March 11, 2020 • Life for Leaders
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1:11-14 (NRSV)
As I’ve entered the “third third” of my life, I find that I’m better than I used to be at thanking God for “little things.” My family teases me sometimes because I love seeing and hearing wild birds, for which I often thank the Lord. I regularly thank God for simple gifts, like the beauty of an early spring camellia flower, a warm fireplace, or sharing Mexican food with my extended family. It turns out that, as people age, gratitude becomes more natural. Neuroscientists think it has something to do with changes in our limbic system, particularly the amygdala.* Whether this is right or not, I’ll take it.
It’s good to be grateful for little things. But sometimes I forget the big things, the things that matter most. Surely I ought to be thankful for these as well.
The Apostle Paul encourages us by his own example to be thankful for the big things. In Colossians 1:12-14 he speaks of “giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” These are big things, indeed: eternal inheritance, rescue from dark powers, citizenship in the kingdom of the Son of God, redemption, and forgiveness. For these magnificent gifts of God we ought to be grateful.
What will help us to feel and express gratitude for the major ways in which we experience God’s grace? Surely, reflection on Scripture assists us by reminding us of all that God has done for us. Corporate worship is also crucial, in my experience. The songs and prayers of worship expand my vision of God’s goodness. A gospel-centered sermon brings to mind God’s amazing grace. And the sacraments (or ordinances) of baptism and communion regularly stir our memories and our hearts with the magnitude of God’s love in Christ. Some Christians refer to communion as the Eucharist, from the Greek word eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving.” Perhaps more than anything else in life, sharing in the Lord’s Supper helps us to be grateful for the big things of God.
But you don’t have to wait to be grateful for the big things until the next time you share communion with God’s people. You can use Colossians 1:11-14 to remind you of the big things God has done for you. Then, be sure to tell God thank you.
* Wency, Leung, “The science of gratitude: As we age, our brains get better at feeling thankful,” The Globe and Mail, Oct 11, 2015, updated May 15, 2018. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/gratitude-levels-increase-with-age-research-shows/article26751433/
Something to Think About:
Do you tend to thank God for the big things he has done for you? If so, why? If not, why not?
What helps you to pay attention to the major ways in which you have experienced God’s grace?
Something to Do:
Set aside several minutes today to thank God for the “big things.”
Gracious God, your gifts to us are beyond measure. Many are relatively small and ordinary, but still wonderful. For these we thank you. But many of your gifts to us are big. More than big, really. They are magnificent beyond comprehension, gracious beyond measure.
So I thank you, Lord, for enabling me to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light, so that I might have sure hope in you.
Thank you for rescuing me from the power of darkness, so that I might walk in the light.
Thank you for transferring me into the kingdom of your beloved Son, so that I might live under his wise rule, and so that my life might be filled with meaning and purpose.
Thank you for redeeming me from bondage to sin, and for forgiving me for all that I have done to dishonor you.
How good it is, Lord, to know that you are for me, that nothing I can do in all creation will separate me from your love in Christ. 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.