This is an approximate manuscript of the sermon I preached from the book of Colossians on being thankful.
An Attitude of Thanksgiving
I don’t know if you are like me or not, but I love Thanksgiving. It’s one of my top three favorite holidays of all time. It’s a great opportunity to relax with family and enjoy some football and food. I want to share with you a few random, fun facts about Thanksgiving to get you thinking about things.
- Male turkeys gobble. Hens do not. They make a clucking noise.
- In the US, about 280 million turkeys are sold for the Thanksgiving celebrations.
- Each year, the average American eats somewhere between 16 – 18 pounds of turkey.
- The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds.
- The heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds, about the size of a large dog.
- Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks.
Thanksgiving is a great time to stop and thank God for all of our blessing in our life. We are so blessed.
We’ve been in a series over the last few weeks through the book of Colossians. This is a letter written by Paul and Timothy to a church in Colossae. Paul most likely dictated this letter to Timothy and at the same time wrote a letter to a nearby town called Laodicea. He told them to read the letter and share it with the church in Laodicea and then for them to get that letter to read. It was a letter-exchange program Paul wanted to set up. One of the reasons I like this letter is because it centers on supremacy, or the preeminence, of Christ. Paul’s focus is that Christ is Lord over all. Christ is the image of the invisible God. And through His work, we can be reconciled to God. How amazing this is.
We have learned that Christ is lord over all, but the question that Paul poses to this church and the question for us today is: Is Christ Lord over me? Is He Lord over personal life? Is He Lord over my work life? My church life? My home life? Those are the questions that we live with on a daily basis…the impact that Christ’s Lordship has over our daily lives. Today, we focus on our attitudes. Christ is Lord over all, but is He Lord over your attitude? Do you have a Christ-like attitude? If you do, then I would say that you would have an attitude that is bent towards Thanksgiving.
I have found a new joy in listening to the Scripture. I recently downloaded an app for my iPhone called Bible.Is. It’s also available on the Android operating system or on the Internet. It’s basically an app that reads the Bible in a dramatic fashion for free. You can also buy the NIV on CD’s from the Christian Bookstore that do basically the same thing.
The outcome is that I’ve noticed a recurring theme in this book, which is one of thankfulness. It seems to be a thread that is weaved throughout the carefully chosen words of Colossians. One of the key verses is that which Dave read earlier: Colossians 2:6-7. It says that you must receive Jesus as Lord, and as you grow in Him, you will overflow with thankfulness. Some versions here say “abounding in Thanksgiving.” Did you know that the verb abound comes from the Latin word meaning “wave?” So when we read this we should get the sense that thankfulness is filling us so much that it runs over like water running down a river. Every aspect of your life is affected by your thankful attitude because Christ living in you. I would like to highlight five different characteristics of a thankful person from this letter.
1. You do not take things for granted.
Colossians 1:3 says “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you…” Notice the word “always” here. Paul starts this letter by insinuating that some people have forgotten about Colossae. He says, not us, not Paul and Timothy. We always thank God for you. We are always thankful. It’s a continuous thing in their life. Like water running in a river that doesn’t stop. He says that they are always thanking God. A thankful person remembers where they come from.
The opposite here would be taking your life in Christ for granted. Don’t ever do that. Don’t ever forget the depths from which God has brought you. Max Lucado said that one of the tricks of the devil is to take that which is most precious to you and make it appear most common. He won’t take your home or your family, but he will paint them with a drab coat of familiarity. He won’t steal your salvation; he’ll just make you forget what it was like to be lost. Remember how you were an enemy of God. Remember how you were dead in your sins.
-Remember with an attitude of thankfulness.
2. You are not self-focused.
Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” To “devote” means to be persistent or steadfast. And Paul says to be watchful and thankful in prayer. If someone tells me to be “watchful” or to “watch out!” my reaction isn’t going to be me looking at myself. If you are walking through a cluttered area and someone says “watch yourself,” they don’t mean to literally watch yourself. They mean you should be aware of what is going on around you so you don’t get knocked over by something. It’s kind of like “heads up.” If you are on a job site and someone yells “heads up,” it’s probably a good idea not to look up. “Heads up” means cover your head and “watch out” means lift your eyes up.
