Thanks Be To God

November 19, 2017 / No. 3907

Dear Radio Friends,
There is a perfect blend of the earthly and spiritual. The two are inseparably related to one another. We insist that God’s grace is not found in material things. We may not confuse nature and grace. This is the error of those who say that in the sunshine and rain, or in riches, is to be found God’s attitude of favor. Not true. But neither may we go to the opposite extreme and separate the realm of the earthly from the realm of the spiritual. It is not as if our earthly possessions have nothing to do with, or have no part in, the salvation that is given us by God. There is an intimate relationship between the two. That relationship is set forth in the verse of Scripture we consider today. II Corinthians 9:15 reads, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” That is it! This short verse of the Bible is what we consider today.
You see, when you and I are saved, then we view the possessions we receive in this world in a totally different way than the unbeliever. Not only do we view them in a different way, but we use them in a different way too. We use them to seek the kingdom of heaven. We refuse to place our trust in uncertain riches, but we use them as a means to seek a higher end. We become Christian stewards of that which God has given us in this life, and in wisdom we use that money to help the church and one another.
Beginning in chapter 8 of this second letter of Paul to the Corinthian church, Paul addresses the whole subject of Christian giving. It is not as if the church in Corinth had a problem in this area. On the contrary, this church was giving diligently and abundantly to the needs of the saints. Paul commends them for that. But in this praise Paul draws their attention to the grace of God that worked in them that resulted in such giving. Paul writes in II Corinthians 9: 8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work.” Not only did God work in these saints the heart to give to the needs of others, but God also enriched them with material, earthly wealth in order that they might provide such help. We read in verse 11 that the saints in Corinth were bountifully enriched in everything. The idea here is that God not only worked in them graciously the spirit of giving, but He also provided richly all things they gave. God is the one in every case that provided! As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in this week to come, this thought must be before our hearts. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. We give thanks to God for our earthly provision in light of the unspeakable gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.
I. An Unspeakable Gift
It is Thanksgiving! Today all of our country celebrates giving thanks. The vast majority of the masses in our country use this day for vacation, for watching football, for eating and drinking, without the least thought of giving thanks. Others will give thanks to other people or organizations for what they have received from them. Maybe those who are really into this day make a list of people to whom they give thanks: included on the list are friends, family, employers or employees, and so on. But few take any time out to thank God. Very few in this day understand the fact that this day was used by Pilgrims years ago to give thanks to God for providing for them in this new land to which they had traveled. That is the essential reason for this day: to give thanks to God, first of all and foremost for the earthly gifts He has again provided in this past season of the year.
Let us keep that in mind in this week to come. God has given us all these things richly to enjoy! To use Paul’s words in verse 11, God has “enriched us in every thing to all bountifulness.” God has given us everything—no exception—everything that we possess in this life. We can start with all the material comforts and luxuries we have—all the extras. Can you name them? You would be surprised how many possessions we have in this life that are not necessities but extras. We do know what necessities are, right? When we pray that God gives us this day our daily bread, we are asking for necessities: food, clothing, and shelter. These are necessities. These are the basics of life—those earthly, material things we need to live in this world. Anything over and above these are extras. We live in a society of extras. So much have we been given that we are spoiled in all the extras. We hear more from our mouths the words “I want” than any other society, even though we have been given more than anyone else. Americans are forever in debt because, though they have so much more than anyone else in the world, nevertheless they want more of it. God has given to the people of our land much in the way of necessities and comforts. This week we stop for a moment. We pause. We think. GOD has given us these things. We did not earn them. We do not deserve them. God in His providence gives to us these many earthly gifts. They come from His mighty hand. He gives and He withholds. He gives and He can take, and He does at times take away again. We are merely stewards of the earthly possessions God has given us. In this season we bow in humble thanks for the bounties of the earth God has again provided in the year gone by.
But these gifts mean nothing at all in themselves. That is something the unbeliever does not understand. These earthly possessions are empty and vain in themselves. They mean nothing. In fact, they can be a real stumbling block in our lives, because we can start to put our trust in them. We can begin to think that life consists in these things. Life is houses, and cars, and entertainment, and so on. We somehow expect that we will find peace and happiness of heart in these things. But these earthly, material possessions really mean nothing at all in themselves! I mean, its like a family living on a houseboat that is floating down the Niagara River. They can fix up the boat, make it pleasant for themselves. Have it heaped with all kinds of food. Have the latest in entertainment on it. And say, This is life! This is living! This is good! Can’t get any better! The next day, the whole boat and everyone on it goes over the falls and is dashed to pieces and perishes. Yep, that’s life all right!
