Thanksgiving Ain’t Over
Scripture Reading – Luke 17:11-17:19
Dear Abby received this letter a few years back.
Dear Abby, Happiness is knowing that your parents won’t almost kill you if you come home a little late. Happiness is having your own bedroom. Happiness is having parents that trust you. Happiness is getting the telephone call you’ve been praying for. Happiness is knowing that you’re well dressed as anybody. Happiness is something I don’t have. – Signed - 15 and Unhappy
A few days later the Dear Abby newspaper column carried this response to the above letter from a 13 year old girl:
Dear Abby, Happiness is being able to walk. Happiness is being able to talk. Happiness is being able to see. Happiness is being able to hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15 year old girl who can do all these things and still says she isn’t happy. I can talk, I can see, I can hear, but I can’t walk. Signed - Thirteen and Happy.
How many of you are happy this morning? Are you serious? Give me a smile. Give me a real smile. Come on, give me a real smile. When I was working down in California, we had a young man in our church who would do this. At least, give me one of these.
For some of us, it may not be easy to smile because we’re not happy. We think we have no reason to be happy.
It’s my parents. If I had better parents, if they were richer. Why are my parents so poor? It’s all because of my spouse. If I had a different spouse, I’d be much happier. It’s because of my children. They make me unhappy. I’d be happy if it weren’t for them. We love to play the blame game.
The reason most of us aren’t happy is because we are ungrateful people.
By the way, don’t believe the lie that money is what you need to be happy. If some of you were given 10 million dollars, it would destroy you. Because the ten million dollars would make a poor unhappy person into a rich unhappy person, and that could destroy you.
I recently came across a story about a woman who bought the winning lottery ticket in California. She divorced her husband and hid it from him. He found out and sued 9 months later. She lost it all - and now she’s bitter and he’s wearing a new $800.00 suit!
Money is not the answer to happiness. I share a home with one of the happiest women on the face of this earth. She is poor, but she is happy. She is poor because her husband is poor. I grew up poor and I still think poor. And because I am a Seventh-day Adventist minister, I will remain poor until He comes.
Money has nothing to do with happiness. We have to uproot this lie that the devil has so successfully planted in our minds. Because of this single lie, we get married to the wrong people. Because of this lie, we go out and choose the wrong careers.
I’ve heard it said that if you win the lottery, you are happy for a year, but if you like what you do, you are happy for the rest of your life.
The reason most of us aren’t happy is because we are ungrateful people.
We are just like the nine lepers found in Luke 17 who did not return to give Jesus thanks.
Turn with me to Luke 17:12-17
Perhaps we can learn some truths from this passage of scripture that will cause us to give God thanks for what He has done for us.
(12) Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off.
Most of us have heard stories of the horrors of having leprosy in Biblical times. It was a horrible disease to have. It is still a horrible disease to have. Not only was there the pain of the disease itself, but there was also the stigma that went with having the disease.
The Mosaic Law pronounced a leper as being “unclean”. They were required by law to go around crying, “Unclean, unclean,” whenever anyone came close to them (Lev. 13:45). They had to rend their clothes as a sign of extreme sorrow, and their faces had to be covered. They were not fit to enter into the tabernacle, or later, the Temple to worship. They could not live with their families. The law required them to live outside the city (Num. 5:2-3).
If we were living in Bible times and you had leprosy, you could not worship here with us today. You could not live with your family in Auburn, Kent, or Federal Way. You’d have to find yourself a place outside of King County, out in the boonies.
If you were a leper, you essentially lost everything, your family, your job, and your money.
Verse 12 describes these lepers as standing “afar off”. Rabbinic tradition said that they had to stand at least 100 paces from anyone else. They could not even come close to Jesus.
The reason I have spent so much time in describing leprosy this morning is because it is a picture of sin and what Satan wishes to do to every single one of you here today.
Eaton’s Bible Dictionary says of this disease. “Leprosy was "the outward and visible sign of the innermost spiritual corruption; a meet emblem in its small beginnings, its gradual spread, its internal disfigurement, its dissolution little by little of the whole body, of that which corrupts, degrades, and defiles man’s inner nature, and renders him unmeet to enter the presence of a pure and holy God”.
