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Nov 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Peace

Passage: Colossians 3:15-17

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Colossians

Category: Thanksgiving

Keywords: eucharist, gratitude, joy, lordship of christ, pilgrims, prayer, squanto, suffering, thanks, thanksgiving

Summary:

What is the relationship biblically between a heart of thanksgiving and the peace of Christ in one's life? This passage of gracious thanksgiving in the midst of this book of a grateful but suffering prisoner of Christ (Paul) holds some powerful truths capable of transforming the most difficult life experiences into joy.

Detail:

Thanksgiving Peace

Colossians 3:15-17

November 26, 2017

 

COMMUNION: The word Eucharist comes from both Greek and Latin word eucharistia meaning “thanksgiving” or “gratitude. 

Found several times in Colossians:

  • 2:6, 7--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.
  • Colossians 3:15, 17--Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be

 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • 4:2--Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

While not using the same Greek word, Paul in 1st Corinthians 10:16 speaks of Communion as being a “cup of blessing”, or as the NIV translates it, a “cup of thanksgiving.” 

Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

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INTRO:  [Cartoons of turkeys being thankful—Even turkeys can be thankful.]

I think it’s instructive that the one uniquely American holiday is a holiday that not only revolves around being thankful but was started as an act of worship of God and involved 2 races of people: white Pilgrim settlers from England and brown Native American Indians from N. America.  In the age of grievance politics where everyone seems to have an ax to grind about some injustice “their people” suffered, how refreshing to see the power of thankfulness to rise above hardship and injustice to produce genuine peace and joy between people.

But what I find most striking about this favorite of American holidays is that it was celebrated…really celebrated…in the course of what had been undoubtedly THE most agonizing and sorrow-filled year for most of the leading participants of that 1st Thanksgiving, both white and Native American. 

The Pilgrims, as we know, blown off course and north over 100 miles from their original target of Manhattan Island, arrived at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in November of 1620.  It had taken them over 2 months (66 days) in extremely rough seas, in a boat the size of this room, with 132 crew and passengers on board.  The 102 Pilgrims all lived in a space roughly 58’ x 24’ (just under 1,400 sq. ft.). 

            Before they even decided where to live, William Bradford’s wife, Dorothy, age 23, died it is believed by drowning as they were anchored in Mass. Bay.  (She had married William 6 years earlier at age 16). The next month, December 1620, began the winter illness that would claim nearly half (47) of the Pilgrims. 

  • 6 died in Dec.
  • 8 in Jan.
  • saw 17 deaths and
  • March 13.

13 of the 18 wives died. 

3 of the 13 sons. 

Only 3 of the 18 families remained unbroken by death that year. 

            Yet that entire community engaged in an entire weekend of feasting and thanksgiving 7 months later in Oct. of 1621.  Their thankfulness was not determined by their circumstances.

But the Pilgrims weren’t the only thankful people in the fall of 1621.  Probably the singularly most amazing part of the whole Plymouth Plantation story is the thankfulness of a Native American Indian named Tisquantum, or Squanto, as the Pilgrims called him.  He had been born into the Patuxet tribe, a band of Native Americans who were part of the larger Wampanoag tribal confederation.  The Patuxets had been living precisely in the area of where the Pilgrims made land. 

His story is itself a miracle wrapped in a very sad injustice.  In 1605, he and 4 other Indians were taken captive by Cpt. George Weymouth who was exploring the New England coast.  He and his 3 companions were taken to England where they remained for 9 years and were taught English. In 1614, he was taken back to the Americans by Captain John Smith. 

But before he could even get his bearings, he was lured onto a different British fishing ship under the command of a Cpt. Thomas Hunt and taken as a slave to be sold in the infamous slave-trading port of Malaga, Spain, for the astounding price of $1,500.  There, Squanto was actually bought and rescued by local Catholic friars who introduced him to the Christian faith and gave him his freedom.  He eventually attached himself to an Englishman bound for London (again), and there met and joined the household of a wealthy merchant where he lived until he embarked for New England in 1619 with a Cpt. Dermer. 

But when Squanto stepped ashore in 1619, just 6 months before the Pilgrims arrived, not a man, woman or child of his tribe was left alive.  Disease had left nothing but skulls and bones and ruined dwellings of his entire tribe.  He was taken in by Massasoit and through him came to actually live with the Pilgrims and teach them what they would need to know to survive. 

