Using Faith to be Thankful

This is part of a series of posts looking at your questions about theology.

Question: In light of Thanksgiving, how much does faith play a role in being thankful? Do we only thank God for the things we tangibly have?

Jeremy Jernigan – Executive Pastor

This is a great question and one that might seem tricky to answer. As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I think it’s appropriate to consider Paul’s words to the church in Colossae.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.” Colossians 3:15-17 (emphasis mine)

This is a beautiful passage on finding ways to be thankful and grateful. Yet at first glance it doesn’t seem to answer our question. What if I feel I’m in need or what if I feel I’ve been blessed? How does each situation affect my gratitude? As Bernhard W. Anderson explains in his book Out of the Depths, “The Christian community also finds itself living in the interim between the inauguration of God’s kingdom and its final realization, between the first break of dawn and the full light of day” (55). As a result, our circumstances will always fall short of providing us the perspective to experience true gratitude. Yet they are the filter most Christians use in our attempts to be thankful.

Instead, the healthiest posture for Christian gratitude is by focusing not on what we have or don’t have, but on the person of Jesus Christ. It is true that a Christian may find reason for gratitude in any situation. One may look at tangible blessings and exclaim, “Thank God for all I have received!” Another person might look at a lack of tangible blessings and respond, “Thank God for giving me hope in the midst of this difficulty.” Both have found a way to be thankful. Yet the deepest sense of gratitude comes from the person who says (regardless of the presence of blessings or lack thereof) “Thank God I have Jesus and that He is good!”

This applies equally to those who have much and those who have little. With this in mind, reread Paul’s words with an emphasis on Jesus.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.” Colossians 3:15-17 (emphasis mine)

Paul’s instruction for us to dwell richly in gratitude is not to look at our situation but to look to Christ. It is only in Him we find the source of what we have to be truly grateful for, regardless of how that has affected us tangibly. With that in mind, we can easily be grateful in all things as we look for Him in all ways!

Disclaimer: I’m providing you with my answer to these questions and what makes the most sense to me Biblically. There are numerous other Christians who would provide different answers. If you disagree with me, there’s no need to email me or any other staff member. I’m not making sweeping statements that define all views of Central and its leadership. The point is to create an environment where we go deeper in our understanding and experience with God. At the very least I invite you to consider thoughtfully the answers I give, even if they differ from your views. If you would like to talk through this post with someone, please email us at blog@centralaz.com.

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Using Faith to be Thankful

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