By Daniel L. Holloway
These days, we hear much about our country’s economic woes. And we do not have to look far to find that society is beset with plenty of other problems. Of course, each individual has his own personal difficulties as well. To make sure that we feel sufficiently miserable, we are often given to counting our many troubles. If this is our attitude, there is a lesson which we are in need of from God’s word.
From Ephesians 5:20, we learn that we are to give “thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” However, I fear that, too often, we take our blessings for granted. We may even feel that we have earned them, that they are ours solely because of our own efforts. We must guard against such an attitude. The truth is that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). Although we may labor to get something, it is still from God in that He makes it possible to obtain it. As Paul and Barnabas told the people of Lystra he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Paul said of the church in Corinth, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Cor. 3:6).
Not only does God provide us with material blessings, but our very existence is dependent upon Him. Paul declared to the Athenians in him we live, and move, and have our being . . .” (Acts 17:28). Rather than feeling that God has cheated us if we do not receive something that we want, we should be thankful for what we have. “Come now, ye that say, today or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that” (Jas. 4:13-15).
Also, we ought to be thankful for the spiritual blessings which God offers. From Ephesians 1:3, we learn that God blesses with all spiritual blessings in Christ. We do not earn these blessings either. Paul explains, “. . . for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2:8,9).
However, there is a significant difference between the way in which God bestows material blessings and the way in which He bestows spiritual blessings. We may receive material blessings whether we want them or not and without meeting any conditions for them. As Christ said, “. . . he maketh his sun to rise on,;he evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). But spiritual blessings are not poured out on us whether we want them or not. They must be accepted. After preaching to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas told them that they were putting the word of God from them and judging themselves unworthy of everlasting life (Acts 13:46). This shows that we can reject the spiritual blessings that are in Christ. On the other hand, Jesus said, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (Jn. 14:23). We should be thankful that He has given us the terms which must be followed to receive His spiritual blessings: we must believe on Him (Jn. 8:24), repent of our sins (Lk. 13:3,5), confess our faith (Matt. 10:32), and be baptized (Mk. 16:16).
As Paul wrote, we ought to be “rooted and builded up” in Christ, “established” in the faith, “abounding in thanksgiving” (Col. 2:7). But how can we be thankful for the spiritual blessings if we have not accepted them? The spiritual things are much more important than the material things which we prize so highly. That which is material shall pass away with time, but that which is spiritual will never fail (Matt. 6:19,20; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Matt. 16:26). We ought to be thankful for our material blessings because they truly are blessings. We ought to be thankful for our lives. And we ought to obey our God that we might receive the spiritual blessings, and be thankful!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 3, p. 77
February 2, 1984