We had a lovely dinner with good friends tonight. The kind where the food was great and the company even better. We talked the gamut of topics and for a while landed on thankfulness, that familiar platitude we teach our kids to say and sign our messages with. But though the phrase is frequent, the virtue can be hard to come by.
I read somewhere recently of a pastor visiting the US from a developing country, and when pressed to give one constructive criticism of Americans he said, “I think, because you have so much, you complain so much.” Ouch. Our sin is always more obvious to those around us, and we’ve just been called out for entitlement. What are we to do?
Be thankful. I didn’t come up with that solution. You can’t get through many pages of the Bible without running into some variation of the command to be thankful. As my friend pointed out, in just 3 verses in Colossians we are called to be thankful 3 times! God is never redundant; he is kind to make sure we get what we need for life and godliness.
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 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. Col 3:15-17
What are we to be thankful for? Well, everything. Have you ever thanked God that your orange comes in a protective peel until it’s ready to be eaten and then it’s already pre-divided into bite size slices? It’s amazing! Do you thank God for your shoes or for your bed that you spend most of your time in either one or the other? Are you thankful for medicine and science? For grocery stores and pre-butchered chickens?
How about for the freedom to worship with hundreds of fellow believers on Sunday morning? Are you thankful for singing? For the word of Christ to flow out of you so gently that even your admonishments can be sung? It’s hard to be harsh with a thankful heart.
Are you thankful for the Bible? I love the book of Ezekiel. I’m thankful for the poetry and the imagery, and for the intense picture of God’s wrath. (I’ve not always been able to say that.) I’m thankful for the affection for Christ that swells into my heart when after my stomach starts to turn and my jaw clenches and my knees shake because I don’t deserve to escape, I remember that Jesus sweat blood and drank the cup of God’s wrath for me. He was forsaken, he suffered, he died, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God (1 Peter 3).
Therein lies the basis of all thankfulness. As Pastor Jason reminded us Sunday, grace then obedience, grace then obedience. When we draw from the filled well of His grace, we will find ourselves pulling up buckets of thankfulness.