Robert Wurtz II
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
On the surface, it seems that Paul is addressing three different topics in one verse. He speaks first of the peace of God ruling in the heart, second of unity in the body of Christ, and ends with an admonition to be thankful. However, a close examination reveals that these three topics are enjoined into one. If we are to know unity in the corporate body of Christ, we must allow the peace of God to rule in our hearts individually. This reality begins with being thankful.
Unthankful = Unhappy
When a person has a disposition of unthankfulness, they are nearly always unhappy. They might be utterly miserable. Being unthankful is frequently a symptom of being discontent with some aspect of their lives. Usually, they are content with the status of their spiritual life but feel dissatisfaction with their earthly life. Their mind and heart are set on the things of this world and not on the things of God. When John the Baptist worked to get the peoples’ hearts right with God, one of the areas he focused on was contentment (Luke 3:14).
We have three categories for “the world” in 1 John 2:16. They are the strong desires of the flesh, the strong desires of the eye, and the pride of life. They amount to worldly possessions, hedonistic pleasures, and self-exalting achievements. When we set our hearts on these things, repentance is in order. As Saints, we are to fix our minds on things above and not the things of earth (Col. 3:2). If we fail on this point, we will end up discontent and therefore unthankful. Are you depressed? Are you unhappy? Next question, Are you a thankful person? What is your focus? If you are an unthankful person changing your attitude will change your life.
An old hymn invites us to,
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
Count your blessings, see what God hath done;
Count your blessings, name them one by one;
And it may surprise you what the Lord hath done.
When we fail to stop and give thanks to God, we are playing right into the hands of the enemy. Everyone has something for which to be thankful. Moreover, we should teach our children to be thankful. It is indeed a key to happiness and spirituality. When we are grateful to God, our heart goes out to Him in the right frame of mind. When we are unthankful, we are apt to treat God with contempt and disrespect. An ungrateful spirit is like bitter poison. The Bible is replete with people who were ungrateful, and some were judged harshly because of it (Gen. 40:23, Num. 14:27, Deut. 32:18, Judges 8:35, 1 Sam. 25:37-38, Prov. 17:13, Luke 17:15-18, Rom. 1:21, 2 Tim. 2:2).
Systemic Unthankfulness and Discontentment
“People who are at war with themselves because of selfish desires are always unhappy people. They never enjoy life. Instead of being thankful for the blessings they do have, they complain about the blessings they do not have. They cannot get along with other people because they are always envying others for what they have and do. They are always looking for that “magic something” that will change their lives, when the real problem is within their own hearts.” (Warren W. Wiersbe)
What happens when a spouse is discontented and unthankful for their mate? Similar to what Wiesbe suggests, they are always looking for that “magic someone” who will change their lives and make them happy. What happens? Bad treatment of their spouse at best and infidelity or divorce at worst can result. Are your expectations realistic? If not you will be miserable all of your life. You have set yourself up for bitter failure. What is the basis of your expectations? Are you giving yourself to fictional ideas? Lust is never satisfied nor is covetousness. Keep that clear. No matter how attractive your mate or how large your bank account–if you are moving in lust and covetousness it will never be enough. You have a systemic problem of ungratefulness and discontentment that needs to be repented of and replaced with thanksgiving.
Discontentment in the Churches
Colossians 3:15 brings to mind a question, “What happens when unthankfulness and discontentment rear their ugly heads in the churches?” Real bad things happen. Since Christian denominations are secular-type power structures (and the primary way most churches are governed), people are subject to coveting the power and positions within churches and denominations. Not even the disciples were immune to these trappings. Jesus condemned the methods and attitudes they desired as “Gentile-like” and rebuked them for thinking this way (Matthew 20, Mark 10, and Luke 22). What brought this on? They had strife among themselves wanting a position of power in the Kingdom (Luke 22:24). They were moving the sin of “the pride of life.”
Coveting is the opposite of contentment. Coveting high positions in the kingdom could have destroyed the disciples had Jesus not rebuked them, and it can annihilate a church or denomination. People who are discontent with their status in life want recognition as did the Pharisees and Sadducees in the time of Jesus. They were envious of Him. Far too often religious quarrels are disguised in holy garments. Men pretend they are saving the churches from destruction using a host of secular and political strategies while seeking a name for themselves. It is selfish pride. The remedy is contentment and thanksgiving.
Thankful in Prayer
It is not a prayer if we tell God what He is supposed to do. Shall we be like Cain and get angry at Him if He does not obey us? If He chooses another instead of us? Behold, Sin is crouching at the door. When people are angry with God it can become a root of bitterness that defiles God’s people (Heb. 12:15). Whether it is for possessions, pleasures, or worldly recognition, our prayers may be totally wrong. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3 ESV)
We must pray for God’s will to be done and not ours. It is a faithful saying that “When our praying is wrong, our whole Christian life is wrong.” For this reason, the Psalmist exhorts us to “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalms 100:4 KJV). It must begin with thanksgiving to God and an attitude of contentment with the things of this life. Thanksgiving is the route of blessing for individuals and the churches. It is the fruit of people whose hearts are right with God.