Nov 19, 2013

The Difference of Thanks

Luke 17:16
“…And he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks…”

Thanksgiving!  For me that means a ridiculous amount of some of my favorite things: food, football, hunting, family, and pecan pie!  The thought of Thanksgiving Day makes me HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!  But Thanksgiving can give us joy for more reasons than just the fact that we get a day off of work to spend with family. 

Luke tells the story of ten lepers that met Jesus outside a village one day asking him to heal them.  Ten lepers were healed that day, but only one said thanks.  Jesus noticed the lack of gratitude and it caused him to begin asking some questions about the other nine lepers he healed.  His questions hit me as I read them,

vv.17-18 “Were not ten cleansed?  Where are the nine?  Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”

I wonder if Jesus looks at me and wonders this same thing about me.  Hey, could you more often be listed with the nine or with the one?  I’m not sure that I want to answer that question honestly about myself.

Thanksgiving is right, it’s worship, and it’s worth it.  As we approach the day of giving thanks a close look at three different times in our lives will cause us to overflow with thanksgiving.

Look Back
Look back to the things that God has done for you. 

I love to think back to two significant days in my life.  One of those days is my salvation.  I was six years old, sitting in children’s church at the First Baptist Church of Genoa, TX.  It was that morning that God showed me that I was really a sinner and that Jesus really did come to die on the cross for me!  I believed it and I confessed it and I was saved! The other day is when I was 16 years old.  I was living a rebellious and sinful life; involved in drugs and alcohol.  I hated myself.  I was disrespectful to my family.  I was running and it was in the wrong direction.  I’ll never forget one night on the back porch of our home when the Holy Spirit so strongly convicted me of my foolish rebellion as I looked in my dad’s eyes as he confronted me over my sin.  That night I repented and learned the redundant power of God’s grace.  When I really look back, I see lots of things that I am thankful for.

When did Jesus save you?  Can you look back and remember who you were, where you were?  What trials and struggles that God has brought you through? How has he showed up big in your past?  There is so much to be thankful for that God has done.  It’s a healthy and right thing to occasionally remember.  Sometimes the past can haunt us, but if you look closely and deeply enough you can find the powerful, kind, gentle, and perfect hand of God in your past.

Look Around
Looking back and seeing God’s hand from a retro perspective view naturally causes you to realize what God has given you today.  You realize just how far you’ve come and in doing so you realize how much God is doing today around you and in you.  When I look around I am so thankful for what God has given me today.  My wife, my children, my friends, my church, my house, my health.  I grateful for what God is doing in my life today.  How he is using me.  I’m grateful for his grace as I realize that still today I need his grace, as I am still a man that struggles with my flesh and gives in over and over.  My life is not perfect and I am not a perfect man, but when I look around I realize that God has blessed me through his grace.

Look around at your life.  Sometimes it’s easy to see the major disappointments, obstacles, and things you don’t have.  We stress and worry over them.  Our prayer life is often consumed by concern over them.  Sometimes our consumption with these negative things and with the things we don’t have causes us to ignore or forget the things we do have.  Often we are so concerned with what we want God to do in our lives today that we fail to see what God is already doing today in our lives.  When you look hard, you realize that God is active in your life and in your world.  He is still showing you his power, his grace, and his love.  Look around and you’ll find plenty today to be thankful for.  When you give thanks for what you have and for what God is doing it will change the way you think about the things you don’t have and the things that you think God isn’t doing.  It may even help you realize by faith that he actually is doing something about those things!  Thanksgiving puts our problems in perspective:  The bigger our thanks is…the smaller our problems seem.

 Look Forward
Looking back and looking around with gratitude will give the ability and vision to also look forward with gratitude.  For the Christian there are things that we can go ahead and give thanks for that we will one day experience.  We have the certainty of heaven!  Our names are written there.  There is a title and deed to a home in heaven with my name on it!  I’ve never seen it, I don’t know what it looks like, and I don’t know when I’ll occupy it, but I am thankful for it.

So, as you gather around the table, sit in a deer stand or duck blind, recline in your chair to watch the Cowboys, or join the Black Friday craze, may Jesus find you at some point along the way “falling on your face at His feet, giving him thanks.”  Be the one, not one of the nine…Take the time to look back, look around, look forward…you are going to be amazed just how much there is to be thankful for.