A Happy New Year To all my readers. In case if all of you were wondering what have the prize fighter been up to. I have been desperately juggling between my duties as a fiancé, son, speaker, and a teacher. Unfortunately, my work load had been  high resulting to  a lack of time for my beloved blog writing pastime. I have to put it on a lower priority as there are just so much time a person can have in a week.

Introduction

Today, as 2013 draws to a close, it is often a time for us to consider and take stock of what have been happening for the past one year. As we consider the good and the bad that has happen, have we thought of giving thanks to the Lord? 

Hence I would like to discuss the topic about gratitude. Indeed showing gratitude is a basic virtue of man. A man is ungrateful is worst than a beast, for even animals knows how to be grateful to their masters

Sadly in the modern world, there are not many who would give thanks , in fact, mankind had become more ungrateful as the years progress.

When Paul once talk about the perilous time in the last days, he isn’t refering to earthquake , famines and wars. Although they are dangerous, but we ought to be weary of things that harms our spiritual body. In fact, Paul warns that man would become ungrateful, lovers of themselves.

We all know the story of Jesus healing the 10 Lepers, in fact we can see people showing gratitude to the Lord. The Ratio sadly stands at 1:9, only 10%.

Jesus asked this

““Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”- Jesus (Lk 17:11)

Many would find the question of Jesus pointless, as the 9 did not hear it. But in fact the Lord is asking us “Are you going to be the 9 or the 1?” Just like the 10 lepers, we received lots of grace from the Lord

So we ought to consider, why is that one leper different from the other 9? I would like to share 3 points

The Leper Appreciate The Grace that Came From God

I believe that the leper understood the grace that was given to him by God.
In Lk 17:11-12  We saw 10 lepers who stood afar off, asking Jesus for mercy.

In those days, Lepers must stay in a lepers colony, that is away from the city. People who wants to speak to a leper, needs to stay 6 feet apart. Whenever a leper needs to walk in the streets, they must shout “Unclean” to warn the others not to go near them.

Lepers are people who suffer physical as well as emotional affliction. But Jesus saw their situation and healed them, and now they are allowed to return home, but why did they not return to give thanks to the Lord?

Perhaps they feel that their healing is a result of their earnest plea with Jesus, they felt that they have already invested their effort to plead, and they have paid the price. Whenever we are sick and we visit a doctor, we may simply say “thank you” to the doctor out of politeness.  However, we would not specially return to thank the doctor upon our recovery. We feel that we had paid the doctor his remuneration.

But this leper did not think like this, he knew that his healing is not a result of his effort. For there are many who plead with Jesus, and some may not be healed for various reason. That is why he felt the need to show gratitude to the Lord. Sometimes we do not do so because we feel that our prayers are answered because we put in our effort to pray, and we are merely enjoying the fruit of our labor.

A Christian received a treat from his friend. Before the meal begins, he started to say grace and thank the Lord. But his friend was laughing at him saying “Hey I am the one who is paying for the meal, you should be thanking me and not Jesus” He thinks that as long as he had money, he can get food.

But we know, that there are situations where money cannot help us get food. Consider the time where there is a disaster or a famine, even if we have the cash, we may not get food. In fact the reason why we give thanks to God is simple. There are people who could eat but are hungry, consider the war torn areas of Africa, on the other hand, there are people with food and cannot enjoy them, like those who are sick and unwell. If we think about these, we would know there is a need for us to thank the Lord.

Moses once wrote this

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them;  and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied;  when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;”

“then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth’. And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” – Moses (Deut 8:11-14, 17-18)

Very often, as human beings, it is easier for us to give thanks to God when we are poor, down and out. But as we grow reach and powerful , we find it harder and harder. the point Moses made to the Israelites are as relevant as it is to us today.

We need to ask ourselves, “If today I am rich and powerful, will I still come and worship God? Can I continue to remain humble and rely on the Lord? Can I still keep his teachings?”

