The act of giving thanks is not restricted to those who "have it all". We sometimes feel that it is easier to give thanks when our lives are going smoothly and without the typical chaos. All of us can be thankful, no matter what our current situation in life. We may be flourishing or we may be floundering, but God, in His infinite wisdom and love knew that thanksgiving was an essential part of life and one that makes us happier and healthier.
Last year I wrote a post entitled It is Good to Give Thanks. In that post I linked to an article from the Forbes website: 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. You can see my original post and the article written by Amy Morin, by clicking on the links. I believe that giving thanks was God's way of getting us to reboot. When life is overwhelming and things are not going as we had hoped or planned, giving thanks takes us back to center. What is that center? God and His great love and goodness.
I want to take the rest of this post to look at two lives. These two men were living extremely different lives. One became a king, the other was a leper. What did they have in common? They both took the time to give thanks.
David - King of Israel
The life of David the simple shepherd boy who became the King of one of the greatest nations in the world, can be found throughout the Old Testament books of 1 & 2 Samuel, as well as the first chapter of i Kings and a few scattered chapters in 1st Chronicles. David is also the author of at least 73 of the 150 psalms in the book of Psalms. Many of these contain the act of giving thanks. Here are a few examples.
The Psalms are a great place to go if you are looking for scriptures to bring you back to the center of gratitude.
While David lived a life of wealth, fame and leisure, he did not always have a simple or smooth journey. Fighting giants, battling wars and being chased by King Saul who was mad with jealousy were the basis for some of the songs that David penned. He also penned from the darkness of his heart because he was well aware of his sin. Taking another man's wife, getting her pregnant and then having the man killed were all sins David committed while being a man after God's own heart. Yet, he seemed to know that giving thanks was part of the process of finding his way back to a right relationship with the heavenly Father.
In the New Testament, Luke, in his gospel, writes about the healing of ten lepers. It is not surprising that Luke often focused in on healing. He was a doctor. What I love about Luke's retelling of this particular incident is what follows after Jesus heals the ten men.
Leprosy was a terrible disease in Biblical times that was thought to be highly contagious. Today, leprosy is treatable and typically only affects people in very poor areas without good treatment. When Jesus walked the earth lepers lived in leper colonies which were most often well outside the cities. These people were kept apart, partly because of the Levitical law of things that were clean and unclean.
When these ten leprous men stood at a distance and raised their voices to Jesus, they were making a plea for their restoration. Imagine if you were one of these men. You know doubt heard the news about this man of God who was healing all kinds of diseases. When you knew he was coming to your village you would have raised your voice too. Of course you would want to be healed. You wanted to have normal life and be able to hug your families again!
"Master! Have mercy on us."
"Go and show yourselves to the priests."
They probably turned as a group and nearly stumbled over each other as they scooted towards the local synagogue. But a strange thing happened as they were on their way. They were healed.
One man turned back and what did he do? He gave thanks. What set this man apart from the rest? Luke informs us that the man was a Samaritan. If you know anything about history you might be aware that Samaritans were a cross breed mix of Jewish and many other people groups that had originated as far back as the Babylonian exile. They were not looked upon with favor by the Jews because they were not pure Jews (my own terminology). So here you have a man, who is not only a leper, but a Samaritan. How do you think he got along in the local leper community? He probably was an outcast in a group of outcasts. Yet, it is our Samaritan friend who turns back and gives glory and thanks to God.
If Jesus made a statement about a particular incident you can bet we had better stand up and take notice. Have you even noticed how critical, bitter and hateful people who call themselves Christian can be? And what about those who are walking without God? Sometimes they are the nicest most thankful people we know. The point is, if we know Christ and are claiming His name, then we had better walk the walk. Being thankful is part of that walk.
Two men, with vastly different lives, realized the importance of giving thanks. Paul said,
As we look forward to Thanksgiving next week and the weeks following leading up to Christmas, let's get back to our God center and be thankful!