I want to keep this brief, as I know holiday weekends can be busy. This isn't a "full meal," but an "appetizer," if you will, simply introducing the practice of thanksgiving that is made so explicit in Scripture. But I think the idea of giving thanks is far too important to overlook on a holiday like we celebrated this week. While we should always give thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18), a holiday such as "Thanksgiving" should give us ample opportunity to peel back the layers of life's busyness, and meditate on Christ, the One who is the most-deserving recipient of our thanks.
The book of Colossians makes this especially clear. In three different sections of the letter, Paul reminds his readers to "give thanks." As Paul builds a right view of the person and work of Christ, he is all the while reminding his readers to be thankful and to praise God for the saving and sanctifying work of Jesus.
The first section is Colossians 1:11-12. The NLT translates it like this: "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light" (emphasis added). Christian, how often do we thank God the Father for the fact that He has brought us into His flock? He has made us a part of the people of God! Even if we don't understand the profound mysteries associated with that, we can give thanks that He has adopted us into His family, given us a heritage of faith that is much bigger than each of us individually and has given us an eternal seat at His table. This, of course, is only made possible because of the cross of Christ. Only through the death and resurrection of Jesus can we become a part of God's family!
The second section is Colossians 2:6-7. The ESV translates it like this: "Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (emphasis added). God, through Christ, has made us a part of His people. And that should lead to thanksgiving. And as we continue to "walk in [Christ]," we should continue to "[abound] in thanksgiving." Part of our spiritual growth is marked by our ability to give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances. As we grow in our love for Jesus, we will grow in our desire to praise Him in thanksgiving.
The third section is Colossians 3:15-17. The ESV translates it like this: "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" (emphasis added). In other words, we are to be thankful for the church and all the gifts that God gives through her! Ask yourself these questions: Are you thankful for the "body" to which you belong, the Church? Are you thankful for the teaching and singing of God's Word? Are you thankful for the serving of one another that takes place in the Church? According to Colossians 3, these are all reasons why we should give thanks unto God!
As we celebrate with family and friends this holiday season, may we always keep the work Christ has done, is doing, and is going to do in our hearts and minds. I pray that we would be thankful for the cross of Christ, the spiritual growth that happens as we walk in Him, and for the Church which is meant to build us up for the sake of Christ.