Thanksgiving In The New Testament

Title: Thanksgiving in the New Testament

Text: Luke 17:11-19

Time: November 21st, 2010

We are into the holiday season for this year and I’ve been teaching already about Thanksgiving – last week from the Old Testament, from the passage that described Israel’s thanksgiving to God for release from slavery in Egypt and from their escape through the Red Sea from Pharaoh’s army. They sang and danced their thanksgiving to God for his mighty miracles on their behalf. That’s a good example of thanksgiving for us as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Now I’d like to take a passage from the New Testament that gives us an example of thanksgiving – Luke 17:11-19, “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” As we approach the annual holiday of Thanksgiving, let’s reflect on what it really means to be thankful to God. We take so very much for granted here in the United States don’t we? We’ve grown so used to so much that we begin to take for granted the blessings that we experience in this country. But if we were to travel to another country, for example, to the country directly South of us, Mexico, we’d see grinding poverty and lack of basic and essential life resources. I had the opportunity to visit Mexico in 1987 – wow, that seems like a long time ago, and it is some twenty three years ago, although it doesn’t feel that long ago. But anyway, I visited Mexico City and some other cities in Mexico and I was literally shocked by what I saw as far as living conditions. I went to an area within Mexico City where people lived in huts with dirt floors. I saw a baby playing on the dirt floor of the shack where her family lived and in the middle of the “house” – and I use that word loosely – there was a little stream running through the middle, right inside where everyone lived. A hut with dirt floor and a stream that flowed through whenever it rained leaving it muddy and messy inside. You need to thank God today that you don’t live in a place with dirt floors with mud and water flowing through. O, I didn’t mention, the water was dirty and polluted water flowing through the middle of the house. Why don’t you take a few minutes tonight before you go to bed and thank God you don’t have to deal with that in your living situation. I could go on with accounts of what I saw, but we don’t have time. My point is, we take for granted so much that we shouldn’t. Let’s learn, if we learn one thing this Thanksgiving holiday season, to give proper thanks to God Almighty for all he’s done for us. Let me point out three things about this passage I just read, three important things.

First, God blesses in answer to prayer. Luke 17:11-14, “Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.” A lot of people miss the fact that this man, these lepers, were praying a prayer – they were, even though it’s easy to miss. They might not have known that they were praying either, but they were. They didn’t know that Jesus was Lord and God. They didn’t know who they were dealing with, but they were making a request to the Lord God, to the Son, Second Person of the Trinity. They cried out, “Jesus, master, have pity on us.” Now taking into account who Jesus was and taking into account the form of the request, it was definitely a prayer. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Hear that? “Present your requests to God.” Is that what you do? Do you bring all your needs to God on a daily basis, on a regular basis? That’s what the Bible says to do, and that’s what we should do, but we often are so self-sufficient, so self-willed and self-dependent that we don’t even bother often to consult with God or request much from God. No, we’d rather worry and fret and scratch and claw our way to the front of the line and get what we need that way. But that isn’t the Christian way of getting things in life. I just read in my daily Bible reading, my One-Year-Bible daily New Testament passage from the Book of James 4:1-3, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” So basically it comes down to this – we usually don’t ask God for things, but when we do ask God for things we often ask for things selfishly, and then, when we do get what we want, we many times don’t even acknowledge the blessing from God. We don’t say thanks to God. So we are often not only lacking in prayer in asking for things from God, we are lacking in prayer for giving him thanks when he answers our prayers in the affirmative. In the case of these ten lepers, they did make their requests know to God – they were fulfilling Philippians 4:6 in asking God for help; they weren’t too proud, that wasn’t their problem. Are you too proud to ask anyone for help, even God? That’s foolish. You need God’s help and he invites us to seek his help. Ask yourself whether you are meeting with God enough in prayer or whether you are trying to play like you don’t need God much? If you’ve got a pride that keeps you from prayer, get rid of it – it’s not of God, it’s from the Devil. If you can’t ask God for things, you certainly won’t thank God for things either. But there’s more.

