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Giving Thanks, Giving Glory

Both are needed for spiritual growth

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The first chapter of Romans deals with sin and our guilt before God. Man is without excuse, as Paul wrote in verse 20. God’s wrath is being revealed, and the key is found in verse 21: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (italics added).

During a time of prayer God reminded me that these two acts of the unregenerate are also common in the lives of many followers of Jesus. A look into my own soul shows that I regularly forget to thank God. When I take credit for something rather than deflect that praise toward God, I forget to thank Him. When I go about my day thinking I am enjoying the fruit of my labor and nothing more, I fail to thank Him. Deuteronomy 6:11, and the similar reminder in Joshua 24:13, speak about the Israelites living in cities they did not build and eating from vineyards and olive groves they did not plant. Though care must be exercised in forcing applications from these passages that were not originally intended, they help us understand that all we have belongs to God. What we have comes forth from Him and ultimately belongs back in His hands. We are stewards, or, if that word seems too dated, managers. When I lose track of this, I forget to thank God for His generous provision.

In Luke 17:11–19, Jesus gave us a glimpse of God’s high regard for gratitude. After Jesus healed ten lepers, only one returned to thank him. “Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found who returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’” (v. 17).

This passage not only speaks about gratitude but also raises the issue of glory (or praise, as it is translated here). Personally, glory is harder for me to understand than is gratitude. I learned at a young age to say thank you, and I taught my children that lesson as well. Gratitude is a courtesy when one receives something from another. But what is glory? The passage in Luke 17 leads us to understand that it was declaring praise and worship of Jesus publicly.

Failing to give God glory is serious. The Book of Romans reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. That implies that we were expected to somehow interact with the glory of God. In chapter 8 we read that we are heirs and, as such, we share in His sufferings so that we may also share in His glory. His glory will be revealed in us! True to my pattern, I understand sharing in suffering more than I understand sharing in glory. Yet, the Word is clear: We will share in His glory.

Romans 1 also shows how God’s wrath unfolds. Three times in this chapter, Paul writes that God “gave them over”: in verse 24, He gave them over to sinful desires; in verse 26, He gave them over to shameful lusts; in verse 28, to a depraved mind.

What does it mean to have God give one over to something? It helps my understanding to think of it as God pulling away. The good things in our lives come from God, but when He “gives one over” to some obsession that has been in that person’s life, He removes the nurturing touch that brings beauty to our existence. In order to show us the sin in our hearts, God needs to do nothing more than simply remove His blessing. He need not add calamity; there is trouble enough in being distant from Him—and from His glory.

A. W. Tozer wrote: “The world is perishing for lack of the knowledge of God and the Church is famishing for want of His presence.” Part of the solution in ending the famine of God’s presence involves giving thanks to Him and glorifying Him as God.

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