"We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints--the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit."
Paul gave thanks to God for his readers frequently. He told them so to enable them to appreciate the fact that he knew of their situation and rejoiced in their good testimony. Specifically Paul and Timothy rejoiced over the continuing demonstration of their trust in Christ as contrasted with their initial acceptance of Him as
their Savior. Furthermore the Colossians manifested self-sacrificing love for other Christians. Third, Paul gave thanks for the hope of blessings ahead that his readers possessed but had not yet experienced. They demonstrated their hope in their living by presently manifesting faith (v. 4) and love (v. 8). The
Colossians had heard of this hope when they had heard the gospel preached to them. Paul reminded his readers that the gospel had not come to them exclusively but was spreading through the whole world. Paul may have intended this reference to contrast the gospel with the exclusive message the false teachers in Colosse were trying to get the Christians to adopt (heathenism, paganism, Gnosticism - aka. "super apostles", or other mysterious religions). Paul further glorified the gospel message by referring to its dynamic power to change lives and to its uniquely gracious content (v. 6). Epaphras was the leader of the church in Colosse, and if you remember from the previous entry on Colossians, Paul never actually visited the Colossians, but was still considered the founder of the church in Colosse. Notice how gracious Paul was towards this servant of God. Paul describes him as his "dear fellow servant...faithful minister." Paul seemed to always have something nice to say to those who were preaching the Word of God, no matter their motive. In Philippians 1:12-18 Paul concludes by saying, "What does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice." Paul had a thankful heart. Proverbs 27:19 says, "As water reflects the face, so a man's heart reflects the man." Is your reflection a thankful one?
"A thankful heart prepares the way for You my God."
So, thanksgiving. Not just a holiday, not just something you say before you eat a meal, but a state of the heart. Paul said he always thanks God! How hard is that?! Sure it's easy to be thankful when we receive something (a gift or a compliment), but how about when the weight of the world seems to be on your shoulders, or when circumstances are not conducive to a thankful attitude? Are you thankful then? Ok I'm going to be a little vulnerable right now. I remember doing worship for a camp up in the mountains of Tennessee back in the summer of 1999 (with Kevin and Kyle Mann, Ji Lee, and Chris Spearman). The week before we were down in sunny Florida at a camp for Faith Fellowship church and Mark Fritchman spoke. The rooms we stayed in were nice. We had 2 nice big comfy beds with our own bathroom and air conditioning. I'll add here that a lot of shenanagins went on that week between me, Kyle and Mark Fritchman (so many funny stories). What's the point of telling this you might be asking? Well, the very next week, we drove up to Tennessee, got out of Kevin's Ford Explorer, and went to find our cabin...if you can call it that! It was about the size of my bathroom, with 8 bunkbeds in it!! We're talkin small! 4 beds on each side. So it was us 4 guys, plus Jon Messara and one of his interns crammed in this outhouse of a cabin! I probably shouldn't say this but I am...I have an extremely random and funny story about sleeping naked (not me!!..oh no no). Wait, I can't...if you want to hear the rest of this story, shoot me an email. You'll be like, "He did what?!" Anyway, the bathroom was about 7 miles away and it was an outside shower. "Oh what fun!" you might be saying to yourself right now. I would agree only if there was hot water, and if we didn't go white water rafting in the Ocoee, which is about -45 degrees! I had the worst attitude the first couple days. I sure as heck-fire didn't want to take a freezing cold shower when I was already suffering from hypothermia! I think they ciphened water from the Ocoee River into their shower water. Plus, I had to use my can-opener (plus dislocate both of my shoulders) to get into my bunk! When I rolled over, I hit my hips, shoulders and head on the bunk above me! God taught me a lot by the end of the week. Not only how to contort by body into a space about a foot and a half tall and wide, but about being thankful, no matter how awful the circumstances might appear.
Why do I struggle with this? Paul got it, why can't I? I think it comes down to humility. Are we humble enough to accept our short-comings and our inconvenient circumstances? Jesus was the most humble person that ever walked this planet. And His circumstances?! I think you know what He had to endure. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34, I Peter 5:5) There's the word grace again. Jesus was full of grace and mercy. Why? Because He was humble! He humbled Himself even to the point of death (Philippians 2) and He was lifted up by God (I Peter 5:6) when God displayed His power by raising Him from the dead and exalted Him by returning Jesus to His original place, at the right hand of God. In I Thessalonians 5: 18 it says, "give thanks in all circumstances." How do we do this? First and foremost, learn humility!
Secondly, in the Bible thanksgiving seems to linked together with praise. Psalm 100:4, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 95:2, "Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." The next verses in both of these Psalms explains why, "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations" (Psalm 100:5) and "For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods" (Psalm 95:3). He is great and his faithfulness and love will last forever! He won't let you down!! Humility, thanksgiving, and praise are a product of Jesus' faithfulness and humility, which brought us this amazing grace. Again, Lord teach me to walk in Your grace. I want to prepare a highway for You to come in and move in my life.
A thankful heart prepares the way for You my God!!
Grace and peace.