No Thankfulness, No Multiplication?
No Thankfulness, No Multiplication?
Admittedly, math isn't my thing (I may have been "sick" the day they taught it in school). Kinda hoped I could avoid math altogether. But, sigh, here I am, leading a new church, talking regularly about multiplication. [NOTE: That "sigh" is because math not because I'm leading a church--that part if kinda cool]
Sunday we looked at Paul's closing remarks to the Colossian church (Colossians 4) and his desire for them to always be moving toward the outsider. A lifestyle of outreach: That's the call to action (verse 5) but the homework required to be ready for that action is prayer (verse 2): "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."
The "being watchful" reminds me of Christ's words to Peter in the garden (Mark 14:38; Matthew 26:41), that he should remain in prayer or else he "fall into temptation". Obviously, to follow Jesus on mission means a personal pursuit of holiness. Personal integrity and purity will catch people's attention, but I think Paul means to be ready for opportunities to declare the good news because he says that same thing at the end of this section; be ready!
What really caught me in this scripture, though, was Paul's call for thankfulness. Why is thankfulness so important to the math of the Kingdom?
Consider the last time you visited a restaurant and were blown away by the food, service, or atmosphere. Chances are you didn't keep it to yourself. You told someone, didn't you? You appreciated what you experienced so much that you wanted others to share in your joy. If someone responded to your recommendation and experienced the restaurant for the first time too then your joy was just multiplied. Yay math!
As a human, life is hard. Insert your problem here: _______________. I know, not enough space, right? Since the fall, we live with the results of sin--our own and those of others. Disease, death, debt, contemporary country music. It's enough to make you be angry, bitter and ungrateful.
Paul was aware of all those problems (except for the country music of which he was born a couple thousand years too early to have to experience), which is why he encourages us to remain thankful.
He may not have been aware of the level of comfort and security his fellow man would achieve after his death. Compared to the standard of the rest of the world (and human history) we have it pretty good, North America. It's easy to take for granted all the things that are standard issue now.
Both suffering and affluence can rob us of thankfulness. With suffering, we stop trusting that God is good or in control. With affluence we don't need to really depend on Him at all and become self-reliant.
If we don't trust Him, if we don't NEED Him, what's the point?
As a believer, belief in the gospel is everything! If we can abide in Christ and let the gospel shape our entire worldview, by God's grace, we reach a point of trusting Him so much that we believe His promise that everything we experience is for our ultimate good and even for His glory (Romans 8:28). Everything. Even the modern country music...sorry...I meant, even the bad and painful stuff. It's for our good. Do you believe that to be true?
If we are thankful for all things it will show up in our face, in our attitude, in our words and deeds. It will inspire us to share what we've experienced: That's multiplication! Yay math!
To remain thankful even for the difficult things of life will get people's attention. It will "open doors" for gospel presentation for you like it did Paul in a Roman prison. Be ready!
Thankfulness is fruit of the Spirit working in your life (Galatians 5:22). It's a super-natural act that comes by grace through faith. Fruit like this will be attractive to many people--especially those who are in the midst of similar difficulty. That's why he starts will being watchful and thankful. If we are living a life of integrity and thankfulness in the midst of struggle it will require us to be ready for those questions as we go toward the outsider.
Take thankfulness out of the math and there is no multiplication.
Remember the last time you went to a restaurant and had a really horrible experience? You told someone about it, didn't you. They probably avoided it too. The restaurant probably lost a customer or two because of your testimony. If we are not thankful we simply will not multiply.
If you are generally miserable, you aren't going to want to do "outreach". So ask yourself, do your words and deeds reflect a heart of ungratefulness? Of fear? Those words and deeds are fruit of belief. Belief in a God who isn't good, who isn't in control, who isn't worthy of our awe.
Have you forgotten just how much you've gained in Christ? Forgiveness, a family (the church), eternal life, a seat at the table of the King, a purpose with eternal value and on and on and on!
If so, repent! Grace is yours! There is no shame. Pray that God will help you in your unbelief. The gospel remains true and powerful for you even in your puny faith. Remember, the Kingdom of God is like a teeny little seed that grows to move mountains!
If you believe God is good, great, gracious and glorious, then pray that God would help you believe it more!
When thankfulness is present in your life it will bear more fruit! That's your homework. It's homework that will open doors for people to ask you questions that only have gospel answers.
That's some math I can handle.