“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through the psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Colossians 3:16-17

Recently, I watched the movie, Billy, The Early Years of Billy Graham. In one of the scenes, a young Billy is sitting in class listening to a professor lecture. In answer to Billy’s question about who becomes an evangelist, the professor says, “It’s about the call. It’s about serving the one who died for you. It’s about His message.”

When reflecting on what it means to be grateful, I think of this line from the movie. It’s about serving the one who died for you. Jesus. The one who took all my sin and wrongdoing to the cross. He freed me and cleansed me. Now his Holy Spirit continues the work of redemption in my life moving me closer to wholeness.

The best response I can possibly give is one of gratitude. But thankfulness isn’t always the natural default of our hearts. Gratitude doesn’t matter very much unless something has happened first that felt dangerous or caused pain. When life feels safe or is easily understood, the reasons for thankfulness are obscured. But those times when we’ve experienced loss or pain shine light on the ways we’ve been rescued or provided for. Then we are thankful. “Thank you, Lord, for sparing us,” or “Thank you, Lord, for giving us what we needed,” become the prayer of our hearts. God is present in all kinds of ways hidden from us until difficulty strikes. Then we see his mercy. That’s when we notice his hand guiding us. These are the times when we are dependent on him for the things we need most.

Out of this thankfulness grows a desire to give back. Gratitude is dynamic in this way. “Freely you have received, freely give,” Jesus commissions his disciples in Matthew 10. We can’t hold onto our gifts and express gratitude at the same time. The awareness of having something done for us makes us want to do something for others.

We serve the one who died for us. We sing songs of gratitude in our hearts to God. Everything is done in the name of Jesus while giving thanks to God the Father.

This feels good because we know how much we are cared for. We become more practiced at noticing God’s presence and gifts throughout the day. We start to understand, even just a little, what Jesus meant when he talked about abundant life in John 10. Giving away what we have and sharing who we are comes more naturally. Before long, our entire life becomes one big receptacle of God’s gifts, his benefits, and his mercies as they are continually poured out upon us.

This year, my heart is deeply grateful for those who support COC in so many ways. As I interact with the pastors of our churches, the volunteers who assist with Friendship Bible, and others in our community who offer their ongoing support to the organization, I’m reminded again of how true that line from the Billy Graham movie really is. We serve the one who died for us. It is my honor and privilege to serve alongside you to advance the kingdom. Happy Thanksgiving.

Michelle De Bruin

Spiritual Services, COC