Taking Care of a Grateful Faith

An excerpt on sanctification and conceit from theologian Cornelius Plantinga’s new book, Gratitude: Why Giving Thanks Is the Key to Our Well-Being.

As children, we are taught to take care of our pets, take care of our room, take care of our toys. A parent’s voice is always in our head: Don’t leave your toys out in the rain. Don’t forget to walk the dog. Don’t leave stuff all over your room.

As adults, we learn to care for our families, care for our friends, care for members of our church who need help. The more valuable the goods, the better the care.

So it is with our Christian faith. The work of the Holy Spirit ties us to Jesus Christ from God’s side of the bond. From our side, it’s faith.

Like so much of value in the Christian life, faith is both God’s gift and our calling. There’s no doubt it’s a gift. Jesus taught that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). But faith is also our calling. Jesus says so with a simple imperative: “Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

Every Christian comes to know that this imperative is bigger than we are. We know the drag of doubt and sloth. We know what it’s like to be spiritually depressed—to find the universe emptied of God and our lives emptied of joy. We know how the presence of advanced evil in the world can taint our trust in God’s providence.

So we pray for God to rejuvenate us. We practice spiritual disciplines that centuries of Christian saints have told us will help. We pray when we don’t feel like it. We go on spiritual retreat because we know we should. We meditate on God’s Word, hoping for a ray of light. We take long, slow walks through cemeteries, treading six feet above well-dressed skeletons while soberly reflecting on how—if there is no God and no eternal …

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