Thankfulness: A Practical Way to Stay Fixated on Christ

My nephew is a fixator. What I mean is that he has this strange ability to become so engrossed in what he’s doing that he loses touch with everything that is going on around him. Once on a trip across Kentucky, he was so engrossed in his tablet in the back seat of my SUV that he failed to notice getting carsick. After vomiting all over himself twice, I looked in my rearview mirror to see him still engrossed in whatever game he was playing. He wasn’t even phased.

The apostle Paul was likewise a fixator. Paul, however, was so fixated on Christ that the reality of Christ shaped every opinion, every decision, every conviction. Once Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he never again conceptualized his life apart from Christ. Christ was truly the center of Paul’s universe. Christ was the reality that kept Paul’s mind engrossed.

Paul’s mission in writing his New Testament letters was to share his fixation with the churches to whom he wrote. Paul wanted them, too, to be radically fixated on Christ, and one of his chief strategies to cultivate this fixation was to urge these churches to live with constant thanksgiving.

Seven times in Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Paul mentions thanksgiving, either modelling for them his own thankfulness or explicitly calling them to practice gratitude (1:3; 1:12; 2:7; 3:15; 3:16; 3:17; 4:2). This heavy concentration of thanks-language should motivate us to seek the reasons. What was going on here that caused Paul to believe that this church needed to fixate on Christ through thanksgiving?

The answer to the question comes in 2:8. There we discover that the Colossian Christians were in danger of being taken captive by some new philosophy that Paul calls “empty deceit.” In 2:16-19, we learn that this false approach to life encouraged the church to find security in all sorts of practices other than Christ. In short, this philosophy told its adherents that Christ wasn’t enough. They were being tricked into thinking that what they really needed most was still out there undiscovered in the world.

This philosophy has gone by many different names over the centuries, but it’s still very much around. Let’s call it “Enoughianity.” It’s actually the dominant religion of secular America. It teaches its adherents that the only way to find salvation is to finally reach a point of having enough. The goal of Enoughianity is to be successful enough, happy enough, thin enough, wealthy enough, woke enough, educated enough.

It’s a heresy because it also teaches that Christ is not enough. You need more than what he has to offer. Christ may help you get there, but his role is primarily to offer assistance in your never-ending search to reach a goal that always seems just a little further away.

Enoughianity leads to exhaustion. In seeking to answer the question of how much is enough, the adherent of Enoughianity feels constant pressure to compare herself with others. The goalposts keep getting moved, because social media presents us with an ever-running stream of examples of people who are more successful or happier than we are. Therefore, you never get to a point under the philosophy of Enoughianity when you can rest after having arrived. Instead, you face the constant pressure to keep seeking.

Paul’s response to the first-century version of Enoughianity was to repeatedly remind the church of everything they had in Christ and to invite them to access these rich blessings through thanksgiving. Paul understood that it’s impossible to fall under the delusion of Enoughianity as long as you are fixated on Christ.  The practical tool that helps us stay fixated on Christ is thanksgiving.

Consider this: How can I believe the lie that my identity is found in being successful enough when I am daily giving thanks to God that my identity is found in the imputed righteousness of Christ? How can I fall for the trick that my happiness is dependent upon some unattained earthly circumstance when I’m daily expressing gratitude to God for all that I have in Christ, including an eternal inheritance in his kingdom? If I am full in Christ through gratitude, Enoughianity loses its grip on me.

As you face the temptation to fixate on other things, cultivate the daily habit of fixating on Christ through thanksgiving.

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