The Grateful Heart 
"Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?" Luke 17:17

     There were, undoubtedly, many lepers cleansed through the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. One of the evidences Jesus gave John the Baptist’s disciples that He was Israel’s promised Messiah was "…the lepers are cleansed…" Luke 7:22. It seems this news had also spread far and wide among the unclean lepers. Luke now brings before us a veritable colony of lepers who otherwise had no hope of cleansing. They came as close to Jesus as the law allowed and called with loud and pleading voices, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." They had a great affliction and the renowned Healer had shown healing mercies to others with their disease and so they made their request.

     Jesus replied, "Go show yourselves to the priests." (Luke 17:14).  Why so? Because the priests had been commissioned with the authority to determine if someone with an infectious disease was free from it. The remarkable thing was that when Jesus spoke these words the lepers were still fully leprous. There is clear evidence of faith in His word in their act of immediately starting their journey to the priest. "So it was that, as they went, they were cleansed." The sensation of feeling began to flow into their numb body parts. Energy replaced sluggishness and healthy flesh replaced areas that were infected. Somewhere down that road to the priest’s house there came an indescribably thrilling moment when these ten lepers became intensely aware their leprosy was gone.

     And what now? Surely there arose feelings of gratitude to the Great Physician Who was the source of their cleansing. Surely, everyone had thoughts of returning to Jesus and giving thanks. But other thoughts also arose competing for their decision as to what they would do. They desperately wanted that certificate of cleansing from the priest. They longed to once again embrace family; to worship in the temple with friends which they had been forbidden to do for years. They also wanted to make themselves available to the job market and get on with life. And so, for nine of them, the urgency to express gratitude to the Great Physician was not as great as the urgency to pray for healing in the first place. Since Jesus would shortly begin His journey to Jerusalem for His fateful encounter with the cross and the grave, it is probable that those feelings of gratitude were never expressed and proper glory was never given to God.
     Have we known people who received great blessings from God but did not properly express their gratitude? Most likely we have. Even more to the point, have we received great blessings from God and not properly expressed our gratitude? If we are honest and candid with ourselves we probably have to admit, "too many times!"
     In order to spare others a guilt trip I use myself as an example. I wake up each morning in the midst of creature comforts…a heated waterbed and centrally heated /air conditioned home. A bathroom instead of an outhouse, a kitchen with a full pantry, a refrigerator, stove, running water, radio, TV. to check up on the general condition of the world. A closet full of clothes, an office/study in which to work, or an automobile to go wherever I need. I add to all of this the unspeakable blessings of family; a community of believers God has privileged me to have a part in pastoring and all that is included in being a child of God. I am truly blessed beyond words. What an ingrate I would be not to pause many times each day and express my thanks to my heavenly Father Who is the source of it all. I count it joy to assemble with our community of believers and join with them in lifting my praise with all my heart and soul. And yet, I know I fail terribly to be as grateful as I should. My heart joins with another of God’s children who prayed, "
You have given so much to me…give me one thing more, a grateful heart."
     May God help each one of us to not be like the nine who failed to return and give glory to God.

     Only one of those cleansed lepers returned to Jesus. We can believe that he had all the desires and ambitions the other nine had that compelled them to press on in their journey to the priest. A sense of gratitude had welled up so great in his heart that nothing else in the world was as important as expressing that gratitude for the unspeakable kindness Jesus had bestowed on him. He retraced his steps filled with excitement and joy and with a loud voice glorified God. When he came to Jesus he fell down at his feet and gave thanks. Such behavior would shock most of us today. We would consider it improper to be so emotionally demonstrative. And well it might be, if it is done for show. But when the gratitude and worship are real we are the losers when we restrain its outward expression. I believe this is exactly what Paul was expressing when he wrote, "Do not quench not the Spirit." 1st Thessalonians 5:19.
     The Psalms were God’s inspired songbook of worship for Israel. They express virtually every emotion a human can feel. The following quotes are representative of many through the Psalms. They indicate that there are times when it is most proper to express our praise to God with all our heart:

     "I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart…"
     "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you upright in heart."
     "Oh, clap your hands, all ye peoples: shout to God with the voice of triumph"
     "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name."
Psalms 9:1; 32.11; 47:1; 103:1

The 150th Psalm climaxes the Psalm book with a call to praise the Lord with trumpet…psaltery…harp…timbrel and dance…stringed instruments…organ…the loud cymbals, and the high sounding cymbals. I get the impression that most of us are falling short of what God is expecting out of us. The numbers may be different, but the meaning still applies today. "Where are the nine?"

why a grateful heart is so important:

A grateful heart nurtures an attitude of humility
whereas an ungrateful heart nurtures an attitude of pride.
     The person with the grateful heart thinks "I have so much more than I deserve." The ungrateful person thinks, "I deserve so much more than I have."   I have a preacher friend who always responds when asked how he’s doing, "Better than I deserve. If I got what I deserve, I would be in hell right now."

A grateful heart encourages focusing on others
whereas an ungrateful heart encourages looking inward and focusing on self.

     You will hear the person with the grateful heart talking about how good God and others have been to them and about the needs other people have.
     You will hear the person with the ungrateful heart talking about how they have been mistreated and deprived an what they want out of life.
     The person with the grateful heart is occupied with honoring God and being a blessing to others while the ungrateful person continues through life grasping for self-gratification.

3. A grateful heart enables a person to enjoy and appreciate
whereas an ungrateful heart robs enjoyment of present blessings with a discontent over what one wants but does not have.
     Paul is in prison on trial for his life. His creature comforts are minimal. His financial resources to provide better is zero. A delegation arrives from Philippi with food, clothing, money etc. Paul writes, "I have all, and abound: I am full…" Philippians 4:18. On the other hand, we see people daily who have thousands…even hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of "stuff" who don’t enjoy it because they focus on the things they want but don’t have. Remember King Ahab pouting because he didn’t have Naboth’s vineyard in 1st Kings 21:4.

A grateful heart promotes a spirit of contentment,
whereas an ungrateful heart promotes discontent.
     One preacher said, "Gratitude can be a vaccine that can prevent the invasion of a disgruntled attitude. As toxins prevent the disastrous effects of certain poisons and diseases, thanksgiving destroys the poison of faultfinding and grumbling. When trouble has smitten us, a spirit of thanksgiving is a soothing antiseptic.

A grateful heart prompts thankful words
whereas an ungrateful heart prompts murmuring and complaining.
      A person with a grateful heart has no problem following the admonition "In everything give thanks…" 1st Thessalonians 5:18. The grateful person knows that even when bad and hurtful things happen God makes them work together for good. God only allows bad things that will contribute towards His long term goal of making the believer more and more like Jesus.
Not so with the ungrateful person. "Why did this have to happen?" Many of them find themselves swallowed up in the pit of "poor me".

A grateful heart is like refreshing springs
 whereas an ungrateful heart is like a stagnant pond.
      What a joy to be around those who are bubbling over with the blessings that have been poured out upon them from the Lord and whose life is a thrilling adventure. What a drudgery to be around those whose every sentence is filled with gripes, faultfinding and hopelessness. We find our own heart and mind being poisoned with their negative attitude.

     Now is a good time to ask ourselves, "Have I been like the nine who enjoyed the blessing of cleansing but did not put forth the effort and time to give thanks or am I like the one who considered giving thanks and glory to God more important than anything else in the world?

Copyright © 2002 Thomas E Berry
All Scriptures quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted

    Copyright © 2008 Truth Helpers Inc.