Happy Thanksgiving! How can we be thankful in a time like this, when tensions continue in Ferguson, Missouri, racial protests are springing up in major cities across the country, the economy is still not so good, and ISIS continues to be on the move? Should we just forget about all this bad news and focus on family, food, and football? If that is not the answer, what could be a better focus for you and me this Thanksgiving?
First, let’s focus on what God has done. Since the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), that means that everything in this beautiful creation that we can see and even those things the Hubble telescopic camera cannot capture for us has the fingerprints of God. And not only that, every person who has walked this earth and who is alive today has been formed by God in the image of God. And though all of us have disobeyed His righteous commands and we’re deserving of God’s just judgment, God has provided a way that sinful human beings like you and me would have hope even during the darkest times. The Bible says, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5, English Standard Version). In the person of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus, you and I can know we are adopted by God; you and I can know we’ve been forgiven and have peace with God; you and I can have a personal relationship with the God of the universe. God the Son has saved and given abundant and eternal life to all those who believe in Him by coming to this earth, living the perfect life, dying, and then conquering death.
Next, let’s focus on what God is doing. God didn’t just set His plan in motion and then leave. Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17, ESV). God never stops working, and what is He doing? When Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, declared Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus said that it was His Father who is in heaven who had revealed it to Peter. God is still doing that very work today, revealing Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is God the Holy Spirit who convicts people of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (see John 16:8-11), which shows people their need for a Savior and points them to Jesus, who is the Savior of the world. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12, ESV). When Jesus returned to the Father, the promised gift of God the Holy Spirit was going to come and fill all believers. What God is also doing now is using His children, His church, His chosen people and empowering them to serve Him to do those “greater works” in proclaiming His Word, making disciples of all nations, and calling spiritually dead to come to life.
Finally, let’s focus on what God will do. God is coming back. Jesus, God the Son, is going to return someday soon to judge the world. Just as in the time of Noah when a flood swept away all the wickedness in this world, and God provided salvation for the righteous Noah and his family, so it will be when Jesus returns. The wicked who “do not know God and…those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus…will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, ESV). But for those who know God, who have obeyed the gospel, the Bible says that in the near future there will be a new heaven and a new earth and “the dwelling place of God (will be) with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be any mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4, ESV). For believers, we’re “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13, ESV).
So as we consider Thanksgiving, let us not focus on the difficulties and trials that we can see before us, but, instead, focus on what we cannot see. Those who believe can say with the apostle Paul, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, ESV).” “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:25, ESV)!