Being Thankful

9 And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11 May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:9-14)

As we have looked at Paul’s prayer for his fellow Christians and contemplated our own need to be prayed for and to pray for others, I hope you have been able to apply some of these truths to your life. I hope your prayer life for others and for yourself has been bolstered and become more rich than perhaps what it has been in the past. I hope we are all growing in this matter of prayer, prayer that brings us into the presence of God, into a deeper fellowship of dependence on Him!

Today from verses 12-14, Paul leads us to consider thanksgiving. He doesn’t however just say, “Be thankful,” and go on. He instead reminds us of some things to be thankful for through his prayer. 

One of the greatest ways to become fixated on God and to really live as Christ in our all is to be continually thankful in His presence. Think about it, if we are not living lives of thanksgiving before Him then we may think all that we have is from our own effort or even all that we are is from our own goodness.

Another reason we may not be thankful could be that we are living contrary to His ways, going after things that we know are clearly sinful. If we are living that way then we won’t go on in a state of thanksgiving to Him. We aren’t going to thank Him for our sinful gain, to give Him thanks for those things would be to attribute evil to Him. In other words, we wouldn’t thank God for the clearly sinful act we just participated in. 

Being genuinely thankful to the Lord is to acknowledge His hand of goodness in our lives, to know those things come from Him, and then to express our gratitude through prayer.

Being thankful through prayer keeps us going to God and also keeps us from running from Him.

One of the greatest sins perhaps is that of failing to be thankful to the Lord.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21)

Failing to give thanks to God, as Paul speaks of in Romans 1, leads to minds that become futile and hearts that become dark, perhaps dark to the point of no longer recognizing God’s work and His character, a darkness that leads to self-focused, “go our own way” living. Not giving thanks leads to living a life as if there is no God, no Savior, no spiritual gift of eternal life. Not giving thanks is to forget about God’s work of redemption, His plan of rescue, His desire to adopt children out of this world and into His glorious kingdom. To not be thankful is to begin to train our minds to look at the world apart from Him, to adopt thinking that agrees with the so-called atheist who loudly proclaims, “There is no God.” Or maybe to say there is a God, but He is no longer who He claims to be, but is a god of our own creation.

Being thankful helps to keep us in the light, in God’s light, it brings our minds back into clear focus of who this amazing God is that we serve and of His continual, unrelenting desire to shower His kindness on us, not just now but forever. We are to approach Him with thanksgiving!

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
5 For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

What are you thankful for? How is your life different as a result of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection? What is in your future that would not be in your future except that God has chosen you out of this world and saved you? We have much to be thankful for!

Let’s see some ways that Paul helps us with thanksgiving, with living lives of thanksgiving.

12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14)

Paul gives us reason to be thankful. He does so with some of the richest of truths. In fact, as we look at them we should realize that all other things for which we can be thankful flow from what Paul gives us here.

The fruitful Christian life will include thanksgiving to God. For the Colossians and for us, giving thanks is a confession that what we have received is a gift from God. What God gives us in life, they are gifts. This would be a strong reminder to them because what was happening in their church was that people were teaching all kinds of legalistic rules and patterns that must be followed in order to have true spiritual fulfillment. For instance…

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:16-23)

What was happening was that a human-conceived culture was being adopted, really a religion that called itself Christian but included a lot of regulations that were not of God, were not given by God as protection for us or to lead us to a deeper walk with Him. They were regulations and rules that were being pressed upon the people because someone thought they would be helpful, I guess. Many of them may have been adopted in order to control others, or maybe out of fear.

It is not as though God does not care about what we do or what we see or what we handle. He cares about every area of our life, both thought life and physical activity. He obviously does, because much of the New Testament has been given to help us understand His desired will for us, and His will includes many imperatives or commands. Those are the ones we are to obey and should be clearly reflected in our lives for our good and His glory. What Paul is speaking against here is extra-biblical or non-biblical rules that are humanly contrived. And to go a step further, human rules, not biblical ones, that were presented in such a way as to say, “If you don’t follow these, you are not in God’s favor, nor do you belong to Him.” People were simply making things up that were not of God.

Let me be careful here. God gives us commands. He gives us commands that lead us to live holy for Him. He also, as we discussed last week from verse 11, gives us strength to obey His commands. We obey because we love Him and He loves us. Commands are good, that is biblical commands are good, they reflect our Savior’s desires and character, and we are here to live for Him. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” We, as God’s adopted children, are here to live for Him, and we do so by living out His word, His commands.

The problem with commands is when they are not from God. The Roman Catholic church is known for churning out new commands, commands that are humanly conceived and not biblical. Those commands have been used to control people. Or how about when a Muslim cleric issues an edict. A rule or law that says followers must do this or do that. Recently such an edict was issued in Iraq that young daughters be given to soldiers of a terrorist organization to be used for their pleasure. The cleric said this is God’s will. It is not God’s will, it is not the supreme God’s will. God’s will is clear in His Word, and that is not in it. 

The Colossians were being fed false teaching, and included in the false teaching were human conditions on living that were being passed off as being God’s will. It was a lie, it was not true.

