G.K. Chesterton once noted “the critical thing is life is whether we take things for granted or take things with gratitude.” It is easy to notice what is wrong around us and live with a critical or entitled spirit. Gratitude, on the other hand, focuses not on what is wrong, but on what is right. Gratitude flows from realizing not, how much we “deserve” and don’t have, but what we don’t deserve and do have. Gratitude is poisoned by pride but grows best in the soil of humility.
In the book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul prayed the readers of his letter would give thanks to God. That’s an interesting prayer request, but appropriate, because gratitude, or giving thanks, is an indicator of spiritual maturity. In Colossians 1:12-14 Paul gives four reasons they should give thanks. Each reason has to do with the saving mercy and grace of God. No matter what has happened in your life (or will happen) the grace of God is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
First, God “qualifies” for heaven, allowing Christians to “share in the inheritance of the saints.” What does it mean to qualify for something? It means you have reached a certain level of achievement. People work hard to earn a certain test score, credit score, or athletic feat in order to attain entrance into a school or job, home mortgage, or Hall of Fame. The bad news is no person can qualify themselves for heaven because everyone has fallen short (Romans 3:23). But Jesus earned heaven for us (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9). Through his perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection Jesus did the work! Salvation is not about our achievements, but what Jesus has accomplished for us.
Second, Jesus “delivers” from darkness. Darkness and fear often go together. Imagine being lost in a dark cave with no way out, or imprisoned in dark, solitary confinement. The Bible often uses darkness as a metaphor for brokenness, being lost, evil, deception and despair. Jesus, the Light of the World, has delivered us from darkness! What great news.
Third, Paul writes Jesus “transfers” people into His kingdom. It is one thing for prison doors to be opened, and another thing to have a limo waiting outside ready to transport you to a new life of freedom. Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus didn’t just make the way, He is the way. All who are His are now a “people for His own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
Fourth, “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” is available through Jesus. When you redeem a coupon, you may have noticed the small print, “no cash value.” You hand over something which by itself has no purchasing power, and are given something of greater worth in return. We have nothing “of value” to offer God because even our good works are like filthy rags to Him (Isaiah 64:6). Jesus death on the cross was to redeem sinners by exchanging His righteousness for our sin.
It’s hard to be grumpy when you realize all you have to be grateful for!
Chris Larmoyeux is pastor of First Baptist Church of Maumelle