According to Governor Bradford, Squanto became THE single greatest tool of God for the survival of the Pilgrims those first two years in the New World.  Squanto died in Nov. 1622.  

Here were two very different cultures, united by their common devotion to Jesus Christ, in the midst of two similar deep sorrows of having lost many loved ones, deciding that their first celebration and holiday as a people would be one of THANKSGIVING. 

Apparently our nation’s forefathers knew a few things we don’t: 

  • Thankfulness is a choice not left to chance.
  • It doesn’t depend on how hard life is or has been.
  • Thankfulness changes us every time we engage in it.

This is precisely what is to set Christ-following people apart from the average Joe.  Our thankfulness to God is not dependent upon happy, easy, comfortable circumstances.  The human author of these words, the Apostle Paul, is experiencing prison in Rome.

[Mention Paul, Apostle of Christ movie.] [Describe imprisonment.]

Clearly Paul’s ability to be a thankful man is not dependent on easy circumstances, just as it with our Puritan forefathers. 

            As God so often does when we’re working through a book, today’s text is actually about thanksgiving. In Colossians, Paul addresses thankfulness 4 separate times in 4 short chapters.  The first is in the prayer that Paul uses to open this book.  Col. 1:3ff--

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people….”

Look also at the last reference Paul makes to thankfulness in Colossians 4:2—“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  Thankfulness to God is simply another way of engaging in prayer. 

Here is the first truth about thanksgiving for today:

1.)  PRAYER is THE chief way to be thankful to God.  

Can you tell if someone is a thankful person if they are silent? NO!  Thankfulness, by its nature, has to be expressed.  Just like generosity requires actually giving something to someone else, so thankfulness actually requires expressing gratitude to someone. 

This is one very good reason to cultivate prayer in our lives.  Without prayer, we won’t be able to experience the power of thankfulness to transform our souls.  Without prayers of gratitude, we’re left sounding like a bunch of greedy children reciting our Christmas wish list.  But thanksgiving will revolutionize our prayers.  Thanksgiving will transform our hearts.  Thanksgiving will mold our character. 

The fact that Paul, sitting in prison in Rome, would a.) pen a prayer and b.) start that prayer with thanksgiving, should tell us much.  A thankful person will be a praying person.  They just go hand in hand. 

Having said that, it is amazing how hard it can be to JUST BE THANKFUL! Have you ever been to a prayer meeting where someone instructed the group to just focus on giving thanks for a few minutes without asking for anything?  Some people just don’t seem to get the concept of being thankful without asking for anything.  There is no spiritual rule that demands we not mix thanksgiving with requests. 

ILL:   I was raised by old-school parents who hammered home to me the need to write a “Thank You” note whenever I received a gift from someone.  It’s sadly a social custom that has fallen by the wayside today.  But I still try to remember to write thank you notes when someone gives me or my family a gift.  [My sincerest apologies if you have given something to me and I’ve failed to send a note of thanks.  I’m definitely not perfect.] 

            How would you feel if, having given me a gift, you were to open my thank you note in which I started by saying, “Hello Joe.  Thanks so much for the warm gloves you sent my way last week.  I’m really enjoying them in this colder weather.  While I’m thinking of it, I could really use a warm hat, perhaps a sweater and a good set of warm, wool socks too.  You know how cold it can get here in Spokane.”  Etc., etc.?    

            See the problem?  Perhaps this is why so many of the Psalms are just devoted to praise and thanksgiving.  Something beautiful happens when we don’t mix gratitude with “please give me” requests.  Again, there is no command against putting those two in the same prayer.  But there is a genuine beauty in pure praise and thanksgiving.

Before we move on to the next call to thanksgiving in Colossians, just notice WHAT Paul is thankful for:  he’s grateful for the people of God.  And he’s grateful for things that are going on in their life with Christ:  a growing faith in Jesus and love for each other. 

APP:  When is the last time you just thanked God for the church?  For spiritual growth you are seeing in others?  For the blessings God is giving you by being in His spiritual family…here…now?

            Later on this morning, we’re going to DO thanksgiving.  This is one of the major categories of life that should lead us into thanks:  the way God is working in others and the way we are being blessed by seeing that happen.  This is also why it’s important to be fellowshipping regularly with God’s people.  Fellowship is fuel for a thankful heart to God.

RECAP:  So thankfulness is PRAYER—verbal thanksgiving to God.  And GOD’S PEOPLE are to be the content of our thanksgiving to God.    

            The next passage in Colossians regarding giving thanks is found in Colossians 2:6ff--

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.

2.)  Life “lived [by faith] in Christ Jesus” as our Lord will be a life of overflowing thankfulness.      

There is an unbreakable union between truly living with Jesus as our Lord/Master/Sovereign and being thankful.  People who either do not know Jesus as the absolute Lord OR do not trust Christ as truly sovereign will not be people who turn to thanksgiving often.  Neither will they be people who experience the peace of Christ.

            This verse ties directly to our passage for today in Colossians 3:15-17.  It says,

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Q:  How much do you think experiencing the peace of Christ in our hearts has to do with thankfulness? 

ILL:  Hearing Joni Erickson Tada on the radio yesterday talking about the challenge she was given as a teenager who had recently become a paraplegic in a diving accident, to learn to “be thankful” in every situation in life…yes, even her paralysis.  At first she rejected God’s call to thankfulness through this teenage friend.  But as she wrestled with God in that rehab hospital, God began to show here how gratitude could restore her peace.   She began to see how much she still had to be thankful for in every day of life.

EXERCISE:  Imagine you are a paraplegic.  You won’t be able to move your legs, arms or torso on your own for the rest of your life. Start naming what you could still be thankful for in the course of just one day.  And someone start counting.  [Sight, breathing, hearing, taste, smell, touch…and SO much of everything you can experience through those sense.  Feelings…emotions…fellowship …God’s promises…God’s presence…everything we all have “in Christ”…etc.] 

            People who really trust in the sovereignty of God will be grateful people.  People who resist His sovereign will and work in their lives will be angry, bitter, wounded, entitled people. 

            There is a peace that comes when we “make peace” with God and what He has allowed or brought into our lives.   As painful and life-altering as those things may be, we will never know the peace of Christ that “passes all understanding” until we make peace with God’s sovereign work.  That doesn’t mean we stop grieving loss.  It doesn’t mean we like what suffering evil or accidents may have caused.  We may be crying out in the pain of loss or suffering.  But we do so with a heart of submission to the will and wisdom of our Father whose wisdom and love so far surpass what we will ever be able to know. 

APP:  Is there something/someone in your life that you just can’t find peace about and it/they are outside of your control?  Have you gotten to that place yet where you have chosen to thank God for how that person/thing is and can be used by God in your life?  And have you stopped being blinded by that thing/person and kept developing the capacity to see what good life still holds for which to be thankful? 

            Thankfulness does not depend on ease for its existence.  It can grow and flourish in the harshest of environments.  That’s why James could say in James 1:2, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”  Joy and trials are not mutually exclusive experiences.  In fact, for the follower of Jesus, they are bedfellows.  Where you find trials, there we are invited to discover the joy.  “What possible good is God wanting to give me in this trial?” should be the question we all ask of every trial. 

ILL:  The prophet Daniel understood the importance of thanksgiving to God to the health of his soul.  Daniel 6:10, when threatened with execution by dismembering by lions, determined to continue his 3-times a day practice of giving thanks to God in prayer.  The text says, “Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem.  Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”

            Daniel, a man taken captive and dragged off to a foreign country as a slave of war, was in the habit of giving thanks to God at least 3 times a day, publically.  Besides having suffered all that calamity of war, there is a good chance/probability that Daniel had been made a eunuch. 

  • We know he never married.
  • We know he was under the charge of the chief eunuch (Dan. 1:3) in
  • Second Kings 20:18indicates that some of Hezekiah’s descendants would one day be taken from Israel to serve in the palace of the king of Babylon as eunuchs: “And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” 

How many of us, having suffered under God’s hand of discipline of our nation, would have risked our very lives, 3 times a day, publically, in order to express our thanks and gratitude to God?  Hardship in life does not have to determine or undermine our gratitude to God. 

