Yesterday, did we give thanks to God for all his benefits? No, I am not asking if we quickly “said grace” at the table before one of our meals, or if we stood in reverence for the invocation at a ballgame. Instead, I am asking if we consciously took time to “count our many blessings and name them one by one?” Did we freshly consider the undeserved blessings of the Lord and express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father?
Whether or not we did so yesterday, I would like to help us do so today. And instead of focusing on our many material and temporary benefits — this too we ought to do — I wish to assist us in expressing our gratitude for our inestimable spiritual and eternal blessings. To help us in this endeavor, we will quickly review the opening greeting written to brothers and sisters in Greece by Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and the Holy Spirit:
… To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. (2 Thessalonians 1:1-4)
Let us give thanks for the gift of grace. Many in the world are set to receive exactly that which they deserve. Consequently, because they are sinful people who keep not God’s Law — every Law, every part, every moment — they are a spiritually excommunicated people awaiting eternal execution. They are working and performing; they are not doing so acceptably; they are not able to change yesterday; they cannot keep God’s law perfectly today; therefore, they are meriting hell. God’s wrath is their paycheck; it is the fair remuneration which they deserve. However, for any of us who give up and cry out to Jesus Christ, God determines to grant us grace. Instead of giving us what we deserve, he chooses to give us that which Christ deserves. We get Christ’s perfect record. We get Christ’s ongoing righteousness. We get Christ’s commendations and congratulations from the Father. We get Christ’s crowns and trophies. We even get his eternal inheritance. Oh friends, it is OK for us to give thanks for the common grace (weather, friends, food, money, etc …) given to us today, and I suppose we ought to do so, but let’s express our gratitude for the special grace lavished upon us by our Heavenly Father.
Let us give thanks for the gift of peace. As a consequence of our rebellion against God, peace is lacking. We have not peace with him. We have not peace with man. We have not peace with our planet, and oh how we lack peace within. Yes, miserable, restless anxiety rages within our hearts and causes all sorts of conflict in our various relationships. However, when the Holy Spirit moves in and grants us grace, he also grants us peace. Instantaneously and immutably, God is reconciled with us. We can distance ourselves from experiencing his love, but his posture towards us never changes. As we spend time in prayer with him, we can find ourselves freed from addiction to anxiety. He promises to keep our minds in perfect peace as they are rightly fixed on him. There is also a special bond of peace to be enjoyed by brothers and sisters in Christ. Additionally, we can even enjoy a more peaceable experience in this world as we are not so difficult to deal with. But this earthly peace is by no means as good as it gets; there is a greater peace over the horizon. A renewed planet will be ours, and we who dwell in that heavenly existence will “pass the peace” to one another each and every day. Friends, have we spoken to the Prince of Peace today and thanked him for his peace that “passes all understanding?”
Let us give thanks for the gift of faith. It is very easy for mankind to disbelieve God. Even sinless and perfect Adam and Eve find themselves doing so in the Garden of Eden. All of us are tempted to doubt God’s affection and wisdom. In our natural condition, we continually receive God’s revelation, suppress it, substitute it with intellectual rubbish we prefer, and suffer the consequences. We read God’s Word; we hear God’s Word; we understand some of what it says; we disbelieve; we are dull; and we are damned. However, our merciful and gracious God will not leave us be. He grants to us repentance and faith. His Holy Spirit does his work in our hearts, and we find ourselves freshly struck by his Law, impacted by his Gospel, and eagerly willing to bow the knee, kiss the Son, proclaim our faith, and mine his Word for timeless wisdom. Friends, why do we believe? Why are we convinced of the truth of God’s Law, God’s hell, God’s Son, God’s atonement, God’s free offer, and God’s beauty? Why have we responded when so many others have laughed? It is because we have been given the gift of faith. Have we thanked the Holy Spirit for his fruit of love granted to us?
Let us give thanks for the gift of love. It is natural for us to love ourselves and harm anyone who gets in the way of our own self-exaltation. This hardly needs to be proven. However, there is something odd that happens in the hearts of believers when God’s Spirit moves in. Scripture says he pours love into our hearts. The Holy Spirit fruits us with love, and we begin increasing in self-sacrificing affection and care for our neighbors. This is totally against our fallen DNA; it is evidence of a new birth and a new start. Christians, have we given thanks to God for his love:
- His love expressed to us in eternity past?
- His love expressed to us at Calvary?
- His love expressed to us at our conversion?
- His love expressed to us through the ongoing touch of the Holy Spirit?
- His love expressed to us through his Word?
- His love expressed to us through his church?
- His love expressed THROUGH us to others?
Yes, as we look within and see ourselves growing in self-sacrificing affection for others, we ought to be thankful that Christ is finishing that which he has begun. The Spirit is conforming us to the image of the Son? This the gift of God; let’s give thanks!
Let us give thanks for the gift of steadfastness. In the military, some soldiers go A.W.O.L (Absent Without Leave). Sadly, when the going gets tough, the non-tough flee the fight. The same is true with many who are religious but not married to the Son of God. They attend worship, proclaim, and serve for a time, but when affliction, tribulation, and persecution come they hit the road. Relationally, they date Jesus, but they sadly and foolishly prove not to be interested in a long-term, monogamous relationship. However, this never happens with Jesus; there are no exceptions. Everyone who marries the Son remains married. Jesus has never experienced divorce, and never will he. He never leaves his bride, and he is never satisfied with a bride who chooses to wander. Lovingly and relentlessly, he calls, woos, chases, entreats, waits, convinces, courts, and wins the day; victoriously and joyously he then carries her back home. Friends this is the steadfastness of Jesus towards us. He perseveres in his love for us and preserves the relationship. Consequently, we find ourselves persevering with him and preserving the relationship as well. Because he loves us; he will not let us go. Because he loves us; he causes us to not want to go permanently; he causes us to always come home. Wayward believers, it is so good to know Jesus has died for all our sins, including those of fear, timidity, cowardice, rebellion, and lack of perseverance. It is fantastic to see him like Hosea calling us back into his loving embrace and house of gladness. Friends, consider our blessed condition. Though we have been unfaithful, he has been faithful. He has been steadfast in his commitment to us, and he keeps us steadfast our commitment to him. Because he preserves, we persevere. This too is a gift of God, and in response we must give thanks.
Now friends beloved of God, let us go and spend some time meditating upon these truths. Let’s be grateful worshipers giving thanks to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Tomorrow we can give thanks to God for all his earthly and temporary benefits, but for today, we have greater things for which to give thanks.