Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I love Easter and Christmas, but there’s just something about Thanksgiving that tops all that. I like the time of year; I like the fact that it’s food-focused (can I get an AMEN?!); I like that it provides a reminder to stop life and pay attention to our blessings; I like that it’s simply about getting together with friends and family, with no gift-buying pressure or the tarnish of retail take-over.
Most of all, though, I like how Thanksgiving is so in line with God’s Word. Gratitude, a grateful heart, thanksgiving, praise…all of these are such emphasized, repetitive concepts throughout the Bible, and this time of year forces us more into these mindsets and heart-itudes than we might normally experience.
A few months ago during a church sermon, I heard a Bible story mentioned that I didn’t remember ever hearing before. I checked into it after I got home, and sure enough, I don’t really recall having ever heard it. It aligns perfectly, however, with the Thanksgiving holiday, so I saved it for us to discuss at this oh-so-timely occasion. (You are welcome.)
The story is from Luke 17 and can be found in verses 11-19. It’s a quick read, and I encourage you to read it yourself. I’ll wait……………………………………………………See! So easy, this Bible reading thing. Just in case you didn’t just read it yourself (for shame!), let me give you a brief rundown.
As this particular story begins, Jesus and His followers are on their way to Jerusalem, passing between Samaria and Galilee. Upon arriving at a village there, Jesus is approached by ten lepers, all crying out to Him for help and healing from their horrible, painful, ostracizing disease. In verse 14, we see Jesus acknowledge them and their affliction immediately, instantly instructing them and healing them. But it’s really on the next verses, 15-19, that I want us to spend our time.
After the lepers have begun to depart from Jesus, having been made clean, verses 15-16(a) state, “Then one of them, upon seeing that he was cured, turned back, recognizing and thanking and praising God with a loud voice. And he fell prostrated at Jesus’s feet, thanking Him [over and over].” Let’s make sure we get this: there were 10 lepers, 10 souls in need of Jesus’s attention. Ten people were answered by Jesus, being made well after crying out to Him. One of them turned back to Jesus to acknowledge what He’d done for him. One. Just in case that’s tricky math, that means NINE people whose lives were forever blessed, whose health was fully restored, whose prayers were answered by the Son of God went on their way without so much as a glance back or a quick wave. Don’t think for a second that this behavior went unnoticed by Jesus.
“Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not [all] ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was there no one found to return and to recognize and give thanks and praise to God except this [man]?” (vs. 17-18)
Y’all, it hurts my heart to recognize this truth, but I am so often one of those nine. The number of times I’ve prayed a serious, heart-felt prayer and gotten it answered, only to forget to turn back around and give Jesus His due praise is innumerable. I don’t know about you, but I do NOT want to be one of those nine. I want to be the one in ten who can’t move forward with my new blessing until I’ve appropriately praised the One from whom all blessings flow! And you know what else I want to learn from the only former leper who showed his gratitude? I don’t want to do it quietly, either. Like it says in verse 15, I want to show God my praise, to offer Him my sincere thanks with a LOUD voice! Yes, He appreciates and acknowledges my quiet offerings of thanksgiving. He recognizes my whispered prayers of praise. But that’s not good enough for me. I want to be so humbled by His presence in my life, so gracious for His help or His healing or His guidance that I just can’t keep quiet about it. I want to be vocally thankful for all that God does in my life! HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD!!! I want my heart to overflow so abundantly with thanksgiving to my loving, compassionate God that I absolutely cannot keep silent about it.
Also, like our healed friend, I want to WORSHIP the Jesus who is so actively a part of my life and my needs. This man, so full of gratitude for what Jesus did for him, fell prostrate at the feet of Jesus in full surrender and worship, thanking Him over and over (vs 16). If you can’t imagine physically lying prostrate while worshiping Jesus, surely our hearts can be positioned in such a way. Friends, let us first and foremost reach out to Jesus with our needs and our afflictions. Let us pray for and expect His healing hand upon our lives. And when that happens, because it most certainly will, let us shout His name from the rooftops! Let us tell our friends and our family of the wonderful works He’s done in our lives. Instead of posting on social media about what color socks we chose for today (insert HARD eye roll here), let us share the ways in which God is working in our lives. Let us use any and every outlet at our disposal to exalt His name so that others can see our thankfulness and witness the God we just cannot stop bragging about.
I pray that each of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I encourage you to take just a few minutes and spend them with Jesus, thanking Him for all He’s done for you. But don’t stop there. Spend some time and thank Him for all He’s going to do, too. If your “leprosy” hasn’t been healed yet, go ahead and thank Him anyway, making it clear that you trust Jesus and know He’s got it covered. If you’re like me, you want to make this heart-itude of thanksgiving something that’s not seasonal. I want to wake up each morning giving thanks to God for who He is (not just what He’s done for me). I want to reignite my joy for the life He’s given me before my feet ever hit the ground in the morning. I want to be so full of thankfulness over being a child of God that I have to do a little happy dance so that I don’t explode. I want to be the one in ten.
Dear Lord, thank You. Thank You for who You are. Thank You that as Your child, I have the privilege of bringing my afflictions to You and that because of the blood of Jesus, I can boldly expect Your deliverance and healing. Father, help me to spend my life trying to outdo Your graciousness with my thanksgiving. Help me never to see Your movement in my life or recognize Your answer to prayer without vocally thanking and praising You for it. I love you, Jesus, and I am so incredibly thankful to be Yours. In Jesus’s mighty name I pray. Amen.