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Appreciating, With Thanksgiving, the Gifts We Have

As children of God we have been richly blessed. If we have to ask how we have been blessed or how richly, that indicates we are taking those gifts for granted.

Above all, we thank God the Father for His love in Christ Jesus. The precious gospel of salvation in Jesus is our greatest blessing, the most secure and enduring. Our salvation is rooted in Christ and His cross; it is sealed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. We have the promise that not one of His sheep shall be snatched from Him (John 10:28), and that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

However, the love of God does not insulate us from the trials and afflictions of this life. Our Lord Jesus has opened the way to the Father so that we can pray, “I am afflicted very much; revive me, O Lord, according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:107). In times of trial God’s grace and the love of Jesus our Savior give us hope and sustain us.

The salvation-love of our Father is the foundation of all His promises and blessings. The same Father sends sunshine and rain and causes the fruits of the earth to grow. It is He who gives the ability to study, learn, invent, and prosper. The gifts of the Creator God are “…richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all my property and all I need to support this body and life…” (Luther’s explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed).

For all this we give thanks as we confess, “God gives daily bread without our asking, even to unbelievers….” Since He clothes the flowers, feeds the beasts of the field, and cares for the birds, “Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

Do we appreciate how blessed we are? Shall we complain when things seem to be against us? The great hymnwriter, Paul Gerhardt, understood:

God oft gives me days of gladness;
Shall I grieve If He give Seasons, too, of sadness?
God is good and tempers ever All my ill, And He will
Wholly leave me never.
(TLH #523:3)

When is the last time you or I were thankful for something so mundane as new undergarments or even for the darkness in which to sleep in one’s own bed? In the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, when survivors were sheltered in a large open “dormitory” in a coliseum under the continual glare of lights, a little girl asked for help to find a school lunch bucket; one man came looking for a Bible Concordance; another man came specifically to give an emotional “thank you” to the volunteers who had helped him. When he left, he laid his hand on my arm and said, “God bless you.” One lady who was loading her things into a car said, “God has His reasons for things. One day we will know. God is good.”

The Lord does work according to His plan and for our good. When we forget or take things for granted, He gives reminders of how richly blessed we are. “Natural” disasters give us the opportunity to help people who have lost all their belongings. The Word of God is true: “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Nevertheless, the Lord gives us what we need for our sustenance and maintenance.

As Luther puts it, let us “receive with thanksgiving our daily bread” (Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer). Let us appreciate the Lord’s advice when He says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

All are blessed and may be at peace who—having received all blessings from the Father with thanksgiving—in faith count the blessing of eternal life in Christ the best of all. Although Paul Gerhardt lived under great afflictions, he appreciated his great blessings:

In yonder home doth flourish My heritage, my lot;
Though here I die and perish, My heaven shall fail me not.
Though care my life oft saddens And causeth tears to flow,
The light of Jesus gladdens And sweetens every woe.
(TLH #528:10)

Help us, O Lord, to be thankful Christians. Amen!