragility of life: men are just like flowers, here today and gone tomorrow. The other is that we feel overwhelmed by all the troubles that surround us and feel afraid. Ps 102:19 reminds us that God is in control.

Our view of God absolutely, totally, desperately matters because it will determine how we live today and every day:

“A big view of God is a cure for so many of the things in life that would stand in our way or slow us down in ministry. When we really grasp the heights of who He is, and the depths of His heart for us, and the strength of His power in us, we can live a whole different kind of life. The way we view God will radically affect how our lives operate… We must see and believe Him as big enough, kind enough, real enough and strong enough to move in power in our everyday lives – no matter what we’re facing. The first step for a worshipper is to confidently get to grips with just how magnificent and mighty He is. The next step is to let that confidence in God seep into the very depths of our hearts and minds, forming a holy confidence on the inside of us. When that truly happens, we will dream bigger dreams and live brighter lives.” (Matt Redman)

When we ‘forget not all His benefits’, we can live life with that wide-angled view which will enable us to have confidence in every situation and to trust in Him, no matter what we are going through. God is good and all He does is good! No wonder the psalms exhorts us so much to praise the Lord!