The Grateful Heart
not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?" Luke 17:17
A DESPERATE NEED
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.
FAITH BROUGHT CLEANSING
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
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.
ONE DID RETURN
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"
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
why a grateful heart is so important:
A grateful heart nurtures an attitude of
A grateful heart encourages focusing on
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."
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
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,
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
A grateful heart is like refreshing springs
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".
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.