Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

Thankfulness & Thanksgiving

Colossians 4:2

“David, what do you say?” I would answer, “please” followed quickly by “thank you.”

I was taught to be polite. How about you?

Better yet, how do you do when someone tells you to adopt a certain attitude? By now, you probably know that I don’t do well when I’m told what to do. When someone tells us what our attitudes are to be like, our first reaction is normally resistance.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

However, that is exactly what God’s Word instructs us in as we just read above in Colossians 4:2.

So, what is up with this situation?

My reaction against being told to be thankful is usually a reaction because I don’t feel thankful.

Run a quick mental exercise about other feelings: happy, sad, love, fear. Can you make yourself feel happy or love? Can you stop yourself from feeling sad or angry?

First and foremost, I need to remind myself that when the Bible talks about thankfulness, joy, peace, etc.—it is not talking about my emotional state, or feelings.

Let me just say that again: thankfulness in the Bible is not an emotional state.

When the Bible speaks of thankfulness—it is speaking of a characteristic of a follower of Jesus—a characteristic that people are to see in Jesus’ followers, if they spend any time with us.

Not sure about you, but that is a tall order for me.

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This direction from God, about developing as an aspect of our character thankfulness, is not an after-thought. The Bible is full of verses that tell us to be thankful.

There is that maddening verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 about giving thanks in all circumstances. We know that every good gift comes from God.

Yet here is the deal…really…if you do not know Jesus in your heart…If you have not been cut to the heart with all that he has done not just for the world, but for you…When you look in the mirror and see just your sin…then this “thankfulness stuff”…it becomes a law…a weight that will drag you down.

If we do know Jesus in our hearts, when we look in the mirror we see both our sin and His love. We are in a state, then, to have the potential to be thankful because we are overwhelmed with gratitude for the grace lavished on us by God in Christ.

Please note a key word in the above sentence. When we know Jesus in our hearts, we are in a state where we have the potential to be thankful.

Yet that is only STEP ONE.

What is STEP TWO? A lifetime of following Jesus. I spent a great deal of time talking about training our “Jesus Muscles” – here – and here – and here – and here. Habits and long-term attitudes are what form our character. We either sharpen or dull them every day. Recently, a few of my daily habits have been hard. I am grinding. But I know I need to keep at it.

So, let’s return to this verse and look carefully at it:

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

Prayer is one of those muscles I wrote about. So, continue in it. The next phrase is worth pausing and pondering over—be watchful in prayer—and when you are praying, be thankful.

What am I watching as I pray? My attitude. Indeed, what is my mental posture? Truth be told, there are some days I am pleading for God’s intervention.

It is why I like this formula I use to structure my prayers. Many of you know it – ACTS. It helps me organize how I pray.

I start with Adoration – praising God for who God is. The Psalms are full of adoration.

Then I move to Confession – my sins. In my Anglican tradition we have this phrase we pray – I confess that I have sinned, in thought, word, and deed, known and unknown, by what I have done, and what I have left undone. Memorized prayers need to be from the heart, but I love the scope of this prayer – it acknowledges I sin all the time.

Then I come to telling God how Thankful I am. I start with God loving me and move onto my salvation, my life, my wife, my family…the list goes on.

I then get to asking God for help – my Supplications. (I know that is an old word, but it helps spell an easier to remember word ACTS.)

Maybe this formula isn’t for you. That’s fine. But let me tell you what happens inside me.

By the time I get to the Supplications, my attitude is changing. I am now sitting with God, not immediately asking for his intervention. Now I am sitting with God having reset my perspective.

What’s the result? I am with him in an attitude of thankfulness.

I won’t tell you I walk around moment by moment with this attitude. I am not there yet. I will tell you, though, that I am quicker to recognize when I am acting in a selfish, non-thankful manner.

What are your thoughts about this verse? What are your thoughts about being a person who is thankful?

Colossians Wrap-up: Light Bulb Moments

Colossians Wrap-up: Light Bulb Moments

Colossians 4:18 — Find A Way

Colossians 4:18 — Find A Way