The Blessings of Being Thankful
Sunday, May 17, 2009 • Steve Hogan • Thankfulness
Luke 17:11-19. Jesus was passing between Samaria and Jerusalem. Now the Samaritans
if you recall were a mix of Jewish and Gentile blood. Therefore, the Jews didn't like the Samaritans; they didn't get along, and in fact the Jews weren't even supposed to go into Samaria; they were not even to step foot onto their land. John 4:9
Luke 17:12-13. Jesus and the disciples come to this village; and there were these ten lepers there. Now leprosy referred to various skin disorders back at that time. Now these disorders were usually not disabling; that is people with leprosy could still walk and talk and get around; but some kinds of leprosy were disfiguring.
- Now lepers back then were required to be quarantined, to be kept away from the general public; and so it was tough for these lepers, physically, emotionally, and socially. They couldn't be with their family or friends. They couldn't live a normal life.
Well these lepers see Jesus coming; and I'm sure they had heard that Jesus could do all kinds of miracles. And so this is their chance to get healed, and so they raise their voices, they call out to Jesus for mercy, for pity. And they call Jesus "Master", and this word Master denotes a person who is a chief, a commander or overseer. It's what the disciples said to Jesus in Luke 8 when they were out in the sea and this big storm came up - "Master we are perishing."
Well, these lepers ask Jesus for mercy. Now this word mercy or pity means "to feel sympathy with the misery of another, & especially sympathy manifested in action."
- These lepers then were desperate - they wanted to be cleansed of their leprosy. They know they can't heal themselves, & that no one else can heal them; and so they are looking to Jesus, and calling out to Him, and believing that He can heal them. And maybe they had heard about this other leper that Jesus had healed. Luke 5:12-14
Luke 17:14. Now these lepers were obeying the Mosaic law, and so they are calling out to Jesus from a distance, for they knew they had to be isolated from people. We read that Jesus saw them, and He knows they want to be healed of their leprosy; and so what does He do? He tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. And they do this, and as they are on their way to see the priests, they're healed.
Now this is different than what happened to the leper talked about in Luke 5. There we read that Jesus first healed the leper and then told him to show himself to the priest.
- But in this situation, Jesus didn't first heal them and then send them to the priest. Here Jesus first sends them to the priest. And I believe Jesus did this to test their faith. He wanted them to demonstrate their faith by just obeying Him, by taking off to go see these priests, by believing that somehow that they would be healed. And they do this, and then as they're on their way they're healed. Joshua 3:14-17 - step of faith
Now these lepers go to the priest because the OT law instructed people what to do when they were leprous; and Jesus, by sending these men to the priests was obeying the OT law; and of course Jesus obeyed the entire OT law; Jesus was perfectly obedient in every way, being obedient to His Father, and to the Word of God. John 8:28
- Now Leviticus 14 gave instructions as to what needed to be done to declare that these men weren't lepers anymore. Now the priests were like health inspectors and were in charge of verifying that a person was completely healed; and once a leper was officially declared healed, then he could reenter into society, be with his family, and get a regular job.
Well, these ten lepers were going down the road; they may've traveled a few100 yards,
or they may've traveled quite a few miles; we don't know. But suddenly, all of them
were completely healed; not one leprous sore or blemish remained on their bodies. Can you imagine how excited they must have been?
- But one leper, soon as he realized he was healed, turned back. And on his way back He was glorifying God with a loud voice; and I'm sure everybody around him heard loud and clear that he had been healed of leprosy.
And so there were 10 lepers, but only one of them went back to give Jesus thanks and praise for this miracle; and as soon as this one gets back to Jesus he falls at Jesus' feet. He humbled himself before Jesus, thanking Him for this great and miraculous healing.
Now I want to take just a few minutes to talk about thanksgiving and praise, for it is such an important and vital part of our lives.
1. Our main purpose in life is to glorify God. All that we do and say in this life and for all eternity is to be that which glorifies and exalts God. 1 Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 34:1-3
2. Unbelievers don't truly and genuinely thank and praise God. And in fact, unbelievers cannot give thanks to God.
- Romans 1:18-23. These words glorify and thanks in verse 21 are the same words used
in Luke 17. Now as to whether these other nine lepers were believers, it's hard to say for sure, but we do know that they didn't give thanks and praise to Jesus.
Now an unbeliever's number one sin is not glorifying and thanking God, for he is then
loving and worshiping himself and other created things. And we see this in the world all
the time, people exalting and loving themselves, and just ignoring God, acting like God doesn't even exist. And this terrible sin of not glorifying and thanking God results in more and more sin; and the end of Romans 1 gives us this specific list of sins. It's like this sin of not loving God is like the root of a tree that then spreads to all the branches of a tree.
3. We read that the healed leper was both thanking and glorifying God. And these words, thanking and glorifying God, or variations of these words go together and are often found together. We saw them together in Romans 1. Psalm 35:18, 138:1-2, Psalm 92:1
- Now it's true that both thanking and glorifying God are alike in that they are ways to worship God, but I also believe there's a difference between the two. You see, thanksgiving is oftentimes very specific; we thank God for what He does, for specific things that God does for us or gives us. But glorifying God is oftentimes more general. That is, we glorify God for who He is. Let me explain.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 instructs us to thank God for everything, which means that we
should be very specific and detailed when we thank God. Psalm 136
- We should thank God that we have eternal life, and that we are children of God, and that we are forgiven of all our sins, and that we have the Holy Spirit.
