What difference does the consistent presence of gratitude and thankfulness have in our lives? I’ve been thinking of that lately as a passage I have been working at memorizing (Colossians 3:1-17) gives a recurring call to gratitude. I might be wrong, but I think many of us, if asked whether we are grateful or thankful people would say “yes”, “I am a thankful person”. We certainly would not want to admit in any way to being ungrateful grouches! Let me encourage you, as the formal holiday (holy days) season approaches, to ask God for the gift and discipline of a grateful heart. I believe we can choose to be thankful, but as with all godly dispositions, I also think there is a “gift” element of experiencing gratitude. Back t Colossians. In verse 1-4 of chapter 3 we see this beautiful call/reminder of where our true life really lies. Our life is not only “in” Jesus, but it is Jesus. He is our life (vs.4)! When we live out of Him and with Him, we “take off” certain dispositions of our earthly lives – things like sexual immorality . . . (vs.5), anger, rage, slander (v.8), etc. And, because we are “clothed” with the righteousness of Jesus Himself, we learn to “put” on certain things like compassion, kindness, humility, etc. (vs.12). As Jesus Himself clothes us with these virtues, we are told in verse 15 to “be thankful”. In the next verse we are called to sing with “gratitude” in our hearts (v.16). Then, in verse 17 we are told “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Three times in three compact verses, we are called to a life of thankfulness/gratitude. How often I need reminded of this! Perhaps like you, I would never want to consider myself an ungrateful person, but I often catch myself stressed out by the demands of life, and combined with my own inadequacies, start to get a bit gloomy. I complain. At least I complain inwardly. No one wants to hear another person’s complaints anyway, so, we learn to take these things “inside”! I don’t know about you, but I never plan on such an unthankful disposition. I suspect there are very few of us reading this blog that has ever woke up in the morning thinking something like, “Now, how can I express a lack of gratitude today?! Or, worse yet, how can I nurture a sense of entitlement in my heart today, so, if what I feel entitled to does not happen, I can nurse a grudge the rest of the day? NO! No one I know does that. I certainly don’t. So, why do we find ourselves ungrateful? And, why does Paul have to remind his readers in Colossians 3:15-17 three times, to be thankful? I think at least one key to answering this question and then to start experiencing a thankful heart, can be found at the beginning of the chapter. Let me suggest a few thoughts that can help us all to nurture and then enjoy thankful hearts.
- Remind yourself of where LIFE is to be found. The gratitude we are to have in our hearts (v.16) comes more easily when our hearts are set on Christ (v.1). Remember, He is our life. He has come that we may have life and have it to the full (John 10:10; 14:6). When I look for the circumstances of “life” (small “l”) to give me the conditions that will make up my happiness/thankfulness, this is never a good idea. Gratitude comes, not by pursuing or wishing for the favorable conditions that will add to my thankfulness. No, gratitude comes when my heart and mind is set on Jesus who is my Life (Big “L”).
- Besides recognizing Jesus, Himself is our Life, another thing that helps add to our sense of thankfulness/gratitude is remembering we are already holy and dearly loved (v.12). If Jesus is our Life, we are already set apart/chosen/holy in His sight. Oh, the strivings that cease when I remember that. The world may reject me. The circumstances of life may assault us and try to steal our joy. But if we are in Jesus, clothed with Him, nothing, absolutely nothing can then steal our joy. When I remember I am dearly loved and forgiven, I can let go of my bitterness, anger, rage, slander, etc. (v.8) and enjoy a life of gratitude for receiving so much grace.
- Finally, our giving thanks to God the Father (v.17), is not done by the sheer force of our will as we tell ourselves to “be thankful”. Good luck with that! Our willpower will only get us so far. No, our giving thanks is done, again, through Him. I take that to mean, among other things, that my “sanctification”, my being set apart to belong to Him, is only done in union with Him Who is my sanctification (I Cor. 1:30), including a life set apart for gratitude. All that to say, enjoy Him and the love He has for you. Doing that, you will not have to exert yourself to be thankful. It will come as a fruit of coming to God the Father through Him.
As the holidays approach may the gift of gratitude fill with joy as you walk with and enjoy our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He has made us glad.