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.
For the Christian, giving thanks to God is as essential as breathing. It is supposed to be part of the natural rhythm of spiritual life. And yet it is not natural. What is natural is discontentedness, disappointment, a complaining attitude, bitterness toward God, even for those who claim to know him and love him.
Therefore Paul prays for the Colossian Christians that God would enable them in their spiritual growth to be able to give thanks. In the opening chapter of his letter, he prays that they would be filled with the knowledge of God's will (1:9), pleasing to him and fruitful (1:10), strengthened through God's power (1:11) "for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father. . . ." (1:11-12). We often come up against hard and trying circumstances, times when we need endurance and patience, but our natural reaction isn't joy and thanksgiving. It's grumbling and complaining. That's why we need God's help, and that's what Paul prays for—that in Christians who are facing disappointments and difficulties, God might bring about the unnatural response of rejoicing, knowing that he is in control and doing a good work even through—maybe especially through—the circumstances that we would rather avoid altogether.
Whether it's pandemic fatigue that is causing you the soul sickness of discontentment or whether it's a Thanksgiving holiday spent away from loved ones, stress at work, a relational conflict, or a hundred other possible causes, what we are doing when we gather with other believers to worship God is the remedy, if we follow Paul's prescription in Colossians 3:15-17. He mentions thanksgiving three times in these three verses to emphasize the need for having thankful hearts.
The first instruction is to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. Hearts where Christ rules as Lord are thankful hearts. When we know that he is the King on the throne, sovereign over everything that we face in life, we can have peace in his loving care for us. We also have peace in our hearts because of Christ's work on the cross. Christ has won peace for us by destroying enmity between us and God. Our sin was our declaration of war against God's ways, but Christ's sacrifice was the act of perfect love that changed our hearts to make us cease our striving against God and return to him as our forgiving Father. Let's remember again that true peace is a gift we have received in abundance from God through Christ, a peace that is stronger than anything that would cause unrest in our hearts. And let's be thankful for that gift.
Second, thankfulness is kindled by the flame of praising God. Through our singing of praises, recounting God's greatness and the great things he has done, thanksgiving rises up in our hearts. How can we sing about God who has created all things, blessed his people, shown his power, triumphed over sin, defeated his enemies, revealed his perfect will, promised his undying love and presence—how can we sing about all these things and not have tremendous gratitude well up inside us? Let's sing, and let's allow our singing of the truth of God to bring a richness and fullness to our hearts, satisfying our hungry souls like feasting at a holiday banquet table.
Third, all our words and deeds are to be expressions of thanks to God. As we are molded by God's Word, as we yield more to his Spirit, more and more of what people hear coming out of our mouths (or read from our online posts) and what they see in our lives gives proof that we are thankful people. Instead of being known for being negative and critical, we are known for being cheerful and encouraging. Our words and attitudes become the things that build others up rather than dragging them down. The extraordinary uniqueness of the kingdom of God is displayed for all the world to see when we start to view every challenge, every trial, every setback, every pain as God's gifts to us. We give testimony to the fact that our God is a loving Father who only gives good gifts to his children and who works all things ultimately for our lasting joy.
Giving thanks is not always easy, but in coming again and again in worship and adoration and surrender to the One who is all-good and all-glorious, we are transformed to be able to offer sincere thanksgiving.
We hope these songs we sing today will help us do that.
King of Glory
Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus