Peninsula Community Church
A Thankful Heart and the Will of God
November 19, 2017
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
As I was preparing for this message, I read an interesting quote by Willian Arthur Ward. He stated “Gratitude can change common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” A grateful heart has the power to establish a positive direction and outlook on life. A grateful heart causes us to have a positive mindset. The opposite is true as an ungrateful heart leads to a negative mindset.
While last week we looked at the call from Paul to rejoice in every situation, today, we will focus on the attitude of gratitude and thankfulness. This is a command of Paul who understood the power of a grateful heart. He understood the power of contentment. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content (Philippians 4:11). Once again, Paul makes a seemingly impossible statement. Give thanks in all circumstances. Giving thanks can be a difficult proposition because like rejoicing there are some things that make it more difficult than others. Paul is not saying that we have to be thankful in regard to the individual circumstances we face, but rather we should our focus our gratefulness on the one who is able to redeem every circumstance. We are able to give thanks because we have a confidence that Christ will make a way through every event we encounter.
As I was preparing for this message, my mind drifted to a story found in Luke 17:11-19. This story focuses on ten lepers who approached Christ for healing. This is a story of contrast between nine who did not give thanks and the one who did. Listen Luke’s version of the story. On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.”
To understand this encounter, it would be helpful to review the disease known as leprosy. In Jesus’ day, leprosy was a kind of catch all classification for any infection or skin problem. While leprosy was a catch all, there were serious cases of leprosy where the disease would cause open sores. Being left untreated a person with leprosy could potentially lose their fingers, toes, ears, and nose. There is an assumption here that this was a critical case of leprosy in these ten individuals.
In this passage we should notice a couple of things. When they approached Jesus they were desperate. They were at the end of their rope, so to speak. Notice they stood at a distance from Christ and yelled to Him. They were not being rude or disrespectful but this was in reality a common action by lepers as they were forbidden to be near healthy people. Because of the magnitude of their disease they lived lonely and isolated lives. They were rejected by their friends, family, and society. But they had heard about this man who was known to do some powerful miracles. It is noteworthy that rather than being fearful, Jesus reached out to them. Normally, they would stand at a distance to cry for food or money, but now they had a different reason. They were hoping for more than a few cents in change or their next meal. They expected a miracle.
Upon their encounter with Jesus, He commanded them to go the priest to show they had been healed. It is noteworthy that they were not healed immediately but only as they acted upon Christ’s command. By their action they were healed. This is a noteworthy thought for us as God’s answer to prayer often comes as we are obedient to His will. You might ask as to why Jesus would send them to the priest. He did so because the law of the land in that day required anyone diagnosed with leprosy to be pronounced clean by the priest. As noted, leprosy in that day could be a simple rash or it could be full blown leprosy. If it were a simple rash, it would often clear up on its own. For that reason, the priest needed to pronounce them clean. All ten of the lepers, in obedience to Christ and the law of the land, left to go to see the priest.
When they left, they were focused on getting to the priest but one of the lepers stopped and turned back to give thanks to Jesus. He knew he was healed, but he also knew that it was in direct correlation to the command to go to the priest by Jesus. He recognized something the other nine did not. Notice, also that this was not a simple thank you, but was an exuberant praise of thanks. Listen to Luke’s own remembrance of the occasion. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks.
He turned back and began to praise God with a loud voice. He was excited about the fact that he was clean from the disease that held him bound, isolated, and desperate for answers. He wanted everyone to know he was healed. He was filled with joy and that joy overflowed into thanksgiving and praise. Not only did he turn back. Not only did he give thanks, but he also fell at the feet of Jesus. This was the highest sign of praise and honor that could be given to anyone. He, with a loud voice, fell upon his face to give praise and to honor the Lord.
As we look at this story, notice that this particular leper was a Samaritan. On a first read this may not mean much to some, but the reality is that the Samaritans and the Jews did not get along too well. The Samaritans were Jews who had been left back at home when the Children of Israel had been taken into captivity. They had intermarried with the Babylonians and were no longer considered to be Jews by those who had returned from the captivity. In fact, the division was so great they started their own church and set up their own doctrines. You might say it was the first recorded church spilt. So we have the most unlikely man in the group stopping to give thanks. How awesome is that? It tells us that no matter who we are, Christ will touch our lives.
When he returned, Jesus made an incredible pronouncement. “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” To read this in our modern translation you might miss the depth of the meaning of the verse. In the Greek, Jesus uses a play on words. At first, the Scripture says they were cleansed. The word used for cleansed is a medical term that means the disease was healed. When He responded to the Samaritan the word He used meant to be saved. The word could also mean healed but it often took on the deeper meaning of spiritual healing or salvation. What Jesus was communicating was that he had not only been healed physically, but now his faith had made him whole and complete, as well. So the nine received healing for their body, but the the tenth received healing of his soul.
So what do we learn from this? First, we should be thankful for the work of God’s goodness. God is always working on our behalf, if we look for it. This is the kind of thankfulness that leads us to worship God. You see the other nine lepers had received the benefits of Jesus but failed to extend gratefulness. Thus they failed to worship the One who provided the healing. We can miss the opportunity to worship and give thanks for His goodness because we fail to recognize all that He has done and is doing. A thankful heart increases our awareness of God’s purposes. Without a grateful heart, we tend to be self-centered and self-focused. Without a grateful heart, we can neglect giving God thanks. Without a grateful heart, we can forget all that He has done. Notice the leper was filled with thanksgiving and gratefulness. That is the motivating factor for his returning to worship and give thanks to Jesus.
Secondly, a thankful heart also keeps us from the destructive influence of bitterness. This is especially true as we continue to face difficulties and problems in our life. Without a grateful heart, that looks to Christ, we can easily be negatively impacted by the issues we face. The fact is it is hard to be bitter and thankful at the same time. Hebrews 12:15 we are reminded that we are to See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. The best way to do this is to live with gratitude and thankfulness in one’s heart. Without a grateful heart we can miss the grace of God.
Thirdly, a thankful heart prevents us from falling into pride. When we have a grateful heart, we are able to maintain a right perspective in life. It helps us keep our feet on the ground. With a grateful heart, we are humbled because we know that all we have comes from above. In Obadiah 1:3, we find that the pride of your heart has deceived you! A thankful heart keeps us humble and focused on the gift giver.
Fourth, a thankful heart permeates our circle of influence with faith. As with rejoicing, a thankful heart is a testimony of God’s grace. People watch how we handle the crisis in our life and as a result Christ will be glorified in us. When we walk with a grateful attitude people will see us. They will see us as complainers or worshippers. Worshippers draw people to Christ, complainers push people away.
So how is your heart today? Do you have a thankful heart?
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom