Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
Gratitude is never lacking in us because God has done any less for us. Gratitude is lacking in us only when we lose sight of all God has done for us, is doing for us, and promises to do for us in the future. We cannot count the blessings he has showered on us, which means we never have an excuse not to give thanks.
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts 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. (Colossians 3:15–17)
You can hear the apostle Paul driving home the theme: Let peace rule in your hearts with thankfulness. Let praise rise up from your mouths with thankfulness. Let all you say and do — think about that — give off the aroma of thankfulness. Whatever you do — even when the worst comes, even when trials linger and grow darker, even when the floor falls out from beneath your feet, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health — do it in the name of Jesus, with thankfulness to God.
Gratitude Is Unnatural
That the apostle repeats himself like he does tells us just how unnatural gratitude is. Our hearts don’t easily rise in thankfulness, at least not often. For all the reasons we have to give thanks, we have every bit as much resistance still within us. Because of sin, we would much rather groan and complain about the few blessings God withholds from us than to count and marvel at all the varied blessings he pours on us in Christ. And so Paul says, Be thankful. . . . Be thankful. . . . In all that you do, be thankful. Overwhelm your resistance to thankfulness with prayerful repetition.
Unlike gratitude, grumbling comes surprisingly naturally. Grumbling is easy. We are born grumblers. And so Paul says elsewhere, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14–15). Gratitude stands out in a world filled with grumbling. It’s unnatural and beautiful, startling and compelling. Ask God to make you shine, more and more, with gratefulness.
Gratitude Colors Everything
For some of us, gratitude is something we do three times each day, right before we eat. We briefly stop to count our blessings again, but not too many and not too long (so that the food doesn’t get cold). Gratitude, however, is not reserved for mealtime, at least not for Paul.
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.
Gratitude, for him, is not a preface to lunch or dinner; it is the redeemed heart’s glad response to God in and for everything. “Give thanks in all circumstances,” he says in another letter, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
By all means, give thanks before every meal, but also when you sit down to work, or when you stop to discipline your children, or when you watch your favorite show, or when you spend time with a friend, or when you wash the dishes, or as you lie down to sleep. Break gratitude out of the tiny cupboards we tend to keep it in. Make it the aroma of all your responsibilities, of all your relationships, of all your life. Let it begin to color everything you say or do.
Marry Singing with Thanksgiving
Among the lessons we learn about gratitude in Colossians 3, one of the more subtle and more powerful is the relationship between gratitude and singing. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs is a proven, God-given way to express the thankfulness in our hearts. It is also a proven, God-given way to cultivate thankfulness when it is not there.
How many times have our discouraged, grumbling, discontent hearts walked into worship on Sunday and walked out totally different? God has given singing — especially singing together with the body of Christ — incredible potential for spiritual renewal and spiritual flourishing. Something about hearing others count and recount the blessings of God with thankfulness, especially those we know are struggling or suffering, warms the embers of our own faith, joy, and gratitude. That sound opens the eyes of our hearts to blessings we may have missed or taken for granted.
So, learn to count your blessings in Christ, and know you’ll never count them all. And whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or do anything else, give thanks.