I was privileged to hear this story, “I met a very happy and interesting man on Thursday at the bank. When I said to him, “bless you”, he replied to me, “Of course I am, and you are too!” We then had a very, positive, lively, conversation about faith and prayer. Then, as he was getting ready to leave, he said to me, “Got to go and continue my practicing at being a Christian. I have to practice because it is so hard to get it right!” I wanted to hug him.”
How true, how true, I really believe that statement nails it.
It is hard to be a practicing Christian. The world makes it hard. Spiritual forces make it hard. Other Christians make it hard, and we make it hard on ourselves as well. We need to practice, practice, practice, and practice as well as engaging in prayer and being prayed for.
Paul writes to the church in Colossae, “We’re praying this so that you can live lives that are worthy of the Lord and pleasing to him in every way.” Oh, we need this kind of prayer. We need to be praying this kind of prayer for one another. True prayer builds intimacy. If we really care for one another should we not pray for one another. This is not a guilt trip but a request for personal reflection.
Paul then goes on to talk about what this kind of life needs. Paul states it needs strength. It needs endurance. It needs patience. And I believe this is perhaps the most important thing of all, it needs to be a life of thanksgiving. The word Paul uses for thanksgiving is the same word we get the word Eucharist which is another name for communion, the Lord’s supper. Yes, the Thanksgiving holiday is almost upon us, but the thanksgiving of which Paul speaks is much more.
It is the attitude of thanksgiving to God that comes from understanding what God has given, gives, is giving, and promises to give us. It is a thanksgiving rooted in love; love developed through faith. Faith that accepts grace, surrenders to grace, seeks grace, grows in our understanding of grace, and lives to produce the gifts, the works, and the wonders God’s grace desires for our lives.
A desire that we are growing in the ability to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18 NRS) This takes a lot of practice. This takes a lot of prayers and praying.
You would think that because of what God has done for us this is something that should always be a priority in our lives. I mean, listen again to what God has done for us.
First, God makes it possible for us to take part in the inheritance. Now, this takes a bit of understanding. We often only think of an inheritance as something we get from someone after they die. It was theirs and then they give it to us through a legal instrument called a will. Such is the mindset of an entitled culture.
What is meant in the Scripture by inheritance is what God has made for us as God’s children. If you wish to think about this for a minute, the Scripture says God made this world for us, but humanity corrupted it. Our inheritance is what God is making for us now. It will not be corrupted. It will not contain death, pain, or loss. This inheritance is not just something that we will gain when we die but is an inheritance we can begin to claim now.
There was a movie a few years ago called, “The Rain Man.” It was a story about two brothers who did not know the other existed until their faith died. One brother has autistic. The other was self-centered and very materialistic. When the father died, he gave the self-centered son his old car. He gave the autistic son his wealth. The selfish son kidnapped the autistic son thinking he might be able to get some of the money. What he got was a brother he never knew and a love he had never experienced. It transformed him and his perspective on life.
This is exactly what the inheritance of God can do for us not just in the future when we die, but in our lives now. But note, God makes it available. Whether or not we take advantage of it depends on us.
Secondly, God grants us light, light being the chance to see reality. The chance to let holy knowledge replace our carnal ignorance. This is a gift to understand who we really are. This is a gift that offers us a path, a purpose, and a perspective that allows us to discover what is truly important. This gives us the most valuable treasure a human being can possess, hope, hope with a deep assurance and trust in God.
When you are facing a terminal illness, how much comfort do you think you would get being able to buy the newest iPhone? If your family is falling apart, how joyous will your investments bring to you? When you lose a loved one, how much money can make that hurt in your heart go away? In these situations, hope is priceless. It is also the hardest thing to manufacture in a crisis. It must be grounded in one’s soul to be truly possessed. Only God can give hope that transcends all human dilemmas.
In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he writes, “so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints.” (Eph. 1:18 NRS)
Then there is the third thing that Paul tells us God does for us. Paul tells us God frees us, rescues us, from the control, from the authority of darkness, and transfers us to the Kingdom of Jesus. The darkness is the chaos, the fallenness, the hopelessness of guilt, the pain of separation, and the agony of spiritual emptiness that will increase and harden our hearts.
The Kingdom which God offers to transfer us (literally remove us from one and take us to another) is described not as a place, but as a person, a love, a relationship where God is restoring, renewing, reviving, reconciling, and rewarding those whom God loved so much, whom God desired so much, that God sent Jesus knowing full well a cross would be waiting for him.
Listen again to verses 15-20. This is where God offers to take us. This is what God offers us to experience. This is what God wants for us. This is the God who loves us and offers us more than simply being a creation, but a relationship as a child. For this, God the Father, the Son, and the Spirit gave, gives, and will continue giving forever. How could we not be thankful for this?
Yet, so many take these opportunities, these gifts for granted. So many believe they are entitled. So many ignore or out and out reject all that God does to reach them. So many trade the possibilities of God, the love of Jesus, and the presence of the Holy Spirit for the limits of their own abilities and knowledge and settle for a life of limitation that will eventually turn into lamentations.
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7 NRS) The peace, “Jesus brought peace through the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:20)
There is a song, “To God Be the Glory,” that is a perfect prayer.
How can I say thanks
for all the things You have done for me?
Things so undeserved,
yet You gave to prove Your love for me.
The voices of a million angels
could not express my gratitude.
All that I am and ever hope to be,
I owe it all to Thee.