And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, NIV)
May I suggest a new year’s resolution which will do us more good than any number of trips to the gym? It is to resolve to be thankful – a great theme of Paul’s letter to the Colossians.
Do we want to respond rightly to God, who’s saved us? Paul longs for the Colossian Christians to be joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (1:12). What a privilege! Isn’t thanksgiving the only right response? Of course, Christians should be marked out by their thankfulness far more than adherents of other religions, because real Christianity is about what God has done for us, not our religious achievements.
Do we want to be protected from error? The Colossian church was troubled by false teachers, who promised something deeper and better than the gospel Paul had brought them. It’s in the middle of talking about this threat that he encourages them to be rooted and built up in [Christ], strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (2:7). False teaching finds a ready home in the spiritually discontented; a habit of thankfulness reminds us of our privileges and will cool our desires for alternatives.
Do we want to live at peace with each other as a church? Well then, let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful (3:15). Envy and malice, which are so destructive of fellowship, thrive in the ungrateful person.
Do we want to sing meaningfully when we meet? How about singing to God with gratitude in your hearts? (3:16) Many of our songs are expressions of thanksgiving for the blessings of the gospel. Cultivate a thankful heart, and you’ll sing much better!
Do we want a general principle for our conduct? Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (3:16) We should be able to give thanks for all we do. If we make a practice of thankfulness for all our activities, that might just help identify areas of life where we can’t thank God with real integrity for what we were doing.
Do we want to know how to pray? Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (4:2) We tend to be quicker to make our requests than we are to thank our Father for the glorious way He answers.
Do we want to beat anxiety? Now I must stray to Philippians, where Paul says Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6). We often miss the with thanksgiving bit. But it’s vital: as we reflect on what God has done for us, and is doing that puts our problems into perspective.
You may be watching your diet as a new year begins. As well as five a day of fruit and veg, what about trying to list five things to give thanks for each night before you go to sleep. You’d be amazed.