- We should be thankful for friends, for family, for fellow Christians.
- We should be thankful for our physical job, and that we have an eternal purpose.
- We should be thankful for grass, trees, flowers and fruit trees, for blue skies and rain.
There's this distinction then between thanks and praise in that we often thank God for very specific things, but we praise God for that which is oftentimes more general. But there's also a connection between them; and that's that thanking God can lead us and move us to glorify God. Let me share some examples.
- You see a basketball player make these amazing shots, and so you're in awe of this player, and you'd call him a great player. M Jordan. Or you hear this singer and she has a great voice, and she keeps singing these incredible songs. And so you are in awe of this singer, and you'd call her a great singer.
- And in both cases there are specific things these people do with the result that you are in awe of them. In a sense, you "worship" them or "idolize" them; and what I'm talking about here happens all the times with reference to unbelievers in this world. We are made to be worshipers. But the question is who we are worshiping - God or ourselves or people or things of the world?
Now when a Christian thanks God, he's usually recognizing something specific that God has done for him or has given him, and he is expressing his appreciation to God for that. And one result of being thankful is like putting on spiritual glasses; it helps us to see God better, to see what He is really like. Thankfulness enables us to zoom in and focus on the character and being of God. Let me give you some examples:
- Thanking God for how He provides for us helps us to see the goodness of God.
- Thanking God that our sins are forgiven helps us to see the mercy of God.
--- Thanking God for His creation helps us to see God's power and majesty. Sunset.
- Thanking God for the circumstances of life helps us to see God's sovereignty.
Being thankful then for specific things can bring into focus and crystallize in our mind a particular aspect of God's character. And that can lead and move us to praise and worship God. And the more we thank the Lord, then the more spontaneous and wholehearted that we will praise the Lord. Psalm 111, 1 Chronicles 29:11-13.
- In general, I believe we can say that thanksgiving comes before praise and gives us a reason to praise God. Being thankful is like a spiritual catalyst that helps us to praise the Lord. Psalm 100
Typically, then we thank God for what He does and we praise God for who He is. And if you want to increase your praise to God, then thank Him for specific things that He's done, or for specific things He has given you; and I guarantee you that the more you thank the Lord, the more you will praise and glorify the Lord. Psalm 100 - "enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise."
- Might each of us be growing in thankfulness. We are so rich, so blessed; we are on our way to heaven; and to be honest we don't deserve anything; we're but unworthy servants. And we have no reason to not to be overflowing with thankfulness. Glass of water.
Thanksgiving then results in praising God. But there are other benefits as well. Being thankful is like a spiritual multivitamin; it's healthy for your soul in many ways.
- It'll help to cure a lot of spiritual ailments - pride, selfishness, worry, a critical and complaining spirit. It'll help you to rejoice, to be spiritually happy, to be pure, to grow
in faith. It'll have a positive affect on your attitude; it can have a positive affect on the people around you; and I believe it'll have a positive affect on your health as well. Philippians 4:6-7, Ephesians 5:4
We read about this leper, and he is immediately thankful to God for his healing, with the result that he publicly praises God, and he then goes back to personally thank Jesus. But what's interesting is that this one former leper who came back to Jesus was a Samaritan. We read in John 4 about how Jesus saved this Samaritan woman, and many other Samaritans from her city. We read in Luke 10 about the Samaritan who helped this man who was robbed and beaten; and here in Luke 17 we have another story about a Samaritan.
Now I don't believe the Jews were happy that Jesus would heal this Samaritan, and that this Samaritan was the "good guy" of this story, the only one who was thankful. Now we know that Jesus focused on the Jews, but He sure didn't exclude the Samaritans. Jesus wanted the Jewish people to know that He wanted to reach out to the Gentiles too, and that included the Samaritans. Acts 1:8, 8:4-5, 14-15, 9:31
Luke 17:18. Now Jesus called this man a foreigner; and Jesus loved him. And might we as Christians have right attitudes towards all foreigners, all immigrants, all illegal aliens. And might we love them, and pray for them, and be a good witness to them, and share the gospel with them.
- And so here we have this Samaritan, a foreigner, and he had faith, and he was humble, and thankful, and gave praise to God. Indeed he is a good example to us.
Luke 17:19. Jesus told the Samaritan that his faith had made him well; and I believe he was both physically and spiritually well. But the word "well" can also be translated as saved. That is, he was physically saved from his leprosy and spiritually saved from his sin. Now the other nine, I believe, were saved from their leprosy, but were not saved from their sin, for they did not return to give thanks and praise to God.
And if you are here today, and you are not thanking and praising God, it may be that you are not saved from your sin. And so, turn from your sin and turn to Jesus Christ, believe that He died for you, and rose again; and He will save you, forgive you, and make you a child of God. And then give thanks and praise to God. And for those of us who are Christians, might we more and more give thanks and praise to God.