No, the gift that we truly give thanks for in this day is an unspeakable gift. It is a gift of priceless possession—a gift that, once given, cannot be lost! It is a gift which, if we possess, will have an effect on all the earthly gifts we receive from God. If you are a believer, you know what gift I am speaking of! What is the unspeakable gift I am talking about? Salvation! It is a gift that God has given His chosen people in Jesus Christ Himself. In fact, if we were to focus exactly on the unspeakable gift God has given His people: it is Christ! God sent forth His Son into this world. That was a gift. That Son suffered and died on the cross! That is a gift! That Son was raised again for our justification and life. That is a gift! That Son has sent forth His Spirit to live in the heart of every believer. A gift! That Son preserves us in that salvation. A gift! And Jesus Christ, the Son of God, will usher us into the heavenly kingdom that awaits us. A gift! God gives us all of this in Christ Jesus our Lord! Talk about a reason for giving thanks!
Notice how our text emphasizes that all of this is a gift. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. We all know what a gift is, that is, if something is truly a gift. It is something freely given to another—not because he has merited it or earned it. It is something freely given to another person. Most of the time when we give gifts it is to the one we love or like and is simply an expression of our appreciation for him. If this is true, then it is amazing when we look at what God does in bestowing gifts on His creatures. These gifts are not only not earned, but they are not deserved in the least sense of the word. They are not an expression of appreciation by God for something we have done. They are given wholly, purely, out of God’s goodness! He is good! The fount of all good! Out of His goodness He provides the creatures of His hand with what they need. Our earthly possessions are a gift given us by means of God’s providence. After all, God as a good Creator provides for all His creatures. Even the wicked, unbelieving man receives earthly possessions and wealth from God’s almighty hand.
But the gift of salvation—now that is truly a gift! It is bestowed on some by means of God’s grace! Is this not the testimony of the gospel? God’s people receive salvation not on the basis of good works. We receive it only by God’s sovereign and free grace. In fact, we are not even worthy of receiving this gift! We were doomed to perish in our sins. There was no hope! There was no way of escaping our punishment for the sins we committed against God. Then God, freely and sovereignly, saved us. He in His grace sent His Son to die for us—the Son that He had loved from eternity. God sent Christ to bear the full punishment of His wrath against our sins and delivered us. This gift of God is unspeakable! We cannot express its beauty, its power, its wonder, its worth in human terms! We do not even know how to put into words the joy and thanksgiving that we have for what God has done for us in Christ!
How does one begin to describe what great things God has done for us, fellow believers? He has saved us and by means of that salvation has adopted us as His children and heirs unto life eternal. In His grace He has chosen to fellowship with us, to uphold us in our needs, to grant us the knowledge that in every circumstance of life He, the great and mighty God of heaven and earth, is with us. He will uphold us in our hour of greatest temptation and trial. He will lead us through the valley of the shadow of death! He is our God and we are His people. That blessedness given us freely by the hand of God is indeed the greatest, most wonderful of all gifts! It is unspeakable, indescribable, beyond our finite comprehension what God has done for us! Thanks be to God!
This salvation—this gift of God’s grace to us—gives us hearts that are overwhelmed with thanks. In that thanks we now take a new look at the earthly gifts we have received from God’s hand too. Now we see that these are means that we can use to seek a higher end—that of our final salvation. No, they will not help us earn that end. But we can use them for the work of the Lord in this world. We not only use our money and our possessions, therefore, to support our family. We certainly do not selfishly horde that money and say, “It’s mine! I will use it for me and what I want.” We use it to support the church and help those in need! So we receive the instruction that we do in this chapter of II Corinthians, verses 6, 7: “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” That is the relationship between the earthly and the spiritual gifts we receive from the hands of our God. But our thanks is given not simply because of the unspeakable gift. Look at who gives it!