Or will we say “I am different now, and all I have is the work of my two hands. I am merely enjoying the fruit of my labor”

Have we consider, even if we made our riches through the works of our hands, who gave us the strength to work? Even if we have the intelligence and the mind to make money, who grants our life?

King Solomon once said this

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
  They labor in vain who build it;
  Unless the Lord guards the city,
  The watchman stays awake in vain” – Solomon (Ps 127:1)

Without God and his grace, no matter how good we are, and how much effort we put it, our effort will go to waste.

So let us appreciate the good given to us by God. Just like this one leper who return to give thanks

To Appreciate The Goodness, Even If Others Did Not

Lk 17:15 tells us, that the leper, when he saw himself healed, came to give thanks. Giving thanks it important to him, and we would understand it if we could appreciate the grace that God has given us.

If we consider the grace from God, we will know how to give thanks even if the others do not. Unfortunately, we often appreciate the good others received and we do not appreciate what we receive from God

Lets take a practical example

If I received 100 dollars , I would be thankful, for I could get at least 50 pieces of hotdogs for free. And for that I would be happy. But then we turn back and saw the same man giving $1000 dollars to someone else.

That is when we think to ourselves “Maybe he doesn’t love me that much” and this robs us of our gratitude.

Why is it that even though that $100 is still in our hands, we no longer feel the joy anymore? Yet we started murmuring

It is human nature to compare but we have to acknowledge that it robs us of our joy and happiness. Many a times we believe that we are happier when we receive more things but in fact, the lesser items we have the lesser burden we feel.

Paul once said

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.” –Paul (1 Tim 6:7-9) 

In fact when death comes, everything we had had no more value. The Chinese once illustrate this feelings in this question  “栽的百花成密后, 为谁辛苦为谁忙?”

A bee had gathered nectar from a 100 flowers, and he had made honey out of it. Just when he was about to enjoy the fruits of his labor, he realized that his honey is collected by the beekeeper. Hence he could only lament and said “After making honey out of a 100 flowers, for whom am I toiling for?”

If we could understand this vanity of life, we would rather invest our time and strength for things that are everlasting. Pursuing faith require both strength and effort.

Jesus once said

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able.  When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’” Jesus (Lk 13:24-25)

To strive here is to struggle with all your life, Jesus once remarked in Matt 19:30 “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” It is up to us to decide whether  to be first of the last, what will our choice be?

Ironically we often say “As long as we can just enter into heaven. It’s ok to be last”  But we ought to remember once the mater shuts the door, it will be too late to knock on it.

While we can choose to run slowly. God can choose to close the door. When that door is closed, no amount of knocking will open it up.

Therefore, let us not waste our lives with empty and vain pursuits let us be contented with what we have. For the simpler the life, the less burden we carry, the more contentment we have, the more joyful we becomes.

Sometimes we feel very short changed in life. And we behave just like the workers in the parables of the workers in the vineyard. We say this

“‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ – Workers (Matt 20:12)

Indeed, it would appear as if the master is unfair to have given the same wages to everyone. But if we read the parable carefully, we would be able to see the reason behind his kindness

In that Parable, everyone was unemployed, waiting for a job, it was important for them to work as with work comes money, and with money one could eat and survive. While there are lots of workers in the market, it is a blessing to find a job

But yet the master came in the afternoon and find people waiting for a job. These men must have been more desperate, for they are seeking a job in the heat of the afternoon. SO he hired them.  These men are thankful as well

Now in the evening, just 1 Hour before the day closes, the master found man waiting for a job. Usually a person would stop waiting as they know that no one would employ them for an hour. But yet these man continue waiting and they would rather work for 1 hour. These people may have been even more desperate. Therefore the master had compassion and employed them for 1 Denarius

However, this lead to the workers who worked earlier to feel indignant. And it appears as if they have a reason. Yet the master replied them

“But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?  Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ – Master (Matt 20:13-15)

Indeed the master did not rob from the previous workers to pay the latter ones, and he just choose to give latter workers more money. The previous workers are merely jealous

Jesus is reminding us to see the good that we have receive and not to compare with the good that he gave others. For God will give accordingly, depending on the needs of the person.