Like the leper, we too were isolated from true intimacy, like the leper, we too were outcasts (from the Kingdom of God), like the leper, we too were in the process of loosing everything to sin, and like the leper, we too were being destroyed by that which was in our bodies, the law of sin and death.
NOTICE THE LEPERS’ CRY.
(13) And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”
That was all that they could do. No physician could heal them, no medicine could cure them. They were completely helpless.
We like to think that we are sufficient. We pretty bad. We think that we are capable of handling life, but the truth is, we are born helpless into this world, and we are helpless as we stand before sin and Satan.
The leper’s only hope was placed on this man Jesus. Everything had come down to this moment, to this encounter with Jesus. Aren’t you glad that when your only hope is placed on Jesus, He will be more than enough? Amen!
(14) So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priest.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.”
(15) And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned and with a loud voice glorified God.
One of them returns. Just one out of the ten lepers returns. How could just one return to give thanks? If you were one of the ten lepers, would you have been the one to return and give thanks?
Why did this one leper react differently?
Verse 15 says, “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed…”
The Bible says that he saw that he was healed. Now the others no doubt knew that they were healed, but there was something different here. The Greek word used is eido, and it means to know, see, or perceive. He took the time to note that he had been blessed. He realized that something wonderful had happened to him. He was sensitive to the power of Christ working in his life. His perception had entirely changed.
There is an old Jewish story that illustrates this point. There is a man who goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?" The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you." The man is incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and come back in a week." A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy." The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week." A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat -- only the nine of us." The situation was the same as at first, but now his perception had changed. He realized that he was blessed to begin with.
Someone once said... “Eat a live toad in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Do we really perceive the ways that God has blessed us?
A number of years ago, I was in Korea teaching English at the Adventist University there. While I was there, I realized that the Korean students really wanted to come to the U.S. They wanted to travel in America. They wanted to come here and study. Those who have been there know how people treat you just because you know how to properly pronounce your r’s and l’s. While I was there, during the winter vacation, I had the opportunity to go to China for a short-term mission trip with the theology students. We went to a city in the north called Yangi. A lot of Koreans lived in Yangi. They immigrated there in the early 1900’s. They are called Jo-sun-jok. As I got to know these people, they would talk so much about Korea because they had seen a lot of Korean videos. The Jo-sun-jok talked about how they dreamed about going shopping at Nam-dae-moon… Who wants to visit Korea? I thought all the Koreans wanted to come to the U.S. Now while I was in China, I learned that there were people who desperately wanted to live in Yangi. They dreamed about living in Yangi. Do you know who there were? They were the North Koreans that lived across the river that formed the border between China and North Korea. They so desperately wanted to live in Yangi.
The North Koreans dream about living in China. The Jo-sun-jok dream about living in Korea. The Koreans dream about living in the United States. And we Americans, citizens of the United States, are we happy? We are not happy are we? I want nicer clothes. Nag, nag, nag! I want a nicer car. Nag, nag, nag! I want a bigger house! Lord, have mercy!
May I remind you that not a one of us is hungry, not a one of us is naked, not a one of us is homeless.
The devil will do his best to keep your mind off the blessings of God. He will constantly tell you how bad you have it, of how everything is wrong in your life. And you know what the devil has been very successful.
(17) So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
Only one returned to give thanks. They were cured of leprosy, a dreaded disease. How could they not return to give God thanks?
Do you know that we do the same thing!
Ellen White commenting on this story in the Desire of Ages p. 348 says:
“On the way they were cleansed, but only one of them returned to give Him glory. The others went their way, forgetting Him who had made them whole. How many are still doing the same thing!”
When was the last time you thanked God for sending Jesus to be our Savior?
Don’t forget that we were outcasts from the Kingdom of God, on our way to certain death, but then we had a life changing encounter with Jesus. While we should never look back on the pleasures of sin, we should never forget where the Lord has brought us from.
Turn with me to Isaiah 51:1
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says, “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.”
In other words, look at where God has brought you from, remember what God has done for you.
We need to thank God for what He has done for us! Amen!
One man by the name of Charles Brown, gave several suggestions as to why the other nine never returned to give thanks. Keep in mind that these are only suggestions, but they reveal a whole lot about human nature.
• One waited to see if the cure was real.
• One waited to see if it would last.
• One said he would see Jesus later.
• One decided that he had never had leprosy.
