The key to real thanksgiving, particularly when one wonders about what one has for which he or she should be thankful, is a good dose of reality. On the one hand, I could rehearse the fact that I am beset by my own human nature, a nature that is in fact inclined to revel in sin (disobedience to God). I might even be tempted to despair over the fact that, “God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:2-3 ESV). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV).
These are difficult facts to digest, I grant you, but they are important ones nonetheless for just on the other side of the grim truth of these, there are awaiting us beautiful and amazing treasures that cannot be ours if we cannot see what it cost for us to possess them. And let’s not kid ourselves. Who do you know that is really perfect? You might know someone who seems to be so, but were you to look in their hearts, you’d see that they struggle as even you and I do.
But in spite of the fact that we are loaded with sin (even if only in the depths of our hearts) and in spite of the fact that there is no righteousness that we might earn or purchase that will satisfy the holy perfection of God, and that “…by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin…” (Romans 3:20), we may yet be set free from sin’s awful condemnation and stand in God’s favor through faith in God’s work of salvation. “…the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe… and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:21-22, 24-25a ESV).
What a tremendous truth! What an amazing treasure for which to be thankful! Although I really deserve judgment, because of Jesus’ willing death on the Cross, I can be given forgiveness if I’ll truly turn to Him in faith! Although I really deserve punishment, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am given grace if I’ll truly believe in His name! And although I really deserve to simply reap the consequences of my sin, along with all the rest of humanity, I am given a new future, a new life, and a new identity if I’ll simply forsake my old ways and follow Him!
“Jesus Himself bore our sins in His body on the ‘tree’, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds we have been healed. For we were like sheep going astray, but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (from 1 Peter 2:24-25).
So… any favor that God chooses to bestow upon me is already far and away beyond my deserved allotment and infinitely more than I have any right, in of myself and apart from Christ, to expect. What a good God!
If you’ll trust Him as your Savior and Lord, you’ll find no surer a foundation on which to build your life than is the simple truth that He is good. “Taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 ESV).
He is good when the sun shines and flowers bloom, but He is just as good when it is raining and our skies are gray. He is good when there is food on the table and we’ve a nice full feeling after a meal, but He is just as good when our cupboards are bare and we’re not sure from where our next meal will come. God is good when we’re happy and a song of joy is in our hearts, but He is also good when our sorrow threatens to swallow us up like a strangling grave. He is good when we are strong and our feet fall sure and steady along the walk of life, and He is good when our strength has faded and we fall to our knees in weariness. He is good when we’re surrounded by supporters and well-wishers, but He’s just as good when we are surrounded by enemies who are bent on hurting and destroying us. God is good.
Let us be thankful then that God Almighty is greater than our problems: we can depend on His strength and wisdom to lead us through them victoriously. Let us be thankful that the Everlasting Father (see Isaiah 9:6) is full of grace and mercy without end: we can depend on His promises to forgive those who will truly place their faith in Him and that He will meet them with forgiveness and the gift of eternal life (see Romans 6:23). Let us be thankful that He is strong and well able to support, encourage, and guide those who become His children through faith in Christ Jesus: we can depend on His strength and faithfulness even when our own blinded sensibilities deny them (see Psalm 27:5). God is good… and He’s good ALL the time!
Let us begin the holiday season with revisiting this heavenly “reality check”. Let our hearts be open and soft to the healing touch of God’s forgiveness and grace. Let us “drink in” the amazing and wonderful truth that God is good and let our gift to Him be the gift of thankfulness!
“For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen Yo my plea for grace. In the day of my trouble I call upon You, for you answer me” (Psalm 86:7 ESV).
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 24 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com.” Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.)