(Note: This was presented to the Shanghai
Int'l Church just before the American Thanksgiving Holiday in 2001.)
I Want to Thank You
The scriptures and story behind a song
Michael Krigline (November 18, 2001)
According to C.S. Lewis,
‘the poet is someone who says “look at this” and points.’ Today I will
“point” to the book of Colossians on the way to a song that will
hopefully point us all to a thankful heart.
I suppose I should admit up
front that today’s message is really an elaborate introduction to a song I
wrote a few years ago under rather special circumstances.
I was in graduate school at
the time. During the spring semester I had taken a Bible survey course,
and one of the assignments was to read each book from Acts to
Revelation—but we had to read each one in one sitting. Now most of us
rarely read whole Bible books in context, but when you do, certain words
and phrases jump out at you. This helps us see what the author had in mind
at the time he wrote it.
So it was that I came to the
little book of Colossians. The book has several strong themes. Jesus
Christ is central in the book—more so than in just about any book outside
of the Gospels. Paul also emphasizes our place “in Christ” and challenges
us to conform to His image by revolutionizing the way that we think and
But as I sat reading the
text in the middle of a hectic school semester, the word that kept jumping
out at me was “thanks.” No less than six times in his four short chapters,
Paul mentions being thankful. And since Colossians 3:15-17 even says to be
thankful in the context of singing, it seemed only natural to try to put
this theme into music. I wanted a song to sing in the car on my way to
school to remind me to be thankful—a commuter chorus if you will—and there
is ample scriptural precedent for such a tune, because the Bible contains
songs for watchmen, harvesters, and even people digging a well! So, I came
up with a chorus and one verse, but soon got back into the busy-ness of my
studies, and the project was put on the shelf.
A few months later, my
university enticed me to enroll in a short summer course by bringing in a
“famous” guest lecturer. The course was called “Christ and the Creative
Process” and the teacher was singer/songwriter Michael Card. Out of
curiosity, how many of you know about Michael Card and his music? Well, he
is pretty well known in my circles in the USA, and I was thrilled to have
the chance to “sit at his feet” (as it were), for two weeks. I still have
the paper I wrote for him about the song I will sing today—and I cherish
the encouraging notes he scribbled all over the text!
The biggest assignment for
each of us during Mr. Card's short course was to “do something creative”—and so I
dusted off the “thanksgiving chorus” I had written a few months before,
and finished it under Michael Card’s tutelage.
Now, let me go back to the
reason for writing this song. Initially I was moved by the many calls to
thanksgiving in the book of Colossians, but in another sense I was drawn
to the subject because I realized how thank-less I was most of the time.
In my paper I wrote: “In a way, you could say that I had such a burden to
write a ‘thank you’ song for selfish reasons—I wanted a musical reminder
to thank the Lord more often.” After scribbling the simple word “yes”
above that sentence, Michael Card added: “good to write out of a weakness,
rather than a strength.” I think the Apostle Paul would agree, for in 2 Cor 12:9 Paul quotes Jesus as saying: “…My strength is made perfect in
weakness,” and follows this quote by adding: “Therefore most gladly I will
rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in
persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I
Another factor for wanting
to write a song of thanksgiving was my feeling that Christian worship is
filled with very little public thanksgiving. (Michael Card agreed with me
here, too!) I think people get praise and thanksgiving all mixed together.
If I give my son something, I want him to “thank” me, not “praise” me.
Throughout scripture we are admonished to PRAISE the Lord because of who
He IS, while we are to THANK Him for what He DOES. God is WORTHY to be
praised, and we were created to do this. But we are also enjoined to THANK
Him, and certainly there is plenty for which to be thankful!
At this point, let me
digress with another memorable encounter with a man of God and the young
members of his flock. I am sure I will never forget my trip to Africa in
1991 to visit Pastor Dion Robert in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. I had already
met him a number of times and was deeply moved by his faith, spiritual
power, and loving humility. I had arrived in Abidjan a day before a large
international conference—and I was one of the few laymen “nobodies” who
would be there. In spite of the fact that dozens of “big name” pastors
would soon arrive, and the fact that he had several thousand in his own
flock to care for, Pastor Robert dropped everything to come get me at the
airport and then show me around his vast church campus. As we passed the 5th
grade Sunday school classroom, I mentioned that I would love to visit this
room on Sunday, since I was teaching a 5th grade Sunday School
class back home at the time. Before I knew what had happened, he had
appointed me to TEACH the class the coming weekend!
A few weeks before, I had
taught my young class in the States about the 10 lepers, and the one who
had been thankful (Luke 17:11ff). It seemed like an appropriate text for
this occasion as well. I remembered asking my American students what they
had been thankful for. “My puppy” was the first response, followed by
toys, a new computer, bikes, and eventually parents and friends. I
expected a similar response from these African children, but
was—well—shocked to hear “the blood of Jesus,” followed by healing,
deliverance, forgiveness, and eventually family and friends! It was clear
that the Africans who taught these children had been doing a better job
than I had been doing in the US, tuning the children’s hearts to the
music of heaven.
Now, I am not saying that we
shouldn’t thank God for material things. After all, these too are gifts
from His hand. But I am saying that we need to keep our priorities
And this takes me back to
Colossians, my class, and to the rest of my song. For my class project, I
got Michael’s permission to finish the song. My goal was to add three
verses about the things I was thankful for, so I started to make a list.
It quickly filled a page! Realizing that this was not going to fit neatly
into two or three verses, I returned to the book that had originally
inspired the song: Colossians. I wanted to see what Paul was so thankful
(continued from left column)
Paul doesn’t really say! In three of the references he does say to be
thankful to the Father (1:3, 1:12, 3:17)—this helped me give the song a
links thanksgiving to prayer. For example, in 1:3 he says: “We give thanks
to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you.”
