“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” (II Corinthians 4:15)
I remember walking into Rest Haven Nursing Home in Holland, MI and seeing Melvin sitting in his wheelchair. Melvin had no legs. As I approached him he said: “Count your many blessings, name them TON BY TON.” I thought, what a great example. What faith. It reminded me of Habakkuk 3:17:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior
We are called by our government to give thanks to God, both as Canadians last month and as USA citizens this month. We have to be grateful that the government does this. Psalm 92:1 says: “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praise unto thy name, a most High” (KJV).
In II Corinthians 4:15, the apostle Paul gives us a perspective from which to see all of life and be thankful in all things.
In this chapter Paul gives us a glimpse of the hardship and difficulty and persecution he endured. “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” Listen to his analysis: “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” All this is for our benefit.
THE SOURCE OF THANKSGIVING
The immediate context deals with the resurrection of Christ, eternal life and the second coming of our Lord. Because of these great events in the life of our Lord, we can give thanks. Christ has conquered all enemies; He has the victory. Therefore, all things work together for good to those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose. St. Paul says: “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.” These words are a commentary on thanksgiving: “I believe; therefore I speak.” The giving of thanks is a fruit of faith. We know from whom and from where our blessings come. We trace them back to their source and say with the first article of the Belgic Confession of Faith that God is the “overflowing fountain of all good.”
The Pilgrims on their first Thanksgiving Day traced their blessings back to the source. Their life was very hard. There was opposition, poverty, sickness and death. Yet they could say: “I believed therefore have I spoken.” They saw more than what meets the eye. They knew the truth of II Corinthians 4:14 experientially: “Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.” Where did they get it? From God’s Word.
When we visited the Plymouth Plantation a few years ago and saw the original village and the people who reenacted the Pilgrims, I asked one of the men who was reading the Bible with notes printed on the margin: “Who wrote the notes in the Bible you are reading?” He answered: “John Calvin.” The Pilgrims were Calvinists and knew their Bibles. They knew from Whom their blessings flowed. Even though the days were very difficult, they gave thanks to God.
Today we have so much more, but the giving of thanks is all but forgotten. The god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers. They think that their hands have gotten what they have.The Pilgrims and all believers see it from God’s revelation. The light of the glorious gospel is in the face of Jesus Christ. This message is given through jars of clay in order that the greatness of the power may be of God and not of us. From the perspective of the gospel of God’s sovereign grace we see all of life.
THE ABUNDANCE OF THANKSGIVING
“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” The Hebrew idea of thanksgiving is “to point out” or “to point the hand to.” It is found in the song, “Count your many blessings, name them one by one.” The Greek word is “eucharist” or being grateful, mindful of benefits, thankful.
Where does the giving of thanks come from? It comes from the grace of God. This grace is “reaching more and more people.” It is being preached. The more the gospel is preached and people believe, the more thanks is given. Grace must be multiplied. It is multiplied by means of the number of all the believers who are filled with God’s grace by the preaching of the gospel. Grace cannot be multiplied in itself; it is multiplied by being put into more and more hearts. This causes thanksgiving to overflow.
THE GOAL OF THANKSGIVING
The goal of thanksgiving is the glory of God, so that “the grace …may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.” God is the source of thanksgiving and God is the goal of thanksgiving. It comes from God and returns to Him. The grace given overflows back to Him. This blessed chain reaction is found also in II Corinthians 9:10, 11: “Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
How are we to give thanks? What shall I give to the Lord for all He has given me? What He asks of us is that we take the gift of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
On this Thanksgiving Day, as we go to church and have dinner with our families let us remember the doxology we learned so long ago:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him all creatures here below;
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts;
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.