We are a people who love stories of heroes who rescue people from danger. Many of our favorite movies are based on a hero who saved others from some sort of danger. Many kids dream of being a hero. This dream came true for a 5 year old boy named Miles Scott who battled leukemia for 3 years and is currently in remission. On Friday November 15th, San Francisco was turned into Gotham City for a day and Miles became "Batkid." The Make-a-Wish Foundation that grants "wishes" to children with life-threatening diseases agreed to help Miles fulfill his dream. Throughout the day, little Miles rescued a "damsel in distress," foiled a bank robbery and rescued the Giant's mascot Lucille from kidnappers. Of course those rescued were enthusiastically grateful.
It is interesting to me that most of the time, we identify with the hero - we want to be the one who is strong, who rescues and helps others. But in order to be truly joyful and thankful people, we need to realize that we are the ones who need help and Jesus Christ has come to our rescue.
In today's passage, the apostle Paul encourages the Colossians to give joyful thanks by 1) showing them how a thankful person lives and prays; 2) reminding them of who to be thankful for; 3) by focusing on the reason for their thankfulness.
In Colossians 1:4-6, Paul encourages the Colossians to have a spirit of joyful thanks by showing them how a thankful person lives and prays. Jewish practice was to pray a minimum of 3 times a day. In v.3 and v.9 Paul tells them that he is always thanking God for them and has not stopped praying for them. Paul is a faithful pray-er on their behalf! Paul prays though, not just for their external circumstances. He prays for the spiritual well-being: he prays that they would know God's will, live a life worthy of the Lord and be pleasing to God. Thankful people pray constantly to God and for others.
Next Paul describes how thankful people live. Paul is thankful because he has heard about their faith in Christ Jesus, their love for God's people and their hope in heaven. These are three key themes in Paul's writing. Faith is the confidence believers have now because of Christ, lived out daily in love towards others and hope is the confident expectation in the future.
That's a lot to be thankful for! Do these themes characterize your life? The Colossians can be joyfully thankful in how they pray and how they live in faith, love and hope.
Paul also encourages the Colossians to have a spirit of joyful thanks by reminding them of who to be thankful for. In Colossians 1:7-8, Paul writes that it was Epaphras that brought the good news to them. He was a Gentile believer who was possibly from Colossae. He was a faithful man of prayer, especially for the Colossian church that he helped to start.
Who brought the good news to you? Who were the ones who shared Christ with you, brought you to church, told you about Jesus Christ? Have you thanked them lately? To whom can you bring the good news? Who can you be an Epaphras to?
Lastly, Paul encourages the Colossians to have a spirit of joyful thanks by focusing on the reason to be thankful. But before I get to that, I was thinking about why we sometimes lack gratitude.
Two ideas came to me. One is the idea of entitlement. People who get whatever they want without putting any effort into it aren't thankful because they think they deserve it. Another idea is being self-sufficient. People who like to be independent and not rely upon others aren't very thankful because they don't want others to help them.
But in Colossians 1:12-14 Paul prays that the Colossians will give joyful thanks to God for three things. These are things that the Colossians don't deserve and could never do for themselves apart from God's grace: a) be qualified to share in the inheritance of the kingdom; b) be rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light; c) have forgiveness of sins.
When we really realize that we have been given these things by grace and we fully grasp that we could never deserve or qualify ourselves for these things, then we will truly grateful!
So who can we be a people of joyful thanksgiving this morning?
1) We can express our thanksgiving to God by how we pray and how we live. We can pray our thanks to God and for those God has placed in our lives. We can live lives of faith, love and hope.
2) We can remember those who brought the good news to us and we can decide to bring the good news to others in our midst.
3) We can focus on all the reasons we have to be thankful: our inheritance, our rescue, our forgiveness -all of these things we don't deserve but God has qualified us for in Christ.
May we truly give joyful thanks for all that we have received! Have a Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving!