Thankful!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There is no commercialization, there is great food, and there is the Macy’s parade! During this time of year, as Christians, we have a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon God’s goodness and mercy in our lives over the past year. While we are thankful for family, friends, health, our jobs, and many other blessings, I want to share with you seven awe-inspiring reasons why I am thankful.

First of all, I am thankful that God sovereignly overcame my spiritual inability and depravity. Romans 3:10-12 says, “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” I was enslaved to sin and Jesus rescued me out of this pit of destruction and granted me saving grace.

Secondly, I am thankful that God miraculously made me alive in Christ. Paul writes this about our sinful condition in Ephesians 2:1-5: “ And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved.” As one who was dead in sin and an object of God’s wrath, He graciously gave me new life in Christ and raised me from spiritual death.

Thirdly, I am thankful that Christ victoriously obtained by eternal redemption through the cross. Ephesians 1:7-8 says, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” Christ redeemed me from my sin by paying the price in His blood to rescue me from bondage. I am so thankful that He lavishly poured His riches of grace upon me—an ill-deserving sinner. Many times we think that we are undeserving, but yet that is actually not true. We are not undeserving, we are ill-deserving. We deserve death, hell, and eternal condemnation under God’s wrath, and Jesus came to save us from that penalty.

Fourthly, I am thankful that the Father irresistibly drew me to Himself. Jesus gives us this wonderful promise in John 6:37: “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” God ensures through His Holy Spirit that all of His elect children will infallibly come to Him through this irresistible grace. I am thankful that the Holy Spirit called me to salvation and granted me the grace to respond.

Fifthly, I am thankful that God mercifully granted me the gifts of repentance and faith. The Scriptures tell us that even the faith that we exercise to come to Christ is in itself a gift. (Ephesians 2:8-9). I am thankful that God opened my heart like He did to Lydia. Acts 16:14 tells us, “One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”

Sixthly, I am thankful that God through Christ has declared me “not guilty” in His sight and has granted me permanent and eternal access to His throne. Paul tells us about this wonderful truth in Romans 5:1-2 which states, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Not only has my sin been accounted to Christ, but His righteousness has been accounted to me and I stand innocent in His sight and therefore under no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

Lastly, I am thankful that the God will absolutely complete the good work He started in me. Philippians 1:6 states, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I find great comfort in the fact that I am eternally secure in the sovereign grip of God’s hands. He will ensure through His grace that I will persevere to the end and He promises to complete the work in me.

As you eat turkey, watch football, and sleep on the couch this Thanksgiving, take time to worship and praise and thank the Lord for His wonderful provision in your life and most importantly for your salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone!

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How to Suffer Well

In James 1:2-4, we find these gripping words: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Nobody likes to go through times of testing or to experience trials and suffering. Yet all throughout the Scriptures, we are called to rejoice or to express joy during these times. This seems counter-intuitive. Why would anyone want to erupt in joyous praise when faced with everything from stage-4 cancer to a loss of a job to a wayward teenager to personal financial ruin?

In the James passage above, these trials are a way to test our faith. This word “testing” was used in ancient times to describe the purity of gold coins. In the smelting process, the dross would rise to the top and leave a pure gold alloy to fashion coins. In the same way, God is purifying us of all our dross in order to strengthen our faith. He is producing steadfastness in us so that we will be spiritually mature. The chief goal of God’s process in taking us through trials is to make us look more and more like Jesus.

1 Peter 1:6-7 reads: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Peter uses this same metaphor of testing by fire to purge the dross and reveal the precious gold.

Paul also echoes this truth in Romans 5:3-5 when he states, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Paul uses a different word than Peter and James—the word “suffering”—which means to be squeezed through narrow straits. When we are squeezed by the trials of life, again we are called to rejoice in our sufferings. Our sufferings are to produce an endurance where we stand in the strength and power of Christ.  Interestingly, the Greek word Paul uses for “character” is the same word that Peter and James use for “testing” and again it relates to the purity of gold coins.

If we take these three passages together, we see a resounding and recurring theme—especially when we note the repetition of the same key Greek words. The overarching admonition from Scripture is that we are to rejoice in our sufferings because God is using them to purify us and to strengthen our faith and to make us look more like Jesus. One thing we can count on when we experience trials is that God is doing all things for our good (even when it doesn’t appear to be so) and He is doing all things for His glory.

So when, (not if), you encounter trials and sufferings and hardships, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and rejoice in the work that the Master Potter is doing in your life to fashion you to look more like His Son. Claim the promise that if you are a believer, God’s love has been poured out graciously in your heart through the Holy Spirit and He will never leave you or forsake you.