Dear Radio Friends,
Thanksgiving Day will be held in the United States this week. Few in our country even realize the idea behind the celebration of this day. It is a day set aside to give thanks to God for providing a plentiful harvest again in the season past. It is a day in which we give thanks to God for providing our homes and families with food. For that reason, I want to consider a passage today that speaks of thanksgiving. It is II Corinthians 4:15. This verse reads, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”
This verse was not written by Paul in connection with the growing season. It says little about the sowing, nurturing, and harvesting of the crops in our fields. But it certainly can be and ought to be a guide that leads us into thanksgiving at this time of the year and always. God’s Word in II Corinthians 4 addresses our need to give thanks to God in all things. Why? For all things are for our sakes. Everything in this life is for the sake of God’s people. And that certainly includes everything that has happened to us and our families in this past season of the year. Whether we had plenty or little, all things were for our sakes. We recognize the goodness of our heavenly Father toward us, His children, and our families. We who are believers acknowledge not only His hand of providence, but His arm of mercy and grace toward us in all our lives.
I. Abundant Grace
The reasoning of the apostle Paul in our text is extremely beautiful. God has chosen to bring glory to His great and majestic name by means of the praise and thanksgiving of His many children. This is the very reason He pours out upon His elect children in their lives abundant grace. Because of His abundant grace shown to them in their lives, they rejoice and thank their God. This abundant grace of God He shows to His children in all things, for He uses all things for their sakes. So we have our text, 1) God grants us all things in His grace, 2) We in turn give Him thanks now and forever, and 3) By means of this praise God’s name is glorified in heaven and on earth.
Yet, to understand all this we ought to examine closely the “all things” that are for our sakes. What does this “all” include? Well, surely if we were to apply our text to this time of the year, we can ascertain some of the things that are included in this “all” of our text. The season in which we plant, grow, and harvest the fields is now complete. We are able to reflect back across the season once again. We can compare it, as we most often do, with other seasons, and can conclude whether it was a better season for us or worse. Those of you who are farmers are more aware of this than most of us. You live through this season of the year dependent for your income on the type of growing season God has given you. Whether it has been good or bad affects the way you will live through these winter months. If it has been bad, it will mean a frugal, even tight financial struggle the next several months. If it has been good, it will mean a comfortable way of life for you.
Though perhaps most of us are not farmers who depend on the harvest for our income, nevertheless, at this time of year we too must reflect on this past season of the year. It is true that we live in a country so large that a famine or pestilence in one area of our country does not necessarily touch us. Though such a drought or desolation may affect individuals, families, and even portions of our country, we realize that other parts of our country will make up the loss, so that it does not affect us. So much is this true, that we most often take all that we have for granted, as if it will always be there for us. There will always be sufficient food, necessary clothing, and adequate shelter. So much have we become accustomed to a life of ease that life without all these is not even conceivable! Even if our income this past year was meager, we have still a roof up above us and a good place to sleep, we have food on our tables and shoes on our feet. Most of us who are listening not only are given the basic necessities of life but have received much in the way of extras too. Even those of us who are struggling to earn a living due to the pandemic that has struck our world this year will have to admit that God has provided sufficiently again for us in this past year. We have received enough, though it may not be as much as the year before.
The question is: what is our reaction to this abundance? Our reaction must be this: we thank thee, Lord, for thy blessings! Paul tells us in our text that all things are for our sakes. Not just the abundance of this year, but all things. Paul has in mind in particular what he talks about in verses 8-11 of this chapter, that is, trouble, distresses, persecution, and disappointments. All these the apostle Paul and other of the apostles suffered on behalf of the church of Jesus Christ. In fact, Paul enumerates these in II Corinthians 11:23-27:
in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
The apostle Paul realized that all these things that had befallen him in his life were for his own sake!
These things too are a part of those “all things” of the verse we consider today. When we recognize this, we begin to reevaluate just what it is for which we should give God thanks. Do we give Him thanks only for all the good things we received again in this past season of the year? Is that all we ought to thank God for? Is that all He has given us? Now we begin to understand that these “all things” Paul mentions in the verse we consider includes not only the good things in life but the bad, too. It includes food in abundance, but it includes the lack of food too. It includes the nice clothing we wear, but it includes the tattered and old clothing we may be given, too. It includes a nice, warm house we enjoy through the winter months, but it includes the most basic of shelters, too. All things are for the sake of God’s people. All things! Even if we had just our daily bread in this season gone by, this is still for our sakes. We ought also to include in these “all things” sickness and affliction, pain, sorrow, and grief. We ought to include in it the loss of family, possessions, and even life itself. All things are for our sakes. Only when we understand this can we begin to understand what true thanksgiving is, even during a time when the whole world is threatened by a coronavirus.
But how are all things for our sakes? “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). God uses everything in this life for our good and our salvation. We look beyond the earthly to the heavenly when it comes to everything that God sends us in this life. Then we must admit that all things are for us abundant grace—overflowing, plentiful grace.
You see, when we look at our earthly life only through earthly and carnal eyes, then it would quite naturally seem that if we receive an abundance of good things (such as wealth, prosperity, health, and so on) then these things are for our good. But if all these things are withheld from us and we instead receive all kinds of bad things (drought, poverty, persecution, and so on), then we would think that all these things were against us. That is why we must look at them through spiritual eyes. Then we see the attitude of God behind all the things He sends.
