Thanking God all the time is a prerequisite of the Christian prayer life. Philippians 4:6-7 educates us on this, 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God'. When we do this then a further promise is made in the verse that follows, 'And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus'. We should therefore thank God at all times, in good and in bad situations; in good because He is once again blessing us and in bad because He is growing us in faith.
In the book of Luke 17:11-19 we read about the account of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus Christ but only one came back and gave his thanks. When we look closely at this report, we see three things: 10 unclean men, 9 ungrateful men and 1 unique man. Is it not interesting to note that the higher the glory that can be found in thanksgiving the fewer the people who actually qualify for it?
On His way to Jerusalem, Jesus came across these 10 leprous men and from a distance they called out to Him, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us'. Lepers were outcasts in the society and their presence at the entrance of the village attests to this; they were out of normal habitation. They had to live away from the rest of the people. Leviticus 13:45 gives us a glimpse of the nature and extent of their ostracized existence, 'The person of such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, "Unclean, Unclean!" As long as he has the infection he remains unclean, he must live alone, he must live outside the camp'
If one was found to have leprosy, his life immediately changed. If married, an immediate separation would be instituted and he would be cast outside the camp to live with his kind. This is because the camp had to be holy, yet, this person had now become unclean. Deuteronomy 23:14 says, 'For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy so that He will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you'. Being a leper therefore even meant that one was not where the Lord dwelt! One could only relate to lepers like oneself. According to ancient writings, a 6ft distance had to be observed at all times when dealing with those who were not lepers. The lepers therefore stood at a distance as they spoke to Jesus.
Leprosy was a cruel disease. The name comes from a Greek word which means scaling. With patches of red skin on the nose, neck, cheek or head, it attacked the nerves rendering the person unable to feel. This was dangerous because the person was not aware when he hurt or burnt himself. The voice box could also be affected and produce a raspy pathetic semblance of sound. It would also cause blindness in some cases. A leper was therefore socially ostracized, economically disempowered and psychologically depressed especially where it was intimated that he deserved what had befallen him because of having sinned. It was against this backdrop that Jesus Christ met and healed these 10 lepers. When He saw them, He said,' Go, show yourselves to the priests'. And as they went, they were cleansed. Levitically, it was the priests who could now give them a clean bill of health and declare them fit to live within the camp with the rest of society. The lepers were thus to be a testimony to the priests that indeed, a miracle had occurred.
Many other miracles had occurred through the Old Testament but it was hundreds of years since a Jew had been healed of this disease. Naaman had received his healing from the same and now these ten received theirs from our God. The implications of this healing were great; they could now finally engage in life, marriages would be restored and sanity would prevail. The stigma that had surrounded them would now be a thing of the past and whilst they had been uncomforted and untouched, they could now mix freely with the rest of the society. What Jesus Christ did for these men was only grasped and understood by one of the lepers, the other nine were the ungrateful ones.
In Luke 17:17:17 Christ asked, 'Were not all 10 cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no-one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?' 90% of those healed did not return to give thanks to the Lord, they quickly forgot what had just happened and went their way. A lot like how we too behave sometimes. We may spend years asking the Lord for something but when the Lord God finally answers our prayers, we quickly forget Him and instead focus on the blessing whilst the blesser Himself ceases to have much meaning. The 9 ungrateful lepers were a covenant people, of the house of the Lord and should have understood the importance of thanksgiving but only one foreigner stopped and recognized what God had truly done for him. Are we like the ungrateful nine or like the unique one?
The unique man saw what had happened and did three things: firstly he came back praising the Lord in a loud voice. Whereas his voice may have been raspy from years of ravage by disease, he now had powerful, healed vocal cords-and he used them. Secondly, he threw himself at Jesus feet and worshipped Him. He recognized his God, he saw his Savior, he knew his Healer and from the depths of his heart, showed his gratitude. He knew that only God can and must be worshipped and although he had to present himself to the priests, first things had to be done first. Thirdly he gave thanks to the Lord-he knew where he had been before the Savior healed him and he did not let his restoration blind him to the mercies that Jesus Christ had shown him; He had made him whole!
As we look at our own lives we mostly see a similarity between ourselves and the 9 ungrateful lepers. The 10 lepers had said to the Lord, 'Jesus, Master, have pity on us'. And He did. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us, 'Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning, great is your faithfulness'. Psalm 136 talks of God's enduring love for us. How then is it that we fail to give Him thanksgiving for the things that He has done for us throughout the year and even in our lives? When we reflect on this, the appropriate response should be to fall down on our knees and worship the Lord for He has been good to us.
We should also give Him thanks for our salvation for where would we be without it? Would we not still be bound to the dark world of sin the evil one? Colossians 1:12-14 reminds us, 'giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins'. God is deserving of our praise and thanksgiving for He has shown us great mercy and given us favor.
We also need to thank God for answered prayers for many are the testimonies around us. For some of us, business opportunities have been opened through the year, for others, relations have been restored while for many more still new liaisons have been forged. If it looks like nothing has happened for us, then we need to fall down and worship Him because we are still alive to await His appointed time. For many years the lepers had not had an opportunity to worship the Lord as they probably would have wanted but we see the one unique man falling to his knees and worshiping the Lord as if it were habitual. As a leper, he had never had this privilege to worship unrestrained by societal condemnation. We who know the Lord however, have slackened in our worship. We have become casual with Him. It matters not to us that we do not start the day in fervent worship of our King and in reading of the Word. The benefits of the Word resound in Psalms 19:7, The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making the wise simple'. All the 10 lepers received healing but I believe that the unique man received something extra, 'Rise and go, your faith has made you well'.
Born again or not, God has done great things in the life of men; the unique leper was a Samaritan but he knew how to give thanks to the Lord. How much more, we who are of His house and who have been saved from darkness?
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May these words (sermons), from various men and women of God be a blessing to all.
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