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Grace Fills Us with Gratitude

We have been exploring practical ways the grace of God changes us, when we come to discover His unmerited favor in our lives. One of the first things we should notice in a person who experiences the blessings of God is overflowing gratitude. We see both an expression of thankfulness, and a lack of thankfulness in this week’s passage.

Text: Luke 17:11-19

“Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.” (v.15-16)

It doesn’t take a lot of effort tell someone “thank you,” but it can be so easy for us to forget. After I graduated from college, Charity and I moved into a new apartment on the other side of Grand Rapids.  We had been living with friends during my final semester, but once I was finished with school I was able to find a better job, and we were excited to get our own place.  It took a while to unpack and get completely settled in.  There were a few boxes that sat unopened in a closet for several months.  When we finally got around to going through them, I couldn’t believe what I discovered.  There was a package of “thank you cards” still in the wrapper, buried at the bottom of one of the boxes.  It hit me that they were the very same thank you cards I had bought to send to my family and friends who came to my commencement ceremony and open house.  Some people drove a long ways to be there.  Others sent a card or a gift.  There were a lot of people who made food or helped decorate for the party.  I truly did appreciate all of the love and encouragement they had shown, and fully intended to express my gratitude.  But somehow, it had slipped my mind.  I still remember how terrible I felt.  I probably should have sent two cards: one to say “thank you,” and the other to say “sorry I forgot.”

Not only do we forget, at times, to say thank you to others, we might also forget to express our gratitude to the Lord.  God is good.  He has blessed us, and continues to bless us, in countless ways.

  • We are here, only because the Lord has given us life.
  • They sun rises every morning, only because God is faithful.
  • If we have food and shelter, it is only because the Lord provides for our needs.
  • And we are have entered a relationship with God, it is only because He has offered the gift of salvation.
  • Everywhere we look, we find evidence of God’s generous love.

If we have experienced the depths of God’s grace, our hearts should overflow with unceasing praise.  But sometimes, for whatever reason, we forget.

That was the case in our passage.  In Luke 17 we read about a group of men who failed to give thanks.  They had come to Jesus with a tremendous need, and the Lord was willing to help them.  He performed a miracle, curing them of leprosy.  We might have expected they would be jumping for joy, telling everyone what Christ had done.  But instead, they disappeared, without even uttering a simple thank you.  Ten lepers were cured, but there was only one who returned to give praise to the one who made him well.

As we think about these men, I’m sure most of us can identify with the nine.  There have been times when we have taken God’s blessings for granted, or have failed to give Him the honor that He deserves.  But that’s not the pattern we want to follow for our lives.  We want to be the one who falls at the feet of Jesus, in awe and wonder, grateful for the ways He has touched our lives.

As we compare the different ways the men responded we find characteristics of a heart that is overflowing with gratitude.

First of all, grateful people recognize their blessings. (v.11-15)

Again, in verse 11 we read,

     “As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God…”

In the ancient world, leprosy was dreaded disease.  It afflicted the skin, causing white patches or sores throughout the body.  If that wasn’t bad enough, those who were infected had to live out the rest of their lives in isolation.  In order to keep them from contaminating others, they were required to leave their family, their home, and their village.  It would have been a sad and lonely existence.

When these ten lepers saw Jesus walking by, they called out with a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  Jesus listened to their cry, and had compassion for them.  He could have chosen to heal them instantly, right where they stood.  Many times, that was exactly what He did.  But here, there was something they needed to do, first.  He told them, “Go, and show yourselves to the priests.”  The implication is that by the time they arrived at the temple, the disease would be gone.  It was sort of like saying, “a miracle is on the way.”  But they had to trust Jesus, and take him at His word.

Why does he send them to the priests?  Because the Law of Moses specified that a person who had leprosy, or some other condition that would make them “unclean,” needed to be checked out by a priest before they could reenter society.  They had to make sure the disease was gone, and they truly were fit to return home (Leviticus 13:45–46).  It was sort of like going to the health department and getting a doctor’s note that says your child, who has been suffering with chicken pox, is able to return to school.

