by Aften Thiessen
Over the last season of my life, I have had the privilege to preach in a number of churches. The prayers of Paul have always been an inspiration (and challenge) to me, and so they have been the basis of a number of my sermons. Paul’s prayer for the church in Colossians has always been a favourite probably because the letter to the Colossians is also a favourite. Paul wrote to this small community of new believers while he was in prison. It was a group of people he did not know personally and a community that was struggling to find the truth of Christ amidst competing philosophies and religious beliefs. Amidst the struggles both in Paul’s personal life and in the life of this community, the theme of thankfulness emerges.
It is so easy to grumble and complain about life; it’s so easy to compare our lives to others – who seem to have it better than us, and social media has made these negative human tendencies even easier! Seriously if you are looking to be thankful or even just content then don’t go to Facebook.
Yet something I have become convinced of as I have journeyed along this road of faith now for 20 years is that thankfulness is one of the true markers of someone who knows God. It just seems to radiate off of some people. I think of my Grandma, who had real hardships in life – living through the great depression, the dust bowl and having to leave the family farm and connections, having a still-born child, and an abusive husband – and yet I don’t remember her ever expressing anything but gratefulness to her Heavenly Father for all the blessings he had given her. She was always singing, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
So much of how we deal with life is based on perspective. Are we going to choose to see the good things or are we going to dwell on the difficult things. For me, I often need help to see the good; the darkness can so easily overwhelm me. Still in the midst of the hardships, the questions, the darkness – we are called again and again to give thanks to God.
Here are just some of the things Paul has to say to the Colossians on the subject:
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. Colossians 2:6-7
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
And 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. Colossians 3:17
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2
We are called to be overflowing with thankfulness, not because God necessarily needs to be constantly thanked, but in thanking we ourselves are forced to see the good things God is doing in our lives. Sometimes life can be genuinely dark, but we are still called to give thanks – even if it’s just thanking God that He is there or thanking God that he has good plans for us that will someday come to fruition – even if that fruition will only take place in the Kingdom to come.
Thankfulness is not just something that springs up naturally for most of us; rather it is something we have to cultivate. We have to work the hard soil of our hearts to soften them. We have to pluck out the weeds and the rocks and the thorns. And then the beautiful flower of thankfulness can be planted – whose root is the good news that we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the Kingdom of the Son.
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.