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A Reformed Fellowship

From despair to thanksgiving

To say that we in the United States are a well-off people is to state the obvious. Only the most cynical person would disagree.

To say that we have failed to acknowledge the source of our blessings is also obvious.
The Bible teaches that by the grace of God the sun shines and the rain falls on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). Because of God’s common grace, all of humanity should look to heaven with thanksgiving.

Those with discernment realize that, instead of gaining continued blessings from God, our culture is determined to receive God’s judgment: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:21–25, ESV).

“They did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,” the apostle Paul writes, and that describes America. Seeking to show ourselves wise and tolerant, we have decreed that we are “wiser” and more “tolerant” than God. What the Bible explicitly denounces as sin, as a culture we bless what the Bible denounces and denounce those who stand upon what the Bible teaches.

There is a real concern, however, for those who take the Scriptures seriously: we can unwittingly join those who fail to give thanks to God for his blessings unto us. We can become so critical of our culture that we become hardened to the divine blessings that we have received. In a practical sense, though we would never explicitly say this, we can blame God for our culture and fail to thank him for his goodness to us.

God has not promised us a life of spiritual ease in a culture that conforms to his standards. Indeed, the thrust of the Bible is that culture will almost aways be at odds with those who are really serious about the Scriptures. In human history the times during which a culture has been demonstrably Christian have been extremely rare.

For the Christian, though, it is not our culture’s favor that we desire—it is God’s favor for which we long. That favor has been realized through the amazing grace in the unmerited gift of the Son who suffered divine justice in our stead. For the Christian, the words of William Gurnall [1617-1679] are illuminating and comforting: “Again, No ill news can come after the glad tidings of the gospel, where believingly embraced. God’s mercy in Christ alters the very property of all evils to the believer. All plagues and judgments that can befall the creature in the world, when baptized in the stream of gospel grace, receive a new name, come on a new errand, and have a new taste on the believer’s palate; as the same water, by running through some mine, gets a strong taste and a healing virtue, which before it had not, Isa. 33:24: ‘The inhabitant shall not say I am sick; the people that dwell therein shall be pardoned their iniquity.’ Observe, he doth not say, ‘they shall not be sick;’ gospel grace doth not exempt from afflictions; but, ‘they shall not say I am sick.’ They shall be so ravished with the joy of God’s pardoning mercy, that they shall not complain of being sick; this, or any other cross, is too thin a veil to darken the joy of the other good news” (William Gurnall and John Campbell, The Christian in Complete Armour [London: Thomas Tegg, 1845], 344).

The Christian, whose eyes are fixed upon God, will find in all of life, the good as well as the bad, reasons for thanksgiving. Even as our culture grows darker, the light of the gospel grows brighter. The contrast becomes more noticeable, and nominal Christianity grows less attractive. Only true, biblical Christianity satisfies one’s soul. With Joseph we can look even upon our adversaries and say, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20, ESV).