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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

21 May 2009

Why Be Thankful?

Q: Why should I thank God for a creation I didn’t ask for?

Sun, Moon, and StarsA: Ultimately, no one “should” thank anyone. Thankfulness is only genuine when it’s not coerced. If you have no love for either the creation or its Creator, you shouldn’t be a hypocrite and utter thanks you don’t mean. However, the very fact that you’ve even suggested the existence of a creator tells me that you’re open to being convinced by Him and are not necessarily trapped by an atheistic mind set.

So what is it that leads you to reject giving thanks? What about this world and its Maker sets your teeth on edge? If you blame creation and its Creator, are you ready to talk about these issues? If so, I encourage you to find a knowledgeable Bible student who has the time and the temperament to sit down and hold extended discussions with you. Look for someone, either clergy or lay, who accepts that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)” This person should also believe that this God cares enough about His creation to intervene in its history in order to undo the damages that evidently sour your opinion of Him and His handiwork.

I pray that as you learn more about the destructive power of sin and the broken state of the cosmos, you’ll also discover the need for personal and universal redemption, reconciliation, and renewal. Then I hope that you will realize that the only cure for our diseased world is God’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

In Romans 8 the apostle Paul pointed out the mess that surrounds us: Currently, “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (v. 19)” This is because it “was subjected to futility ... in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption.... (vv. 20-21)” Paul then established a connection between the creation and Christians: “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth ... not only the creation, but we ourselves ... groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (vv. 22-23)”

Christ CrucifiedGod recognizes that His creation is a mess. Even though He’s not responsible for its fallen state, He has assumed responsibility for its remaking. Likewise, He isn’t to blame for the corruption of mankind, yet He sent His Son, “the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. (Galatians 1:3-4)”

Once you discover and believe in Jesus’ redemptive work on your behalf, you’ll discover that God has a place and a purpose for you in this life — in this creation. And once you know His care and concern for You, you’ll be able to honestly and without compulsion thank Him — both for the eternal life you have in Christ and for the current life you live here on earth. God bless you on this journey of discovery.

As believers grow in faith, they also grow in thankfulness. As we look throughout Scripture and Church history, we find many examples of people praising their Creator in the midst of their distress. Among those whose thankfulness belied their earthly plight were Lutheran theologian Paul Gerhardt, whose story I summarized Thanks in All Seasons and Pastor Martin Rinkart, whose sufferings helped to form the hymn Now Thank We All Our God.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author of the book What Do Lutherans Believe, and writer of numerous published devotions, prayers, and sermons.

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Newspaper column #584:1


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