Thursday, November 15, 2007

LET US GIVE THANKS


How do you respond to the many blessings of God in your life? In this season of thanksgiving, just survey the wonderful evidences of God’s grace and mercy toward you, and I know you will be surprised with all that the Lord has done. Our heavenly Father has bestowed His loving kindness on us in many different ways, though we are entirely undeserving of it. Such is the nature of our salvation: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). No matter how many times I read this passage of Scripture, I cannot fully take it in. Who am I that God should show mercy toward me, in my rebellious state, and provide a way for me to be reconciled to Him? “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight” (Colossians 1:21-22). What a dreadful description of the human condition! Look at it more closely: We all were alienated from God, enemies of God, and intent on doing wicked things. This is not a picture of passive disobedience, but hostility to God’s holy law. All such sinners are certainly included in the category of those mentioned in Proverbs 1:29-30: “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.” Yet the aforementioned Scripture in Colossians says that the Christian has been reconciled to God by the death of Christ- not only that, but we will stand before Him holy and blameless. God is surely the greatest giver, who has given us the greatest gift – eternal life! He has done what is contrary to man’s nature. He has returned good for evil, and He has done so to the highest degree.

Once reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ, the believer lives in the sphere of God’s goodness. In other words, the wrath of God having been satisfied, God is now disposed to act with favor toward those redeemed by Christ’s blood (Revelation 5:9). We are the recipients of daily blessings from heaven which encompass every aspect of our lives, materially and spiritually. Not surprisingly, we are admonished in Psalm 100 to enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. In other words, our times of public and private worship (in the temple of our hearts) should be filled with gratitude and adoration. But how many of us take time each day to give thanks and exalt His holy name? Do you recall the story of the ten lepers that Jesus healed? They asked Jesus to have mercy on them, and He did. All ten were cleansed. I would think that this would have occasioned a spontaneous outpouring of praise from the entire group. Well, it didn’t. We read: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:15-16). This prompted Jesus to respond, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" (verses 17-18, NKJV). What a rebuke! Only a Samaritan, a stranger to the true knowledge of God, returned to give thanks. If Jesus noticed the lack of gratitude in the other nine, do you think He notices our lack of gratitude? Of course, the answer is Yes, He does. He also knows when an outward expression of thanks may lack true sincerity of heart. We cannot fool God with our words.

What about giving thanks when trials and unpleasant circumstances come our way? Matthew Henry, the famous Bible commentator, was robbed of his wallet once. That night, he wrote in his diary all the things for which he was thankful: first, that he had never been robbed before; second, that though they took his wallet, they did not take his life; third, because, even though they took it all, it wasn't very much; and finally, because he was the one who was robbed and not the one who was robbing. Henry certainly had a heart filled with gratitude in every situation. Thirteen years before his conversion, John Wesley had a conversation with the porter of his college that deeply impressed him and convinced him that there was more to Christianity than he knew. Wesley discovered that the man had only one coat and that nothing had passed his lips that day except a drink of water, and yet his heart was full of gratitude to God. “Wesley said, ‘You thank God when you have nothing to wear, nothing to eat, and no bed to lie upon. What else do you thank him for?’ ‘I thank him,’ answered the porter, ‘that He has given me my life and being, and a heart to love Him, and a desire to serve Him.’[1] Should we not do likewise? The Scripture commands, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Brethren, Thanksgiving Day will soon be upon us, but every day must be the occasion for the expression of our gratefulness to God. We have all feasted upon the riches of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. We have filled ourselves with the manna of heaven (John 6:51) and drunk freely from the water of life (John 4:14). We enjoy sweet fellowship with the God of creation (1 John 1:3). We know the comfort of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26), the presence of Christ (Hebrews 13:5), and the fellowship of the saints here on earth (Philippians 1:5). We are blessed of God; no one can argue otherwise. But though all these things are ours, we must remember that true gratitude focuses on the greatness of the giver even more than on the gift: It leads us to love God for who He is, as well as for what He has done. This is the essence of true thanksgiving, and many examples are seen in the book of Psalms, as in: “Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness” (Psalm 30:4).

As you continue to taste of the Lord’s goodness, I pray that you will find the time to thank God for who He is and all He has done. Don’t let the business of life keep you barren of the virtue of gratitude. If we follow the example of the righteous man Daniel, the prophet of God, we will learn the true spirit of thanksgiving: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10,NKJV). I can only hope that Daniel’s custom of thanksgiving will become ours. I hope for this among God’s people everywhere because I believe that it is the path of joy, the means to a victorious Christian life, and a tremendous testimony to the lost. Brothers and sisters, let us give thanks! May the world know us as a thankful people.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Happy Thanksgiving in Jesus’ name,

Pastor Tom

[1] A. Skevington Wood, The Inextinguishable Blaze [Eerdmans], p. 100).

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