Every once in a while – someone here will ask for a word of testimony or will ask, “what are you thankful for?” Invariably in those moments our minds too often lock up. Certainly I’m grateful for my family, I’m grateful for my friends, I’m grateful for the beauty of a newborn’s cry. But if I were to ask you to restrict yourself away from these things, for what would you give thanks to God this morning? In fact with Thanksgiving holiday this week – what will you stop on Thursday and give thanks for? Or what about throughout the entire week – what will you Thank God for?
There are no doubt many things in your mind or many things that will come and so I encourage you for every blessing that you can think of, be certain to give thanks to God. But would you permit me this morning to give you a few items from the Bible for which we can and for which we must give thanks? Place these on a card on your refrigerator and every time you open it this week give thanks for them.
Thank God Because God is God
Romans 1:21 convicts the world because even though God may be clearly seen in creation; many choose to ignore the evidence. The indictment upon them is that they do not honor God as God, nor do they give thanks. Consider for a moment the transcendence of God. Genesis 1:1 reveals the great mystery that God himself is not a part of creation. He is not like any of it. He is not like the trees, the creatures, or the people. He is beyond the roar of thunder and the power of lightening. God is greater than the shifting of continents and he is more enduring than the span of time itself. God’s majesty is greater than full view of all of the stars in the heavens and more pressing than the full depth of the ocean. The very fabric of time and space from its uttermost points of distance in all of the created universe is smaller than the least greatness of God.
In the beginning, God created – thus He is there in perfect Trinity outside of the very existence of Time. The authority of his Spoken word is uncompromised so that light is created when he commands it; mountains rise from the depths when he orders it, sin is permitted when he allows it so that redemption can be made as he demands it. He is before all things, above all things, and he works through all things to bring to completion the full revelation of His glory.
He is just, he is merciful. He is Righteous, he is holy. He is Love, he is light, he is powerful, he is perfect in power and He is judge over the entire universe. And he is Gracious, and kind, forgiving and faithful to keep his word!
Just as Moses asked the burning bush for a name and God gave it: I AM! We who love him can bow our heads and give thanks that He IS!
What is more: this same transcendent God who is above all things and unknowable in his complete deity has revealed himself to us in His word!
Thank God for giving us His word
“… Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, NASB95)
Since the moment I was first awakened to hunger after God’s word, I have never ceased to do so. Years ago I began the practice of carrying my smaller Bible tucked into my belt line at my back. At first it was no doubt just a way of keeping my hands free and still having a Bible with me. Because back pain is always with me, it also provides a modicum of relief by pressing against my spine. In the years I’ve been going to Haiti this practice has continued. This time however the reasoning is a little different. When I teach at the Seminary in Haiti I warn my students that they have to bring a Bible to my class or face the consequences. After the first day, the first time I catch them without a Bible they receive a warning, the second time they lose a letter grade and the third time they will flunk the class.
This hard line always receives moans of surprise and looks of terror from my students as each year a few of the students immediately scurry off to the dorm to retrieve their forsaken Bibles – even on the first day when there is no need to do so. I always permit them to do this in order to drive the lesson home. Since I’m teaching a course on Spiritual warfare I point out that Ephesians 6 likens the word of God to the sword of the Spirit, and a soldier is never without his weapon. This is typically when I reach back, and whip out my Bible like a sword and tell them they must always have it ready.
Every year there is some good natured mocking that goes back and forth as the students in various years have called me in the “Bible back man”. So this year when I spotted one of my students, Aly-Dannson, at the beginning of class with his Bible tucked into his belt I figured he was prepared to make a bit of fun at me so I determined to play along and joked around with him about it. That is the day he came to me after class begging for my prayers. It seems that many times he has attempted to read his Bible through but “something,” he said, “always stopped [him] from finishing the task.” All of us would testify that reading the Bible cover to cover can be a daunting task when it is viewed merely as an exercise. But Dannson assured me that my passion for God’s word had affected him deeply and that because of this he had determined to carry his Bible always with him so that at every spare moment he would have it with him so he could read it and know it, and the God who gave it, better.
Consider the miracle that you hold in your hands – in your very own language you are able to read and study and comprehend the words that God used to describe for us the misery of our sinful condition and the mercy of saving faith poured out upon us in Christ Jesus. The Bible is not merely a collection of stories – it is the singular epic of your salvation. Thank God that you own it, can read it and through it, that you can know Him!
Thank God for Salvation in Jesus Christ
Jesus stood looking resolutely at the scribes and Pharisees and told them, ““You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (John 5:39, NASB95) The whole of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation is one epic united around the singular task of our redemption so that we may once again return to Eden as it was meant to be – us in the presence of God and God in our presence; and all of this through Jesus Christ the son of God.
If we thank God for the word that reveals Christ, we ought to thank God most greatly for Christ who is the very Word of God himself. Jesus is the language God spoke when he wanted to finally and fully reveal himself to us. If never anything else would move you to worship God it should be the combined memory of your own sin and the certain knowledge of judgment absorbed by Jesus at the cross! Stop! And give thanks to God for salvation in Jesus Christ.
Thank God for the Fellowship of Believers – his Church
We read it at the beginning of most of the New Testament letters (Romans 1:8, 1 Cor 1:4, Ephesians 1:16, Philippians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:3) At every turn Paul was giving thanks for the church and her servants as he served her in various locations, and as he remembered her people.
It is the church that fills out the expression of our faith as one by one, others who – like us in our weaknesses– have surrendered to the Lord Jesus gather around us and affirm our own faith. It is the church that teaches and trains us the meaning of sacrifice, the endurance of the saints, and the quiet activity of faith amid shared trials and tribulations. It is the church that reaches out to us when we stumble and fall and with loving hands urges us back to our feet. It is the church that embodies the voice of Christ to our hearts calling us to keep running the race when our own voices are weak and our legs are too weary to carry us on our own. It is the church who’s simple presence urges us to continue trusting in Christ all the days of our life. It is the church whose older saints serve as models for the younger saints even if by the “accident” of our lives revealed as God’s design it is only by watching them live and die with their eyes fixed on Jesus that the younger saints absorb the full reality of an all-encompassing faith that endures beyond the valley of the shadow of death. It is the church where God is loved and worshipped, the word is taught and our hearts are quickened to live for the Almighty God.
It is the church that God has given to us both to serve and to love as the embodiment of Christ on this earth. Therefore it is the church I give thanks for. It is you, this body that I ought most give thanks for – because here; amid human frailty with no respect of persons but with full understanding of the grace of the gospel given to us – Jesus dwells in bodily form.
Give thanks to God for the church.
Perhaps as we finish we should simply say:
Thank God for everything
Philippians 4:6 tells us to weave thanksgiving into every prayer over every circumstance. And Ephesians 5:20 is even more direct: “Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” All things? What about when things are not going well? We must presume that all means all. Why ought we give thanks for all things? Because God is sovereign over all – and his sovereign hand has an often unseen purpose for His own glory in all things. In the context of our passage, Giving thanks is tied to being filled with the Spirit of God; so that giving thanks is not merely a command we obey but it is a response to our relationship with God. Because we know Him as God, our God, revealed through His word in Christ Jesus our Savior; we can thank Him in every circumstance.
So this thanksgiving, while many things can fill your hearts and minds for which you are thankful – if you suddenly find yourself forgetful of what to be thankful for – Give thanks to God that he is God who is Holy, righteous, merciful and gracious. Give thanks to God that he has given us His word; that his word reveals His way of salvation in Jesus Christ His son, and that he has called us into fellowship as His church.