Do you feel thankful for the blessings in your life? Or are you more likely to take them for granted or complain about what you don’t have?
Today’s scripture is from Luke 17, a passage Pastor Darren is entitling “The Thankful Leper.”
As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. As he entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Luke 17:11-13
Leprosy was a horrible, incurable skin disease that disfigured one’s appearance causing him/her to be outcast from society. Lepers were removed from their loved ones and were forced to live in a special area. Beyond the physical difficulties, leprosy was said to be caused by sin, and thus its victims were shunned further as spiritually unclean. (As an aside, you may think you don’t have much in common with these lepers, but the truth is that we ALL have the incurable problem of sin. Nothing can remove it except Jesus!)
The lepers knew who Jesus was; they called out to Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They don’t ask Jesus for healing of their condition, but rather for His mercy. He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy (v 14).
Often we want to know all the answers and understand everything before we will take a chance on God, but He doesn’t work that way!
When he told the lepers to go to the priests, they weren’t already healed. It wasn’t until they acted in faith, taking a chance that they would be healed, that the healing took place. Often we want to know all the answers and understand everything before we will take a chance on God, but He doesn’t work that way! God may ask you to make a move first, so don’t allow your lack of understanding to prevent your obedience.
Healing is a two-part process. First is the physical part. This is the part that we and everyone can see and easily acknowledge. But if we believe that’s all there is – the temporary healing, then we miss the relationship with Jesus. All ten of the lepers were physically healed, but they would eventually die a physical death. Only the one man that dealt with the spiritual would experience the full healing that Jesus wanted to give. The spiritual is eternal; it lasts forever!
Thankfulness is not just about the forgiveness of sin, but about your thoughts and what you are capable of doing. If you forget what you are capable of, you could get into a complacent flow, coming to church, praying, involving yourself in ministry, and eventually get a sense of feeling “pretty good,” as though you don’t need God. But man is in a state of depravity. Our hearts are deceitful and wicked. There is no way we could get to God without Him coming to us, which is why we always need Him and always will need Him!
The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? Jeremiah 17:9
Think about criminals who commit heinous crimes. Those criminals were once sweet babies! We are all capable of going off the deep end in extreme circumstances, which is why we constantly need God’s love, mercy and grace.
One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan (v 15-16).
We need to invest just as much effort in thanking God as we do in asking Him. We may pray diligently when we need something, fasting, meeting with others to pray, etc. But what happens when the prayer is answered? Often, once we receive what we want, we forget to come back to God.
But Jesus Christ knows even this about us. He knows we are errant and fallible, and yet He entrusts us with His Word! He knows our hearts are wicked, yet He still allows us to partner with Him. Our thankfulness can’t be limited to what He did for us today, but for what He did on the cross and how He continues to transform us each day. Imagine you have beautiful, new, snow-white furniture and someone shows up at your door covered in dirt, oil, vomit and emitting terrible odors. Would you invite him in to sit on your sofa? This is what Jesus does for us. He embraces us and invites us in to sit down. Doesn’t that deserve our thanks?
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8
When we focus our thanks only on the physical, we miss the best part: Jesus!
Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you. (v.17-19)
We don’t know what happened to the other nine men, but we know that this man’s life was different because of his faith. His faith healed him and Jesus acknowledges that he has returned to thank the Lord.
Just as there are requirements to applying for a new job, there are requirements to walking with Jesus:
- You are required to have sin in your life. (Romans 3:23)
- You are allowed to have doubts. One of Jesus’ closest friends, who saw all kinds of miraculous ministry, was given the nickname “Doubting Thomas.”
- You are invited to follow Jesus before you change. Religion says, “Before you can join us, you have to change.” But Jesus says, “Come follow me and you will change.”
Return to God today and give Him thanks – not only for the physical and temporal blessings in your life, but for the work of the cross and the relationship that He extends to you!