So Jesus tells them to go to the priest, promising that a miracle was coming.  Sure enough, the passage tells us, “as they were going they were cleansed.”  We don’t know how far they had gone when it happened.  It may have been a few steps, or a few miles, but I have a feeling it wasn’t too far.  But verse 15 tells us that “one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back.”  He felt something change inside, and it stopped him in his tracks.  His skin was no longer pale or scaly, it was smooth like a baby.  The persistent pain, he had known, was gone.  His body was no longer disfigured, but his face was as good as new.

It’s hard to imagine that the others had not noticed the same thing.  But maybe they were in too much of a hurry to get to where they were going.  After all, they wanted to go home, and weren’t willing to make time to pause, turn around, and acknowledge the miracle.

Sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to recognize the blessings we have been shown.  We have places to go and people to see and things to do.  We can be so focused on the task at hand that we don’t even notice the wonders of God all around us.

Imagine a family, on summer vacation, driving across the country.  They are passing through beautiful scenery, in the mountains, and a breathtaking view is waiting around every turn.  But the dad refuses to pull over or slow down so the family can enjoy it.  “There’s a scenic lookout up ahead,” his wife says.  But instead of slowing down, he steps on the gas.  “Sorry, we don’t have time,” he answers.  “Can’t I take a few pictures?” she asks.  “Sure, roll down the window and take all the pictures you want.” he replies.  She tries, but every picture is a blur.  What a shame.  What is the point of making the journey, if you don’t take time, along the way, to see anything?

We need to pause, and take time to notice the different ways that the Lord is working in our lives.  Every now and then, stop to appreciate the beauty of God’s creation.  Look up at the stars, on a clears summer night, and praise the one who set them in place.  Enjoy special moments with you children / grandchildren, and then thank God for the blessing of family.  If we’re not paying attention, we will fail to appreciate the blessings we have been given.

Imagine a man who is doing his devotions one morning.  He has a million things to do that day, and so he speeds through the chapter as quickly as he can.  He closes the book, and offers a quick prayer, and goes out the door.  But he has been in such a hurry that the words haven’t had a chance to sink in to his heart.  “I’ve read that verse before,” he tells himself, “No need to spend a lot of time thinking about it.”  How sad.  The message should never get old.

We need to slow down, and recognize how blessed we are.  Psalm 103:1–5 tells us,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name. 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; 3 Who pardons all your iniquities… Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; 5 Who satisfies your years with good things…”

Grateful people also remember the source of our blessings. (v.15-16)

Again, verses 15-16 tell us, “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him…”

The man remembered that it was Jesus who made him well.  His life had been changed, because the Lord showed him mercy.  How could not turn around, and go back, to honor the person responsible for the miracle?  He lifted his voice in praise, rejoicing in the power and the glory, and the majesty of God.  Then he fell at the feet of Jesus, overwhelmed with a sense of awe and wonder.  Thank you… thank you… thank you for what you have done.

It’s not that the other men doubted it was Jesus who performed the miracle.  But apparently, they were just happy to be cured, and weren’t all that concerned about who cured them.

It’s important for us to remember that every blessing we receive ultimately comes from God, and He deserves our praise.  When you look out the window and see a bolt of lightning flash across the sky, it’s not just mother nature putting on a good show.  It is a display of God’s handiwork.  We ought to praise Him.  When you feel the love of your family and friends, you shouldn’t tell yourself, “I guess I’m just a lucky person.”  It’s not just luck, they are a gift from God, and we should honor Him. When life is going well, you might be tempted to pat yourself on the back and say, “All of my hard work and effort is really paying off.”  But we can’t take the credit.  It is the Lord who blessed our work, and we ought to acknowledge Him.

If you walked into the house one day, and saw a gift sitting on the table, you would wonder where it came from.  You wouldn’t imagine that appeared out of nowhere, or that it just magically showed up.  It’s obvious that someone left it there because they were thinking of you, and they wanted you to enjoy it.  You would look for a card, or a tag, so you would know where it came from and who to thank.

We don’t have to search for a card, to tell us who to thank for the blessings we’ve received.  The Lord expresses His goodness in our lives each day, and He is the one who deserves our praise.

In the NT, James tells us, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16–17)  Scripture reminds us that God is generous.  He is the giver of all good things.  Every gift, no matter how big or small, comes from Him. He loves us.  He cares about us.  He delights in pouring out His grace on His children.

