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Thanksgiving for Hopelessness

Weekly Devotionals

Thanksgiving for Hopelessness

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is easy for us to be thankful for all the good blessings in our lives, such as our families and friends. However, have you ever considered that the one thing we should be eternally thankful for comes out of utter hopelessness?

Before Martin Luther became the Protestant reformer, he was a promising young priest. However, he struggled greatly to understand righteousness. In order to be righteous before God, he would constantly go to confess his sins before a priest, and after leaving confession, he would walk only twenty steps before he remembered another sin, and would have to run back to confession. No matter how hard he tried to be righteous, he just knew that it is impossible, and as a sinner he was under the wrath of God. When it came to his salvation he was utterly hopeless.

One day, he started meditating on Romans 1:16-17. As he was meditating he realized that good deeds were not the way to righteousness, but righteousness comes from faith. It is easy for us to presume that “faith” here is alluding to our faith in Jesus Christ. Certainly, a very important part of our salvation lies in the fact that we need to repent of our sins and believe in the atonement of Christ. However, Martin Luther realized that the Apostle Paul was not only talking about our faith in Christ, for if that were the case, faith would not be much different from going to confession, since both were an act on our part.

In Romans 1:17, Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, “The righteous person will live by his faithfulness (NIV).” It is highly doubtful that “his faithfulness” here is referring to our faithfulness, since most of us are not even faithful to our favorite sports team when they are doing poorly. Instead, what Paul and Habakkuk are both referring to is the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. They realized that there is nothing that we can do ourselves for our own salvation. However, it is the faithfulness of Christ, who knew from the beginning that his purpose in this world was to be a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind, in which we have true righteousness. It took Martin Luther to realize his utter hopelessness in order to understand where true hope comes from.

I pray that this week we can mediate on how utterly hopeless we are without Christ’s faithfulness. I pray that we can find thanksgiving in hopelessness, so Christ can give you the hope that only he can give. And if anyone is in need of hope, I pray that you can find your hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Christ.