If you are going to be thankful you need to be watching what is going on. Paul says to be watchful and thankful in your prayers for others too. Keep your head up and your eyes peeled. Don’t be a person that can’t see the forest because of the trees. A person with an attitude of thankfulness is a person that is not continually focused on themselves but rather is thankful for others.
3. You have peace. You are easy-going. By that, I mean that you are laid back and not prone to fighting because you have peace in your life.
Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
We must be thankful people and let the peace of Christ rule here. The word for peace in the Hebrew language is shalom. It’s what they say when they enter another person’s house or when they leave each other, but it doesn’t mean “hello” or “good-bye.” It means “completeness” “soundness” or “well-being.” The shalom of Christ invades every part of your body and who you are.
And notice that the peace in our life that leads to thankfulness is supposed to rule our hearts, individually, and all of us as a body, corporately. It says we are members of one (singular) body and you all (plural) are called to peace. So be thankful. Look at the next verse (v. 16): “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” It’s like a thankful sandwich. You’ve got the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts, you’ve got the word of Christ living in you fully and in the middle, and Paul says, “Be thankful.”
A fourth characteristic of someone with an attitude of gratitude…
4. You are humble.
Read verse 17 with me: “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.” Everything you do and say should be done with thanks. Don’t be proud about what your accomplishments. Acknowledge that your accomplishments originate with what God has given you. Some might say that God hasn’t done anything for them, that they have worked to earn everything they have. Let’s be honest: God is the one that has given you your health and your abilities and your job in order to make the money.
Psalm 50:14 speaks to this: “Sacrifice thank offerings to God.” God doesn’t need sacrifices of animals. God doesn’t need anything from us. He owns it all. He owns the animals of the fields and the birds of the air and the cattle on a thousand hills. He desires a thank offering. In other words, say “thank you” to God. In what you say and what you do, do it in the name of Jesus giving thanks to God the Father.
Saying “thank you” is not natural. It’s a learned condition. In 2008, Margarat Visser wrote a book called The Gift of Thanks in which she cited a manners study. The children in the study instinctively said “hi” and “good-bye” about 25% of the time, “Thanks” only 7%. That’s really not surprising because people are naturally prideful. Based on this research Visser concludes that learning to be thankful involves a steep learning curve. She writes, “In our culture thanksgiving is believed to be, for most children, the very last of basic social graces they acquire. … Children have to be ‘brought up’ to say they are grateful. The verb is passive: they are brought up, they do not bring themselves.”
I agree with this because people are not naturally humble. We have to ask God to give us an attitude like Christ, a thankful attitude.
And finally, a person with a thankful attitude is joyful.
5. You are joyful. Read 1:11-12 “joyfully giving thanks.”
We don’t begrudgingly give thanks. We shouldn’t be like little kids that are forced to be thankful to God. If Christ is Lord over your attitudes then be sincere. Don’t just say “thanks a lot God” like you are depressed because you feel like you have to. Be excited about what God has done for you. In verse 13 it says we are rescued. That is awesome! We should be so joyful that we are dying to give thanks to him. If Christ is Lord over your attitude you can’t help but give joyful thanks to Him.
Thankfulness with fill you up and overflow. In Philippians 4:12, Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” I think I know what the secret is…it’s thankfulness.
Making Christ Lord over our life means that you will have an attitude of gratitude. That it will become part of who you are and you will overflow with it.
In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom tells about an incident that taught her the principle of giving thanks in all things. It was during World War II. Corrie and her sister, Betsy, had been harboring Jewish people in their home, so they were arrested and imprisoned at Ravensbruck Camp.
The barracks was extremely crowded and infested with fleas. One morning they read in their tattered Bible from 1 Thessalonians the reminder to rejoice in all things.
Betsy said, “Corrie, we’ve got to give thanks for this barracks and even for these fleas.”
Corrie replied, “No way am I going to thank God for fleas.” But Betsy was persuasive, and they did thank God even for the fleas.
During the months that followed, they found that their barracks was left relatively free, and they could do Bible study, talk openly, and even pray in the barracks. It was their only place of refuge. Several months later they learned that the reason the guards never entered their barracks was because of those blasted fleas.
Corrie Ten Boom’s life overflowed with thankfulness. Does yours? Is Jesus Lord over your attitude?
A thankful person will 1) not take things for granted, 2) will not be self-centered, 3) will be peaceful, 4) will be humble, and 5) will give thanks with joy.
Let’s ask Christ to be Lord over our attitudes today.