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Living Fully, Living Gratefully: Give Thanks Persistently

March 2, 2020 • Life for Leaders

In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NRSV)

 

Today, we continue in our Life for Leaders series “Living Fully, Living Gratefully.” This devotional series focuses on the New Testament letter to the Colossians, which has much to say about the centrality of gratitude in our lives. If we want to live fully, to experience the abundant life God has for us in Christ, then we will choose to live gratefully.

Early in his letter to the Christians in Colossae, Paul writes, “In our prayers for you we always thank God” (1:3). As he considers their solid faith and strong love, Paul is grateful for God’s work among them. He makes sure to offer thanks as he prays.

The word “always” (pantote in Greek) in “we always thank God” reminds me of a similar verse in Ephesians: “[Be filled with the Spirit] . . . giving thanks to God the Father at all times [pantote] and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). When I was a younger Christian, I worried about verses like this. How would it have been possible, I wondered, for Paul to pray “always” or “at all times”? Wasn’t this claim a considerable exaggeration? Moreover, if I took what Paul said literally, how in the world could I ever be expected to imitate his example? It seemed impossible to being thanking God always.

In this season of my life, I am no longer worried by what Paul says about consistent thanks. I have come to understand that he is not claiming to be verbally praying to God at every moment when he talks about always giving thanks. Rather, he is using the word “always” in a figurative sense. He means that he regularly thanks God for the Colossians, as he does for the other churches entrusted to his care. He also implies that we’re to adopt a posture of gratitude, something we’ll explore more in the future.

The title of today’s Life for Leaders devotion is “Give Thanks Persistently.” I could have chosen “regularly” or “continually” or “frequently” or a similar word. I opted for “persistently” because it includes an additional nuance. To do something persistently means doing it, not only regularly, but also when facing resistance. Persistence implies doggedness, an effort to keep on going even when the going gets rough. When Paul offers thanks for his churches, he does so not only when he and they are flourishing, but also when they are not. (We’ll visit this topic again when dealing with Colossians 1:11.)

Today, Paul’s example encourages us to offer thanks to God, not just for brief moments, and not just when we experience exceptional blessings, but regularly, continually, frequently, and, indeed, persistently. If we pay attention to God’s faithfulness in our lives, if we acknowledge all the ways in which God has been gracious to us and to others, then we will be able to give thanks always.

Something to Think About:

Would you say that you persistently give thanks to God? If so, why? If not, why not?

What keeps you from regularly giving thanks to God?

What helps you to give thanks regularly, even persistently?

Something to Do:

If you have not done so already, make a short list of people in your life for whom you are grateful. Put this list in a place where you will see it every day. (My list pops up as item #1 on my daily digital to-do list.) Exercise persistence in thanking God for these people and his work in their lives.

Prayer:

Gracious God, thank you for the people who have made such a difference in my life. They are gifts from you to me and I receive them gratefully. Thank you also for your grace at work in their lives.

Specifically, Lord, I thank you today for . . . .

All praise be to you, O God, giver of such good gifts! Amen.

Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online
commentary:
Persistence: The Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8)

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