You don’t have to look hard to find bad news. Have you noticed? It’s almost inescapable. Gas prices. Food prices. Gender madness. Loneliness. Deaths of despair. Government overreach. Corruption. Division. Hostility. And on and on. We live in troubled times.
And in troubled times, it’s not easy to stay focused. Burdened with anxiety, we find ourselves feeling helpless, even hopeless. Gratitude can get squeezed out altogether. But if you’re a Christian, that should not be so. There’s plenty of reason for concern and careful planning. Yes, of course. But if you are in Christ, you ought not to “sorrow as others who have no hope.” (I Thessalonians 4:13)
But it’s easy to forget what we have. So here are seven reasons to be thankful.
- We’ve been made children of God!
We were dead in our sins, alienated from the God who made us. But when we trusted in Christ, everything changed. On the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection on our behalf, we were given new spiritual life—born again. The God against whom we had rebelled not only reconciled us to Himself, but He made us His children, the objects of His eternal love and kindness.
Decades after his own conversion, the apostle John still marveled at this: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God—and we are!” (I John 3:1)
- We’ve been made a part of the family of God.
When God reconciled us to Himself and gave us new life, He didn’t leave us as atomistic individuals, abandoned to stumble along on our own. No, He placed us into the body of Christ. We who were once “without hope and without God in the world”, “hateful and hating one another” have now been placed into relationship with each other, fellow members of the Church, Christ’s body. Now we love and encourage each other, growing together in Christ.
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
- We have a heavenly inheritance.
It can be discouraging to realize how much of our earthly security and prosperity is at the mercy of corrupt politicians. Famously, the Lord cautioned against storing up treasure on earth, “where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal.” Enlightened sensibilities and the wonders of modern technology don’t change the calculus. Inflation can chew a hole in your savings like a moth on your favorite sweater. And thieves still find a way to break in and steal, sometimes wearing five-thousand-dollar Italian suits as they pontificate about everyone paying their fair share.
But if you are in Christ, you have a sure and glorious future that is absolutely untouchable by the ups-and-downs of earthly life. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (Philippians 3:18-21)
- There’s still beauty and grace all around us.
Paul teaches that God’s self-revelation in creation is so obvious that those who reject Him are “without excuse.” Yet, even as believers who’ve come to know the God of creation, it’s all-too easy to become numb to the wonders that surround us. From the glory of the rising sun to all the divinely-ordered processes that flourish in its light, God’s goodness abounds. Consider the finely-tuned physical constants, the weather patterns, the countless biological pathways, the God-given creativity and goal-direction that came together to produce that perfect slice of pecan pie.
“[T]he living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them … did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:15-17)
- We have God’s all-sufficient Word.
Today, children are being catechized in confusion. Under the guise of affirmation, they are being ensnared by a worldview that teaches that there are no moral absolutes and there is no revealed truth. Thus liberated, they are encouraged to go live their best lives, only remembering that there is no objective meaning to manhood, or womanhood, or sex, or marriage, or family. Also—in other news—Gen Z is having a mental health crisis! Imagine.
But we don’t have to languish under these soul-crushing lies. We know what men are and what women are and what a marriage is. We understand that the universal human problem is the problem of sin, which Jesus has dealt with by His propitiating death on the cross of Calvary. And we understand these things, not because we’re better or more insightful than anyone else, but because God has given us the Scriptures.
“But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3:16-17)
- Jesus wins.
In His death and resurrection, Jesus, the Messiah, paid the price for our sin. Some seven hundred years before fact, the prophet Isaiah had predicted that He would do so (Is. 53). But the same prophet who so vividly described the day Jesus would be “wounded for our transgressions” also foretold the coming “day of vengeance of our God” (Is. 61), when “The haughtiness of men shall be bowed down.” (Is. 2).
Jesus Himself described the coming day when He will be seen “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Mt. 24. So we take heart. As certainly as Jesus defeated death at the cross, so He will return to consummate all things. It’s not metaphor, it’s reality.
In Peter’s words, “the day of the Lord will come.” And those of us who have taken refuge in Him now, anticipate being with Him in glory forever. We will live to hear the angels proclaim “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Revelation 11:15)
- The world needs your gratitude.
Paul says that if you are in Christ, not only have you been made new, but you’ve been given “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-18). That is, we —having been reconciled to God through faith in Christ—have now been commissioned to take the gospel by which we were reconciled to those who have not yet trusted Christ. We are “ambassadors for Christ”, declaring that Jesus has paid the price for our sins and urging our friends and neighbors to “be reconciled to God.”
I believe that one of the primary ways we can be good ambassadors for Christ is by consistently and publicly expressing our thankfulness for these wondrous blessings. Here in the United States, to some degree, everyone you know is now trying to eke out an existence amidst the toxic nuclear fallout of the failure of secularism. In the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”
But we are not hopeless. We have Jesus, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Peter instructed his readers to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15). This exhortation assumes that, even in deep hardship, our daily lives reveal a hope so profound that it requires explanation. Hopeless grumblers don’t get asked what keeps them going. Grateful Christians do.
So, I conclude by considering Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. It is striking to set Paul’s instruction against the backdrop of the Thessalonian situation: suffering so intense that some believed they must be living though the end of the age. And yet Paul writes, “See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:15-18).
By God's grace, may it be so.