"Abounding with Thanksgiving" - Colossians 2:7b
These last few months have been challenging. We have had to go to online ministry with little face-to-face contact with our folks. Yes, we have learned some valuable skills and discovered neat tools, but we still suffer from missing our people. If you add to that the health, political, and social concerns that have engrossed our nation and world in the last three months, it can honestly get us down. In addition to these issues, we still deal with the regular problems that face the church in a typical spring.
So when I preached last Sunday on Colossians 2:6-7, I wondered how does this "abounding with thanksgiving" fit into our present world. If we are not careful, we can read it as just a spiritual add-on, as if the apostle just threw that in for good measure. We can pass over this instead of seeing the value it has for us in the present. When you study this passage, you know that it is not an add-on but is an integral part of the apostle's argument. Herbert Carson speaks to this in his commentary:
"Thus Paul desires that they might be outstanding in their grasp and application of the faith. But lest such spiritual excellence should bring the snare of self-praise in its train he introduces a typically Pauline note of thanksgiving. Negatively this lifts a man's thoughts from himself, for true thanksgiving is begotten in humility. Positively it directs a man's heart towards God, from whom all his growth is derived, and to whom, therefore, praise and glory should alone be given." —Herbert M. Carson (Tyndale New Testament Commentary Colossians and Philemon.) pg 61.
Thanksgiving is an antidote to spiritual pride. If we receive Jesus because of nothing in us, we will continue in him by the same grace and mercy. Jesus is the root of our faith. Jesus needs to be the root of our thanksgiving in both good and bad times. In good times, it is so that we do not think we are doing it ourselves. Abounding in thanksgiving keeps us looking back to Jesus and acknowledging His work in our life. In bad times, it reminds us that he has not forgotten or left us. He is working in us and through us. It puts our circumstances and situations into a gospel and eternal perspective. We can abound in thanksgiving because we can trust that God is working all things for his glory and our good.
How can we be thankful in the world today? I am thankful that we have been able to live-stream on Youtube, use Facebook Live, and meet thru Zoom. Could you imagine how bad the last three months would have been without these abilities?
I am thankful for the content that has been put out by ordinary gospel ministers. It was a significant loss to the church when faithful ministers were ejected from their pulpits in 1662. But these ministers produced content that still blesses us today. Their sufferings led to our blessings. How might God bless many people as ministers have taken their teaching online? May God use it to bring revival to His church and salvation to the lost.
I am thankful to know that God is in control. "He is working all things" is not a trite bumper-sticker theology. It is a promise that we can hold onto and be thankful for even in bad times. God is working. We wish that God would draw everything with straight lines and clear destinations, but God does not. Instead, he calls us to have faith, faith in the face of pestilence, unrest, and even persecution. He calls us to have a faith that is rooted in Jesus and that abounds in thanksgiving. Think about the words of the old hymn:
Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings, see what God has done!
When was the last time you sat down and just counted your blessings and gave thanks to God? How vital this is for us! If we are going to keep in a right orientation with God and this world, then we need to be abounding with thanksgiving to offset the trials and tribulations of this world! Thanksgiving keeps us looking back to the root of our faith -- Christ Jesus the Lord.