Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Grateful Heart

This morning I was reading the story of the Ten Lepers from the Bible to my two little girls. We were reading out of a children’s Bible so the story was presented a little differently than in my own Bible. A couple of things grabbed my attention that hadn’t least that this aging mind can remember... :)

The story comes from the gospel of Luke in chapter 17. As Jesus was walking with His disciples they were met by 10 men with leprosy. These men had heard that Jesus had been healing the sick and had come looking for Him. Since they had leprosy, they were not allowed to go near Jesus so they called to Him from a distance begging Him to have mercy on them. Jesus replied back to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” When a leper was considered well he had to go before the priest to be deemed “clean” and therefore be able to re-enter society. At this point, the 10 men still bore the signs of the disease on their bodies, but at once they left to go to the priest for examination. As they made their way, the leprosy left their bodies completely and they were made every bit well.

(I’ve always loved the fact that they were not healed BEFORE they left for the priest and that their belief that Jesus WOULD heal them made them, in an act of faith, immediately head off to the local priest even though dying skin still hung from their bones! What a strong reminder to me to believe and walk in my belief regardless of what I immediately “see”!)

Okay, back to our story....

One of the lepers stopped and turned back once he realized that he had been healed. He came running to Jesus and fell at His feet thanking Him and worshipping Him for this miracle of restored health. Jesus then asked His disciples, “Were not ten lepers made well? But where are the other nine? None turned back to give thanks except this stranger.” This man who had returned to give thanks was a Samaritan and not a Jew like Jesus and His followers. Then Jesus said to the man kneeling at his feet “Rise up and go your way, for your faith has made you well.”

So here are a few things that grabbed my attention today. My questions for reflection...

First of all, am I so anxious and excited about my own “healings” (whether they be physical, relational, financial, circumstantial, large or small) that I forget to stop, bow my head and express gratitude to the One who worked on my behalf to bring the restoration forth? I am grateful, YES, but do I express this gratitude to the One who deserves the “thank you”?

Secondly, Jesus told the man AFTER all 10 had been healed, “Rise up and go your way, for your faith has made you well.” What did He mean by this? He was already made well as were the other 9 who never offered Him their thanks. Was there a deeper, extra measure of some form of wellness given to this man SOLELY because he worshipped and thanked Jesus? And look again—Jesus said, “your faith has made you well” part of expressing our faith expressing gratitude? Is faith exercised in thanksgiving? I understand that it could just simply mean that Jesus was reiterating that the man was healed from his leprosy because he acted on the belief that he would be healed, turned and walked in the direction of the priest. Then again....

I believe that this specific Bible story confirms to us that God rewards and blesses those who show Him gratitude. Even if our circumstance doesn’t change our focus on being grateful and in trusting God with the outcome is received as an act of faith and therefore blessed.

So lastly, why am I not more eager to lavish upon my God heartfelt thanksgiving in all circumstances and in all areas of my life? Is gratitude a central element of faith and worship missing from many believers lives? Are “strangers” to God more apt to show Him gratitude, even flippantly, than His own children? (Remember those sailors on the boat with Jonah?)

Psalm 30:12
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Oh that this would be my own soul’s response!

Psalm 86:12
I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.
“All” and “forever”—strong words of absolute!

Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
Am I careful to enter the throne room in prayer with a heart and words of gratitude? Or do I simply enter with my list of “wants” and “help me’s”?

Psalm 105:1
Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Do I testify to others my gratefulness for God’s deeds of goodness to me?

Psalm 140:13
Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; The upright will dwell in Your presence.
Thanksgiving draws us close to God.

Isaiah 25:1
O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.
Do I show my gratefulness for God’s provision and favor?

Jeremiah 33:11
The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say," Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting"; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,' says the LORD.
Thanksgiving brings restoration.

Romans 1:21
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Is my enlightened heart darkened due to a lack of gratefulness to God?

1 Thessalonians 5:18
In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
Notice the word of absolute “every”. Giving thanks in “every” thing, circumstance, situation, relationship, challenge, etc. is God’s will! How can we honestly give God thanks in "everything"? By the power of Christ who lives within us! And I also believe--going back to the faith shown by the 10 lepers that acted on their faith before they saw healing--that walking in gratefulness holds great reward as it grows, exercises if you will, our trust in the goodness of God regardless of the outward outcome!

Hebrews 13:15
Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
Thankfulness is fruit from our lips in sacrificial praise to God!