I love the holidays; but in my family, the best holiday celebration is Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; after all, we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus himself! But when it comes to which family gathering I enjoy more, Thanksgiving takes the prize. The food is better, the day is less stressful, and the entire holiday is less expensive.
If you read every verse in the Bible containing the words “thanks”, “thanksgiving”, or “gratitude”, you’d be reading for quite some time. This theme is all over the pages of Scripture, seen in both reminders to thank God for what he’s done, and in warnings about what can happen when sinners forget how much God’s given us to be thankful for.
But as I read this morning, I came across Colossians 3:12-17. The Apostle Paul writes in VS. 12-15:
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
In the first part of the chapter, Paul reminds the believers of who they are in Christ: new creations. The old person has died, and the new person has been raised. But we as believers in Jesus haven’t just been given a new title, or even a new status; we’ve also been called to pursue a new life. That includes “putting to death” the attitudes and actions that once defined us, and separated us from God. This is true for every believer in Jesus, regardless of nationality, prior religious practice (or lack thereof), or socioeconomic standing.
But in addition to putting the old ways to death, Paul tells us “put on” the new ways of life. He gives a list of identifying markers of someone who’s been raised to new life in Christ – including thankfulness. As he continues in VS. 16-17, this trait gets even more attention:
“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. 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.”
Simply put: those who have been “raised with Christ” have much to be thankful for; in fact, they have more to be thankful for than anyone who hasn’t been “raised with Christ”. In the big scheme of eternity, the poor, oppressed, suffering believer has more to be thankful for than the rich, powerful, prospering non-believer. Why? Because as Paul says earlier in the Chapter:
“When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)
As believers in Jesus, we have been given the greatest gift God could ever offer sinners: resurrection, and eternity in his glorious presence. We didn’t deserve it, we didn’t earn it, and we could never repay it; and yet, it is ours. It’s no wonder, then, that Paul stresses thankfulness as one of the identifying markers of those raised to new life in Christ.
If your family is like mine, you may do the classic, somewhat uncomfortable “go around the table, and name one thing you’re thankful for” exercise after you’ve eaten your turkey. There’s more than one right answer, of course; God has given us countless good gifts in this life. However, don’t lose sight of the fact that in the big scheme of eternity, we are to be most thankful for our new life in Christ; that we have “been raised” with him. Even when it appears that you have very little to be thankful for compared to those around you, nobody can take this gift away from you. Jesus lived, died, and lived again, in order that we who live for ourselves, might die to ourselves – and live with God forever.
Let your thankfulness for this glorious gift permeate everything you do – in word and deed.