But the pressure was great, the pressure came in the form of, “You do this and God will favor you.” And who doesn’t want God to favor them? So much confusion set in.

But aren’t you glad that God’s favor rests on us, not because of our works, but based on His love for us and His love and acceptance of His Son? God’s favor is not on us because we live out His biblically given rules or because we live by some false teacher’s rules. He favors us because He brought us into His family and chose to favor us, not because of anything we have done or will do.

This is the point. God has qualified us to be in His family. God has done what is necessary to make us His. It was His work that justified us and has cleansed us. It was His work. We don’t qualify ourselves.

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:12)

What are we qualified for? We are qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.

Have any of you received an inheritance from a family member? I know some of you may be saying, “Well, not yet, but I hope to!” You may think, “Come on mom and dad, quit spending all that money so it can be mine some day!” My grandfather passed away several years ago, and he left me some of the things he prized most. He left me all his tools, and he left me a cabinet with drawers that were packed full with bolts, nuts, screws, and other types of hardware. He never threw anything away without first disassembling it and keeping all its hardware components in this cabinet. For like seventy years he did this! He used to brag to me, saying, “Lyndon, I’ve never had to buy a screw or a nut or a bolt of any kind.” That was a big deal to him! He was proud of that cabinet full of stuff, and he passed that on to me, that was my inheritance.

Now, what did I do to earn that inheritance? The answer: nothing. I was born as his grandson, of no effort of my own. I was the only boy in his family, and I had nothing to do with that. I outlived him, and that wasn’t my doing or choice. I didn’t earn the gift of his inheritance.

So it is with God. We will share in a glorious inheritance with the other saints who have gone before us. We will be given eternal life in paradise with Christ. We will obtain a new body, peace, joy unspeakable, pain-free living, sinlessness. All of that awaits us as His children.

Paul reminds us that we are to be thankful to God for our sure inheritance. And you know, we can do this all the time. As we stroll on a beach in the Bahamas on a perfect vacation, or while experiencing grief that seems unbearable and unending. Either way, we can thank God for our soon to be realized inheritance, because it is coming and it will overshadow both our good times and our difficult times here on earth.

We may often say things like, “How can I be thankful in this? What is there for me to be thankful for right now?” Our answer can at least in part be, “I can be thankful for the glorious inheritance that is mine, will be mine soon in Christ.” And you know, perhaps in our worst and darkest moments we will be the most grateful and thankful for what is to come. Isn’t that right?

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

Paul continues to drive home for us this place of thanksgiving in our lives. Again, it was God’s work that rescued us, delivered us from a dark and evil domain and lifted us to His kingdom, from darkness to light, from a realm of evil that was bent on delivering us to Satan and hell, to the arms of a loving God and Savior. And it is in our Savior that we have been redeemed, meaning purchased by God and forgiven of our sins. We were delivered from slavery to sin because Christ gave His life as a ransom, a ransom for us. He paid the price so we don’t have to.

If Christ had not come and saved us, I really don’t know what there would be to be thankful for. All of our thanksgiving flows from our Savior and His work done for us, for the Father’s gracious act of directing His love to us. All of our thanksgiving is rooted in His work done for us.

Paul has led us to pray for each other, and even showed us how we can pray for ourselves. If you don’t know how to pray, pray as he did. So as we finish up this brief section from Colossians 1:9-14, let me one more time sum up for us how he prayed, how we can pray…

We can pray constantly
We can pray for a filling of the knowledge of God’s will
We can pray for all spiritual wisdom and understanding
We can pray for a life lived worthy of the Lord
We can pray for a live lived pleasing to God
We can pray for the bearing of good fruit through good works
We can pray for strength from God
We can pray for endurance, patience, and joy
We can thank God for an inheritance
We can recall past lostness and a glorious new place in His kingdom
We can be thankful for redemption and the forgiveness of sin

Over the next few weeks we will move forward in this book to a new section which will be chapter 1, verses 15-20. We move from a prayer prayed by Paul on behalf of the Christians in Colossae to a short description of the person of Jesus Christ. Through the years as I have read Colossians, it has been in these verses where I have paused most often and meditated in great wonder over our Savior Jesus Christ. They are also a set of verses that I’ve always thought I could never preach through. They have seemed too lofty for me to approach and study too deeply. They seem to stand on their own, and they do when it comes to descriptions of Christ. They raise Christ rightfully in my mind to a height of preeminence in the world, in the universe. These verses seem to shout to me what the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 139:6 when he said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

If you struggle with thinking of the Lord Jesus Christ as merely a nice guy who had some good things to say, or if you are tempted to see Him as irrelevant to a modern world and culture, or if you simply don’t consider Him much at all in your thoughts, then I want to encourage you to do two things. First to read Colossians 1:15-20 daily for the next few weeks, and second to prayerfully come to our Sunday worship time prepared for the Spirit of God to show you the real Jesus Christ. And one more thing, please pray that the Lord will strengthen me and enlighten me in my study as we approach such wonderful things together as a church!

I want to close by reading the verses that we will begin together next week…

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)