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An Attitude of Gratitude

Luke 17:12-19

 

"And as He entered a certain 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] And when He saw them, He said to them, ]Go and show yourselves to the priests.' And it came about that as they were going, they were cleansed. [15] Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, [16] and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. [17] And Jesus answered and said, 'Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine-- where are they? [18] Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?' [19] And He said to him, 'Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.'" NASB
 

You may have heard that Bill Gates is pouring millions of dollars into ending the worldwide AIDS epidemic. If you have, then you probably think that the people benefiting from his generosity are grateful. I'm sure that some are, but not everybody. In an editorial for HindustanTimes.com, Indregeet Hazra writes, "Bill Gates wants to capture a market in India. Fair enough. He wants to give money to AIDS research in India. Are the two connected? Of course they are." Instead of being grateful for the $100 million dollars Gates gave, Hazra calls his motives into question. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

It doesn't appear that Gates can win. In 1997, Ted Turner called Gates a skinflint because he wasn't giving to charity like Turner thought he should. Although Turner put his money where his big mouth was and pledged to give up to a billion dollars to charity, he couldn't just leave well enough alone. Not only did he call a press conference to announce his generosity, but he had to take a swipe at Gates. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Now Gates is devoting much of his time to do some good with his money and instead of being grateful for what he is doing, the recipients of the generosity are crying Imperialism and accusing Gates of impure motives. Personally, I don't know what Gate's motives are, but I do know that he isn't the first person who did good things and didn't receive gratitude from the people he was helping.

In "The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice," Christopher Hitchens "accused Mother Teresa of carrying out this grand charade of charity. Her real motive, according to Hitchens was to convert the 'Third World' to Catholicism." Hazra criticized Hitchen's position, he wrote "Mother Teresa did spread the word of Jesus to the people she served. But then, just because her desire to serve people happened to be powered by her desire to spread Catholicism isn't the boo-boo that Hitchens wanted to portray it as." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

I was shocked to hear Mother Teresa criticized in this manner and was pleased that the commentator from India defended her to some extent. You'd think people in India wouldn't question her motives, they'd just be grateful for her service, and you'd think they'd be so grateful for Gate's generosity that they'd smile, take the money for AIDS research and say a prayer of gratitude for the help.

Gratitude is a simple thing, but don't mistake simplicity with ease-it isn't always that easy. REALLY, GRATITUDE IS AN EXTENSION OF OUR FAITH. We can only be grateful when we know that we do not deserve our blessings and we did not create them. And to some degree, gratitude is a suspension of cynicism-a faith in the person doing the good deed. As gratitude relates to our relationship to the Lord, it is a faith that God is good-that He is in control-and what He is doing in our life is good-even when bad things happen.

Instead of being bitter that he had leprosy, the Samaritan leper expressed his gratitude for the healing in his life. In his book, Seasons under the Son, Tim Wesemann wrote, "The Bible tells us that he [the leper] came back praising Jesus and thanking Him. It doesn't say exactly what the man said to Him, although it seems obvious that he would have given thanks for healing. But let's take it a step further. I wonder if sometime later-days, months, or even years-the healed man realized that if it weren't for the leprosy, he wouldn't have become a believer." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

No one would say leprosy is good. It is a terribledisease. But wouldn't we all agree that the man coming to Christ was good, regardless of what motivated Him. 

SOMETIMES, OUR BURDENS BECOME OUR BLESSINGS. 

In the chapter on Brokenness in my book Future Church, I wrote about how having cancer and losing my voice is now something I'm grateful for. "Today, if God said to me, 'I'll give you that year back. You can go back to a cancer-free state, you can relive the year with your voice and without cancer, but you'll never know the loyalty you experienced from a church that stood beside you, or the love that you came to know from your bride who lived her wedding vows, 'in sickness and in health' before you, and you will never know that your brokenness is covered with My grace.' I'd say, 'No thank you. I'll keep the cancer.'

Out of the brokenness, I found peace. In the silence, I heard God." (Future Church, p. 145)

Gratitude isn't the byproduct of a Pollyanna existence-it is what happens to us once we've sunk our teeth deeply into life and tasted the bitter along with the sweet; the rotten and the ripe. We have an attitude of gratitude when we jettison our provincial preoccupation with ourselves and stop living life with a sense of entitlement-a conviction that God and everybody else owes us something.

But even if we achieve enough self actualization and spiritual maturity to know that the world doesn't revolve around us, there is still something that can squash our attitude of gratitude. It isn't sinister or overbearing. It is more like a constant rain that erodes our better judgement than a sudden downpour that engulfs our soul in a flash flood.

It is BUSYNESS. I'm not so sure that the other 9 lepers were self-centered slobs, at least not consciously. Perhaps they were so excited about their healing that they ran straight to their family or friends that they'd been isolated from. Maybe they weren't so much thoughtless as they were busy-they had people to see and things to do. 

Why are we so restless?Why must every moment of our days be filled with ceaseless activities?We've replaced our porch swings with instant messaging, pagers and cell phones.We rush from here to there, with no apparent destination.We're in a hurry.We're busy. 

What's the big deal about being busy? Well for one thing, when our schedule is over filled things that matter the most to us almost always get shoved out. Things like enjoying life, enjoying our family, enjoying our relationship with God. We become more demanding of ourselves and others and less grateful. 

And an ungrateful heart is fertile ground for all kinds of sin. Romans 1:21 NIV says,

"For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened."

I've looked into my own heart and I know that when it comes to spiritual things, I'm a leper. Without Jesus' touch, I would have died in my sin and spent eternity in hell. The only question that remains is what kind of leper will I be? The ungrateful kind? Or the kind that isn't too busy to say thank you?

I pray that you will have a blessed Thanksgiving this year. One where you find time to be grateful, even if you have bad things happening to you right now. 

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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