Friday, September 18, 2009

Respectable Sins: Unthankfulness (Ch 10)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges
Chapter 10 - Unthankfulness

Bridges starts this chapter asking the question - do we ever thank God, purely for our salvation?
Yet how often do we give thanks for our salvation? Have you stopped today to give thanks to God for delivering you from the domain of darkness and transferring you to the kingdom of his Son? And if you have given thanks, was it in a mere nominal way, much like some people give thanks at a meal, or was it an expression of heartfelt gratitude for what God has done for you in Christ?

The truth is, our whole lives should be lives of continual thanksgiving... every breath we draw is a gift from God. Everything we are and everything we have is a gift from Him. (p80)
Even the skills we have, that we may have studied years for, that is all still a gift from God. Bridges points us to Deut 8 and reminds us to heed the same warning given to Israel:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God ... 17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (Deut 8:10-14, 17-18)
Bridges says that in every aspect of our lives we should be thanking God - the our homes and their furnishings, for our jobs, our studies, the food on the table. We should follow the example of Paul:
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 5:20*)
Thankfully, Bridges also goes on to address the issue that really gives us pause: Are we to give God thanks when the circumstances do not turn out as we had hoped? And he answers yes, again using the words of Paul:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess 5:16-18*, emphasis mine)
We need to trust in God (a common theme in these chapters!) in all circumstances, he is still using them for his own good (see Rom 8, esp v 28 - And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose)
So in situations that do not turn out the way we hoped, we are to give God thanks that He will use the situation in some way to develop our Christian character. We don't need to speculate as to how He might use it, for His ways are often mysterious and beyond our understanding. So by faith in the promise of God in Romans 8:28-29, we obey the command of 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to give thanks in all circumstances.
In the midst of all this, we can also cling to the promise of Rom 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

I wonder how these truths can affect us daily?
We probably do thank God privately for the blessings of this life and as Christians we find that easy to do (when we think of it). But is it part of your daily speech to be thankful of God with others? Do you thank God openly with your children?

What are some ways we can speak more thankfully? Here are some ideas:
    • Find the positive rather than the negative. I have had to work at this with my children, so when Husband is out at church at night, or away on a camp - instead of saying "isn't it a shame Dad is not here?", I try to say "what a privilege Dad has to be able to tell people about Jesus tonight!" OR with other people, instead of complaining how early Mr 6 rises (and truly, it is early), I am now trying to say "we are one day closer to everyone sleeping in". Finding words to express the positive can also change your own heart.
    • Find a way to express your thankfulness to God in conversation that is natural for you. I don't generally use the term 'blessed', although I truly feel blessed. I tend to say 'I am very thankful' - even that has taken time for me to be comfortable with. I was forced to think about this (on a somewhat superficial level) last year after an incident with a falling tool-box!
    • Find ways of encouraging others to be thankful rather than helping them descend into bitterness. Let's help each other to thank God, both for his blessings, and the trials we face, knowing we are being moulded into the image of Christ.
    I do not want to suggest though that we trivialise the real struggles people face in life. I fully agreed with everything Bridges said in this chapter, but again his examples seemed a little simplistic to me. It must be much harder to be truly thankful when life is hard, painful or full of grief. However, time and time again we hear stories of faithful saints who were truly thankful to God, in the midst of their pain and suffering. In the end, all we can do is to keep trusting in our faithful and true God, who loves and cares for us, and who at the end of time, will bring us home to his eternal kingdom.

    * These are the verses I will try to learn from this chapter

    On Monday: Chapter 11 - Pride

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