Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This is a familiar verse; so familiar that we have a hard time believing it anymore. Really, “all things” work together for good? Sickness? Family problems? Health care reform?
Paul talks, throughout Romans, about salvation by faith and living by faith. Then, a couple of verses before v. 28, he says, that we need the Spirit to help us pray because we do not even understand what we really need and don’t always understand what our hearts and minds ought to be thinking. But, regardless of our finite understanding, God is still working all things together for our good. The problem is that we don’t follow Paul’s other advice to receive everything with thanksgiving (1st Timothy 4:4-5).
We tend to look at life and the world through eyes of unbelief and ingratitude and then we wonder why God’s ways don’t make sense to us. We are called to live from faith to faith (Romans 1:17) and to receive all things with gratitude and thanksgiving (1st Timothy 4:4-5; Philippians 4:6; 1st Thessalonians 5:18), trusting that God is accomplishing through those things exactly what He said He would accomplish – our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).
Every week, as I am about to break the bread, I repeat the words that Paul gives to us in 1st Corinthians 11 – “On the night He was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took the bread and, when He had given thanks, He broke it…” Note that Jesus was giving thanks for His sacrifice. He thanked God before He distributed the bread to His disciples.
Communion is sometimes referred to as the Eucharist, a word that simply means “thanksgiving.” When we receive the bread and the wine, we are being given something that we do not deserve, a gracious gift from God; a sacrifice that is being made on our behalf, for us. Our response to that gift is not, “Oh, I don’t deserve it. I haven’t had enough time for introspection!” That’s the point. You don’t deserve the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf.
What should our response be? The same as Jesus’ response; we receive it with gratitude and thanksgiving. We eat this bread and we drink this wine with gratitude, receiving it in faith and gladness of heart.