“You who have given so much to me, give one thing more — a grateful heart.
Not thankful when it pleases me, as if your blessings had spare days;
but such a heart, whose pulse may be your praise.”
Almost four hundred years ago, the Anglican poet and preacher George Herbert captured with these prayerful words above one of life’s most profound truths: One of the greatest gifts of God is the gift of gratitude.
Thanksgiving week in our country is an annual period when we stop to express our worship and thanksgiving to God for his many blessings: spiritually, relationally, and materially.
The classic Thanksgiving hymn “Come ye thankful people” says come and give thanks for the fruit of creation, sufficient food on the table, the grace of community, family and friends, the sun in the morning and the moon at night, but, most of all, for the riches of God’s glorious grace in Jesus lavished on us.
This spirit of thanksgiving brims over in the heart of the Apostle Paul in Colossians 3 in verses 12-17.
He shows us what grows in the soil of a grateful heart. There are four things: the character, the peace, the word, and the love of Jesus Christ. Our last article addressed the first two: the character of Christ and the peace of Christ.
The next thing that grows in the soil of a thankful heart is the Word of Christ. Colossians 3:16 says: “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.”
Here the word of Christ does not just refer to Christ’s teachings in the gospels but also to the gospel itself – the good news that Christ saves sinners from beginning to end all by His grace alone. In many of the Apostle Paul’s letters, “the word of Christ” is code for the gospel. He calls us to rediscover as believers the liberating power of the gospel in our daily lives… to preach it to our own hearts daily… to root our identity in it. For when the gospel possesses your heart, it will fill you with a sense of thankfulness and wonder. Then, your lips will be tuned to praise and worship your Lord. May the gospel become so deeply implanted within you so as to control all your thinking and living.
There is a close kinship between Paul’s word “dwell” and Jesus’ command for His word to abide in us (John 15:7). If God’s word is to dwell in our hearts richly, it must be cordially received, mixed with faith, appropriated in its fullness, and put into action.
We cannot remain passive with the Word of Christ that dwells in us. We are called to share with others what God is teaching us from His Word. The text says to “teach and admonish one another.” Look for one opportunity to do this with your family members this Thanksgiving.
Lastly, a love for the name of Christ grows in the soil of a grateful heart. Colossians 3:17 says: “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.” Let everything that you do, be done in harmony with his will, in subjection to his authority, and in dependence upon his power.
We bear the name of Christ as his followers, and we have a responsibility to live in a way that pleases him and does not bring reproach upon his name.
But here is our problem: The driving motivation of our forefathers at the Tower of Babel permeates our hearts as well. All of us struggle with the passion to make a name for ourselves Genesis 11:4 states it this way: “Let us make a name for ourselves.” You and I are glory thieves, and we often rob God of his glory by wanting it for ourselves. Pride and self-conceit are like a noxious weed. Yet, this weed has a hard time growing in the soil of a thankful heart.
The attitude of thanksgiving is to accompany all we do. The second part of verse 17 says: “…giving thanks to God the Father through him.” We are those who have Christ dwelling in our hearts and with Him we have all the divine resources that we need.
“Giving thanks” is one way that we acknowledge this. Be intentional this week about expressing to the Lord exactly what you are thankful for. Tell others close to you what you appreciate and are thankful for concerning them.