And in 4:2: “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with
sense, because prayer encompasses all of our communication with the
Father. Putting these two aspects together, I decided to write a song that
was actually directed toward God. In other words, instead of writing a
song about being thankful, I wrote a song that actually does thank God the
Then, in 2:7, thanksgiving is tied to faith. “As you have therefore
received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him
and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it
with thanksgiving.” To put faith into the song, I borrowed a verse from
Ephesians (2:8,9). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and
that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works,
lest anyone should boast.” Faith is the Christian’s cornerstone. Without
faith, we cannot receive the grace needed to save us. And here Paul takes
this one step further, telling his reader that just as they had received
Christ, depending on grace by faith, now they must also walk in Him,
depending on grace by faith! So much for depending on our own merits,
strength, or achievements! (See also Galatians 3:1-3; Heb 11:6; John
But in each of these texts, Paul doesn’t specify exactly what we are to
give thanks for. Nonetheless, if you look closer at the context of those
verses, plenty of reasons suggest themselves!
In Colossians 1:3ff, Paul’s
thanksgiving comes because he had heard of the faith and love of the
Church in Colossi—faith and love born in hope, which was born in the
Gospel Epaphras had preached to them. So, we too can be thankful for the
good reports we hear from the Church around the globe, as God’s love and
faith in Him expand to those who are still in darkness. We can also be
thankful for people like Epaphras who go out of their way to share the
In 1:12-16, Paul’s
thanksgiving comes in the context of what God the Father has done. First,
He forgave our sins by the blood of Jesus, and by doing so the Father
“qualified us” to get a piece of His inheritance by transferring our
kinship from the power of darkness to the family of “the Son of His love.”
Paul follows this awesome declaration with a testimony about who Jesus is:
the image of the invisible God who created all things, and FOR WHOM all
things were created. This, in turn, is followed by a testimony about what
Christ has done for us: reconciling us to God, making us holy and “above
reproach” in God’s sight.
Thus we too can thank God
for what He has done. How can we thank Him enough for rescuing our souls
from darkness, making us holy by His grace, and making us whole by His
love! (See also Col 2:10: “you are complete in Him”)
In chapter 2:5ff, Paul
includes thanksgiving in his directions for "how to live." How are Christians to
“walk”? (1) rooted and built up in Christ; (2) established in the faith
they had been taught; and (3) abounding in this faith with thanksgiving.
Paul goes on to warn us that the world and its traditions will seek to
“cheat” us through its philosophies and deceit, but we must remember that
Christ is complete and thus we are complete in Him. In fact, according to
3:3 we are “hidden” in Him! What a source of hope!
In chapter 3, Paul’s
thankfulness comes in the middle of a chapter that tells us we must change
our focus. We must set our minds on things above, and put to death the
evil tendencies that come so easily to us (3:5). Instead, we are to put on
mercy, humility, longsuffering; and we are to forgive. Above all these
things we are to put on love, let God’s peace rule in our hearts, and (yes
again) be thankful (3:15). God’s word is to be primary in our lives—we
should teach it and even sing it! (3:16). And whatever we do, we should do
it in Jesus’ name, giving thanks to the Father through Him (3:17).
Then in 4:1-7, Paul follows a
general call to thanksgiving (in prayer) with the call to pray for God to
open doors for His own Word in people’s hearts. The next verses say to
walk in wisdom, redeem the time, and speak with grace—all focused on a
impact on those who are unbelievers.
In my song, therefore, I
closed with a verse that prays for the power to walk the walk, especially
among the unsaved. After all, thanksgiving is great, but thanks-living is
even better! It is the thankful life that will attract others to the One
we live to thank!
So, to review, Paul’s letter
to the Colossians is full of reminders to be thankful. Paul directs his
thanksgiving to God the Father, and often links it to prayer and faith. We
should be thankful for an expanding global Church, for what the Father has
done for us, for who Jesus is, and for our relationship with Him. We found
that thanks-living is a key to changing our own lives for the better, as
well as to opening doors for the Gospel.
Well, there you have it. The
world’s longest introduction to a song! But before the choir joins me to
teach it to you I want to give you the chance to tell God what YOU are
thankful for. I think we would all be encouraged if we could hear more
often how God has answered prayers, provided for needs, given direction,
saved a family member, or otherwise shown Himself to be God in each
So what are YOU thankful
I Want to Thank You (All references are in
Colossians unless noted otherwise)
Father, I thank You, as your Word stirs my heart, (1:3)
To remember before You all the good You impart;
From the wonders of Nature, to the Gift of Your Son, (1:13,14,16)
Lord, I thank You for all You have done!
From the kingdom of darkness, You rescued my soul; (1:13)
Your grace made me holy, Your love made me whole! (3:12, 1:22, 1:13, 2:10)
You chose and empow’red me with comfort to share, (2 Cor 1:4; Eph 1:4, Jn
As a mirror of the image I bear. (3:10; 1 Cor 15:49)
And I thank You for Jesus, who created all things, (1:16)
From the air that I breathe to the song I now sing.
In His cross You have vanquished the powers of sin! (1:19,20; 2 Cor 2:14)
I have hope for I’m hidden in Him! (3:3; 1:27)
I know that my song would sound hollow above
If my life here below doesn’t ring with Your love.
Only grace by faith saved me, by the same help me live, (2:6; Eph 2:8)
In the wisdom and power You give.
I want to thank You, Lord; Worship and thank You, Lord!
For all that You are, and all that You’ve done, I praise and thank You,
© 2002 Michael Krigline. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print
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This song was recorded in 2002.
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