Monday, February 23, 2009

Abounding with Thanksgiving

6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

A couple weeks ago we learned that not only is our walk with Christ to be conducted by faith but it is to be conducted by faith in a specific person. Faith in itself is no virtue. For faith to be virtuous it must join one to Christ; for trust in any other is not virtue but idolatry.

Today we are reminded of the attitude which our link with Christ ought to engender in our lives. Understanding the grace of our Lord Jesus – that though He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men; that being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross; and that, what’s more, He has arisen from the dead so that we too might rise to newness of life – ought to cause us to “abound”, Paul tells us, in the faith with thanksgiving. Of all people, Paul insists, we should be the most thankful, the most joyful, the most riotously happy.

But instead of being known for exuberant bubbly thankfulness, we Christians are more often known for our restrictions, our uptightness, our angst. Paul calls us to something different – he calls us to thankfulness.

Thankfulness for what? There’s the rub. We of course find it easy to be thankful in prosperity, to be thankful for the blessings that come into our lives, to be thankful for the good news that God has forgiven us in Christ. But Paul calls us to be thankful in all things – and in so doing reminds us that nothing is not a blessing for us as the people of God.

Paul exhorts us in Ephesians to be “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” He excludes no times – we are always to give thanks. When the car starts right away in the morning, when the car won’t start at all; when there’s six inches of snow on the ground, when it fails to snow at all; when we’re feeling robust and well, when we have the stomach flu; when work is going well, when we have trouble with employees; when our children obey, when they disobey. We are always to give thanks. Our demeanor should be one of grateful acknowledgment of the wisdom of our Father – not just when it appears wise to us but when it is in fact wise, namely, always.

But not only are we always to give thanks, we are also go give thanks for all things. All things, we ask? Surely Paul didn’t mean to say it quite that way. But I’m afraid he did. For all things that enter our lives come from the hand of our loving Father who has orchestrated them for our good and for His glory. Thanking Him – for the kind and the hard providences – is the key to glorifying him in the midst of both. And this, to some extent, explains why we are to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” – for he too gave thanks to God while suffering. So do we thank the Father for the hard providences, the failure of the crops, the loss of our job, the rebellion of a child, the loneliness of singleness, the frustration of working at a job we don’t enjoy? According to Paul we ought to. Why? Because God is the one who has brought this into our lives for a very good, distinct, and just reason. Therefore, we are to abound in thanksgiving.

And so, reminded that rather than abound in thanksgiving we frequently complain and grumble, let us kneel and confess that we are an unthankful people.