My whole life, I’ve heard the phrase, “What would you have today if you woke up with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” This thought is always a sobering one as I reflect on my daily prayer life and the level of thankfulness I show in it. A couple of weeks ago, our whole nation, at some point or another, had their minds on the topic of being thankful. They may have done so around a big Thanksgiving meal, when they were with family, or perhaps when a particular football game came on even. Now that we are more than a week away from that national holiday, I wonder how many of us still have a thankful mindset in our day to day lives. When we look in scripture, it’s clear to see that being thankful and having that attitude wasn’t meant to be a seasonal mindset.
Often when David starts a Psalm, he begins with the thought, “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! This initial thought can be found in Psalms 106:1, 107:1, and in Psalm 118:1, to name a few. Amidst the chapter in 1 Thessalonians that is often titled “Christian Conduct,” Paul writes that “in everything, give thanks – For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” As Christians, when we hear the phrase, “for this, is the will of God,” we should perk up and give serious thought to the direction given. Here, in 1 Thess. 5:18, we see the real importance of being thankful. When we express this type of gratitude and have this as a constant mindset, then we are fulfilling the will of God! So, how do we adopt this way of thinking into our everyday thoughts more aptly? I believe insight can be found in a story in the life of Christ.
In Luke 17, Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem for His final Passover feast. As He makes His way, He passes in between the regions of Samaria and Galilee. Here He runs across a small band leprous individuals, ten altogether. It is at this moment that they show some level of knowledge and faith in Jesus. From a distance, they cry out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” This praise shows that they don’t only recognize Jesus as great by calling Him master, but also they recognize His ability to save them by pleading to have mercy! These men were spiritually ahead of so many of their contemporaries at this moment. Jesus answers their pleas and gives them instruction in verse 14, “When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed.” It is here that insight into thankfulness can be gleaned. Scripture goes on to record in Luke 17:15-19 the response of the ten men from being healed of their terrible disease. “Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
After all that Jesus had done for the group of 10, how could only one have returned to thank Christ for the miracle that had happened? Christ is seemingly shocked as well when we look back at His response in verse 18. What happened differently for the one Samaritan that prompted him to return to the side of Jesus in humble thanksgiving?
Looking back to verse 15, we are afforded a small view into the thinking of this foreigner, “When he saw that he had been healed…” He simply stopped for a moment and reflected on the miracle that had been performed in his life. He was thoughtful. As the other nine were certainly overjoyed and flooded with countless places to go and people to see, they quickly didn’t forget about the Savior who healed them. The difference between the one man and the other nine is the simple act of being thoughtful. Thoughtfulness leads to thankfulness.
This sentiment can be found in 1 Samuel 12 as Samuel challenges Israel not to forget who their true leader is, God. Amidst this farewell address, he commands Israel in verse 24, “Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” Israel had been granted their wish by God to have a King rule over them as other nations had. Now, after Saul’s initial victories, Samuel calls on them to reflect on who their real source of fulfillment and good tiding comes from. He is commanding them to be thoughtful so that they, in turn, will be thankful to the true ruler – God.
The hardest part of this training of our minds is the act of taking the time to be thoughtful in the first place. As we live our lives and become so busy, we often get caught up in the idea that we don’t have the time of day to stop and reflect on anything. If we are to fulfill the will of God, though, we MUST find the time for this period of reflection. In college, I once complained to a buddy of mine that I never can “find the time” to work out. His response is one that has stuck with me and motivates me spiritually; he responded by saying, “No one ever finds the time for anything, you’ve got to make the time for the stuff that’s important.” As we move forward in our spiritual lives, let us make time in our schedules to reflect on all the good things our Father has done for us.
When someone takes time to reflect, and they pause to think about past/present/future situations, they often will find many reasons to be thankful. If we as Christians living today want to be grateful, then we must be thoughtful first. When this happens, we too will run to His side, praising Him unendingly.