“…in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
(1 Thess. 5:18; NASB)
As believers, we know that we are to give thanks always — in all circumstances, at all times, for all people.
There are sometimes when that is easier than at other times. The past few weeks has been one of those easier seasons for me. Our oldest daughter met a young man early this year, began dating him a few weeks later, was engaged a short time after that, and then married him this past Saturday. It has been a happy (and busy!) time around our house and in our family.
For me, it has also been a time for quite a few tears. Not sad tears. Happy tears. Humble tears.
As I considered my daughter’s marriage, I was stimulated to consider the state of my own marriage, family, circumstances, and life. The result has been overwhelming gratitude for God’s grace to an undeserving sinner (me). What do you say to God’s favor in your life? When you see glimpses of the magnitude of His kindness, the tears flow readily and easily and words become difficult to speak — at least for me.
For what kinds of things have I been grateful?
I am grateful for the grace of salvation. Preaching through Romans has been such a helpful reminder to me of my unworthiness for salvation, and despite that unworthiness and despite being outside the promises to Israel, God has extended to me the grace of salvation. I am — as everyone is — unworthy of that gift. And I am thankful that He took pity on my miserable condition and redeemed me.
I am grateful for the grace of sanctification. When in my 20s I imagined life in my 50s and the level of sanctification that I might attain by that age. Alas, I have failed to reach that position. (I think my imagination conjured up something much closer to what can only be attained in Glory.) But I, like you, have seen God’s Spirit and Word work in my life to shape and mold me. While a long way from what I desire, I have seen the grace of sanctification; I have seen Him produce restraint where it was needed and courage where it was needed. I have seen the troubles of various wrestlings with my flesh, but I have also seen Him give victory against the flesh. I, like you, have experienced the progressive work of the Spirit’s transforming power. I could have been left in spiritual infancy; in His grace, He has been slowly changing me, and I am thankful.
I am grateful for the gracious preservation of my marriage. I am grateful that it not only has been preserved, but it is a place of joy for both of us. I could have ruined our marriage multiple times. Apart from the saving and sanctifying work of the Spirit, I am convinced I would have destroyed our marriage. But God’s grace intervened. God’s grace has worked and is working in my heart and making our home a place of spiritual refuge and joy. This is His work and not mine. Solomon asks, “An excellent wife, who can find?” (Prov. 31:10) Even had I found her on my own, I could not have kept her; God’s grace has kept and preserved us. And I am thankful.
I am grateful for the gracious love of my children. When I held my children on the days they were born, I was overwhelmed by the privilege of fatherhood, the humility to be able to parent these children, and with a fledgling love that was willing to sacrifice for them. What I didn’t realize was how much I needed to grow in love for them and how greatly I would fail them. I did not know how many times I would make unwise decisions and how many times I would sin against them and have to seek forgiveness. As the years accumulated, I experienced a completely unexpected grace — in spite of my failures, they still loved me. In His grace, the Lord not only preserved our relationships, but He also strengthened them and gave my children a capacity to love me. That is undeserved grace from God. I’m thankful.
I am grateful for the grace of children (and now a son-in-law) who love and live for Christ. It is no given that our children will love Christ. When they do love Christ it is not owing to the superiority of a parent’s skills. It is because of God’s grace. Alone. He called them to salvation and He brought them to salvation and He is keeping them in salvation. I cannot take pride in anything I’ve done to produce their salvation; I can only be thankful for His grace that has overwhelmed and superseded my inadequacies and weaknesses as a father. And I am thankful.
I am grateful for the grace of a church body to share our joys. It is sad to be in a place where we want to be grateful, but we have no One to whom we can express that gratitude. A corollary to that statement is that it is pitiful not to have anyone with whom we can share our joys and gratitude. For over 25 years, Grace Bible Church in Granbury has been home in so many ways. One of the particular joys of these past weeks for our family has been that we can share the joy of our family with our extended family, the church. And you have rejoiced with us (Rom. 12:15), thereby doubling our joy. We are thankful.
I am grateful for the gifts of grace that have been given though our church family. We have been prayed for and prayed with; we have been given wise counsel and gentle encouragement. And we have been the recipients of many acts of loving service. The Lord graced a full and busy week with many hands making the work both light and joyful. I am thankful to you for your many gifts of love; and I am grateful to the Lord for making this a loving, unified, and gracious church body.
I am grateful for the grace of ministry. I am a weak, imperfect, and even cracked and broken vessel. Lately, I have been particularly overwhelmed that the Lord has allowed this weak vessel to be used for anything in service of Him. That He would save me is grace enough. That He would entrust the treasure of the gospel to me to use it in service of Him, in any capacity, is astounding (2 Cor. 4:7). That He would grant me the privilege of unfolding the riches of His grace through preaching every week is a grace that is overwhelming to me. I am thankful.
Because of the wedding, I have been reflecting in these and other ways on God’s grace in my life. I have received something — many things — undeserved. Any kind of grace from God is always undeserved since He is never obligated to do anything for us. But that grace is nothing unusual in that God is a God who loves to be gracious. It is His nature to be gracious. He is lavish and infinite in the provision of His grace. And I am grateful.