Thankfulness

The stories Jesus told to his disciples teach us many lessons today. In the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers, we learn three facts:

Misery binds us together. These ten men, including a Samaritan who otherwise never mingled with Jews, were bound together in their sickness.

Jesus has power to heal. He answered their prayers and healed them. Physically we are not lepers, but all of us, in one way or another, are spiritual lepers. As a result, we could talk about the healing power of Jesus to take away our sins and restore us into fellowship with God.

God expects thankfulness from his children. Only one of the ten returned to give thanks. Is this the approximate ratio of people who give thanks to God for his gifts to them?

Our theme today is thankfulness. There are many kinds of thankfulness. As children, our parents teach us thankfulness as part of learning good manners. On Halloween night when children receive their candy, parents often ask them if they said thank you. That is good training.

There is the kind of thankfulness to someone who has helped us when we are in a real predicament. I am reminded of a time when my wife and I were in O’Hare airport. Because she is wheelchair bound, she often needs assistance in the restroom, and this can be very difficult for me to do in a public setting.

However this time, a thoughtful lady, when we asked for her help, graciously responded, “It would be my privilege to be of assistance. My mother is in a wheelchair, too.” I thanked that lady many times for being so kind and helping me in that predicament. The type of thankfulness that we feel at moments like these perhaps has a bit more meaning than when a child is given a tootsie roll on Halloween night.

Then there is the kind of thankfulness that we extend to those who are with us much of the time and do a lot for us, such as our parents. How can we ever stop thanking God for giving us good parents who brought us into the world, took care of us and saw that we were educated, even taught us the faith, as many of them did?

What would life be without a good spouse? We don’t have to be so formal with our thanks to them; we can show our thankfulness in the way that we go about life together.

And we thank God everyday for our children. When we see them growing up into healthy, mature adults and becoming productive citizens of our society, we are so very thankful to God.

However, the type of thankfulness that we talk about today is when God has captured our hearts and we begin to understand that everything we have is a gift from him.

The story in today’s text is that of Jesus healing the ten lepers. Jesus had entered a little town between Samaria and Galilee. There was no love lost between the Samaritans and the Jews. However, these ten people, because of their common disease, were willing to be together. They didn’t care if they were Jews or Samaritans.

As Jesus was walking along, they cried out to him, “Have mercy on us!” Our Lord told them to go and show themselves to the priest. The priest was the one who had the authority to tell them when they had been cured of their disease and could go back to their normal living. So all ten headed on their way. When they saw that they were healed, nine went on to live their lives, but one came back and knelt at Jesus’ feet. Something drastic had caught his being.

In the story of the ten lepers, all of them were healed. When they discovered their healing, lights went on in their heads: They had things to get done! They had to return home to their families whome they had not seen for a long time and where they were needed.

But one returned to Jesus, praising God, and bowed at Jesus’ feet. That person was expressing a thank you that came from the inner-most part of his heart. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten healed? Where are the other nine?” Then he turned to the leper and said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

In Jesus’ encounter with the thankful leper, we see a greater lesson. This man received more than health. He met Jesus face to face and entered into a personal relationship with him. His was a thank you that would be with him forever, for it was a part of his personality coming from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When we have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, our thankfulness for all that he has done for us engulfs our heart, and we look at life as one great gift from God. We live in a thankful spirit for what the Lord has done and continues to do for us. Just think about it Ð he takes our sins away. “Thank you for the big things, for the little things, and for everything else.”

When Christ has captured our lives and we live in a personal relationship with him, we see God in the ordinary things of life, and we express genuine thankfulness in our behavior. He has first place. We want to live out of love and thankfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Our stewardship Ð the giving of time, money, and talent for the extension of God’s kingdom Ð reveals our thankfulness. We have a hunger for the Word of God. Our witness Ð telling people what God has done for us in the giving of his Son Ð shows our thankfulness.

Above all, there is a thanksgiving to God, who had captured our whole being and made us new people in him. John Newton said thank you to God when he penned these words, “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”

Can you point to times when Jesus laid hold of your life and brought great blessings to you? I remember when God made it very clear to me while studying his Word that I needed to make my preaching far more personal than I was doing. “Never leave the pulpit without making the way of salvation clear, because there could well be a person sitting in the pew who does not know Jesus as Savior and Lord.” From that day on, my preaching changed. I had not been called simply to teach a biblical story, but to also introduce people to Jesus Christ, who wants to be a part of their lives.

My question today is, in a given congregation, would it be about 10% of the membership whose lives have been captured by Christ? Is that the number of those who have met him and continue to meet him on a regular basis? The strength of the congregation depends upon how many people walk with Jesus on a daily basis in a personal way. A person’s relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is the strength of the congregation, and nothing else.

How many in a congregation know Christ personally? Only God and the individual involved can answer such a question. But I raise the question because I am very concerned that people think they are a finished product simply because they join the church. That is not true.

Where do you find yourself in this story of the lepers? Are you one of the nine who hurried on to do your own thing? Or can you identify with the one who came back to give thanks and receive the greater blessing of knowing Christ personally?

Jesus tells these stories and wants to fill our lives with the greater blessings of knowing him in a personal way.