"God be merciful to us & bless us, & cause His face to shine upon us.
That Your way may be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations.
Let the peoples praise You, O God; Let all the peoples praise You.
Oh, let the nations be glad & sing for joy!"
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Thanksgiving People (Colossians).
(Versions of this was presented at Heritage Presbyterian Church on 27 November 2016; and to the Capitol Forum on 30 November 2016)
John Kralik wrote a book,
“A Simple Act of Gratitude,” where he recounts some of his story. Here was a
guy whose life was a disaster: miserable, broke, overweight, on his second
divorce, living in a rundown apartment with no air conditioning. He was an
attorney, but couldn’t pay his employees their Christmas bonuses because his
clients weren’t paying their bills on time or weren’t paying them at all. But
one New Year’s day, Kralik had a moment of enlightenment; He’d start finding a
reason to be thankful and grateful every single day, and would write one thank
you note to someone each day of the year. Things have since turned around for
Kralik, and he observes, “Gratitude presses outwards and that creates good
feelings in the universe. A lot of that comes back to you eventually.” I’m not
recommending the book, as much as I am the concept that our being a
thanksgiving people is a biblical and beautiful thing.
Thanksgiving in Prayer (Colossians 1.3, 12, and 4.2): As Paul undertakes to write
this letter, he shows us his own heart, since he immediately goes to
thanksgiving: “We always thank God, the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (1.3). It was a
regular part of his praying to think of reasons for gratitude with regard to
these Christians he’d likely never met but only heard of. We know this is not a
throwaway sentiment because in each chapter he comes back to thanksgiving.
So, starting in v.9, we
have a sample of how he remembers them in prayer with thanksgiving: “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking
that…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance
of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and
transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins” (1.12-14). He doesn’t likely know these folks
personally, but he can’t help but be grateful – and here his thanksgiving is
for what God has done for them. “The kinds of things for which Paul thanks God
are the kinds of things for which Paul asks…The frequency with which he links
his thanksgiving for signs of grace in the lives of this or that group of
believers, with his petitions for more signs of grace in the lives of the same
believers, cannot be accidental” (D.A. Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Renewal,”
99-100). Paul prays for these disciples to grow fuller in Christ’s and the
Father’s resources, and gives thanks for it happening.
Finally, as Paul begins
to wind down his letter he comes back to this theme and pattern and invites the
Colossian disciples to join with him in thanksgiving in prayer: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being
watchful in it with thanksgiving” (4.2). Like a hunter on a deer stand, or
a referee in a ball game, we’re to be “watchful” in our prayers with the goal of
gratitude! Thanksgiving in prayer!
Thanksgiving in Life (Colossians 2.6-7; 3.17): Next Paul moves, in the second
chapter, to encourage them to a deeper, fuller, more firmly-grounded life in
Christ, and watch how thanksgiving crops up: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were
taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (2.6-7). The pattern of our Christian
walk is all wrapped up in gratitude: abounding in the rootedness, the
fruit-bearing, the Faith, the lived-out-life of reliance on Christ with
thanksgiving! Our life is thanksgiving (guilt à grace à gratitude). 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18. Yes, our lives are thanksgiving: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”
(3.17). Doing – in word or deed – doing it all in the name of, for the honor
of, the Lord Jesus, and merging with that is “giving thanks” to the Father
through the Jesus our lives are lived in honor of.
How fitting, then, to be
known as a thanksgiving people. Not grateful to nothingness and nobody but
grateful to God who has liberated us, adopted us, forgiveness us, claimed us,
commissioned us. Grateful to Christ through whom we have all of these gems and
godsends. Grateful at all times and in all places, but not – like Kalik – expecting
it will come back to us, but doing it because, simply, it’s good and right and
faith-filled. And that thanksgiving, then, becomes part of our fiber and
formation; and becomes felt and smelt all around us, and becomes an integral part
of our witness of the Faithful Lord. “Oh
give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the
peoples!...Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is
good; for his steadfast love endures forever” (1 Chronicles 16.8 and 34)!
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