II. An Unchangeable God
Really! The beginning and end of all things is God. He has made all things, and to His glory are all things. When we as believers give thanks, we ought to be extremely aware of who it is to whom we give such thanks! It is our Father! It is a God who has loved us from eternity, adopted us in the blood of Christ, and sends forth His Spirit into our hearts, for all of which we call Him our Father. Our Father gives us this unspeakable gift! Oh, how He loves His people in Christ! Despite our weaknesses and sins, He loves us. How gracious He has been to us in giving us hearts and minds to know who He is. So many are lost in blindness! That love He has for us is unchangeable!
God has been faithful in the year gone by, has He not? In everything that we have received from His hand He has been faithful to us His children. Even when God sends us affliction, He does it for a reason, and that is, not to crush us, but to save us. In this past season of the year some of us may have received affliction. Or we may not have received as much from God’s hand as we thought we needed. God controls all these things. But He does so always in His great love for those whom He has saved in Christ—a love that never changes! Good thing! We do not deserve His love. What we rejoice in, in everything we received from God’s hand in this past year, is that He has preserved us in the faith! He has not suffered our feet to be moved! The everlasting arms of our heavenly Father have held us up! God vowed a vow to His church. He married us and took us to be His bride and vowed a vow to us. He said: I will be your husband to have and to hold you from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer. I will love you forever. I will never leave you! I will be a faithful God to you, and despite your sins I will never forsake you! God has been faithful to His vow! He is the unchangeable God in His love and mercy toward us! Thanks be to God!
But there is more to be added to this too. You see, as Creator and sovereign Ruler over all, God made a promise regarding this earthly creation. And on this promise we have come to rely as well. We would despair if not for this promise. It is given in Genesis 8:22: “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Here is a truth you and I do not think about all that often. We take it for granted. God promised after the Flood that seedtime and harvest shall not cease! Why is it that the seasons are fixed the way they are? The psalmist says that they are fixed by divine wisdom! God has fixed them. Every year without fail there is a seedtime and harvest. We rejoice in the harvest today. We give thanks that the harvest is taken in and there is plenty to support us again. Do not take that for granted, my fellow believers! God gives us the harvest! God has been true to this promise as well. Remember, He is the unchangeable God! Because He is, we are able to sow the seed in the springtime and reap it again in the fall.
In this we see our calling too. What God gives to us in His never changing faithfulness we must be willing to give back to Him. God’s grace in our hearts abounds! We take a look at the unspeakable gift He has given us. Now, give to others too who are in need! That is the idea of this passage of God’s Word. You see how God’s faithfulness inspires us to use our earthly comforts and wealth in a frugal way? What then is our response to God who gives us this unspeakable gift? Thanks! What shall we render to the Lord? Thanks! Wholehearted thanksgiving!
III. An Enduring Thanks
Do you know what thanksgiving is? It is expressing our gratitude to God for all He has done for us. Sometimes I wonder if many in our generation really know what it means to give thanks to someone. We are so spoiled. We actually think that we have something coming to us—that what we receive is to be expected. So many today think they are entitled to receive what they have. I know how it is. Mother gives us something and we turn and walk away without the least sense of gratitude in our hearts, much less upon our lips! Um, hello—where is the thank you? “Oh—yah—thanks.” The word is idle and empty. It does not mean a thing. Giving thanks is an acknowledgment that we have received something from someone that we did not need to have or that we did not deserve to receive. It is then sincere appreciation that can be heard in the voice that we have received this. And it is walking away with true gratefulness in our hearts. That is thanks! When is the last time you thanked someone for what you received? When is the last time we have truly given that kind of thanks to God? It should be there in every prayer—every prayer. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! Thanks for our salvation. Thanks that we can be numbered among the assembly of the elect in life eternal! Thanks that we can be children of the most high God! Thanks that we have been given a place in the church. Thanks for our fellow saints and the care God has shown His church. Thanks for God’s tender care over us—upholding us even when times are so hard and difficult.
And, yes, thanks be to God for taking care of us again in these months that have passed by. Let us count our blessings, people of God! Name them one by one! Not just the earthly wealth that we have. Count the true blessings of salvation! Let’s do that as we gather around the table to eat with our families. To whom ought we to render thanks in all things? Thanks be to God!