There are many blessings and singular answers to prayer to thank God for this year. James reminds us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above”. We can also thank God for the difficult things He has sovereignly placed in our lives. “For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” [2 Cor. 4:15]. Through all the details of our lives runs the scarlet thread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ enabling true thankfulness.
The Gospel, at once, confronts and embraces us in love. It declares to all, the offensive truth: you have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; [Rom 3:23] the wage due you is death [Rom. 6:23a]. Yet, against this bleak backdrop shines a love too incredible to have imagined: “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom. 6:23b]. We proclaim this Gospel to the world and we must never stop professing it to each other. We are called to ‘speak the truth in love and grow up in Christ’. [Eph. 4:15].
‘In Christ, we who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ’ [Eph. 2:13]. We are born again, ‘new creatures’, growing up into new Life. Our existence is wrapped up in Jesus – ‘in Him we live and move and have our being’. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” [Col. 1:19,20].
Like the plant that sits on our windowsill, ‘growth’ in our lives often seems undetectable. We are daily engaged in the ‘good fight of faith’ as we wrestle with the reality of the Gospel and struggle to walk by faith in God’s promises. But nothing can separate us from Christ. And ‘though our ‘bodies are dying’, ‘our inner self is being renewed day by day’ [2 Cor. 4:16]. So, we must not lose heart! Christ has demonstrated His utter love for us. He has atoned for our sin and brought us to Himself “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle…holy and blameless.” [Eph. 5:27]. So we can sing with Horatius Bonar:
Upon a Life I have not lived,
Upon a Death I did not die,
Another’s Life; Another’s Death,
I stake my whole eternity.
Someday, maybe soon, we will hear a multitude crescendo in praise and Thanksgiving, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” [Rev. 5:12]. Until that Day, let us thank God with all our hearts, and encourage each other as John did, “now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.” But this we can be assured of, “when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” [1 Jn. 3:2]
God’s love is the most awesome thing about Him. It is not His justice, nor His majesty, nor even His blazing holiness, but the fact that He has made and keeps a covenant of personal commitment and love to His people. Sinclair Ferguson