Monday, November 23, 2015

Why Should We Give Thanks?

This is the last article in the Thanksgiving miniseries, and it feels like an appropriate place to stop. The whole month, I have essentially been answering this question. But I want to take just a little while today to bring to the forefront the reasons why we ought to offer our thanks to God.

This is proving to be one of my most difficult projects because there is such a wealth of information and such little space in which to express it. I would basically end up restating almost the entire Bible. And in fact, the Bible is the first place where I want to point you. Not just in the Bible, but to the Bible itself.

The Bible

Some people laugh at and mock the message of the Bible. Many, many more just don’t care what it says. But this whole ministry and my vision for the future are predicated on my gratefulness for it. It is a marvel, a great and undeserved gift.

God did not owe us any information about Himself. In fact, Romans 1:20 makes it clear that we ought to be able to simply look at the world around us to know everything we ought to about God. But we have been blinded by pride, and God in His mercy has provided an even clearer message. The Bible, God’s Word delivered through dozens of authors over the course of centuries, is His explicit way of expressing His love and calling us back to Him. Through it, we can know His heart and see how He has and is continuing to work through history for our sakes. That is why we ought to say with the psalmist, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Psalm 119:72).


Let’s go back a little bit, though. Those who believe the Bible is God’s word ought, of course, to be thankful for it. But as I already said, everyone should be able to acknowledge God and thank Him for His goodness. That is because His gifts are self-evident.

That the world exists is a miracle of His design (Psalm 119:90). He sustains us, all of us, even those who declare themselves His enemies. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Remember that Thanksgiving is in general a harvest celebration. It is by God alone that we all receive the sun and the rain that we need to survive. Without Him, life itself is impossible. Everyone who lives owes it to God and ought to thank Him for it, yet alone those of us who live so well.


Life is a gift, then, but for more reasons than just being mere existence. It is also a gift because of its continuance, which has deep spiritual significance. Just as God does not owe it to us to give us His word or the things we need to live, He also does not owe us the right to continue in our rebellion. But He gives it to us. He gives us time.

I have explained this point before, but let me do so again for anyone who is perhaps hearing it for the first time. We have all been in rebellion against God. What that means is, we have all done things we shouldn’t. So obvious as to not matter right? Well, no. It is of supreme importance. God is the creator of the universe, and therefore of us. He made the universe to operate a certain way, which it does, but He made us special. He gave us the gift of choice.

We had the choice to live as God designed us to, or to live in the way that pleases us best in the short term. The first option is love, while the second is selfishness. God lets us do this. He lets us decide. We are not mere puppets. But we go too far if we think that gives us the “right” to do whatever we want. Or to put it another way, we can do what we want, but we should not be so foolish as to think there will be no consequences.

Sin is synonymous with selfishness. When we care more about short-term pleasures than we do for our own long-term wellness, or God’s will, or for the good of those around us, we distance ourselves from God because He by nature is not selfish. It would be out of His perfect character to act like that does not matter. It does. It leads to pain, because goodness is only to be found in Him and His plan.

And ultimately, if we persist in selfishness, it leads to destruction. The soul is immortal. Those who distance themselves from God will find that when their life here is over, they will not have to experience anything of His presence. But they will find they long for His presence more than they ever knew, though it will be too late. The pain of that separation is eternal.

We all deserve this, and we deserve it at the moment we first selfishly decide to flout God’s will. Expecting anything else is ridiculous. It would be like driving off a cliff and thinking you are not going to fall. Every action has a reaction, in moral laws as much as in physical ones.

But this is where we can be thankful, because of God’s longsuffering. Another word for longsuffering is patience, but I like longsuffering better because it carries so much more meaning. Our sins should lead to instant destruction. They cause God to suffer, not in the sense that He is actually harmed by them but in that they grieve Him. It is not what He wanted, and He cannot allow it to stand.

 In His mercy, though, He slows the impact. The car going off the cliff falls in slow motion. He allows us to persist for a time. The time is not endless, of course. Eventually, we will reach the bottom (which is why it is “longsuffering” rather than “infinite-suffering”). But it is not immediate.


Which leads us to the thing we should be most thankful for. It is nice for God to give us time in our downfall, but it doesn’t really mean that much unless He gives us a chance to escape it. The thing is, He does. Sticking with the metaphor, it is like He throws a rope down the cliff while the car slowly falls, and if we choose to grab it, He will pull us back up.

Although, that is not quite right. Someone still has to hit bottom. A price has to be paid for the foolish choice, for the belief that God’s purposes could be ignored. The rope isn’t just thrown to you. Someone climbs down it, ties it around you, and takes your place in the driver’s seat.

That is a way for us to understand the cross of Jesus. Sin requires a price to be paid. Somebody has to experience the consequences of the selfishness that comes from disobeying God. But it needed to be someone without his own debits in the ledger. After all, if we cannot stop our own falls, how could we stop anyone else’s? But Jesus had no debt to sin, and so He could pay the sin debt for us all (1 Peter 3:18; Romans 3:23–26). He took the fall, giving us the way of escape.

God shows us mercy by forgiving us through the sacrifice of Jesus. It is completely undeserved. We should not even have this chance. But He loves us so much that He gave it to us, at the cost of His own life. He so greatly wants us to be restored to Him that He paid the ultimate price. For those who have accepted this great gift, there is nothing for which we ought to be more thankful.


Thanksgiving is just one day a year. But when we consider everything for which we should be grateful, we can realize that it is also supposed to be a continuous attitude toward God. He has blessed us with life, sustenance, loved ones, and freedom, as well as His word, His longsuffering, and His mercy for those who will take it. Let these words from Scripture, then, guide not just your thoughts on the holiday, but throughout the year:

“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16:34).
“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
“O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24, 25).

There should be no end to our thanks, in consideration of all God has done for us; and in knowing it is all we have to give Him. It should be constant. But it is good to be reminded of the need for it, and that is why this day matters so much to me. I hope it matters to you, too, and you put it in its proper place. It is also a gift from God, and one we ought to use to give back to Him. Let’s not fail to do so. Happy Thanksgiving.

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