Grateful people also realize that blessings are not owed. (v.17-19)

In verses 17-19, Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

We can almost picture this man, running along the road, back to the place where he had met Jesus, praising God, and shouting for joy.  Meanwhile, the disciples continue staring down the road waiting for the rest to follow… “I bet those others guys are on their way, they’ll be here any moment….” They waited… and waited… and waited… but no one came.  Not half.  Not a handful.  Just one.  Where were the others?

It’s not that the Lord was belittling the worship of this one man.  Jesus was pleased with his response and was glad to receive his praise.  But at the same time, He was sad for the others.  If an evangelist gives an altar call and only one person responds, he would be excited for that one person, but sad for the others.  And this was even more tragic, because the other men had actually met Jesus and experienced a miracle.  They were missing out on  a greater gift that the Lord longed to give. While they had all of them were cleansed of leprosy, only one returned to be cleansed from sin.

The passage points out that this man was a Samaritan, which seems to suggest that others were Jews.  Maybe, that’s part of the reason the leper was overwhelmed by the Lord’s mercy.  As a Samaritan, he was an outsider.  He had no claim to the blessings or promises of Israel.  The fact that the Messiah of Israel would show the same kindness to him, a foreigner, that was shown to the others was humbling.

We don’t know what the others were thinking, but it’s possible they just expected Jesus should heal them.  “When the Messiah comes, he is supposed to do all kinds of miracles, healing the sick, raising the dead, and that sort of thing.  So if Jesus really is the Messiah, He should make us well.”

We don’t know if that was their attitude, but it could have been, and it is the way many people think.  They are not humbled by God’s mercy, or amazed by God’s grace.  They just assume God should bless us, because that’s what He does.  Isn’t He is supposed to solve our problems, and answer our prayers, and make our lives easier?  There is a sense of entitlement that expects the Lord to respond to us in a certain way.  If that’s how we think of God, there won’t be much gratitude in our hearts.

It’s always nice, as a parent, when our children say “thank you,” instead of just expecting us to do things for them.  We enjoy doing things for them, because we love them, but it’s a little easier when they are grateful.  Picture a little boy who is sitting at the dinner table getting ready to eat. Dad has made him his favorite, peanut butter and jelly.  The little boy take one look at it and folds his arms in obvious disapproval.  “What’s wrong, buddy?” his dad asks.  “You forgot to cut the crust off my sandwich.  Mom always cuts the crust off for me.  I can’t eat this, it’s disgusting!”  Dad smiles, and says, “I’m sorry buddy, but do you know there are boys and girls around the world who don’t have much to eat each day, and they would love to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with or without the crust?” Sometimes that’s how we treat God.  He pours out his kindness on us, but we’re not impressed because we imagine that we have a right to His blessings…  We need to understand that God does not owe us anything.  He isn’t obligated to show mercy.  Everything he does is an act of grace.  We should humbled, and amazed.

I love the passage in the OT, when David considers the ways that God had blessed him, and thinks about the promises the Lord has made.  He said, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  (2 Samuel 7:18)  He was the king of Israel, and yet he realized that he didn’t deserve anything God had done for him.

The definition of grace is unmerited favor, something we didn’t earn, and we don’t deserve, but God willingly bestows because He is gracious. We are saved by grace.  We are alive because of grace. We enjoy many wonderful blessings, because of grace. That should humble us, and we should cry out “who am I, O lord, that you have brought me thus far.

Conclusion

Our passage challenges us to have hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Take time to count your blessings.  I read a book awhile back about a woman who decided to keep a journal, and write in it every day, thanking the Lord for the little things we sometimes miss.  The laughter of a child.  The warmth of sunshine.  Every day should would write 3 things, and after a year she counted 1,000 blessings.  What a difference that made in her life.  Maybe that’s something you have thought about doing.

We can thank God in the moment.  Don’t wait until later, when you might forget, but as you see God’s goodness. Sitting out on the deck one afternoon, enjoying the summer breeze, say a quick prayer, “Thank you for the beauty of your creation.”  If you wait until your devotion time, the next day, you’ll forget.  Tell him now.

Think about the generosity of the Lord, that none of these blessings are deserve.

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