By Femi Aribisala
A man asked his rich father for money to buy a car. The father wrote him a cheque and he bought a Jeep. Later he went to his father and asked him for money to buy a house. The father wrote him another cheque and he bought a beautiful mansion in an exclusive neighbourhood.
Then the son came back again to his father with the request for a rose garden in the back of the house he bought. The father brought out his cheque book again and asked him how much the garden would cost. But he told his father this one is not a matter of cash. This one requires his father to come and work with him in planting the garden.
Therefore, the father came every day to work in his son’s garden. After 3½ years of hard labour, he said to his son: “It is finished.” He then left and went back home.
What was the most expensive gift that the father gave his son? Was it the Jeep, the mansion, or the rose garden?
The rose garden was clearly the most expensive for the simple reason that it required the father to give of himself. For the Jeep and the mansion, all the Father had to do was write two cheques. But for the rose garden, he had to labour. He could not just hire a gardener because his expertise was what was required.
The father had to come down and work in the garden himself and get his hands dirty. Writing cheques are simple one-off protocols. But planting a rose garden entailed 3½ years of blood, sweat and tears.
And so, the Lord said to me: “Femi, I have planted this garden in your mind. I want you to tend the garden, to keep it and to dress it. Every plant that I have not planted must be uprooted.”
Thank God for Jesus
The most expensive gift that God ever gave was his son Jesus Christ. The most taxing work that God ever did was the redemption of sinful man.
In order to create the heavens and the earth, all that God had to do was to speak and they came in being. God said: “Let there be light,” and there was light. “He spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:9).
But in order to redeem man, God had to do more than speak. In order to redeem man, God did not say let there be redemption and there was redemption. In order to redeem man, God had to empty himself. He had to make himself of no reputation. He had to take on the form of a servant.
He had to come down to the earth in the likeness of men. As a man, he had to humble himself and become obedient to the point of death; even the death of the cross. In order to perfect the redemption of man, “(Jesus) was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5).
Our redemption required God to work like as at no other time. It required God to come down and be made man. It required God to humble himself and come through the womb of a woman. It required God to crawl on the ground, to learn to walk and to talk. It required God to allow himself to be vilified despised and rejected. It required God to allow himself to be crucified and to resurrect on the third day.
When God finished this work, he said: “It is finished.” He then went back to heaven and sat down. He became our Sabbath. He earned us rest. Therefore, when we give thanks, we are showing appreciation for the onerous work that God has done for us.
From dessert to spring
Naomi went away to Moab full: but she came back empty. She went to Moab with a husband and two sons. She came back to Bethlehem without a husband and without any son. All three had died in Moab.
When she returned from Moab, there was a thanksgiving service in her church. But what kind of thanksgiving can one expect from Naomi given all the deaths in her family? Naomi was not thankful but bitter.
She said to her friends and relations: “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the LORD has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” (Ruth 1:20-21).
But can Naomi turn her dessert into a spring? The psalmist says to God: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; the rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.” (Psalm 84:5-7).
Matthew Henry, the famous bible scholar, was once accosted by thieves and robbed of his wallet. Nevertheless, he wrote these words of thanksgiving to God in his diary: “Let me be thankful first, because I was never robbed before; second, because, although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”
The Christian difference
The cross of Jesus Christ crucifies us from the world, and it crucifies the world from us. (Galatians 6:14). Therefore, everything that is of Christ is, of necessity, anathema to the world. So, when a believer gives thanks should be fundamentally different from when an unbeliever gives thanks.
Unbelievers give thanks when their wine and corn increase. They give thanks when they receive something, or when something is added to them. They give thanks when they celebrate one more year on earth away from God.
But believers do not conform to this world but are transformed by the renewing of our mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2).
Accordingly, Paul enjoins us saying: “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Certainly, unbelievers don’t give thanks in everything. They don’t thank God in afflictions, in tribulations or in persecutions. But believers do because we have understanding. We recognise that God uses everything for the perfecting of the saints.
For this reason, we don’t curse God and die in adversity, as Mrs Job prescribes. (Job 2:9). Instead, we do all things without murmuring and complaining. (Philippians 2:14). We do this knowing that in all things and at all times the grace of God is sufficient for us and God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.
We know that God creates good out of evil: “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).