“One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back glorifying God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him.”Luke 17:15-16
Why is it so important to give thanks? This goes well beyond the commonly accepted custom of saying ‘Thank-you.’ We do well to create such a habit and instill it in our sphere of influence. It should translate into a feeling a gratitude and not just a verbal utterance. The issue of thanksgiving is an attitude. A thankful heart will seek to express itself appropriately in every circumstance. In order to have proper thankfulness in our hearts we must understand our relationship to the glory of God and the salvation He offers. The man in the above passage translated his gratitude into glorifying God. If we reject knowledge of God’s glory and His salvation then what do we have to be grateful for? Perhaps this is why so many people in this world are ungrateful. Lest we think ourselves above this fault, let us examine some metrics to see if we, too, need to be more thankful:
Being Thankful produces Joy
The first thing produced in the Samaritan in the above account is a rejuvenated and praise-giving spirit. He had just experienced something magnificent. He could not keep that to himself. “For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account.” (1 Thessalonians 3:9) If we acknowledge the healing God has given our souls then it is only right to respond as this Samaritan does. Why is it that doom, gloom, and complaints plague so many Christian’s attitudes? Could it be that many of us just are not thankful as we ought to be? Joy does not ignore the problems of life. Joy does not mean being happy due to bad things. Joy is not expressed only by jumping and shouting. Joy is an inner quality, like thankfulness, that takes root in salvation and the hope of eternal life. If our minds are trained on heaven, then no momentary pain can displace that hope. We are allowed to mourn. We are allowed to feel pain. But if we recognize in the end that the Lord has healed us from our sin and that He has prepared a permanent dwelling with Him, then we can smile at the future. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks, for this is Gods will for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Being Thankful indicates dependence
When the Samaritan realized that he had been healed, did he somehow think he deserved it? Did he do this himself? No, he recognized immediately that he owed this entirely to God. Those who earn rewards for themselves do not have anything to be thankful for. If we were able to achieve eternal life by our own ability, then it is given as a due payment for our work. Salvation does not work this way. Nothing works this way. The only reason we live, breath, and can move at all is through the power and grace of God. Those who recognize this give God thanks for everything. Those who reject God’s mercies do not feel obligated to respond with gratitude. Those in the world feel they have earned everything by the power of man. This is related to the entitlement mentality that so many have inherited. The more entitled we feel, the less grateful we are. Rather, we need to see that all life, especially eternal life, is a gift given by a loving God, not earned by our power. When we fail to have a thankful spirit we are crediting ourselves with what we have. We are rejecting dependence on God.
Being Thankful motivates faithfulness
Because the Samaritan was so over-joyed and because he recognized that this came from God alone, what did he do? He returned to Jesus. In the final analysis, if we do not turn every step to align with Jesus’ then we are not grateful. Every time we run off by ourselves and live for our own wants, then we have become the ‘ungrateful’ persons Paul warns of in 2 Timothy 3:2. While Joy may have several expressions, there is but one proper reaction to God’s extension of mercy: enduring faithfulness. If we develop in our minds, hearts, and words a culture and habit of thanksgiving, then we will be ever closer to remaining faithful to the Lord. Even in the worst of times, we have no lack of things to be grateful for. God does not mandate that we adopt any specific physical expression or rhetoric, only that we serve Him faithfully all our days and tell others about the hope of eternal life.