Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV) So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
Thanksgiving is this week. No really, it is in just four days. How did it get here so fast? I feel the panting of the racehorse of stress and anxiety beneath me. Panting hard getting ready for the pistol shot and the gate to fall. The holidays are here…Lord help us. We also have other excitement in our family. Our son is now engaged. There is a wedding upcoming. Our daughter is expecting our first grandchild at the beginning of the New Year. Office parties some to plan others to attend. Church related activities. List making, shopping, and gift giving. I can feel the pull and stretch already.
The stores have all the fall seasonal merchandise on clearance. Rifling through a pile of placemats – I find one that says, “Give Thanks”. I pause for a moment. Looking at all the plates, platters and wall signs also marked down – it is written on many of the items. All of them hidden away on a clearance aisle. While they have been replaced with Christmas trees, ornaments, gift wrap and the like. A celebration is coming. The newborn King has arrived. Salvation is introduced to the world. Grace ready to overflow to all mankind. Hope restored for a lost world and people shrouded in darkness. We have much to be thankful for and so little of it is in this store. Hidden deep in our heart where His Spirit lives there is quiet voice reminding me – “Give Thanks. Don’t forget to be thankful. You have it all right here in Me.”
Overflowing thankfulness is not a human quality but a spiritual gift born of a made up mind and hopeful heart. To be thankful in every situation is our goal but not always the outcome. “So then” as an introduction to this passage points to a result. This has happened so then this is the result. Paul indicates that the church has shown great discipline and firm faith in Christ so then…the result is to continue to live life rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith and overflowing with thankfulness. I wonder if our hearts focus solely on living the life prescribed by the Word and continually attempting to sow seeds of faith for prosperity in all things, but we struggle with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a result of satisfaction and contentment. To be overflowing with thanksgiving means to live in a constant state so that it continually multiplies and cannot be contained. The result of living in Christ and firm steadfast faith should be thanksgiving. Are you thankful today?
Colossians 4:2 reminds us to devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful for the return of Christ and to be thankful. I wonder if our prayer life is stagnant and witnessing weak because we have forgotten to give thanks. Discipline is not only a spiritual trait but can be from natural habits. Religion sets forth a standard doctrine. People who comply with the demands of the doctrine exhibit discipline but it doesn’t mean they have a relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship is formed of a different kind of discipline that changes our character and identity. Two become one making it a whole different creation. Christ promised to make us new creations. This is not possible until our attitude and actions are changed by His Word, Way and Will for us. We don’t make that change but submit to His Discipline as a disciple of Christ. Without a heart experience, an encounter with Jesus is a chance meeting. It is our heart, desires and passions that He is after to make our life fulfilled and complete. Apart from the Lord this is not possible and therefore overflowing thanksgiving the same.
Colossians 3:15 (NIV) Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
“And be thankful.” This mandate comes after a long list of characteristics of God’s chosen people. We are holy and dearly loved to be clothed in compassion, kindness, tenderness, gentleness and patience. To bear burdens together and to be forgiving. With all these attitudes and actions – we are to do them in love. Live in peace with Christ and others. Then the statement comes almost like an add-on “And be thankful.” It’s almost as if it says, “You must do all these things and like it.” The giving of our life to Christ does not come with challenges and struggles along the way. We must wrestle our flesh for control of our mind, will and emotions in order to surrender our heart and mind to the Lord. We can do all of the conditions listed above but without thankfulness – is it really a heart change or merely a change in habits?
In Ezra 3, the builders had laid the foundation of the Temple. The reconstruction process was finally showing some results. They stopped to have a praise break. “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; His Love toward Israel endures forever.’” It goes on to say that many people did not share the same enthusiasm and joy. There were older priests, Levites, and family leaders who had seen the former temple that wept with sorrow. Change is hard. It is difficult to endure. As the Lord prepares His Church for eternity, it requires transformation which is more than just a habitual change or altering of appearance. He is molding and shaping a Body of People to fit together in unison and harmonious perfection. The foundation of our life is faith in Jesus Christ. Though all engaged in a personal process, it is with one purpose. Where are you today in the restoration and renewal process of Christ? Is it hard to be thankful because life is just too hard? Are you the one who is celebrating all the good things going on around you? Are you the one who weeps in sorrow when the praise team starts singing longing for the faith, love and hope that you are still trying to find?
Hebrews 12:28-29 (NIV) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Therefore…the world is certainly shaken. Love is cold. Sin rampant. It is a polluted place and perverted culture all around us. As “temporary residents” this is not our home or forever. Sometimes in the midst of our natural life our supernatural destination grows cloudy and dim. We forget that the details of our life are promised good outcomes. (Romans 8:28) We forget that Jesus will never leave us or that His Spirit is alive and well given as our helper. Burdened and pressured by the temptations and trials of life the unseen reality of our faith becomes elusive. Not only that tradition seldom gives easily to transformation, God is doing something new in the churches around the world. New vitality is rising up from ashes, as the Lord shakes Heaven and earth once more. Since we are part of the Kingdom of God and His Chosen People, we have confident hope that no matter what happens, our future is secure. For this reason alone, the Word of God says, “Let us be thankful.”
Give thanks. I don’t know the trials you are going through or the temptation you are facing, but for a few moments, just thank God for His Love, His Son, His Spirit, His Salvation, His Kingdom, and continue to thank Him for every single thing that is good in your life. We all have something to be grateful for especially if America is our home. The enemy wants to put out our passion and desire for the Lord by making us overly busy, consumed with lesser things, bound up in lies, falling into temptation, caught up in religion, hanging on to tradition, and so many complications. It is up to us to enter His Gates with Thanksgiving and His Courts not one day but every day if our intent is to be one with Christ. I must make the personal choice to begin each day with a grateful heart even when dissatisfied, discouraged or overwhelmed. It may begin as a habit but will lead to personal transformation. Peace with God removes all doubt and fear becomes love dispels them. God is good. He is good to us. He will do exactly what He promised that He would do. Trust produces thankfulness before the thing for which we asked, prayed and believed ever happens. It is the foundation of faith like mortar in its bricks. Don’t get caught in the holidays but being changed by His Holiness. The Lord longs to live in partnership with you. He desires to carry those burdens and teach you to live apart from them. (Matthew 11) He is the Gift that keeps on giving. Give thanks today for the greatest gift of all.
Psalm 100 (NIV) Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.