Thankful (3/11/2018)

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Many years ago, my friend Harry asked me to go with him and his sons to a NASCAR race in Martinsville, Virginia. I was excited because I’d never been to one before. The weather forecast called for rain the day of the race. We decided to “go for it,” hoping the weather would cooperate. It didn’t. Rain sprinkles fell from the sky the entire four hours it took us to get to Martinsville.

We made our way to the bleachers and waited to see what would happen. Since this was a new experience for all of us, we enjoyed watching the crews prepare for the race even though they were under canopies and the cars were covered. Eventually the track officials ordered the emergency vehicles to drive around the track to see if they could dry it off. This seemed to be working until the heavens opened. The sprinkles became steady rain. After several hours, the race was postponed until 1 PM the next day.

Harry and I left the track disappointed. We’d basically wasted the whole day and, to make matters worse, we both had to go to work the next morning. That didn’t sit well for us since this was our first race. Halfway home we realized we could both miss work the next day and come back for the race. So that’s what we did.

The next morning Harry picked me up, again, to make the four-hour drive south. I noticed his sons weren’t with him. I asked where they were. Harry said they’d decided to go to school. He then told me about his youngest son, Jairus, who was around seven years old at the time.

Jairus was really happy with the previous day’s trip. He didn’t mind sitting in the rain. It was fun to see the different pit crews working. He was thrilled he got to see the ambulances driving around the track.

Jairus and I both faced the exact same circumstances. He left there excited about it. I didn’t share his enthusiasm. I wanted more.

How do you and I respond to the experiences we have with God? Luke 17:11-19 says, 11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him— and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

During this time period, leprosy was a highly contagious disease with no cure. Those who had it were forced to live away from their friends and families in leper colonies. They were social and religious outcasts. The ten infected men in this passage cried out to Jesus for help. Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priests. The local priests were responsible for deciding if someone was healed of infectious diseases. As they went to see the priests, Jesus healed them.

All ten men experienced the same thing. Yet only one was excited enough about it to come back, praise God and thank Jesus. He wasn’t even a Jew. He was a Samaritan. The other nine didn’t come back. The sad part is they were Jews, God’s chosen people. They weren’t pleased enough to come back and give glory to their God.

We don’t know exactly why they didn’t come back. One reason might be they were so excited to be healed they ran home to see their families. That’s understandable. Still, it’s a shame when God’s people aren’t thankful enough for what he does that they take time to praise him and thank Jesus.

You and I are God’s people. Let’s take a moment and think about how we treat God. Do we take time to praise God and thank Jesus for answering our prayers and blessing us? Or do we want more? Are we moving on to the next thing that we want God to do for us?

Do we act like the one who came back? Or the nine who didn’t?

Our responsibility before God isn’t any different than the ten men Jesus healed. God wants us to praise him and thank Jesus too. Three practical ways we can do this is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. It says,Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s break this down and look at the three parts individually. The first one is Rejoice always. Rejoice is defined as “feel or show great joy and delight.” Even in the midst of disappointment and sorrow we can still find joy and delight. What if our attitude was like this?

“Lord, it was joyful to spend the day with Harry and his boys. We had a chance to talk and get to know each other better since our voices weren’t drowned out by the sound of the car engines.”

“Lord, it’s delightful to see how this sickness has brought our family closer together. People are taking time to check on me and help me. It so nice to realize I have people around me that love me.”

Please pick one situation in your life which is causing you sorrow or pain right now. Take a moment and think about the areas where you can find joy and delight in whatever it is you’re facing.

The second way is to Pray continually. What if we prayed like this when things don’t go our way?

“Lord, please help me see what’s really important in life. While seeing this race would be fun today, it really won’t change my life.”

“Lord, please use these financial problems I’m having to show me that money doesn’t really buy happiness. Help me let go of my worry and draw closer to you.”

Please take a moment and ask God to take the situation you’re facing and work in it.

The third practical way we praise God and thank Jesus is by Giving thanks in all circumstances. Notice this doesn’t say we are to be thankful for the bad things that happen in our lives. However, when they do come our way, we are to be thankful even though our circumstances are less than we desire.

“Thank you Jesus I have a job where I can occasionally take off and go to a race. Thanks for a friend who can also ditch his work today. And thanks for the free ticket.”

“Thank you, Jesus we now live in a time, when modern medicine can ease my pain. It’s such a blessing to get some relief.”

Take a moment and thank Jesus for the good things happening in your situation right now.

It’s so easy to act like the nine men who didn’t come back. We get so caught up in the things we want that we go our own way instead of thanking God and worshipping Jesus.

Let’s be like the one who came back.