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Give thanks!

November 28th, 2019

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1)

In the pagan world of the First Century, the gods did not care about human beings and only helped spasmodically, and for their own selfish reasons. The gods were unreliable at their best. Praise and thanksgiving toward these gods were attempts at some celestial flattery, seeking to win them over to the human side. The gods, however, were as evil and selfish and as capricious as people.

The Christian message was radically different, for it announced that God is good and that God cares for us. God, who is all-knowing, who sees all, is not someone we can flatter into helping us, nor do we even need to. God sees, God cares and is predisposed to favor us, and God can help. In this reality, being genuinely thankful, truly inwardly grateful, made an entirely different kind of sense. Thanksgiving was not an effort to convince a flawed and selfish god with a fragile ego to lend us a hand. Rather it was the grateful recognition and affirmation of God’s goodness.

The Christian must remember at all times that the Lord is good. His kindnesses to us are not some temporary mood changes, not some flippant fleeting feeling in the heart of God. His kindness and goodness to us His children reveals His nature. The Lord is good in His nature!

Thank God for His goodness

In His goodness is fairness and justice. We must remember this, that we should expect for God to measure back to us what we have measured out to others. This is what Christ said:

Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7:1-2 BSB)

This is also something to thank God for, that He is just and fair. Any place we work in our life we would desire to be like this, that they are fair and that they reward hard work. This is who God is! The ultimate fair judge of all situations.

Thank God for His grace

But God’s kindness to us goes even beyond this, for He is also gracious and forgiving. We are blessed by Him giving us what we deserve AND by Him not giving us what we deserve always, in terms of our sin and our need of His grace.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases

The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:2-3,8-13)

The self-inflicted wounds of sin in our lives, our pride, our lusts, are forgiven by God in those who believe. “Those who fear him” refer to those whose consciences have been convicted by His Spirit, and fear the justice of God to be repaid to them for the evils they have done. They fear God in the sense of realizing this spiritual reality, of turning from sin and turning to Him in repentance and faith. Those who fear also trust in His Word and in His promise of grace and forgiveness.

Thank God for His discipline

And we must also realize that even when our sin is found out, even when we receive discipline as His child, it is still positive. He is teaching us and maturing us in such moments. The Bible says, “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6). If we receive punishment in this life for our sins, we should thank God for the forgiveness that is eternal in the next life, AND for His kindness in using this earthly discipline to teach us eternal truths. We receive a kingdom that “cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), so His work in us is also for eternity.

All His benefits

And on top of this we also thank God for all the good things He has brought into our lives: opportunities, talents, education, mentors, food, clothing, family, loved ones, friends, purpose, meaning, joy, comfort, peace, and the list seems endless.

The heart of gratitude

But at its heart, true Christian gratitude is just being grateful for Him, just stopping to say from the heart, “Thank You, Jesus, for Yourself!” The Christian’s chief blessing, and thereby the chief thing we ought to be grateful for at all times, is not merely a “thing” at all, but a Person. The Bible says, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7).

Eternal life is described in knowing God through Jesus Christ (John 17:3). Knowing Christ was the goal of the life of Paul (Phil. 1:21 and 3:8), and it is to be the goal of our life as well (Phil. 3:15). Knowledge and intimacy with Christ is what will never be taken away from our hearts (Luke 10:42). Christ is that Friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the vine that nourishes our souls. He is the light that illuminates our spirits. He is the One who said to the Father, “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

Give thanks!


Mature Appreciation

September 3rd, 2018

Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD and said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did. (2 Samuel 23:16-17 ESV)

If you follow Oswald Chambers devotional My Utmost for His Highest you know that this text was his for September 3. It touched me this morning due to a certain situation that I am dealing with. This matter of appreciating the cost of someone’s gift or action toward us reveals our maturity, or lack of it.

David revealed his maturity in that he appreciated what these three mighty men did, that they had risked their lives for him, just to bring him a drink of water from Bethlehem. David, however, dare not drink it, but out of respect to the men poured it out before the Lord. They showed their loyalty to him, and he showed both his loyalty to them and to God, and his respect for their sacrifice, risking their lives just so he could have a drink of water.

The immature person receives gifts from others and thinks nothing of the cost of them. The immature person would drink the water, and perhaps ask for more. In some manner such an action reveals inexperience in life, and not necessarily an unkind or ungrateful spirit. Young people often feel a sense of entitlement, that they deserve this or that. But when this attitude persists into adulthood, when we receive gifts and kindnesses with no thought of their cost to others, then we reveal our immaturity.

Someone may say, “But these things are given to me. Why can’t I enjoy them?” Well, here is a matter that is deeply personal and spiritual between us and God. Sometimes it is disrespectful to the giver not to receive and enjoy the gift. We need wisdom, but the wise person is also sensitive to the circumstance. There were times that David received gifts when he took them and thanked the giver and moved on.

And even our Lord accepted Mary’s anointing him with expensive oil, while Judas complained of the waste of it (John 12:5-6). Often unbelievers, who help no one but themselves, complain about the beauty and expense of church buildings and say this money should be given to the poor. They do not realize that this is not a competition between loving God or loving others. The love for God that constructs a beautiful church building, is the same love that motivates the people of God to help the poor. It is when the church stops thinking about the glory and beauty of the Lord, that it also stops caring about the poor.

Our eyes must be fixed on Christ, and we must avoid being distracted from doing what is right by those who always complain. We can never practice faith if we are only concerned with what the most negative person will think. The unbelieving will always find something to complain about. The Bible warns us of the stingy person “who is inwardly calculating. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you, but his heart is not with you” (Prov. 23:7).

I believe this is the way we should think about such things, whether gifts or acts of kindness and support:

  • All of these things should be received as grace gifts, not as entitlements.
  • All of these matters should be received with appreciation toward God and toward the giver.
  • All should be assumed to have been costly for the giver to give or to do. We should never take for granted that it was nothing for them to do this.
  • All should be dedicated to the Lord, and used exclusively for His glory
  • While not doing our acts of righteousness before others in the sense of some perverted false display of religious devotion, we should be thoughtful of how others might perceive this.
  • We should look for some means to return the favor to others – to bless someone else, someone who is in a greater need than we are.

Chambers wrote on what acting like David would do to our faith and our temperament. He wrote:

If you have become bitter and sour, it is because when God gave you a blessing you clutched it for yourself; whereas if you had poured it out unto the Lord, you would have been the sweetest person out of heaven. If you are always taking blessings to yourself and never learn to pour out anything unto the Lord, other people do not get their horizon enlarged through you.