March 22, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Colossians 3:12-17 (NRSV)
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Again and again, Scripture calls us to be thankful. Why is gratitude so important? There are many reasons. Gratitude reminds us of the sovereignty and grace of God. Thankfulness transforms us, helping us to be happier and healthier. It also binds our hearts to the gift of salvation through the cross of Christ. When we are thankful, we are inspired to live our whole lives for God, doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Live Who You Are.
If you have been reading my recent devotions on Colossians 3:12-17, you may have wondered why I keep skipping something. Though I’ve been working step by step through the passage, often word by word, I did not mention a phrase in verse 15: “And be thankful.” Nor did I address a similar phrase in verse 16: “and with gratitude in your hearts.” Now, in verse 17, it says that we’re to do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, “giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Am I going to skip this part about giving thanks again? Do I have something against being grateful? No and no. No, I’m not going to skip this final phrase in our passage. And no, I do not have anything against being grateful. The truth is I’ve been saving up my comments on thanksgiving until now.
It’s certainly worth noting that Paul emphasizes giving thanks, commending it three times in three consecutive verses. This makes me wonder why. What motivated Paul to tell us to be thankful three times in row?
I expect that Paul may well have understood the natural tendency of human beings not to be grateful. We so easily take for granted the good things that happen to us, assuming that we deserve them. Or, when bad things happen, we get wrapped up in complaining and fail to see anything for which to be grateful.
We see a splendid picture of ingratitude in one of my favorite scenes from 1993 movie Groundhog Day. Bill Murray plays the role of Phil Connors, a self-absorbed, obnoxious weatherman trapped in one day, Groundhog Day, which he lives over and over, thousands of times. At first, he takes advantage of this repetition in order to live purely for his own pleasure. But, over time, he uses his familiarity with the day as an opportunity to show kindness to others. He knows precisely what they need and when they’ll need it.
In one scene, Phil is running along a tree-lined street because he knows that at a particular moment a boy is going to fall from a tree. At just the right time Phil gets to the spot so he can catch the boy, who is completely unharmed. While holding the boy in his arms, Phil says, “What do you say? What do you say?” The boy says nothing. As the boy runs off, Phil complains, “You little brat. You have never thanked me.”
I wonder sometimes if that might be one of God’s favorite scenes too. How often do we fail to thank God for his goodness to us!
Paul may also have repeated the command to give thanks because he understood that gratitude reminds us of something essential: who is in charge. When we thank God for the good things that happen to us, we recognize that they are from the gracious hand of our sovereign God. We remember that, as James puts it, “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).
Gratitude is also crucial to our lives because it transforms us and our experience of life. Ungrateful people are inevitably dour and gloomy. They see life from a negative point of view. Grateful people, on the contrary, are usually joyful and positive. Though they don’t deny the pains of life, they emphasize what’s good and enjoy thanking God for these things. There is a mountain of academic research that shows how the exercise of gratitude helps us to be, not just happier, but healthier. Grateful people live better and help others to do the same.
Gratitude anchors us to the cross of Christ. The Greek work for gratitude is eucharistia. This word is the basis for the English word Eucharist, which is a common name for the Christian celebration of communion. When we reflect on God’s many gifts to us, inevitably we come to the cross. We remember God’s gift of abundant, eternal life through Christ. Thus our gratitude, our eucharistia, binds us to the cross, to what we remember and celebrate in the Eucharist.
Finally, gratitude inspires us to “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). We could be motivated to live our lives for God out of fear. Or we could be moved by basic obedience to God’s command. But when we take seriously what God has done for us in Christ, when we overflow with gratitude to God for his grace, then we are inspired to live fully for God, not out of fear or obligation, but out of joy and thanksgiving. We want to do everything in the name of the Lord as a way of expressing our deepest thanks to God for all of God’s gifts to us.
What helps you to be grateful?
What keeps you from feeling and/or expressing gratitude?
As you think about your life today, for what are you most grateful? (You can give more than one answer here.)
In the next couple of days, set aside some time, at least ten minutes, to focus on gratitude. Thank God for the good gifts God has showered upon you.
Gracious God, how good you are to me!
Forgive me when I forget this, when I get caught up in complaining, or when I simply assume that I am entitled to good things. Forgive me when I take your gifts for granted and fail to thank you for them.
Help me, I pray, to see your goodness plainly. Help me to acknowledge your grace, to thank you for all you have done for me. Even in difficult times, may I see your blessings and acknowledge them to you.
Most of all, God, thank you for the gift of Jesus Christ, for his life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Thank you for saving me through his death on the cross. May I live each day with gratitude, doing everything for you because you have given everything to me. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Depending on God (James 1:5–18)
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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.