“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 the love which you have for all the saints’ because of the hope laid up for you in Heaven.” Colossians 1:3-5a I love these verses because of the motifs found in them.
First, Paul always thanks God for the Colossians when he prays for them. How comforting and encouraging for a young church to know that, not only are they always remembered in Paul’s prayers, but he remembers them in thanksgiving. As we enter into the American Thanksgiving season I wonder how many people would be heartened to know that they are prayed for daily? If you don’t already, start praying for your loved ones, and then let them know you are praying for them. For some of you, it might seem a bit awkward to tell someone that you pray for them, but it might just be the thing the person needs to strengthen their resolve.
Paul also ties together the three graces of Christianity; faith, love and hope in these short verses. These are common in Paul’s writings (1 Cor.13:13; 1 Thess. 1:3) and are sort of a shortcut for describing a genuine Christian. Paul does not equate these graces as being natural to man, but the result of a relationship with God. Instead he sees love, faith, and hope as the evidence of a changed heart that is under the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that the Colossians’ faith is in Christ Jesus, and the result of that relationship is found in their love for each other. And, both their faith and love is founded upon their hope laid up for them in Heaven. Over the years I have been subject, as have many of you, to a type of Christianity that is grounded in what you do and that leads to confusion, discouragement, and false understanding of the Word of God. The Gospel is not about what you do, but about what Christ has done. In his words to the Colossians Paul makes it clear that your relationship with Christ is based on your faith in Him and His finished work at Calvary. The result of that faith is that we have a desire to share its love with others and give them the hope of Heaven as well.
True spirituality does not consist of your good works and absolute obedience to everything you can think of that God might demand of you. Instead, it consists of a change of attitude (Romans 12:1,2) that changes your heart from self-centeredness to compassion and love. When we honestly love God with all our heart we will love our fellow man. Being a Christian isn’t something you work at, but it is something that you become because of God’s grace at work in your heart.
Let this American Thanksgiving allow God’s love to penetrate deep into our heart as we contemplate the blessings God has given us. We live in free nations (USA and Canada), where we are free of oppression and persecution. We have been blessed with abundance of food and modern conveniences to make our lives easier. Our children have the opportunity for great education and to see their dreams come true. Most of all, remember the God who loves you and put your faith in His Son who died that you may live. Remember your friends and family. Call them up tell them how much they mean to you, and let them know you pray without ceasing for their well-being and happiness. Let the joy of Heaven cover you always and may your love shine strong in the life of others.