(I already wrote a long post about this, but here I intend to write a shorter one.)
Faith and Gratitude are my words for 2017. I am excited about these words. They don't frighten me. They point me victoriously to Christ.
Faith comes first. Our spirits are dead within us until God grants us faith. Faith is the ability to perceive God, to believe in God, and to love God. We cannot muster up faith on our own; it is the gracious gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). Unfathomably, God reaches down to us while we are dead in sin--while our spirits are literally dead in sin--and shines a life-giving light into our souls, enabling us to perceive, believe and respond to Him with love and thanksgiving.
Yes, thanksgiving--Gratitude--is the result of faith.
When, by faith, we perceive that God exists,
When, by faith, we believe that He sent His Son to purchase our deliverance from sin--
paying with His very own life-blood,
When, by faith, we joyfully accept His offer of forgiveness, fellowship and eternal life,
then we find our hearts full of gratitude.
Gratitude is more than being thankful for salvation--
it is about rejoicing in the very essence of who God is,
giving thanks for all of His attributes and His mighty acts.
Faith is more than the moment of conversion--
it is an unwavering confidence in our sovereign God
and all of His great promises.
Faith is being planted in the Holy Spirit, as though I am a tree and the Holy Spirit is the fertile soil along the riverbank where I am planted, into which my roots dig deep for stability and nourishment so that I will grow up tall and strong, bearing fruit to feed people and medicinal leaves to heal them. Having faith, abiding in Christ, walking by the Spirit--these are all different ways of saying the same thing.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord,
continue to live in Him,
rooted and built up in Him,
strengthened in the faith as you were taught
and overflowing with thankfulness.
~Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)
We receive Him, open our hearts to Him. We make ourselves vulnerable to Him so He can change us. This, too, is faith: knowing and trusting that my Lord is the only one with whom I can be completely vulnerable, and still be completely safe and secure.
Faith results in gratitude and joy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song.
~Psalm 28:7 (NIV)
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving
present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:4-7 (NIV)
I must point out that we are to rejoice always, but the rejoicing is in the Lord. We don't rejoice in the plane crash, the addiction, the rape, the abortion, the war, the cancer or the hurricane. We rejoice in the Lord. We rejoice that our hope is in Him, not in any part of this poor old broken world. This is where the gratitude originates: we are thankful for the hope He gives us, enduring hope in His unfailing love.
When we are grateful for the hope He gives us, an amazing thing happens:
We start to be able to thank Him for what He will do in the future.
We start being grateful in advance.
This is the kind of faith I strive for:
To be grateful because my confidence is in Him,
and He is good,
Lord of all.
He is for us. He is on our side. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He never forgets, never sleeps, never misses anything, never makes a mistake. He fights for us, and He always wins. When we live with this kind of confidence in the Lord, we walk in the victory of faith.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank you for who you are and for your Divine nature, even though I will not fully comprehend until the day I meet you in glory.
Thank you that you are completely faithful. Thank you for all the wonderful promises you have fulfilled in the past, and thank you that I can trust you to continue to be faithful for all eternity.
Thank you for the cross, where you demonstrated that you are good, kind, compassionate and full of mercy and grace. Therefore, I can put aside my fears and trust your work in my life and the lives of those around me. Thank you that you are working and will continue to work until your perfect purposes are all accomplished. Thank you that you never fail.
In the triumphant name of Jesus, who died and rose again, I pray in confidence: Your will be done! Show me your glory at work in the world.