Gratitude that Overflows
Gratitude That Overflows
“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” (Colossians 2:6-7).
Some other translations render this last statement, “abounding in thanksgiving”. “Notice that Paul does not pray that the Colossians may begin to be thankful, but rather that the ocean of their gratitude may constantly overflow” (Commentary on Colossians, Hendriksen, p. 108). The idea is not that we merely learn to count our blessings but that we overflow with appreciation for not only what we have but for the ultimate giver of those blessings as well. Often people will use the illustration of whether or not you are either a cup that is half empty or half full type of person. Yet God points us to an even better choice that being the “half full” type of person. God wants us to be the person who views their cup as running over.
- “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
- “Give, and it will be given unto you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).
The Constant Emphasis on Gratitude
- “Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
- “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
- “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (Colossians 3:17).
Gratitude is a Choice
In the above passages observe the emphasis on what is being said is within the power of the individual. We are simply told to “let” this or that happen. We do not need to convince or urge the peace of Christ or the word of God to dwell within our hearts. Rather, we simply need to stop the unreasonable resistance on our part. So if I try to sell the idea that I am just not a naturally optimistic person, I need to be honest about the fact that my own negativity is a choice I have made.
We are New People!
- “And have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10).
We all know that part of the package of becoming a new person in Christ includes the removal of the old man with his sinful attitudes and habits (Colossians 3:5-9). And another part of the package is choosing to think and act differently (Colossians 3:12-14). Included in all of this, is the determination to become someone who is overflowing with gratitude (3:15-17).
Well, I Believe I Am a Grateful Person
In fact, I think that most people would contend that they do count their blessings, appreciate the things they have and do not have such things as their health and family for granted. The problem is, that even non-Christians practice this level of gratitude, for everyone is grateful for something.
Testing Your Gratitude
- If you made a list of the top 10 things for which you are grateful would most of them be physical things? Is your list primarily earth-focused or earth-bound? Just as a side note, Jesus’ “model prayer” in Matthew 6:9-15 is loaded with gratitude for spiritual blessings (God, His Kingdom, forgiveness and mercy) and only touches lightly upon earthly blessings (our daily bread).
- How often do you thank God even for your physical things? Do you say, “I am thankful for the clean bill of health at my last checkup”. Or, “I am thankful to God for giving me a healthy body?”
- Are you thankful for the gift or for the giver who is behind it? (James 1:17).
Leaving Yourself Vulnerable
The problem with a gratitude that is primarily focused on the nice and comfortable things in this life (health, home, car, job, etc…) is that time and chance can immediately impact all those things (Ecclesiastes 9:11). In addition, if we live long enough most of those things are going to fail us at one time or another. So my gratitude needs to be tied to something deeper than my currently physical condition because that can change overnight. Another way to word this is that if I am thankful for 10 earthly things, what will I do tomorrow if only 7 of those things are functioning or working in my life? Or, what if a year from now only 5 are still left standing?
Digging Deeper/Grateful for the Giver
- “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).
- “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
The idea is that the way that the Christian expresses their gratitude, even for such earthly blessings as marriage and food (4:4) is in the ongoing conversation they are having with God. This includes desiring to spend time in the Scriptures and reading about the Giver and expressing our appreciation to Him in prayer. So do I think more about the gift or the Giver? I am more grateful for the gift or the Giver who gave the gift? This is a level of gratitude where you continually tie it all back to God, like Jesus did:
- “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me” (John 11:41).
- “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants” (Matthew 11:25).
What Does Your Gratitude Move You to Do?
It is one thing to say you are grateful and that you are grateful to God, but it is another thing to be moved by such gratitude, to be compelled by it.
- “For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
It is one thing to have your list of 10 things for which I am thankful. Yet there is an even more important list we should all ponder. Tell me 10 things that your gratitude has compelled you to do for God. Is our gratitude for God overflowing to the point that we think “What can I do for Him?” “How can I show Him that I am truly grateful?”
- “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account” (1 Thessalonians 3:9).
- “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).
There are many ways in which we can show our gratitude to God and one of those ways is when we come together to view it has an opportunity to show Him our appreciation. And to do so that others would say, “Those people worship God with reverence, gratitude and awe”. A big thank you to Kris Emerson who preaches for the Lindale church of Christ in Lindale, Texas for providing me with so many of the thoughts in this sermon.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017