Thankful? Haven’t we passed that holiday? I know, Thanksgiving was seven or eight weeks ago…the leftovers have vanished along with the attitude of gratitude that was quickly lost in the flurry of Christmas. Now, here we are at the start of a new year. The presents have been returned, the wrapping has been recycled, and the tree is tucked away in the basement for another year.
Many people make resolutions beginning January 1st to improve themselves and their lives. Lots of us make promises to eat less and exercise more, or to pray and read the bible more and watch TV less. All good things…and they would be even better if we could actually stick to them beyond Valentine’s Day! But here is an idea for a resolution: Be thankful.
Let’s start by looking at an example from scripture of what being thankful actually looks like. In Luke 17 we find the account of Jesus healing the ten lepers. As most people are well aware, leprosy was a horrible disease at the time. It was incurable and caused people to be completely separated and isolated from everyone…including their own spouse, family and friends. Therefore, when these ten guys heard this man was healing people, they wanted in on the deal and made their way to see him crying out loudly for Jesus to have mercy upon them.
And Jesus did…although I’m sure they were quite surprised when he told them to go show themselves to the priests. Jesus didn’t pray for them, touch them, spit on them, or anything like he had in some of the other miracles he performed. I bet that wasn’t exactly what these guys expected. By the way, it’s a great lesson for us on how God often shows up in ways we least expect or understand. Don’t get discouraged and give up just because it’s not exactly what you want. Scripture says if you seek, you will find him…but it’s usually not when or how we think it should be.
So all ten guys went to see the priests and the bible tells us “as they went, they were cleansed” yet, only one of the men came back to Jesus when he saw he was healed. Only one praised God in a loud voice and fell at Jesus’ feet with thankfulness. Were all ten thankful for their healing? Undoubtedly, they were! They had just been given their lives back. Their death sentence had been pardoned and they must have felt extraordinarily grateful. Yet, Jesus commended the one who actually acted thankful by expressively showing the gratitude he felt. Jesus measured who was thankful by what they did, not by what they felt.
The simple truth is this: We aren’t judged on what we feel, rather we are judged by what we do. American’s have a hard time with this and we deceive ourselves into thinking as long as we have good intentions, good thoughts, good feelings, then it’s all that matters. As people of faith we must break out of this crazy thinking that says what you feel is more important that what you do. (Read the following posts for more on not living by feelings:
Jesus Was Not a Hypocrite, Learning to Say No, It’s Dangerous for Men to Follow Their Feelings.)
So as we head into 2012, really examine yourself. Do you show your thankfulness by what you do? If you are so grateful, let me ask you, do you attend church regularly? Do you give? Do you serve? If you are truly thankful, then show it by what you do. I hear from many people who watch our Sunday morning services on TV from Celebration Church. When I ask them why they don’t come to church the most common response is I don’t feel like getting dressed. Seriously!? Do you think that God is going to buy the “jammie defense”? Imagine standing before The Almighty and explaining to him that you were too comfortable to get out of your flannel PJs and get off the couch. Remember, on judgment day God will measure what you have done, not what you felt.
Demonstrate your thankfulness by attending, getting involved in areas of service, by giving of your time and money. Too many people live by the line of thinking, “I don’t have to go to church, or give or serve because God knows I feel thankful.” Do you want to be like the nine guys who didn’t come back to show their gratitude to Jesus or do you want to be like the one guy who did? All felt it, but only one acted on it.
In the second chapter of the book of James, he asks the question: What good is it if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds. Can such a faith save him? In America today, most people would answer “yes”, all that matters is that you feel it or believe it. But their answer would be wrong. James implies that it’s not enough. He said it’s more than just believing—even the devil believes—and it’s not just about feeling. It’s about acting on those beliefs and feelings. We need to live out our thankfulness in our actions.
Some of us never say it and need to simply start there. Thank God. Thank the people around you. It won’t kill you to look at your spouse and say, “Thank you for all that you do.” But then we need to go beyond saying it and actually do things to show our thankfulness…to God and to our spouses and families. We need to be the kind of people who show it and constantly demonstrate it by what we do. John 3:16 says God showed his love for us by giving his son. It wasn’t just about his feelings or what he said, but also by what he did. Jesus didn’t stop at feelings of love for us, or saying he loved us, he demonstrated that love.
In 2012, let’s follow that example. Let’s not just feel or say we are thankful. Resolve to be thankful.