One of my still-vivid memories of early childhood is the way my parents worked hard to teach my brother and me the importance of gratitude.
When visitors came, often with gifts for us, we were always prompted, “What do you say?” We would immediately respond, “Thank you very much,” the measure of our appreciation being the emphasis on the word very. When the guests had gone, my mother especially would impress upon us how kind and generous they had been.
When salvation in Christ came to our home, it was not surprising for us to learn that Scripture urged us to “give thanks to the Lord” in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18). Of course, the basic cause for gratitude was that God the Father had not spared His own Son but gave Him up to die on the cross for our salvation. But more than that, God’s nature and practice was to lavish His goodness on His creatures, so that His people sang, “Surely God is good to Israel,” and urged others, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”
It made such an impression on me that I remember the first time the eighth chapter of Romans was explained to me as a teenager. Romans 8:28 says that “for those who love God all things work together for good.” Paul is not merely saying that God gives good gifts to His people. He is actually assuring every believer that a sovereign God is at work in every circumstance (including the “suffering” of verse 17 and the “groaning” of verse 23) for the lasting good of His people. John Stott comments, “Nothing is beyond the over-ruling, over-riding scope of His providence.”