Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thanksgiving and Hope

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ...And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, 
to the glory and praise of God." 
(Philippians 1:3-6, 9-11)

Next Thursday we celebrate Thanksgiving Day. It is a time when we take special time to give thanks to God for His blessings to us, our families, and our country. It is easy in a fallen world to notice how much better things could be, to notice where things fall short. We notice our own failures and faults and notice the faults of others. Our attention is also fixed upon what could go wrong in the future. And these things have a place. It is proper to lament what is wrong with us and our world. It is proper to entreat God’s mercy for the future. But this is not all. Even in a fallen world, God has been very merciful, even to the unjust and wicked. His creation still shines with beauty and the earth still gives forth rich food. How much more has He been good to His saints?

In the passage above, one of Paul’s responses to the Philippians was thanksgiving. He thanked God for the Philippians and their faithful partnership in the gospel every time he prayed for them. Joyful thanksgiving for their labors in the past was the first thing out of Paul’s mouth. But then he moves from thanksgiving to hope, from the past to the future. Because God had given the Philippians such a love for the gospel, Paul is confident that God will continue to increase their love unto maturity in Christ. Their past spiritual blessings were not the product of fickle Fortune, but of a faithful God. Thankfulness to God leads to hope for the future. What God has done gives us confidence for what He will do. He will not abandon what He began. As Calvin observed from this passage, “undoubtedly this is the true manner of acknowledging God’s benefits — when we derive from them occasion of hoping well as to the future. For as they are tokens at once of his goodness, and of his fatherly benevolence towards us, what ingratitude were it to derive from this no confirmation of hope and good courage!”[1]

And so, this passage leads us from thanksgiving to hope. If God has begun a good work in you by His grace, you can more confidently aim for the goal of maturity in Christ, for God will not abandon what He has begun.

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