Why I am grateful to God for 2008

I am still alive…
And assuredly I do not deserve to be. I have sinned repeatedly against the holy God, the giver of life. To reject Life is to embrace death, is it not? Yet I have found – again – that every one of my sins has been atoned for by the death of Jesus. The deal that has been brokered by Jesus between God and I is also guaranteed by Him and its terms have not changed because He does not: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Not only are my debts paid but I have been given eternal credit: “For our sake He [God the Father] made Him [God the Son] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, ‘The great exchange’). This is all that needs to have happened this year for me to have an eternity’s worth of gratitude but there is more. This is always where I should start though, because all the gifts alluded to below (and those I have failed to mention) are not just undeserved but ill-deserved.

I am still alive…
Rather than having disintegrated! Seriously. You might take this for granted but I am keen not to: “The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3). Can you see that? The universe did not cease to be this year because Jesus sustained it! Reality as we know it is not a wind-up toy that will keep going for a little while longer because it was well started; by His faithfulness and power our existence has been maintained. I am grateful for that.

I have been brought through tough times
2008 didn’t start especially well for me because of poor choices I had made leading to confusion and weakness when tempted. I compounded this by taking virtually no holiday for the first six months of the year, which brought me to summer feeling dreadful. By His grace, God used me during this time to bless others (though how I hardly know) but He was doing more than that. He has shown His faithfulness to me by never abandoning me and He has taught me important lessons that I intend to continue to heed.

I have been brought through great times
The second half of the year has been much more enjoyable, its value to me feels different though I am grateful for both parts. God has been showing me His wonderful Fathering love and bringing me into a new sense of liberty. This isn’t license to commit whatever sins I feel like (what a small ambition), but freedom and grace to discover the wonders of living His way. The Freedom in Christ course that I have been through has been very significant for me: releasing me into the reality of truths I have known, and taught! (See here for a further recommendation). A key step I took around this time was to spend ten minutes most mornings speaking in tongues. The Bible is very clear that this is a gift from God that strengthens the one who uses it (1 Corinthians 14:4) and I have found this to be the case, as have others (see the bottom few lines on this page from Chasing the dragon by Jackie Pullinger). One other key component has been my writing, which I have begun to do in earnest again this year and have really learnt and heard much through doing this. For those who have encouraged me initially and continually, thank you. Doing things you are gifted in is such a wonderful blessing. This all came together on my trip to Scotland where I found myself being overwhelmed by the beauty of God’s creation, worshiping Him joyfully and passionately, and serving others with some of my favourite gifts! This joy inside of me, which is spilling out all over the place, shows no sign of slackening. Who do I have to thank for all of this? The One who loves to bless me…

I know God better
Oh, this is the key to it all. It was the apostle Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians (1:17) and it has been my prayer for myself; knowing God being, after all, eternal life (John 17:3). Sitting on the beach at Brighton in July I asked myself how I had grown in the past year, and felt rather daunted by an impending poor answer. However at that moment I believe God told me that I should ask a different question: how much more do I know Him? That had not been my focus. Many Christian leaders had warned me of the danger of putting duty above devotion and I had fallen into this trap. No amount of effort will satisfy the human soul because it was made to know God. With the memories of those wise and vital admonitions within me, the help of others around me, and above all the Holy Spirit at work in me I can say with great delight that I do know God better and am desperate – in any good meaning of that word – to know Him more because I have found again that He is my only treasure. There are some things about Him that I know deeper than before, there are some I have been reminded of, and there are some I have seen in an entirely different light. And always they lead me to the same conclusion: He is wonderful!

And so I pray for you, and myself, that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” in 2009.