Luke 17:17-19 (KJV) 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
(We are going to take a moment from our study of David and warfare to think about what thanksgiving really means especially to a believer.)
As we take time this year to give thanks to God, we need to remember that being thankful is not just a response for a believer. Giving thanks to God is also a causal force. We do not only respond to the good things God brings to our lives by giving thanks, but giving thanks actually draws good things to us. It changes things in the spirit. As such, thanksgiving is one of the spiritual weapons we must use to win the war for the soul of our world.
A continuing theme for me recently has been the simple truth that Christianity is a radical lifestyle. In the sermon on the mount Jesus said many times, “You have heard it said …..But I say.” The revelation here is that the world operates one way but the body of Christ must operate in a very different manner. When we talk about weapons and warfare, we must understand that our weapons and our warfare are also completely different from the way it would be in the world.
We would never see giving thanks as a weapon in the natural world. When we are threatened, we do not give thanks. We fight back. However, when we give thanks to God in every circumstance we are fighting warfare in the spirit with weapons against which the devil has no defense.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
There was a teaching many years ago, that said we should give thanks for all things because anything that happens to us must be the will of God for our lives. This is not what the verse says. It tells us to give thanks in all things. Rejoicing always, praying without ceasing and giving thanks are the will of God for you no matter what you are going through. When we do these things, the devil cannot defeat us.
I want to look at this story from Luke’s Gospel. Earlier in this chapter, we see 10 lepers who come to Jesus and cry out for him to heal them. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priests. To understand what is happening here we need to know the social ramifications of this disease.
I have seen leprosy and it is not a pretty sight. In the days of Jesus, this was similar to what Aids is today in that it was incurable and carried a severe stigma. The person with leprosy was literally eaten alive by the disease. Noses might be eaten away. Often the person would be without fingers or toes. They believed it was also highly contagious.
A person with leprosy was legally and religiously unclean. He or she would have to stay away from everyone who did not have the disease. If they went out in public at all, they had to cry out, “Unclean!” This was so that people would know to stay away from them. They would be segregated in “leper colonies” away from their friends and family. It did not matter how rich they might be or even what their position was in life, if they were a leper, everyone rejected them and left them to die.
If by some medicine or miracle a leper was cured of the disease, the only way they could go back into society was to show the priest proof they were no longer leprous. If they went to the priest and were not free of the leprosy, they risked possible death because those who were unclean could not approach anything holy. This is why the 10 cried out from “far off.” (Vs. 13)
When Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priest, it took faith for them to go. They had not yet been healed. However, they obeyed Jesus and as they went, God touched their bodies and they were no longer leprous. All ten of them had faith. All ten of them were healed. Nine of them continued on to the priests to reclaim their lives. That is what Jesus told them to do.
We cannot say that the nine did anything wrong. The fact that they obeyed and went to show themselves to the priest proved their faith in Jesus. However, one of them simply could not continue on his way when he saw that he was healed. I am sure the others were grateful, but this man’s heart of thanksgiving would not allow him to take one more step until he went back to thank God for what had been done to him.
The one so moved with thanks to God was a Samaritan, a hated foreigner. I want you to see something about thanksgiving in this story. All ten were healed. All ten had faith. This one man responded with radical thanksgiving. The impact of his thanksgiving did not end with the response. Because he came back and gave thanks to Jesus, the Lord says that he was made whole. The thanksgiving was not just a response to good things it was a cause of something that was an even greater good!
I do not know exactly what Jesus meant when he said the man was made whole. I think it could mean that things the leprosy had eaten away were restored to his body. Imagine seeing his nose made whole in an instant. That would be something to see. This disease can eat away fingers, toes and even hands. It would be wonderful to be free of the leprosy but how much greater would it be to have your body complete again.
I think being made whole also means restoration from the spiritual and psychological effects of the disease. What would it do to someone to be taken from his or her family and friends? How damaging would it be to have to cry out “unclean” as you walked down the street? I think to be made whole would mean healing in those areas as well.
Faith connects us to God and the realm of the spirit. I believe it bridges the gap between the natural and the supernatural. Faith is one of the most important weapons in our arsenal. However, as important as faith is, when it is coupled with active and radical thanksgiving there is a completely new level of power that is released. Faith healed ten and made them clean. Adding the weapon of thanksgiving to his arsenal caused the Samaritan to be made whole.
Find something to give thanks for today. Add this powerful force to your spiritual arsenal. When we are going through difficulties, it can be hard to be thankful. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. If there is something God has done for you, stop where you are and thank him. Thank him for your job, your family and your friends. Most of all thank him for salvation. You will never see a day in hell because of what Jesus did for you.
Your attitude of thanksgiving will change the spiritual atmosphere around you. It will cause people to be drawn to you and you will be able to share the gospel in a much more effective way. Good things will be drawn to your life as you actively and radically give thanks to the Lord.