Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Coming Back to Say Thanks

The Psalmist David was a grateful person, and his words show it: "Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18). Those words inspired John Newton to write the beautiful hymn Amazing Grace with the words: “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”

Unfortunately, too many people today are completely ungrateful for what they have. In this country many have enjoyed abundance and have lacked nothing and yet have no idea how fortunate they are. They have never seen how most of the world actually lives. They are like spoiled, indulgent children and actually believe they deserve this kind of life and even expect it. As a result, this young American generation is angry and ungrateful. Far too many have a "poor me'" mentality causing them to appreciate nothing. They have no regard for family, friends and do not consider God as the source of their blessings. They are petty and focused only on their own needs.

Gratitude is so important because it enables us to see the world in focus, while ingratitude blinds us to reality. Gratitude enables us to appreciate what we have, while ingratitude always leaves us wanting what we don’t have. Gratitude helps us realize the value of those around us, while ingratitude is always wishing for a better relationship with someone else.

Jesus told us a story about gratitude in the form of a leper who came back to say thanks. Being a leper in Israel was a miserable life. By law they had to separate themselves from everyone and live apart even from their own families. When they walked anywhere, they were commanded to call out “Unclean” which meant “Stay away from me because I have a terrible disease!”

Ten such lepers met Jesus, and from a distance and they shouted "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!" (Luke 17: 11-19). Desperate as they were, the lepers called out to God to have pity on them. What was the reaction of Jesus? He did have pity on them. God is not moved by our deeds, but he is moved by our need and our acknowledgement of that need.

Once while I was away from home and in California and my family was back in Puerto Rico, I received a call from my son Eric. He said, “Dad, we’ve got a serious problem; we locked the keys in the car. I know you have an extra set under the car, but I can’t find them. I don’t know what to do.” I simply told him how to lie down and which arm to lift and in which direction to move it until he found the keys. That’s how it works with God; you start with “I don’t know what to do.” “I need help.” “I’m desperate.” “I have a serious problem here.” You see, God knows what to do, but he won’t help until we acknowledge our distress.

Jesus told the ten lepers to go show themselves to the priest, but on their way they were miraculously healed. But one of the lepers was seized with an urge to go back and say thanks to Jesus. He wanted to come back to the one who gave the miracle. Because he did, Jesus said this about him: "Rise and go; your faith has made you well" (Luke 17:19). The other nine had a physical healing, but this man had both physical and spiritual healing. He was made completely whole. Life has so much more meaning when we choose to come back and say thanks to the one who gives us life.

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