Feeding our Greatest Hunger with Spirit-filled Obedience
This week, I’ve been meditating on Paul’s seemingly straightforward and simple command to the Colossians: “And be thankful” (3:15). The word and reminded us of our privilege to offer thanksgiving as a continual refrain to what God has done for us in Christ. Be showed us the impossibility of thankfulness without regeneration and renewal. It’s our presence at Christ’s table that joins us to him in giving thanks to the Father.
Communion as Thanksgiving.
Today, as we ponder that final word “and be thankful,” I want us to pick up where we left off–at the Lord’s Table. If you are Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, or Orthodox perhaps you are familiar with the term the “Holy Eucharist” used to refer to what Baptists often call “Communion.” That word eucharist is the same word Paul uses in Colossians 3: thankful.
The earliest Christians began to call the Lord’s Supper the eucharist because they realized that the Lord’s Supper is a thanksgiving meal. We first learn how to give thanks at the Lord’s Table. It’s the place where Jesus Christ gives himself, his own flesh and blood for us. And it’s from that table that all other good things overflow. We are able to say, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, only because we have first said, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Psalm 23:6,5).
At the Lord’s Table, Jesus gives thanks that he can offer his body and blood for his people, his disciples, his family gathered around his table. At the same table, we give thanks because we know this much is true: “He who did not spare his only Son but gave him up for us all will also with him graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32).
Finding True Satisfaction.
Before we come to the Lord Jesus, nothing is ever enough. But after we come to the Cross, we realize he has already given too much. Thanksgiving is impossible without the gospel. But with the gospel, thanksgiving is abounding. We have become eucharistoi–thanks-givers–by definition (Col. 3:15). We who were predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son are new creatures who love nothing more than to sit down as his table and simply say, “Thank you.” Just like Jesus says in John 4, our souls are finally satisfied with the only food that truly feeds our hunger: doing the will of our Father.
Why is this world so hungry? We are feeding our souls with the approval of others, with “being true to our hearts,” and with Instagram likes and retweets. We are feeding our hungers with selfishness, stolen praise, and the applause of other moms, other co-workers, friends, neighbors. We are feeding ourselves with new toys.
All of us were at one time like the man stranded in the open ocean. His thirst drives him to drink the salty ocean water, but with every handful he gulps down, his body becomes even more dehydrated and his thirst even wilder.
One day we returned to the same broken cistern, and a Man encountered us, saying, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And we said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water” (John 4:13-15).
The Spirit of Thanksgiving.
In that moment, God poured his love into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). His Spirit shows us that all of the food we’ve been feasting on only makes us hungrier. This is the food that satisfies: to do the will of the Father. Obedience. And as we take one step of obedience, two steps, three, our soul is satisfied to such a degree, our appetites are so satiated—in simply obeying our Father, we sit at the table saying over and over again: “Thank you, Father. Thank you. Thank you. I have never been so satisfied in all of my life. Simply in following Jesus, in doing your will–actually able to obey you!”
When Paul says, “And be thankful,” he is not merely talking about a change of attitude. He doesn’t simply mean feel thankful. The word he uses here indicates activity: “And be those who give thanks.” In the Old Testament, they offered up thank offerings. In the Psalms, thanksgiving was never a silent activity: “I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 2:1-2). As the New Testament people of God, “And be thankful” means offering up our own bodies as living sacrifices. “And be thankful” means we are forever retelling all of God’s mighty deeds.
We wonder why we feel so hopeless and miserable all of the time. It’s because we recount to ourselves over and over again all of the things we perceive to be wrong with our lives. It’s called complaining. Certainly, we all need to stop complaining, but the opposite of complaining is not not complaining—it’s thanksgiving.
We were designed to recount the things in our lives. Complaining hijacks that, but thanksgiving is what we were made for. We were made to tell the tales of how God saved us. We were made to sit around the table and remind one another of the amazing things God has done. We were made to feast and celebrate and relive battle for battle, blow by blow, moment by moment the amazing victory that Jesus Christ has won on the cross and continues to win in our midst. We were made to give thanks.
May Thanksgiving not simply be a day of the year, or even a week out of the year, but a continual state of the heart. Continually rehearsing, replaying, retelling, rejoicing in the goodness of our God. And. Be. Thankful.