• One said he would have gotten well anyway.
• One gave the glory to the priests.
• One said, "O, well, Jesus didn’t really do anything."
• One said, "Any rabbi could have done it."
• One said, "I was already much improved."
And then there was one who returned to give God thanks.
I used to be just like the nine lepers. I was a very ungrateful person. I was ungrateful and I was unhappy. Now I am very grateful, and I am very happy. And I’m not poor either, I was just kidding earlier. My Father is a rich provider, i.e. my heavenly Father. He supplies all my needs, and He gives me the desires of my heart.
I am grateful and I am happy. Are you happy? Learn to be grateful.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I’ll will tell you how you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Make a list of everything you have to be grateful for. Every morning when you get up, get on your knees, begin with “Dear Lord, thank you for a good nights rest.” Do you know that there are people who don’t get a good nights rest. There are people who are so stressed out, so frazzled, and they struggle to get a good night’s rest. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to not have a good night’s rest. Dear Lord, thank you for a good night’s rest. Thank you for protecting me through the night. Lord, thank you for hands that I can fold together as I pray to you. Thank you for my eyes. And continue reading through that list. Do that every morning. And do you know what will happen? The list is going to grow. Do it whether you feel like it or not. And as you continue to do it, you will begin to feel grateful.
Check this out. In the book Ministry of Healing p. 251 Ellen White says:
“It is a law of nature that our thoughts and feelings are encouraged and strengthened as we give them utterance. While words express thoughts, it is also true that thoughts follow words. If we would give more expression to our faith, rejoice more in the blessings that we know we have,--the great mercy and love of God,--we should have more faith and greater joy.”
Do you want more faith and greater joy? Give thanks!
So make that list of all the things you have to be grateful for. And if you run out of things, you can thank God for the things that haven’t happened to you.
How about thanking God for the accidents you weren’t involved in this past week. What about the illness that could have developed but did not developed? And the times you could have been mugged but weren’t.
How about all those speeding tickets you could have gotten but didn’t? We like to speed don’t we? We can thank God for every uneventful day! Amen!
Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Has God been good to you?
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
Do you know what mercy is? Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Do you know what you deserve? You and I deserve death!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”
In closing I want to share with you the experience of a female chaplain who worked at the Severance hospital at Yonsei University.
As a chaplain she encountered many patients. She met this one man who lost his legs in a car accident. He had to wear prosthesis’s (artificial legs). It was so painful for this man. If his leg grew a little, the prosthesis wouldn’t fit right. It would cause him pain. And so he would have to take pain killers.
Can you imagine how miserable it would be for this man? But there were people that envied this man. The chaplain met a former doctor who had the lower half of his body amputated because of diabetes. This person wished so much that he could be able to use artificial limbs even if it hurt. But he could not. This person said that he would give all the money he had if he could only receive one of his legs back. This person would have to move around in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. Could you imagine how miserable such a life would be? But there are people who envied this man. The chaplain met a person who was paralyzed from the neck down. This person could not even turn his neck from side to side. Someone had to be by this person’s side 24 hours a day and turn his body from side to side. This made it so difficult for his whole family since someone always needed to be by his side. He envied the people who were paralyzed from the waist down. He wished he could move his two arms. He envied those people who could ride around in a wheel chair. Could you imagine being paralyzed from the neck down. Hard to imagine. But there are people who envied this person. The chaplain met such a woman. You see, her husband was in a car accident and now suffered brain damage. The woman says, “My husband cannot see me.” “He cannot hear me.” “Even though I’m by his side all day, he doesn’t even know it.” “I’d prefer that he was completely paralyzed, but able to respond.” The woman said, “I don’t care if he made a lot of money.” “I don’t care if he could even walk.” “There is just one thing I want.” “I want to hear him say ‘yuh-bo’”. “If I could hear this one word, how happy I would be.”
Friends, take a look at your lives? Look at all that you have. Are you blessed?
For the Christian, Thanksgiving is not a one day event. Thanksgiving ain’t over. Every day ought to be a day of thanksgiving. I don’t know how you entered the church this morning. I don’t know what was on your hearts as you came in. But as we leave today, can we leave with hearts full of thanksgiving and praise? Could we begin a journey together. A journey of learning to give thanks to God. May we learn to thank him everyday for the rest of our lives.