Second, sadly, most people fail to give God thanks after they receive a blessing. Luke 17:15-17, “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Here we see Jesus performs a miracle of healing and they are all cleansed of their leprosy, they are all healed. Praise God for healing miracles. I believe in miracles, I believe in healings. I’ve seen miracles and I’ve seen healing. I saw a woman healed of cancer at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. A group from the church went over and prayed for her and God healed her of the cancer. The doctors can confirm it. Somewhere in some file cabinet over in the hospital are records that show that this woman had cancer and wasn’t expected to live over a few months, and they show that she suddenly was cured of it and has lived for decades longer. And that happened because we were all praying at a church prayer meeting – a regular weekly Bible study and prayer meeting on Wednesday Night – and somebody got the big idea to not only pray for this woman, her name was Eileen, not only pray for her but actually go over to the hospital, to her room and pray for her for healing. Well, we packed into the cars and went over to the hospital, but they wouldn’t let us all into the room so two or three went in and the rest of us prayed in the hallway. We heard the news next week that her cancer had stopped progressing and she would be ok. That was 180 degree different than her diagnosis the week before, before prayer. So I believe in God’s ability to heal, although we must not make it out to be a formula, a step-by-step thing. God heals but on his timing, in his way, in his will. Don’t try to boil it all down to a vending machine process where you put in a coin and out comes the product. You can’t manipulate God that way. Pray for God to heal, because he heals. But don’t think he has to because you ask him. But in this instance with these lepers, God healed them, but they (most of them) failed to give him thanks afterwards. And that’s just like most people today, sadly, even many Christians today. They fail to give God thanks and praise even for all the blessings they are receiving. Many people this Thanksgiving will fail to give God thanks and praise. Of course, the atheists and skeptics and agnostics and unbelievers won’t thank God. But even many church-going people, even many professing Christians will forget to stop and thank God even on a day called “Thanksgiving.” Let’s not be guilty of it on Thanksgiving or any day. Let’s get to the point in our relationship with God that it just naturally comes out. I remember one time I was working in a secular, ungodly work environment. The boss just broke the news to us that we’d be getting our bonus for exceeding our financial goals for the company in our department, and before thinking I just blurted out in from of everyone, “Praise God.” Everyone got silent and just looked at me. It just popped out. They didn’t know how to handle it because it “brought religion into the work place.” But it wasn’t anything planed, it just popped out. It was a little awkward but it was ok. It was a witness in that ungodly place that at least one person was thankful to God from whom all blessing flow. I wish I could say I always remember to thank God but I don’t. But that should be our goal. Let’s not take blessings from God for granted. Next point.

Third, sadly, only a few remember to give God thanks and praise for blessings received. Luke 17:15-17, “One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” In this case, only one out of ten came back to thank the Lord for the healing. Would you have been among that ten percent who came back to give thanks? To answer that question, simply look at your record of giving thanks and praise to God now. Do you regularly or daily give thanks for the blessings you receive in life? Or are you among the majority who don’t give much time or attention to giving thanks to God? Now the question may come up, “Does God really need to receive our thanks and praise? Does he really need it? Does it bother him if we don’t give him thanks, or if we ignore him or take him for granted?” Now that all depends on your understanding of God. A popular idea of God today is this Great Being off in the distance somewhere who may have started things rolling with the Big Bang, but then just left things to run on their own and doesn’t intervene at all because he’s off doing other things in some other corner of the Universe. That’s a very general and very basic idea of God today – that he’s not concerned or doesn’t concern himself with the details of our planet or our lives. But that isn’t the Christian or biblical picture of God. In this passage we see Jesus – who is God, although he communicated that revelation and information slowly to us humans, or else it might have blown our minds if he’d stated it too directly! So when we see and hear Jesus we are seeing and hearing God. According to Jesus, God notices and cares about our responses to his blessings. “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” So God sees and God hears and God reacts to our response to his blessings. If we are ungrateful, he feels it. God is a personal God, not just an Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent Entity. When we snub him he is hurt. No, he doesn’t go off sulking and wounded – he’s bigger than that. But he does feel it and he reacts to it. “Do unto other as you would have them do unto you,” says Jesus. How would you feel if you were God and gave good things, blessings, to people but they never acknowledged or thanked you? Well, maybe that’s too far a stretch to imagine that you are God. Let’s put it in human terms. How would you feel as a parent if you gave your children many things, but they never thanked or acknowledged your gifts? It would hurt wouldn’t it? By testimony of Jesus, God sees and feels when we respond to him. How are you responding to God today? Are you generous in your thanks to God for his blessings, or are you stingy? Thanksgiving is that time of year where we can recommit ourselves to praise and thanksgiving to God. Why not do that today? Recommit to being more thankful towards God. Recommit to not missing an opportunity to thank God from whom all blessings flow. Let’s be role models in this to others, to children, to the unbelievers. Let’s take the lead in thanking and praising God for the many blessings we share as Americans today. When you sit down this Thanksgiving dinner, remember the Lord; and then let’s continue to remember him every day thereafter. Amen.

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