[The series all starts here.]
In Colossians 1:3-8, Paul tells the Colossian believers when and why he thanks God for them. He writes, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, while praying concerning you...."
It is worth noting the prominence of thankfulness in this letter. Again and again, Paul urges the Christians in Colosse to give thanks to God. Consider the following:
- "...thanking the Father who qualified us for our portion of the lot of the holy ones in the light" (1:12)
- "...abidingly rooted and being built up in Him, and being confirmed by the faith just as you were taught, abounding in it in thanksgiving" (2:7)
- "And let the peace of Christ keep ruling in your hearts, unto which also you were called in one body; and become thankful people" (3:15)
- "And everything, whatever you may do — in word or in deed — do all things in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through Him" (3:17)
- "Keep persisting in prayer, staying alert in it with thanksgiving" (4:2)
This in turns leads us to consider the importance of thankfulness, particularly in this setting. Briefly put:
- Saying "thank you" focuses us on what we have.
- False teaching invariably would focus us on what we supposedly don't have.
This is what false teachers have always done, and will always do. This is temptation, in a nutshell: what you have isn't good enough; you need this. Satan did it in the Garden — and it worked. Bathsheba represented that to David — and it worked. The false gods took that guise to Israel — and it worked.
Convinced of the truth of Christ's great salvation, each and every Christian can and must be totally unimpressed by any teaching that says otherwise. Suppose some charismatic person comes and says, "Oh, but you need the second blessing...and this level of grace...and this special teaching...and this experience ─ or you miss out!" The slightest flicker of interest betrays defective faith. Faith would produce glazed eyes, a yawn and a dismissive shrug.
Surely this is how we want to be. What, then, is a sure way to enjoy that invulnerable contentment in Christ, to realize it and grow in it, and to get full value out of it?
The surest way is to say "Thank You" for Christ — for His person, His work; for all we have in Him. Say it often, loudly, and regularly.
Paul sets the stage in this note of thankfulness. When he himself says "thank you" to God for the Colossians, is it going to be because some few of them are attaining some new standing in grace? Is it going to be because they received some "second blessing," or delved into deep secret teachings not open to rank-and-file, garden-variety, blood-bought Christians? No!
When Paul says "thank you" to God, it will be for the Colossians' faith and love (v. 4). Are these reserved for an elite sub-set of Christians? Not at all. They are attributes which grow in the heart and life of every healthy, growing disciple of Christ.
Thankfulness is a heresy-antidote. A people thankful for Christ's person and work is a people immune to false teaching.
Note too that, no matter how faithfully Epaphras labored in the Gospel, it is God who gets Paul's thanks. This is the principle of "credit to whom credit is due." Popular teaching is dead wrong in its notion that numeric "success" is a sure sign of God's blessing on the right method. Only God can bring a genuine response to the Gospel, and genuine spiritual growth.
Remember Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth." Epaphras (and you, and I) can plant and water, but only God can give life and growth.
Finally, note the frequency of Paul's thankfulness: "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, while praying concerning you." His other letters show us that the apostle had quite a prayer list. This doesn't mean, of course, that Paul did nothing but give thanks. But it does mean that, when he prayed for the Colossians, he gave thanks for them.
The application does not require much imagination, I think. When we tell others of Christ, do we pray that God will bring spiritual results? Or are we closeted Pelagian Calvinists — focusing on an excellent presentation of the Gospel, with proper measures of law and Gospel and sovereignty, as if that "should do the trick"?
Do we personally thank God for every spiritual benefit that comes of our attempts to serve, whether as pastors or members or parents?
Probably the single best dietary change any of us could make would be regular helpings of generous, hearty, loud thankfulness to God for all His riches to us in Christ.