This morning, I want to preach on the eighth Pillar of Christian Character. That characteristic is Thanksgiving. Christians are to be a thankful people. Thanksgiving is a fundamental attribute that, I believe, is at the core of a Christ-like life. In this series, we have already looked it seven other pillars of Christian character. They included: faith, obedience, humility, love, unity, forgiveness, and joy. After this morning, we’ll have two more to examine: compassion, and contentment.
The life of the church flows from these spiritual attitudes and attributes. What people perceive this church to be, is a direct result of the character they see in the members this congregation: Is it a Christ-like character, or is it not? Outwardly, we can sing the hymns, and we can pray the prayers, and we can go through the motions of worship, and we can sit and listen to the sermons, but if those things are not transforming you on the inside, then they are meaningless. My passion for this congregation is that Christ would be fully formed inside of each of you. It’s the thing that I pray for. It’s the thing that I diligently study for so that I might present to you the uncompromised Word of God that it might dwell in you richly. It’s why everything we do as a church ought to be motivated by the desire to see lives transformed.
This morning I want us to look at the eighth pillar of Christian character. This is the pillar of thanksgiving. God desires that we would grow in thankfulness. It is an important characteristic of the Christian faith, and one of the Scriptural proofs that we are genuinely filled with the Holy Spirit.
I’ve chosen two texts this morning for us to look at. One in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, and the other is Luke 17:11-19. The Thessalonian text is part of a general list of imperatives that the Apostle Paul gives to the Christians at the church in Thessolonica. He comes to the end of his letter and reals off a litany of spiritual essentials: Rejoice evermore, Pray without ceasing, Quench not the Spirit, Do not despise preaching, Prove all things; hold fast that which is good, Abstain from all appearance of evil. And in verse 18 he tells us plainly: In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
The Apostle’s meaning is pretty clear. We don’t have to scratch our heads and wonder, “What did the Apostle Paul really mean when he said ‘In every thing give thanks’?”
In the Gospel of Luke, we have the story of a remarkable healing. Ten men have come out from a village to meet Jesus. But they cannot approach him because they are lepers. Leprosy was a loathsome disease in that day. It was regarded as an awful punishment from the Lord. Anyone who had was considered a sinner and spiritually unclean. In Christ’s day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. A person with leprosy was required to wear mourning-clothes, leave their hair in disorder and cry ‘Unclean! unclean!’ to warn passers-by to keep away. They could not speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in that culture this involves an embrace. Their disease cut the suffer off from every aspect of normal life. They could not hold down a job and were frequently forced to beg.
Jesus commands them to go show yourselves to the priests and as they are were going, they were healed. Ten men are miraculously and gloriously healed, but only one shows gratitude.
“One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” (Luke 17:15, NIV84)
As we read the text, I think we witness a genuine hurt over the ingratitude of nine men who failed to show the slightest appreciation for what he had done for them. Jesus had healed them of the most dreaded disease of the day. Only one comes back to say ‘thank you’.
“Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:17–19, NIV84)
Among other things, it’s a story that illustrates how ugly ingratitude is. I have felt for a long time that one of the particular temptations for Christians is the danger of taking God’s blessings for granted. Like the world traveler who has been everywhere and seen everything and done everything, the Christian’s great sin is becoming blasé toward the blessings of God—getting so accustomed to them that they fail to excite us. The result is that we become thankless Christians.
Have you maybe meant to go back to God and thank Him for all the blessings you have received in your life? Have you learned to thank Him in every situation and circumstance? If not, you need to come and spend some time this morning at the alter pouring your thanks out to God.
Rudyard Kipling was a great writer and poet whose writings we have all enjoyed. Unlike many old writers, Kipling was one of the few who had opportunity to enjoy his success while he lived. He also made a great deal of money at his trade. One time a newspaper reporter came up to him and said, "Mr. Kipling, I just read that somebody calculated that the money you make from your writings amounts to over a hundred dollars a word; Mr. Kipling raised his eyebrows and said, "Really, I certainly wasn't aware of that." The reporter cynically reached down into his pocket and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill and gave it to Kipling and said, "Here's a hundred dollar bill, Mr. Kipling. Now, you give me one of your hundred dollar words." Mr. Kipling looked at that hundred dollar bill for a moment, took it and folded it up and put it in his pocket and said, "Thanks."
He’s right! The word thanks is certainly a hundred dollar word. In fact, I would say it is more like a million dollar word. It's one word that is too seldom heard and too rarely spoken and too often forgotten. If we would all adopt an attitude of thanksgiving into our lives - our lives would be changed. We would savor each day.