Scripture: Philippians 4:6-7; Luke 17:11-19
Why is it easier to think of the things we don’t have rather than the things we do? Why is it easier to complain than it is to praise? Why is it easier to be disappointed than it is to be content? What if it is because our attitude is largely connected to our gratitude? Something happens within us when we take time to say, “Thank You”, that removes the focus from ourselves and places it on others. Really, to be grateful is an act of faith, and it makes us a whole lot more like Jesus.
Isn’t it a shame that often we only take time to be grateful at Thanksgiving? This is the reason I want to take some time today and talk about the importance of living a grateful life, each and every day, 24/7 and 365 days a year. We would live more fulfilled lives, and experience so much more joy if we simply took time to be thankful.
Maybe you have a tradition of sharing something you’re thankful for around the table at Thanksgiving. It can become a powerful reminder of all that God has blessed us with. As we reflect, we make the conscious decision to focus on what we do have, rather than on what we lack. Just this one little shift in focus has a profound impact on the way we see the world around us. And that’s because….
POINT #1 – THERE ARE ENDLESS CONNECTIONS BETWEEN GRATITUDE AND ATTITUDE
To be clear, we are not naturally thankful people. More often than not, we see the glass as half-empty and live with a certain level of pessimism. To be thankful requires a choice to intentionally seek out the good that exists all around us, and allow it to reshape the way that we see the world.
The truth is, that we all have plenty of reasons to be downtrodden, anxious, and disappointed. Circumstances can often cause us to be sad, angry, and depressed. Yet Bible suggest that these situations are not to have control over our attitudes.
6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Paul wrote this to a group of people who, because of persecution, had every reason to feel anxious. Their lives were in danger. Their families were under pressure. Their faith had made them a target. There was fighting inside the church. But, Paul says, do not let these things be a reason for anxious attitudes. Instead, lift them up to God in prayer and trust that He hears your requests.
However, there is a very specific way these prayers should be offered. Paul instructs his listeners to present them with “thanksgiving” in their hearts. And the result of this kind of trust in God is a peace that would guard their hearts and minds.
When we live thankful lives, we experience peace. There is a direct correlation between our grateful and God’s gracious peace.
The Gospels give an account of a miracle that Jesus performs that absolutely transforms the lives of ten individuals forever. However, they don’t all respond the same way.
11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.
Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem when He reached the border of Galilee and Samaria. If you lived in Samaria that were known as a Samaritan. The Jews living in Galilee made conscious efforts to avoid these people. And Jesus, being a Jew, would have been expected to follow suit. However, in this passage, Jesus finds Himself at a short distance from a group of ten men who were Samaritans. Not only were they to be avoided because of their eth-nicity, but they were also suffering from leprosy.
Leprosy is a very painful skin condition that is highly contagious. The individual’s skin would literally rot off. Someone with leprosy lived a miserable existence. Everywhere they went, they would have to call out, “Unclean, Unclean,” to make sure people would keep their distance and avoid contact. This is the reason these ten men stood at a distance from Jesus and begged Him to have mercy on them and to heal them.
These men had every reason to be frustrated, angry, sad, depressed and desperate. Life had not been kind to them, and I am certain they felt that they had very little to be grateful for. Maybe you can relate to this. Maybe you have never suffered from a debilitating disease, but you have felt the guilt of sin, or the shame of mistakes, or the pain of regret. Maybe you too have found yourself crying out to Jesus, “Have mercy on me.”
In this story, even at a distance, Jesus responds. He tells them to go to the priests to show themselves. Sometimes leprosy would go into remission. If a leper thought his leprosy had gone away, he was supposed to resent himself to a priest, who could declare him clean. Jesus sent the ten lepers to the priest before they were healed – and they went. And as the men go in obedience, they experience healing before they even get there. That means…
POINT #2 – A TRANSFORMED LIFE BEGINS WITH OBEDIENCE TO GOD
Many of us struggle to find things in our lives to be thankful for, but if we are honest, many of us refuse to live in line with the ways of God. What if simple obedience could unlock a world of blessings?
Obedience can change addiction to freedom. That is something to be thankful for.
Obedience can change anger to forgiveness. That is something to be thankful for.
Obedience can change pride to humility. That is something to be thankful for.
All ten of the men were healed because of the grace and mercy of Jesus. All ten of the men would have known that the miracle they had experienced was because of the power of Jesus. Even at a distance, they had been hearing stories of His incredible healing power. And now… they are transformed.
Something shocking happens next.
15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.”
There were ten healings, but only one of the men came back to say, “Thank you.” We aren’t told why the other nine neglected a return to thank Jesus. Perhaps they were so eager to get back to their families now that they were finally clean. Perhaps they believed they deserved the credit for their healing because they followed Jesus’ instructions. Either way, Jesus is amazed that only one man comes back, and a Samaritan at that. He tells him to rise up and go because it was his faith in Jesus that made him well.
It is possible to receive God’s great gifts with an ungrateful spirit – 9 out of 10 men did so. Only the thankful man, however, learned that his faith had played a role in his healing.
POINT #3 – BE GRATEFUL, EVEN IF YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE
Thankfulness seems to be a lost art. Warren Wiersby illustrated this problem in his commentary on the book of Colossians. He told about a ministerial student in 1860, when a ship went aground on the shore of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. The student, Edward Spencer, waded again and again into the frigid waters to rescue 17 passengers. In the process, his health was permanently damaged. Some years later, at his funeral, it was noted that not one of the people he had rescued ever came to thank him.
We live in a culture where being grateful is the exception rather than the norm. There is such a focus on what we don’t have that there is little thought given to what we do have. What would happen if more people in the world began to take note of the things that God has done around them? How might our lives be different if we took time to recognize that the good that is in our life is a result of a faithful God?
So today, I want to invite you to do something that you may seldom do. I want to invite you, just like this Samaritan man, to let God know how grateful you are for all the blessings in your life.
Get a small piece of paper and a pen. On one side, I want you to write down four things in your life right now that are a cause of anxiety, pain, disappointment, or frustration. Take a moment and write them now…..How do these four things make you feel?
Now turn the paper over and write four things in your life that you are thankful. Take a moment and write them now……Now, how do you feel after you reflect on the four blessings you wrote?
There is one thing that I wonder if it showed up on your list of things you are grateful for? It is the greatest blessing available to us. Jesus Christ. His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection have given us the opportunity to have our lives transformed. If we have no other reason to be thankful, this is one.
Being grateful recalibrates us. It reorients us. You have a choice today to either be ungrateful or to be grateful. I encourage you to choose wisely.
The nine who did not come back were not less cured, but they were less grateful. It was the man’s faith that gave him a new lease on life and a fresh start. It is our faith that does the same. How could we possibly neglect saying, “Thank You” to God?
Jesus has the power to transform our lives, to reshape our hearts, when we respond with gratitude. So intentionally consider the small and big things in your life that are good. And take time to record them and thank God for each and every one.