Thanksgiving at its Best
"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: - Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:"
Colossians 1:9 - 14
Someone has said that, "Gratitude is a forgotten attribute" but it is also the most needed attribute. When someone forgets to be thankful for getting something they did not deserve, then they probably have reached a point that will be very difficult from which to return. God knew that the children of Israel would get to the promise land, prosper, get prideful, boastful and then forget who brought them there. He said in Deuteronomy 6:12, "Then beware, lest you forget the LORD, who brought you forth out of the Land Egypt, from the house of bondage." And that is actually what they did over and over - they continued to forget. From one generation to the next, there was a lapse in memory of who God was, what He had done, what He had promised…even more important and painful was that they forgot His presence.
The Apostle Paul brings Thanksgiving back to the focal point in the life of a believer. He included it in the prayer he prayed for the Colossian Christians after hearing of their faith from a fellow servant, Epaphras, who was visiting him in a Roman jail. Though he had not been instrumental in starting that church he had no less love and desire for their maturing development into faithful stewards of Christ. This was the primary focus of his prayer. In verse 10 he says that the reason for his prayers and desires mentioned in verse 9 was so, "They might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing.
Paul let us know that the reason one should be thankful is not so much for what has happened, but for what we are still expecting to happen. Thanksgiving not only looks back on what has been done but what is yet to be done. In other words, "You can't appreciate where you are going until you know where you've been, and you can't appreciate where you've been until you know where you are going." He let the Colossians know that he was so thankful that they had come to faith and were exhibiting all the virtues of faith, love and hope. However, he let them know that they have a place to go as well as a destiny to fulfill.
Thanksgiving at its best has these qualities associated with it. It looks back on the past with expectation for the future.
Paul looked back at the experiences of faith he had heard about from Epaphras. They displayed a faith unto salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith unto salvation included all the attributes of Christ’s divinity and His humanity. It included a love for all the saints in their church. It made no difference between Jews or Gentiles that some had tried to promote as he mentioned in chapter 2. It had the hope of eternal rewards that came along in the message of the Gospel, which meant their salvation was eternally secure. After all, how can you have eternal rewards in heaven if there is a possibility you won't get there? But this love was produced by the Holy Spirit, not mere human will.
It was these qualities that motivated the Apostle Paul to begin a prayer vigil for these saints. This vigil began the first day he heard the report and had continued every day and probably with the promise that it would continue. This prayer was not just about his commitment. The content of his prayer was for the fullness of the knowledge of God's will and the rational of how to perform it. His thanksgiving for their display of faith in the past led him to be even more thankful for what he desired for them in the future.
Prayer for the knowledge of God’s will was for the express purpose that their walk would be worthy of and pleasing to the Lord. In order to do that they would need to maintain three definite qualities and pursuits. The first was to be fruitful in every good work. The second was to be energized with the strength of the revealing glory of God through patience in tribulation and longsuffering with others. And last but not least, they were to be thankful unto God.
Being unthankful, with a spirit of ingratitude always means that one is dissatisfied with God. Even though people will not say it directly, that is exactly where it starts. It starts with what God has done, what He is doing and what He will do with us. It was all brought about through His plan of redemption which he began when we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving at its best is not just for what has been done. Thanksgiving at its best is about grateful expectation of what God has promised He will do.