OVERFLOWING WITH THANKFULNESS
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.
Thanksgiving is uniquely American holiday. Where as both Christmas and Easter have roots in Europe, Thanksgiving has its roots in American’s history. It is a special time. I’m so glad to celebrate this Thanksgiving Sunday with God’s people in Triton, DuPage and NIU.
The celebration of Thanksgiving came to us from Pilgrim forefathers of our nation. It is the faith and commitment and suffering of these Christian forefathers that set the course of American history and brought God’s blessing to America. It is time to remember and give thanks for our Christian heritage; it is the time to thank God for the mercy and grace he has shed on us and our nation; it is a time for us to humble ourselves, repent and seek God’s face so that he may forgive our sins and heal our land. It is a time to renew the covenant our forefathers made with God and with one another. It is the time to come before the Almighty Sovereign God with repentance, and with praise and thanksgiving.
In 1620, 102 people disembarked from the Mayflower. They were a mixture of Christians called Pilgrims, seeking to build a homeland in which people could freely worship and serve God, and “strangers”– individuals lured by the promise of land and prosperity in the new world. They landed near Plymouth in New England, on the shores of America.
The trip across the Atlantic was fraught with danger. The weather was stormy and the water was so rough that they all were seasick. This difficult voyage molded them–Pilgrim and stranger–together into a community. When they finally reached land, they wrote a document called the Mayflower Compact. It became a foundation document for our US constitution, for it established a secular state, not a religious state. The new civil government permitted and protected every person’s right to worship God according the dictates of his conscience.
They arrived in November–just before winter set in. By God’s grace, they survived an Indian attack and found a cache of corn that helped stave off starvation. The food supply was so short that they were down to 5 grains of corn per person, per meal. Still, they shared food and worked together to build houses of mud and straw with thatched roofs. But that winter 47 people died–almost half of their original number. Through all of this, they loved God and thanked him for his mercy and his presence with them. Sunday Worship Service was the high point of the week.
God sent an Indian named Squanto to help them. He was the only remaining member of the Patuxet tribe Indian. The Patuxets were a war-like tribe. Squanto had been captured and sent to England. He became a Christian and came back to his homeland to find that a plague had wiped out his tribe. He had no mission and no reason to live. Then God gave him a mission to help the Pilgrims. He taught them how to plant corn and pumpkin, how to refine maple syrup, how to stalk deer, how to discern edible berries, how to trap beavers for pelts–generally, how to survive in the new land. In the summer of 1621 they planted crops, built houses and traded with the Indians. God gave them a bountiful harvest. So Governor Bradford declared a day of public Thanksgiving, to be held in October. They invited a near-by Indian tribe to join them. Ninety Indians came. Food might have been short, but the Indians brought 5 dressed deer and more than a dozen fat wild turkeys. So there was abundant food. But the first course set before each person was a plate with 5 grains of corn on it. They did not want to forget the previous winter of starving, and they thanked God for his gracious provision. After the abundant dinner, they had contests–foot-races, Indian wrestling, etc., and had such a good time that the Indians stayed for 3 days. This event was recognized as the first Thanksgiving. It was born in a time of suffering and God’s grace.
Thanksgiving became a national holiday when, on October 3, 1863, during the heat of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November a day of Thanksgiving. He called on all Americans, including those living abroad, to solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledge as with one heart and voice the gracious gifts of Almighty God. It might seem to be an unusual time to proclaim a national Day of Thanksgiving, for It was a time of great suffering. More Americans died in the Civil War than in all the other wars put together. President Lincoln called on all Americans to come to God with repentance and thanksgiving. He spoke about the “ever watchful providence of Almighty God.” He thanked God for protecting and preserving the nation in the midst of the terrible Civil strife. No foreign powers took advantage of us during this vulnerable time. In spite of the unprecedented loss of life in the battlefields, the population in America grew in numbers. Although the fruits of industry, agriculture, iron and coal mines were diverted to national defense, industry boomed. There was a bountiful harvest and abundant food. There was no evidence of civil disorder. The American people could expect the nation to continue, and freedom to greatly expand. Lincoln saw these things as God’s grace and mercy. He called on all Americans to turn their hearts to God and give him thanks for his mercy, and blessings, and to implore him to forgive the sins our nation, to heal our land and restore the Union. He commended to the tender care of Almighty God all those who had become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers because of the lamentable civil strife “ in which we are unavoidably engaged”. President Lincoln believed that God was in control of history and that he would expand liberty– (abolish slavery) and restore the Union. He saw the war as both unavoidable and as God’s punishment for sin. He sought forgiveness and he sought God’s mercy. He thanked God for his blessings. When he turned to God in national repentance and reflected on God’s mercy and goodness, he could call on all Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving together.
We give thanks, not because Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday, but because our Lord Jesus commands us to be overflowing with thankfulness. Verses 6 and 7 say:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness. Giving thanks is a very intentional act.
When Paul wrote the letter to the Colossians, he wrote from a Roman prison. He was thankful because he saw that God used his imprisonment to advance the gospel. He was thankful because he remembered God’s grace in his life and in his ministry. He was a prisoner, but he was free because Jesus, not Caesar, was his Lord. Colossians 2:6,7 say, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.”
First, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord…”
Who is Christ Jesus? He is the image of the invisible God. He is the one through whom and for whom all things were created. (1:15-16) Through him God reconciled us to himself by making peace through his blood shed on the cross. Verse 1:21 says, “Once you were alienated from God and enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you (to himself)..” by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” All of us are sinners. Only the blood of Jesus purifies us from sin. I came to Jesus as a useless person, a sinner with no meaning or direction in life. During my sophomore year in college God led me to the Bible, the very word of God. When I studied Romans, the Holy Spirit worked in my heart through his word. I realized that I was a sinner. I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord. He forgave my sins and gave me his peace.
Colossians 1 talks about the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages? This mystery is that the Creator God loves the world. He loves both believers and unbelievers. The deeper mystery is Christ himself. He is God’s Son, the expression of God’s love. He comes to dwell in the heart of each person who receives him. He wants all people to receive his love, to know him and love him. In Christ, all the fullness of the Deity (Godhead) lives in bodily form. He comes with healing and forgiveness. He is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” This is the foundation of a life of thankfulness. Because we have received Christ Jesus, he dwells in us. We know the joy of being forgiven and the joy of being loved by God. This is the foundation, the beginning point of thanksgiving.
Receive him as Lord. I received Christ Jesus as Lord. Christ came into my heart to be Lord and King. He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. He is the King who sits on David’s throne and who wants to sit on the throne of my heart. I accepted the Bible as God’s word. The Holy Spirit came to help me live according to the Spirit instead of according to the sinful nature. I am thankful to God for his Son Jesus. I am thankful to Jesus for his sacrifice on the cross for me. I thank him that he has come into my life to be Lord. As we received Christ Jesus as Lord let us continue to live our lives in him.
Second, “Continue to live your lives in him…” (this is the process of sanctification)
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 12:3). By the work of the Holy Spirit we are born again into God’s family. By the work of the Holy Spirit in us we can continue to live our lives in him. When we receive Christ as Lord, he comes to dwell in us. Jesus describes this in John 15 as a vine and branch relationship. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus promised: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to them and make our home with him.” (Jn 14:23) God gave us his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continues to work in us to mold us into the image of our Creator, the image of Jesus. As we live by the Spirit, we must be rooted and built up in him; we must be strengthened in faith as we were taught.
1. Rooted and built up in him.
We must put down roots in Jesus and in his word. Jesus told the parable of the soils and pointed to the importance of putting down deep roots. In times of persecution and hardship, those whose roots are deep in Jesus grow stronger, while those with shallow roots wither and die. The Psalmist found that by meditating on the word of God, his roots could go down to the source,
1Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. 4The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
2. Strengthened in the faith as you were taught
We are strengthened in the faith when we walk by faith. Each time we make a small decision of faith our faith grows. We are strengthened in faith when we remember what God has done in our lives and in the lives of others. We can be strengthened in the faith as we were taught when we read the Bible faithfully every day, spend time with God in prayer and remembering with thankfulness what God has done.
3. Overflowing with thankfulness
When we receive Christ Jesus as Savior, we receive him as Lord. We acknowledge Jesus’ Lordship by obeying him. He commands us to be overflowing with thankfulness. 1Thess 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we give thanks to God, we acknowledge God’s Sovereignty and his goodness. Ingratitude was at the root of Eve’s sin in the garden of Eden. God had given them everything that they could ever want or need. God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was for their good. Because they were not thankful to God for the beauty and abundance he had given them, they wanted something else. They only wanted what they shouldn’t have because they were not really thankful to God. Paul says in Romans 1, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” This was the beginning of their downfall into hell.
When the Israelites were miraculously set free from bondage in Egypt they did not thank God. Just three days after they had crossed the Red Sea, they began complaining about the food and the water. They continually grumbled and they died in the desert. The second generation could go in. When people grumble it is because they are not thankful. It is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus to be overflowing with thankfulness.
As we look back at history we find that thanksgiving is born, not in times of prosperity and plenty, but in times of great suffering. Jesus accomplished our salvation by his suffering and death on the cross. This is our greatest reason to be thankful. In times of suffering, if we seek God and give our hearts to him we experience his grace and mercy and love and our hearts overflow with thankfulness, if, on the other hand, we allow bitterness to invade our hearts and we become full of complaints and ingratitude, our hearts become hard and cold and we fall into Satan’s trap and into unbelief. The problem is not the problem; how we handle it is the real problem. Grumbling and complaining is easy. It is giving in to our natural feelings. Its like sliding downhill. Giving thanks is not easy or natural. It is like climbing uphill. To be overflowing with thankfulness is the Lord’s command. To be thankful in all circumstances is God’s will for his people.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.” Our Lord Jesus tells us to be “overflowing with thankfulness.” Thankfulness does not come naturally. It is intentional. It does not come automatically when good things happen to us or even when our prayers are answered. To be thankful requires a decision of faith. We must remember God’s grace. We must fix our eyes on Jesus, set our minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col 3:2) and we must see life from God’s perspective, as Jesus sees people and events.
Let us thank God. We thank him for the grace of forgiveness and for his mercy. We thank him for his boundless love and mercy that covers our sins. We thank God for life. We thank God for his indescribable gift–the gift of his Son to be our Savior. We thank him for his gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter who is with us throughout our pilgrim journey. We thank him for the Bible and for the opportunity to study it and share it with others. We thank him for our families, for friends and coworkers; we thank him for health, and for sickness and pain that draws us close to him. We thank God for his kingdom. And we pray, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We thank God for those who irritate us and for those who give us joy. We thank God for giving us mission, his work to do, and for the strength and grace and wisdom to do it. Let us give thanks to God. As we have received Christ Jesus as Lord, let us continue to live our lives in him.“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.