And be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, NIV)
In America it is Thanksgiving weekend. The whole nation takes the final Thursday of November as a day of “Thanksgiving and praise to our beneficient Father who dwelleth in the heavens”, as Abraham Lincoln put it. What a wonderfully wholesome tradition!
Have you seen how much there is about thankfulness in the Bible? For instance, it’s one of the main things the Apostle Paul stresses in his letter to the Christians at Colossae:
He practises it himself: We always thank God… when we pray for you (Col 1:3).
He longs to see it in others; one of the outcomes of his prayer for them is that they may be giving joyful thanks to the Father for His amazing rescue of them (1:12). It is at the heart of personal godliness.
He sees it as vital to continuing as a Christian: So then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (2:6-7). Thankfulness will of course be a wonderful antidote to the grumbling which can so damage our souls.
He includes it as a secret of unity in a fellowship: 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) Thanking God for one another and for all He’s given us builds unity and fellowship.
He longs for it to be an attitude that pervades all our lives: in our singing (3:16) and in everything else: And 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. (3:17)
Do we need to go on learning this? We live in an age where we’re not terribly good at thanking each other (the “thank you letter” is a rarity, though quite wonderful when it comes) and this makes me wonder whether we are good at being thankful to God.
Actually, thanksgiving isn’t just an American tradition. This prayer, the General Thanksgiving of the Church of England, used to be said every week in churches. The language is old, but consider what it says:
ALMIGHTY God, Father of all mercies, we thine unworthy servants do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men; We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory, world without end.
We have so much to be thankful for: may God make us thankful people!