Colossians 3:16-17 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Key #4 to Christian fulfillment: Thankfulness
I find it interesting that as Paul closes out Colossians 3, he mentions thankfulness twice. Notice the contexts in which we find this vital expression. In Colossians 3:16 we see thankfulness as a vital part of the corporate life of the local body of saints. When a church is exercising thankfulness, rather than grumbling, there will be a church that consistently experiences fulfillment. But then notice where else we find thankfulness - in activities outside the local church. In Colossians 3:17 Paul expands the Christian's life of thanksgiving to include "all things" do in the name of Jesus. Why? Because the greatest way in which we can be effective Christian witnesses is when we are demonstrating our fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Why is it that Paul mentions thankfulness twice? Could it be because we live in a thankless world that refuses to acknowledge the Creator of this universe who sent His co-equal Son to live, die, raise from the dead and ascend on behalf of it, and especially those who by grace through faith believe on Him? Romans 1:21 notes: "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened."
Giving thanks like Jesus
When we give thanks as followers of Jesus Christ, we are directly positioning ourselves to glean from the sufficiency that is only found in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we find that in scanning through the four Gospels, Jesus Himself was often found giving thanks:
Matthew 15:36 "and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people."
Matthew 26:27 "And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you."
Mark 8:6 "And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people."
Mark 14:23 "And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it."
Luke 22:17 "And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves."
Luke 22:19 "And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
John 6:11 "Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted."
John 6:23 "There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks."
Giving thanks is the outcome of surrender to Christ's Lordship, being Spirit-filled and filled with the Word
As you journey throughout the rest of the New Testament, wherever emphasis is placed upon Christ's Lordship, the Spirit-filled life or taking in the scriptures - there you will find some reference to being thankful. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1 states - "First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men." Or consider what we read in Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Other scriptures too speak on the importance of thanksgiving as marking those who are surrendered to Christ's Lordship, filled with the Spirit and filled with the Word. (1 Corinthians 10:31) If you want to ensure that you are in the known will of God and are experiencing fulfillment, 1 Thessalonians 5:18 gives the clearest instruction: "in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."
These past several days have been devoted to better understanding what it means to be a fulfilled Christian. Our main point of application has been: The keys to fulfilled Christianity are Christ's Lordship, the Holy Spirit, the scriptures and thankfulness. We saw that when Jesus Christ's Lordship is more visibly influencing how we live, peace is more readily accessible. As we aim to obediently heed the Spirit of God in the scriptures, we will be those filled or under His influence and taking in the scriptures for our nourishment. Then the overflow of these first three keys should be thanksgiving, which in itself feeds back into the desire to be surrendered to Christ's Lordship, Spirit and Word filled. These four keys together are what constitute being a fulfilled Christian.