Here is what I mean. If a person were to come up to you and hand you a diamond necklace for the keeping, you might consider that a nice gift. You would, that is, if the one giving it to you were a friend who was giving it to you out of his love and favor. But if the person giving it to you were a thief who had just robbed a bank and was giving that precious necklace to you in order to frame you for his robbery, you would not be so happy with this gift. So it is with the child of God who receives all things from God in grace. The wicked, unbelieving rich man can have all the riches and pleasures and earthly security it may buy. God may have given that wicked man wonderful gifts of rain and sunshine in this past year. His crops may have far exceeded ours. But if God does not send these gifts to that wicked man in His favor (in His grace) but, in fact, sends them only to cast him into destruction, then are all these earthly goods to his advantage? On the other hand, if God sends to you and me everything in this life, good things and bad, in His grace, then are not all things for our good and our advantage?
This is why we can truly say that all things are for our sakes. All things are sent to us in God’s unmerited favor—His grace. That is true even of those trials and troubles in this life. God sends them to us because He loves us and favors us. He sends them to us in order to shape and mold us for our place in heaven. He sends them to us to purify our faith. He sends them to us because God chastens whom He loves. God sends us these evils of this present life because by them we begin more and more to depend on Him and look for a heavenly kingdom. God favors us in all the things He sends us, good or bad. And He does so because we are His children, adopted in the blood of Jesus Christ.
In this way God is gracious to you and me. God has delivered us from sin and the curse of sin. He has delivered us from our guilt and the punishment that we deserved on account of sin. He delivered us from the wrath of God that we deserve in everything He sends us. We have been saved in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Now our heavenly Father for Christ’s sake sends us all things in His favor. And that favor is abundant too. In everything God sends us it shows. It overflows toward us from day to day. No matter what we receive, God’s grace is abundant toward us. And for this we give God thanks today and in this season of the year.
II. Abundant Thanksgiving
In fact, this is exactly why all things are for our sakes. God reveals to us His grace in all the things He gives us in this life in order that we, as His children, might give praise and thanksgiving to Him. That is His purpose behind all things.
But what is this thanksgiving that we bring? And how do we show it? Thanksgiving is the giving of thanks to God for His blessings, His favor toward us. It is acknowledging His kindness and benevolence toward us in this past year again. It is confessing that God alone is the Giver of every good and perfect gift and that all things we do receive we receive from His hand alone. It is expressing to Him our joy and gratitude for the blessings of another season. It is shown not only through prayer, not only through gathering together in His house, but it is revealed in the very attitude of our heart toward God. Thankfulness, true thankfulness, is not simply saying thanks with the lips while in the heart there is no great appreciation for what God has done. Thankfulness begins in the heart. There we bow in humble acknowledgment before God for His mercy. There we confess our thanks for His great grace in our lives. When it is in our hearts, we will begin to show such gratitude in our lives too.
Again, thankfulness goes far beyond simple words. It shows in our whole outlook on the things God has now given us (or not given us) in this past season. What is that attitude? Is there complaining? Is there discontentment and dissatisfaction with what God has done? Or has God given us so much that there is an attitude of greed (we want more) or of slothfulness (eat, drink, and be merry), or mere indifference (I am glad it is mine but who cares where it came from)? Our life will indeed reveal whether we are truly thankful or not. You see, God uses the many things He sends us to work praise upon our lips. I know that someday when we stand before Him in glory we will praise Him for all things. But God gives us these things now—He shows us His grace now—and that in order that right now we might in our lives praise Him, honor Him, and thank Him for these things. Our lives today and tomorrow and always must be lives of thankfulness. And that in order that right now God might glorify Himself in us!
God chooses to bring glory to His name through our thanksgiving right now. And this He chooses to do, not through the thanksgiving of one, but of many. Notice our text once again, “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.” Listen to the beautiful expressions of praise and thanksgiving God’s people bring when they worship together, in their homes and families, and as they live their lives in this world. Through it, God chooses to glorify His name in all the earth. What a witness we bring to those about us of our God! The wicked do not bring this thanksgiving. They do not truly thank God from the heart and in their lives for His good gifts to them. We can surely understand why God holds them without excuse by means of these things. But we as believers do bring thanks. Together we bring thanks. And those about us see this thanks, and God’s name is glorified right now.
Yet, this praise and thanksgiving we bring right now pales in comparison to the thanksgiving that will ring forth in heaven when all the saints will be gathered in. And our text ultimately has reference to this thanksgiving of many. It has reference to the praise of the redeemed who will stand before God in glory. This is exactly God’s purpose with respect to His grace: the thanksgiving of the multitude of saints in glory. Then there will be gathered together the multitude of all believers from all times and all nations. There will be no half-hearted praise and thanks. It will be perfected and whole. A little taste of this thanksgiving is given us in Revelation 7:9-12:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.
Ah, if only our thanks at this time of year could herald the same thanks we will bring in heaven someday! Then God’s name will truly be glorified. Then God will have accomplished His purpose in us. Then we will fully understand how everything in life was for our sakes. No wonder the child of God hopes for the things that are not seen rather than the things that are seen.
III. Abundant Glory
May we understand in this day, dear listeners, that our lives in this world, and all we receive from the hand of almighty God, is for one end: His glory. God’s glory! It is the effulgence, the shining forth of His holiness and beauty. It is the manifestation of His majesty and power. God’s glory is the revelation of Himself as the sovereign and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. God’s glory! That is what we seek. That is what we desire! And whatever can bring such honor, such esteem, such veneration and worship to His holy name, that is what we want! This is what God has saved us for, too. Our praises “redound,” that is, overflow our hearts, to the glory of God. The way we can bring such honor to God in this season of the year is to thank Him.
Thank Him, fellow saints! Praise Him for His faithfulness, which is so great. Thank Him for His mercy, which is new every morning. Thank Him for the good times and thank Him for the hard times. Thank Him for the salvation He has freely given, by which He has adopted us as His own. Thank Him for choosing us when we did not deserve it. Thank Him for all the blessings He has bestowed on us. All things are for our sakes. Let God’s name be glorified!