March 9, 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)
The Apostle Paul regularly thanked God for the churches to which he wrote letters. He thanked God for churches he had founded (for example, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3). And he thanked God for churches founded by others (Romans 1:8). His letter to the Colossians falls into the second category, though the founder of this church, Epaphras, was a member of Paul’s church-planting team (Colossians 1:7). Paul had influenced the Colossians significantly, though indirectly, through Epaphras.
We know that Paul thanked the Lord for the churches to which he wrote because he regularly told them so. Immediately after his opening greetings to the Colossians, for example, he writes, “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 the love that you have for all the saints” (Colossians 1:3-4).
Paul’s example inspires us to grow in gratitude to God and in sharing this gratitude with others, especially those for whom we are grateful. It’s not hard to see why such sharing of thanks matters so much. When I hear that someone thanks God for me, I feel valued and encouraged. Plus, my relationship with that person is deepened and strengthened.
There is a significant difference between thanking someone directly and sharing thanks to God for that person. Both are worth doing, of course. Saying “Thank you” to someone acknowledges the good that this person has done and gives the person appreciative credit. Saying “I thank God for you” reframes both the action and the relationship. It points to the fact that God is at work in and through the other person. It gives God ultimate credit for the good someone does for another.
In my experience, there is also an intentional depth communicated in “I thank God for you.” I say “Thank you” to people all the time, and I’m learning to do so even more. I thank waiters, flight attendants, and preachers—not to mention my gardener, my doctor, and my wife. But if I say to someone, “I thank God for you,” this reveals greater intensity and thoughtfulness. For me, this is not an ordinary “Thank you,” but an extraordinary sharing of deep appreciation. Again, I’m not suggesting that saying “Thank you” is not important. It is, for sure. But I am suggesting that we might explore going beyond “Thank you” to “I thank God for you.” Of course, we should say this only if it is in fact true.
Something to Think About:
How regularly do you thank people who make a difference for good in your life? If you answer is “Often,” why is this so? If your answer is “Not very often,” why do you think you don’t say “Thank you” regularly?
Can you think of a time in your life when someone thanked you in a way that really touched your heart? Why did this matters so much to you?
Do you ever tell people that you thank God for them? Why or why not?
Something to Do:
Think of someone in your life for whom you thank the Lord. In addition to offering prayers of thanks for this person, share your thanks with them. Tell them, not only “Thank you,” but also “I thank God for you.”
Gracious God, thank you for Paul’s example of gratitude. He inspires me to be sure and thank you for the people in my life for whom I am grateful. But Paul’s example also encourages me to let others know of my gratitude to you for them. So, today I ask not only for a heart growing in gratitude, but also for help in sharing this gratitude with others. Amen.
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.