Probably nothing will improve our enjoyment in life or enable us to fulfill our purpose as much as learning to be more GRATEFUL and THANKFUL for all God has given us.
What does the Bible say about this important quality?
Colossians 3:15-17 “15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
THE GREATNESS OF GRATITUDE:
A woman named Michelle was teaching the preschoolers’ class at her church on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day. She decided to playfully introduce the topic of the holiday to the children. “Now let me see,” she said, “Thanksgiving is coming. That’s the day when we think about all the stuff we have, and how we want more things than anybody else has, and how we don’t care about anybody but ourselves, and…” “No!” the kids all began to yell. “No-o-o!” they yelled louder. Then one little guy called out, “That’s not Thanksgiving, Miss Michelle, that’s Christmas!”
Are you a thankful person? Regardless of the challenges we face (and we all have plenty, don’t we?), there are many, many things that all of us who follow God can and should thank Him for.
In fact, gratitude is a constant theme in the Bible, where it is mentioned over 150 times and commanded over 33 times. Let’s consider one passage, Colossians 3:15-17. It is three verses long, and each verse tells us something different about gratitude.
1. GRATITUDE IS OUR CHOICE
Colossians 3:15 “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
This phrase “be thankful” means literally “become thankful!” God has done so much for us that we should seek to become increasingly grateful people.
Notice that gratitude is our choice! We can’t always control our circumstances, but we can always control how we respond to them. No matter what our situation there is always something to rejoice in. In fact, Paul wrote this letter to the Colossians while he was imprisoned! Even in the worst circumstances, we can be thankful that God has not left us, and if we seek Him through Christ we will be with Him forever.
However, we live in a culture that doesn’t always help us to be thankful. Advertisements continually remind us of all that we don’t have. But in truth, we already have so much more than we often realize.
- If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed since 1/3 of the world does not have access to one.
- If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are blessed since a million people will not survive the week.
- If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world.
- If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you have something almost three billion people in the world can only imagine.
- If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than three-fourths of this world.
- If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.
- If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you know that God hears and answers prayer.
In order to be grateful, we must sometimes adjust how we look at things. Maybe you’ve heard the story about the famous inventor Thomas Edison. When he was 67 years old, his huge factory caught fire and in one night more than half of it was destroyed. But the next morning he told his son, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start over again.” I don’t know if Edison had a sincere faith in God, but his approach is a good one for those of us who do.
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Karr
2. GRATITUDE COMES FROM GOD’S WORD
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Commentators differ as to whether chariti in this verse should be translated as “thankfulness” (as in the NIV and here in the NASB translation). or “grace” (as in the KJV), but possibly it is used here to encompass both ideas. As we humbly study God’s word, we see things more as God sees them, we recognize his grace in all things, and we can’t help but be more grateful to Him.
As we study God’s word, we are reassured that He is in control, He loves us, and He has a wonderful plan for us as we seek Him. In fact, He promises to use each and every circumstance for our good if we are following Him closely. Roman’s 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
3. GRATITUDE IS WORSHIP TO GOD
Colossians 3:17 “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.”
We worship God when we face every situation with gratitude towards Him through Jesus and for Jesus. In fact, the Greek word translated here and in verse 15 as “giving thanks” is eucharisto, from which we get the English word “eucharist” that is used for the Lord’s supper. Most believers naturally think of the Lord’s Supper (aka Communion) time as worship, but simply being grateful to God is worship also.
In contrast, unbelievers have an ungrateful heart towards God. They might express gratitude to others, or for some unknown force in the universe, but not to the one true God Himself. Roman 1:21 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.”
ARE YOU A GRATEFUL PERSON?
Consider the example of the ten lepers Jesus healed in Luke 17. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.” (Luke 17:15-16). Jesus healed ten men, but only one returned. Where were the other nine? May we always be like the one who thanked Him.
How can we know if we are grateful? Thanksgiving will invariably overflow out of our hearts and show in the way we live. We will be always “overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:7).
If we are grateful for God’s love, we will follow Him and love others. If we are grateful for His generosity, we will be generous to others. If we are grateful for Divine mercy, we will be merciful to others. If we are grateful for the good news of Jesus, we will share it with others.
The message couldn’t be any clearer, could it? “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
What do you think? I’d love to hear from you.
(c) 2017 Frank Erb