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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks for All Things

 I know most believers tomorrow will be taking time to reflect on the things for which they are thankful, and will be taking the time to express that thanksgiving to God.  Family, freedom, warm clothes, homes, food, and certainly for our salvation through Jesus Christ.  Undoubtedly, we have much for which to be thankful, including some things that might not normally be mentioned on Thanksgiving Day.

Those of you who were with us as we made our way through Ephesians may remember 5:18-20, where we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit,” which includes giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Many times when we read such things in Scripture, we want to write them off as hyperbole, but there is sufficient evidence in Scripture that when Paul wrote “everything” in Eph 5:20, he meant everything.

So the aim of this post is to prompt you to ponder some non-traditional things for which to give thanks to God tomorrow.

1. God’s self-revelation

Romans 1:18-20 tell us that God made known to men some of His attributes through the things that have been made.  There we find that the appropriate response to God’s revelation of Himself in creation (which theologians refer to as “general revelation”) is to worship Him and give thanks to Him. 
You may have thanked God for His creation before, but why did you do that?  Because of its beauty?  Surely, that is appropriate.  But let me suggest that we should also thank God for His creation for the simple fact that through it, He has revealed His eternal power and  divine nature.

Consider what the psalmist writes in Psalm 19:1-6:  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

David’s celebration of the creation was not due to its own beauty, but because it declared the glory of God. 

David’s celebration in Psalm 19 then moves to God’s fuller revelation of Himself in His Word:

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.  Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11 ESV).  

What a travesty that we ever go a day without expressing our gratitude to God for graciously giving us His Word translated into our own tongue.  May the Lord kindle in us the heart of the psalmist: Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psa 119:97).  The one who loves the Word will give thanks for it.

2. Fruit in the lives of other believers

There are so many people in my life for whom I am thankful.  I have a tendency to thank God for their presence in my life, but to thank them for their good works.  There is nothing wrong with expressing appreciation to someone, but we must keep in mind who is to receive all glory and thanks for the good works believers do.

Ephesians 2:1-10 reveals that not only is God to be glorified for our conversion, but also for our good deeds: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  The previous verse makes it clear that the scope of salvation, including justification and sanctification, is God’s doing, “so that no one may boast” (v9).

In Romans 6, after exhorting believers to live as those who are dead to sin, in v17, he goes on to credit God for their obedience: But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  

Why would Paul thank God for the obedience of the Romans?  I think we find a clue in Phil 2:12-13, where he exhorts the Philippians to obey, noting that it was God who worked in them both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  So whenever a believer obeys, God has worked in them to bring about that good work.  Therefore, He gets the glory and He is to be thanked. 

3. Various Trials

The New Testament calls us to have a high view of the meticulous sovereignty of God in all things.  As we’ve noted so many times, Ephesians 1:11 describes our God as “Him who works all things after the counsel of His will.”  It is because of God’s meticulous sovereignty that Paul is able to write in Romans 8:28-29 that “all things work together for good,” namely, that we would “be conformed to the image of His Son.” 

That means that even the most difficult trials in the life of a believer are tools in the hands of God as He chisels that believer into the likeness of Christ.  With that glorious end in mind, we are exhorted to not only endure our trials, but to rejoice in them (1 Peter 1:6-7, Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4)! 

It is a mark of spiritual maturity, in the midst of one’s troubles, to not immediately look for a quick way out, but to discern how the Lord might be using that situation to achieve our Christlikeness.  It is a mark of even greater maturity to give thanks to God for those trials and to rejoice in them.  May the Lord grow us all in that way.

I pray that you all have a wonderful thanksgiving.  My family will be giving thanks for the fruit He has produced in the lives of His children at PBF!

Posted by Greg Birdwell

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