Becoming Thankful People

Colossians 1:3-5 “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 of the love you have for all the saints–the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel…”

There is one great place we can go to become thankful people. That is in the faith and love that come from God. That is what fills Paul with thankfulness as he begins this letter.

            This faith and love have a source. They grow from the gospel. You know that the word gospel simply means “good news.” Here, Paul describes the good news of the Christian faith this way: “…the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel…” Thankful faith and love spring up, they grow, from the “hope that is stored up for you in heaven.”

Oh. I guess hope stored up in heaven sounds like good news…someday. Maybe we were hoping for something more immediate. Maybe we were hoping for something to have and enjoy right now that could make us forget about the things we don’t have. Maybe we feel a little like the boy who was hoping for some great new toy or gadget from his favorite uncle for his birthday. Instead what he gets is a savings bond that doesn’t mature for five years.

            But wait. God’s good news is far superior to the good news people think they want. It is something to be excited about right now. What if Jesus died on the cross, and rose from the dead, and forgave all our sins so that we could win the lottery? What if he kept God’s law perfectly, and sacrificed his life in our place, so that we could have a happy family, just the way we want it to be? What if God’s Son left heaven, became a man, and surrendered himself to be executed by his enemies so that we could have fun, fun, fun–life in this world could be an endless circle of parties and good times? Now we are talking? Now we have a reason to be thankful? Now we have good news we can be happy to believe?

            But what is going to happen to all those things? The money is spent and its gone. Family members get old and die. Good times last a little while, but the moment passes, and then they are just a memory. “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare,” Peter reminds us in his second letter.

        When I was a little boy, my favorite uncle didn’t give me savings bonds. He bought me Tonka Toys. Do you remember Tonka Toys? They still make them–steel trucks and bulldozers and cranes that were made to last a lifetime. They were virtually indestructible. I had my own miniature construction company in the sandbox in our backyard. Then my next door neighbor friend discovered that if the rocks you drop on them are big enough, they really will bend and break. My collection ended up a pile of twisted metal. It was a sad loss, but a good lesson for life: Even the strongest and most certain things don’t last forever.

            Except God’s gifts in the gospel. Because heaven is a gift of God’s love, the result of Jesus’ work not our work, the prize for having our sins forgiven, it is stored up for us. It is being kept and prepared for us where no one can destroy it or take it away. It is certain. Remember Jesus’ words? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Everything God promised is secure and waiting.

            Because heaven is heaven, it lasts forever. It has no end. When you have a good day now, when you have a string of successes, you sometimes wonder how long it’s going to last. Today I feel good, but the migraines will return. Today sales are up, but another slow period is inevitable. Today my manager is in a good mood, but next week he will be back to his cranky self.

In heaven, our very last bad days will all be behind us. Every tomorrow will only be better and brighter. Faith feeds on a promise like that. It grows from such a gospel. And where there is faith, love can’t be far away. Now there is something to thank God for.

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