Back to the example earlier, we may have receive $100 and could spend it on hotdogs only. But the man with $1000 may have a medical bill of $950 that he needs to pay. If we consider like this, our $100 is 2 times more than what he receive.

Sometimes when we know the reason for God kindness, will we still dare accuse God of being unfair? What if the man who receive $1000 requires nutritious food for his recovery? then the $50 he received is not enough for it. Yet we are given $100 just to buy hotdogs

In fact the more we consider, the more embarrassed we become. So let us consider the good we receive and not complain against God

To Appreciate That Jesus is God and To Worship

Lk 17:15-16  tells us that the Samaritan leper knew who Jesus was and wants to worship him. He fell down and worship him as he praise God. This leper knew that Jesus is not a mere man, but the messiah, the savior of the world.

He could witness the power of the Lord and the authority in his words, for no one could heal leprosy just by speaking. That is why he knew Jesus is God from heaven, and besides thanking him, he wanted to worship him

His attitude is different from the other 9, the other 9 only wanted healing from Jesus. They do not care if he is the messiah, or even God. It is not their concern. To those lepers, these questions are irrelevant and they are contented just to receive healing from Jesus.

These people seek Jesus not because of they want to believe, but they only want to use him. After they got what they wanted, will they still need Jesus anymore? Most likely not until they are in a situation where they need something from him once again.

Such is not faith, but a business transaction.  In fact many of our faith today are just like this and only those who believe in Jesus are truly blessed

Jesus affirmed the faith of the man saying

“Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”- Jesus (Lk 17:19)  some versions render this verse as “Your faith have saved you”

In fact the original language “ Sozo” “σῴζω ” G4982 carries both meaning.

So what did his faith saved him from? For we know that the leper is healed already.

Jesus in fact is referring to his soul being saved, and that he had now received salvation. The Messiah is not here just to heal the sick of their illness, but he wanted to save sinners

This Samaritan leper experienced both grace and salvation from the Lord . He is sure that Jesus is his savior and his Lord, so he came to worship him. Let us ask ourselves, “Are we like him to come and worship Jesus?”

The Leper  worshipped God with all his heart, and praise him with a loud voice, indeed volume does not indicate faithfulness, but his Loud praises testify his earnestness and sincerity. 

Sometimes when others watch our worship, when we sing hymns softly and slowly, when we fall asleep in sermons. They will wonder “If Jesus is good, and gives joy, why I cannot see it in his worship?”  We do not need to put on a show before our friends, but our worship and actions affect the people around us. Our family and children are watching us in worship.

If we look so excited and enthusiastic when we go on a holiday, but yet we appear lethargic and sad when we come for worship. How can we convince them that worshipping God is good?

Let us take this chance at the end of the year and evaluate. “Who is Jesus and what does he mean to us?”  If we can answer this, we will worship him seriously.

The Psalmist once describe his worship in Ps 100

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
  Serve the Lord with gladness;
  Come before His presence with singing.
  Know that the Lord, He is God;
  It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves
  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
  And into His courts with praise.
  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
  For the Lord is good;
  His mercy is everlasting,
  And His truth endures to all generations” – Psalmist (Ps 100)

Sometimes we wonder, why did he repeat his praise twice. In fact, I believe he is full of thanks and it was overwhelming. Very often we feel it is ok to thank God once, and two times is too much.

But here lies the difference between us and the Psalmist he repeats because he is full of thanks.

We ought to know that Jesus is God, and if we indeed understand our relationship with him, we will always find a reason to worship and to give thanks. For we are created by him and we owe our existence to him.

We were once lost and our shepherd found us and he brought us back to his home. This is the greatest grace and we would be full of thanks just thinking about it.

May God help us and may we be full of gratitude to him. May we all give thanks endlessly to the Lord Our God.

A happy new  year to all my readers.

Advertisements