This Thanksgiving, I plan to embrace thankfulness. I want to be thankful. I do feel a slight resistance, because in the back of my mind I hear: It’s cliché to be thankful around thanksgiving. Everyone does that!
That very well may be, but I will not let that voice keep me from the spiritual blessing that comes from practicing a spirit of thankfulness.
In light of this, I want to provide three perspectives of thankfulness that are available only to the Christian. The three perspectives are the following: the past, the present, and the future.
Thankfulness for the Past
I want to highlight two things that happened in the past of every Christian. These two things are verses that come from Isaiah 43, and I was greatly encouraged by them. I hope you will be too.
1.) “I have called you by name, you are mine.” (43:1)
What an amazing verse! For it tells us a wonderful truth about our salvation: It was no accident. It was no impersonal act. Instead, it was intentional, personal. God called you by name.
In this verse, we don’t get the sense that God stands before all the Christians of the world and says to the collective group, “You are mine.” In this verse, he stands before all the Christians of the world and he points to each person individually: “Davis, you are mine.” “Rebecca, you are mine.” “Paul, you are mine.”
And Paul affirms this in Galatians, when he writes, “[God] set me apart before I was born, and… called me by his grace” (1:15). Don’t overlook those last three words, by his grace. For what do we know about Paul? He was a Christian killer. He was a murderer, a zealot, and the worst of Pharisees.
So, now we see that being called out by name is not only special but also scary. Part of the deal when God calls you out by name is that God calls out your sin.
Called by His Grace
But thank God, He called us by his grace: “those whom he called he also justified” (Romans 8:30). In other words, part of the deal when God called you by name is that he is called out your sin and forgave it.
Let me repeat our verse from Isaiah 43, now with the line that comes right before it:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name, you are mine.”
2.) “called by my name” (43:7)
Here’s some context for that phrase:
“bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
As Christians, God not only calls us by name but also calls us by His name. Think of name here indicating something related to status, to worthiness, to glory, and to power. We are called by His name, and we share in His glory.
To go back to the section of Romans 8 I quoted above, here’s what Paul says next after how everyone who is called is also justified: “those whom he justified he also glorified” (8:30). Notice the past tense—glorified. This is another way of saying that we are called by His name.
I can’t say it any better than how Galatians 2:20 puts it: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
This is what we have to be thankful for—and it’s just our past! We have been called by name and we are called by Jesus’s name.
Thankfulness for the Present
Christians are rightfully occupied with the past, because of the earthly life of Jesus and the biblical story, and occupied with the future, because of the glorious promise of eternal life. But what about the present? It’s pretty amazing too!
Thanks to what the Lord has done for us in the past, we are presently children of God. Here are some notes on the present life of the Christian:
We Walk by the Spirit
Galatians 2 told us that we have been crucified with Christ, and it is now Christ who lives in us. We have died to the flesh, and we now walk by the Spirit. Galatians 5 shows us what we are growing in throughout our present lives: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (5:22–23).
Consider what our present lives would have looked like had we a different past without Christ: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (5:19–21).
Needless to say, I am thankful for the Spirit-led life I now live.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit are Supporting Us
[Jesus] always lives to make intercession for[those who draw near to God through him]. (Hebrews 7:25)
The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:27)
There’s no doubt about it—this life is a hard life to live. And it can be difficult, or even impossible, to be thankful for the tough trials we go through.
But what we can always be thankful for is how Jesus Christ, our Savior, and the Holy Spirit are both for us and empowering us. We never have to go through this life alone, as we know for sure that God is always with us.
Aren’t you thankful Christian that your present life is and forever will be on the front of Jesus’s mind and ever-present in His heart? He loves you. That’s your present: Living in the love of Jesus.
Thankfulness for the Future
A great past and wonderful present would be overshadowed, and perhaps even ruined, by a bad future. There is much to be thankful for in our current life, but if we did not have more joy to look forward to then we would be left incomplete.
Philippians 1:6, however, gives us this promise: “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.” The Bible is sure. So we can be sure.
I want to write a book in the future. But I cannot be thankful for writing a book yet because I do not know if it will happen. However, I can be thankful for the completed work of Christ in me, I can be thankful for eternal life, because I know for sure it will happen.
To close, 1 Corinthians explains a special joy we have waiting for us in the future.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (13:12)
There is much to say about this verse, but the only thing I want to highlight now is the phrase “face to face.” In the future of every Christian is the moment when we will bodily stand next to Jesus and look at Him face to face.
What Will That Moment Be Like?
I saw a video where a dad, now home after a long time away in the military, surprised his son by joining into his fencing practice. (Fencing participants wear protective headgear covering the face.)
A few moments after they got started, the dad spoke to his son and the son recognized his father’s voice. Then they took off their masks and made eye-contact. What happened next? They didn’t stay separated! They embraced each other in a tear-filled hug.
This is what your future holds, Christian. The moment you get to see Jesus Christ face to face and embrace Him.