So to the people and experiences we have being a part of the church, we can now add 2 more categories to our CONTENT of thankfulness: 

  1. Growth that trials bring
  2. Everything we DO “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Col. 3:17).

Verse 17 calls us to place EVERYTHING we do, whether speech or action, “in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Just what does this mean to “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”? 

  • If I do something in my wife’s name, it means I am acting as she would act. I can’t claim to be doing something “in her name” that she wouldn’t want done.  But if I speak or do what I know is something she would want said or done, then I can say, “I’m doing this in my wife’s name.” 
  • When someone makes a gift “in so-and-sos name,” that means that they are doing something good out of honor for and remembrance of that person. God’s command here to do “whatever” we’re doing/saying “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” means that EVERY part of our lives can and should become a holy activity.  Everything I engage in from cooking breakfast to driving in traffic to surfing the internet to shopping on Black Friday…EVERYTHING is to be engaged in as a means of honoring Jesus. 

If what I’m saying or doing in any given moment can’t be done out of honor for Christ, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it.  But when I’m able to say to God, “Thank you for the privilege of doing this activity or saying this thing ‘in Christ’,” then you can be quite sure that it is being done “in Christ.” 

Thankfulness is what can serve as a “filter,” a “gauge” of life lived either in the flesh or life lived in the Holy Spirit.

ILL: 

  • Watching movies/Netflicks/TV “in Christ”: if I can sit there and literally thank God (in silently or audibly expressed thanksgiving) that what I’m watching is helping me experience the life and heart of Christ more, then thankfulness has helped me be more discerning, more Christ-like and more holy.  BUT if what I’m watching is not something I could turn to Jesus were he sitting in the chair next to me and say, “Thank you for letting me see this so I can better know you and display you to this world,” then it’s probably something we should be shutting down or changing channels on. 
  • Working at home or at our jobs/school.
  • Conversation with family/friends

The challenge is not when we’re fellowshipping like this together.  The challenge is not when we’re joining in a special worship service like this Wednesday’s “ABIDE.”

The challenge is not when we’re reading our Bible in the morning or thanking God for our food. 

The challenge IS when we are engaged in “everything” else that we do in the course of a day that seems pretty mundane, secular or routine.  Turning every action and conversation into a silent but conscious prayer of thanksgiving will not only filter out flesh from spirit; it will help us embrace the holiness of every part of life when it is lived “in Christ.” 

ILL:  Take some of life’s most mundane/routine/seemingly “secular” activities and turn them into thanksgiving. 

  • Doing dishes
  • Driving to work
  • Doing laundry
  • Cleaning your apartment
  • Watering plants
  • Fixing meals
  • Shopping

It’s impossible to be thanking God for something in the midst of these activities while at the same time grumbling, complaining or being upset about them. 

But there is something else that will probably happen as we become people of gratitude. 

ILL:  One of my sisters (Ann) consciously deciding to practice thankfulness to others as often as possible >> a family that began to express gratitude more and be genuinely happier more often because we were simply noticing nice things others were doing that we appreciated. But it came about through her relationship to Christ. 

NOTE:  While thankfulness to others will change the kind of relationship we have with them, thankfulness to God will actually produce the greatest change and blessing to every relationship and experience of life.  It is specifically the giving of thanks to God that both Paul and our Pilgrim forefathers understood to hold the key to peace and a joyful life. 

APP:  So let’s engage in a bit of thankfulness today that will make today and possibly the rest of our lives more peaceful, more joyful and more trust-filled. 

            May I suggest that we group of gratitude around 4 categories of things the Word of God consistently holds up to us as realities in which to exercise thankfulness.

1.)  Growth that trials, tribulations and needs bring.

2.)  Other believers in Jesus/God’s family, the church—their faith, love, steadfastness, perseverance, generosity, etc.

3.)  Spiritual blessings in Christ—deliverance, redemption, forgiveness, unshakeable kingdom, inheritance, grace, peace, wisdom, guidance, mercy, goodness of God, loving kindness, new nature, eternal family, etc.

4.)  Physical provisions of God—health, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, sunshine, rain, snow, seasons, laws of nature, beauty, human sense, etc.

We’re going to take about a minute or 2 for each category and open it up to ONE sentence prayers of gratitude in each category, popcorn style.