There is one thing that I am not thankful for, and that is turkey. I do not like turkey for the holidays. As many of you know, I would much rather have chicken. Fortunately, my family normally has chicken and ham for the holidays. And for this, I am thankful.
When my church does not meet, for whatever reason, I like to attend Southwest Baptist Church. Wednesday night was one of those nights. It was nice being around other believers and hearing them give thanks on Thanksgiving Eve.
One boy raised his hand and patiently waited for the microphone to come to him. He must have been somewhere around ten years old. He finally got to stand and share with the congregation what he was thankful for. I fully expected him to tell us all about how he was thankful for his mom and dad, but what he was thankful for surprised me.
He shared that he was thankful for the Word of God. He was thankful that it was truly inspired by God. He was thankful that God chose to use men to bring that Word to us. He was thankful that the Word of God told him how he could be saved and experience the forgiveness of sins. He was thankful for the Word of God and for salvation.
To hear that coming from a young child was such an encouragement and a blessing to me. Some adults do not acknowledge the truths that this child so boldly and confidently gave thanks for. I could only smile as I listened to him.
After fifty-seven minutes of worshipping through song and giving thanks, their Pastor, Bro. Gladdis, came to deliver the message. Yes, they spent nearly an hour giving thanks and worshipping together through song. The text was Luke 17:11-17. This chapter mentions ten men who had leprosy.
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 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? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Here we see ten individuals who had a terrible disease. They were outcasts in their society. They ask Jesus to have pity on them and he tells them to go and show themselves to the priests. They got up, went, and were healed somewhere along the way. When they noticed, only one dude returns to thank the giver, Jesus, for the gift of healing.
So many times we are like the nine who took God’s blessing and left him behind. We really are glad that we have and receive things from God. There is no doubt about that. We are happy that God blesses us with family and friends. We are happy to receive provision upon provision. In fact, we find great enjoyment in God’s blessings. In this story only one turned back to thank Jesus for his healing. He chose to give the glory to the giver, instead of keeping it for himself.
Although Thanksgiving was on Thursday and this is Saturday, I believe we would do good to do as the one did. That is to turn, and thank God. When we do this, we reflect God’s glory instead of keeping it on ourselves. Not only to thank him, but to praise him for what he has done for us, for the things he has protected us from, for the things we have been delivered from, for the life we have been given, for even the little things, like fried chicken and sweet tea.
So, here are a few of the things that I am thankful for. I fully acknowledge that they are gifts from God that I do not deserve.
- My life
Life really is a gift from God. We are not promised a certain amount of time. I do believe that our days are numbered. They are not infinite. Each and every individual day is a gift from God. So far I have received 8,940 of these precious gifts from God. Only He can give and sustain life. Not only do I enjoy the gift of life on a daily basis, but I will also enjoy life eternal. Because of the work of the cross and Christ’s sacrifice, I know that there is more to come. This life is not all that there is. Apart from Christ, I was dead in my sin and unable to do anything about it. But, God reached down and breathed life into me. Knowing that I deserve death, condemnation, and eternal separation from God, I cannot help but be thankful for salvation. Romans 5:8 is an example of one of the countless things in my life that I am undeserving of. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”
- God’s faithfulness
One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”
This is so wonderful! As believers, we should make every effort to not sin. We should fight viciously to put a death to sin in our lives. Unfortunately, we will still mess up. We will yield to our flesh and give in to temptation. We will act in a manner that is not pleasing to God. But friends, he still remains faithful! His faithfulness is not dependent on us and our good works. His love is unconditional, unending, and unmeasurable.
- My family
They are not perfect, by any measure. But they are mine. I am thankful God, in his infinite wisdom, decided to give me the family that I have. My dad chose to be my dad. He did not have to, but I am thankful that he did. My mother is a very hard worker who takes pride in her work and loves spending time with her children, in whatever way she can. She is also a pretty good cook. In fact, she made sure that I had fried chicken to eat on Thanksgiving! You all know how much I love chicken. My twin is a selfless person who would do anything for anyone. If Bobby can help someone, he is also happy and willing to do so. My little brother is much like myself, he enjoys making fun of other people and arguing…though he is nowhere near as good of an arguer as I am.
- My church
God has placed me in a healthy local body of believers. They love the Lord and they are a blessing to many. On a personal level, they provide for me in many ways. Whether it be a Sunday School class paying for my tuition or giving me money to buy books or a senior adult lady paying for my mission trips or the many people who cook me delicious meals and invite me into their homes for fellowship or the countless individuals who me offer words of encouragement and wisdom. I could go on, but God is good to place me with this body of believers. I am also thankful that I get to work for my church. It brings me great joy to be able to serve some of the people who I love most in life. I love them and they love me. It really is a great deal. There is no reason that I should know these people and enjoy their fellowship…other than the Gospel. It is this that unites us and sustains our fellowship. This is a sweet thing to think on. We all come from different walks of life, but are united in Christ.
- People who have invested in me
From an early age God has placed a number of people in my life that have encouraged me in my faith. I’m thankful for the bus ministry of Southwest Baptist Church and those workers who labored, and continue to labor, to enable over 500 children to hear the Gospel each week. I once was one of those children. I’m thankful for the people of Independence Ave. Baptist Church, the place where I basically grew up. Many people in that place loved on me and treated me as if I were a part of their individual families. Here it was people like the Millers who made sure I had a ride to church every week. The investment continues to this day at Southern Hills. These people love me and love me and love me. They encourage me, challenge me, and they rebuke and correct me. I could mention many families, a number of Sunday School classes, and even more individuals who continually invest in me, but I do not wish to leave anyone out. I definitely did not nor do not deserve any of these people.
All ten of these men were glad, but only one was grateful. What are you grateful for? Do you run away with God’s blessings while leaving him behind? When we act as the one did, we are pointing those around us to our forgiving, loving, caring, merciful and gracious God. We are acknowledging him as Savior and Lord.