A video of the sermon will be available on Tuesday on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/4409sspotswoodrdgordonsvilleva.
“SEEING” THINGS THROUGH A SPIRIT OF GRATITUDE
The title of this Sunday’s sermon is “Seeing Things through a Spirit of Gratitude.” Over the years, there have been a lot good comments about gratitude. In the realm of fiction writing, we have both Aesop, who wrote those wonderful fables, and A. A. Milne who wrote the children’s book, Christopher Robin with such famed characters as Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl and Rabbit. Aesop said, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” And, A. A. Milne wrote: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude.” And in the real world, only days before his assassination in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” The American poet, Maya Angelou, expressed daily gratitude when she commented that, “This is a wonderful day, I’ve never seen it before.” The theologian, Karl Barth, once said that, “Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” And last, but surely not least, that wise, old sage Willie Nelson said: “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
Gratitude—that is something Christians need to constantly cultivate in their walk with Jesus Christ. And we could all feel this when we came here last week with such joy and thankfulness in response to the re-opening of our church doors. And it was a wonderful experience. But, we don’t want that reaction to be like the ones that you have all sometimes seen after Christmas Sunday, or after Easter or even after some Revivals weeks. You know what I mean. Little by little that exuberance for coming into God’s House seems to wane. And what had been a fairly good-sized group of believers with a brief zeal for God just dwindles down to the same faithful few who are left to attend to the worship of God. Warren Wiersbe refers to this phenomenon as the “GQ” index of Christian faith. What is the “GQ” index? Well, it’s what he called the “Gratitude Quotient”. It’s a consideration of the frequency with which we actually take the time to think about all the many blessings that God has poured out on us and then actually thank Him for His love and grace for all these many blessings. As Wiersbe has said: “Too often we are content to enjoy the gift but we forget the Giver. We are quick to pray but slow to praise.”
I think no better illustration of this may appear in the Bible than in Jesus’ encounter with a group of lepers as described in the 17th chapter of Luke’s Gospel. If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Luke 17 starting with verse 11. I will be reading from the NASB version. Luke tells us:
11 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; 13 and they raised their voices, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" 14 When He saw them, He said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they were going, they were cleansed. 15 Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, 16 and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? 18 "Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" 19 And He said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17:11-19 (NASB)
Let’s consider a little historical background before getting into the various lessons that we can glean from this passage. First of all, one of these ten lepers was a Samaritan and the other nine were Jews. How do we know this? Well, Jesus identifies the one who returned as being a Samaritan and a “foreigner”—which implies that the other nine were not foreigners. So, the other nine were of the same ethnic nationality as Jesus was. And Jesus, as we all know, was Jewish, thus identifying those nine ungrateful, lepers as being Jewish as well. And for a variety of religious and historical reasons, the Jews hated the Samaritans. If you have ever doubted the truthfulness of the Gospels, here is one of many proofs that it is completely true in communicating exactly what happened. You see, the Gospel stories were preached to the Jews, as well as the Gentiles. And if you were making up a story just to gain followers, you would never make a Samaritan look like the good guy if you intended the story to be given to Jews. And, the Gospel message was, in fact, intended for the Jews for as Paul tells us: “I have complete confidence in the Gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles.” Romans 1:16 (TEV) And yet, as was the case in the story of the “Good Samaritan” and the “Samaritan Woman at the Well”, the Samaritan in this story was cast in a favorable light because that’s the way it actually happened. The Gospel writers didn’t doctor up the stories or write fiction just to sound good to certain people and in that way win people over. Rather, they went by what Jesus told them about telling the truth. Jesus told them as He tells us: 31 “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31-32 (NASB)
Now, some people read this passage about Jesus and the ten lepers and simply see it as a miracle story about healing. And there is no question about it, Jesus did perform an amazing miracle. But, the primary lesson is about gratitude—specifically, the gratitude we need to offer to God on a daily basis. But before commenting on that central lesson, I want you to consider some other lessons that emerge from this story. And these lessons involve the way we “see” things. Because when we examine the way Luke tells this story, he puts a great emphasis on “seeing”. For example, in verse 14, he mentions that Jesus saw the lepers. In this same verse, Jesus told the lepers to “Go and show yourselves to the priests,” so that the priests could see them. And Verse 15 tells us the Samaritan could “see” that he was healed. There are two lessons here. Let’s start with what Jesus saw.
Jesus saw ten lepers, not one Samaritan and nine Jews. His mercy and grace were extended not based upon their ethnic background, but upon the needs of this entire group of desperate people. That, in and of itself, is a lesson to us. When others who are suffering or are in need cross our field of vision, what is it that we “see”? We need to “see” not in terms of black or white, Asian or Hispanic, young or old, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, short or tall, homely or handsome. We need to “see” like Jesus “sees”. And in “seeing” in His way, we too must learn to give unto others as we would have them give unto us no matter who they are or what their backgrounds may be. We need to show our gratitude to God for the compassion He shows to us by our showing compassion to others. And when we do that, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “‘Seeing’ is believing!”—because then it will mean that you truly believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior by the things that you start to pay attention to. And when you “see” through the eyes of Christ, you will be surprised as to what catches your attention. You will begin to “see” things you never noticed before. Rather than seeing a grumpy co-worker, you’ll see past their irritability and you may find that they are struggling with a family problem or coping with some pressing health problem. Maybe you’ll look past that lawn-care worker’s expired green card and see someone who’s just scrambling to earn enough money to put food on the table for his family. When you “see” like Jesus, it won’t always be an “us vs. them” picture in front of you, but rather a world just desperately in need of a Savior. Maybe you will even offer them a word of comfort instead of snarl, and you’ll begin to share with those you “see” the Good News that God loves them. When you see like Jesus, the world will never look the same again because you’ll starting “seeing” with your heart and not only with your eyes. That’s the first lesson on “seeing” things differently and here’s the second one—and it is definitely a lesson in gratitude.
The nine Jewish lepers who were healed did not “see” what the Samaritan “saw”. All those nine could see was that they wanted to get back to their normal lives—the way they were before leprosy made them outcasts. Their craving for normalcy obscured their vision in a way that gratitude to God was the last thing on their minds. I hope that we won’t “see” things like that. I hope that when this pandemic is behind us we won’t simply fall back into a comfortable, but lazy, Christian groove in which God’s mercy, grace and provision for us just fades into the recesses of our memories. But the Samaritan was not like that. He “saw” things so very differently—he just didn’t turn to go to the priest, he became a priest in the sense that he built his altar right there at the feet of Jesus where He kneeled to give thanks to God. And because of that, the Samaritan received something far more special than mere physical healing—his greater healing was that of the spirit, for when Jesus told him that his faith had made him well, a more literal translation of the Greek would be that “your faith has saved you!” As Wiersbe put it this way: “The Samaritan’s nine friends were declared clean by the priest, but [the Samaritan] was declared saved by the Son of God! While it is wonderful to experience the miracle of physical healing, it is even more wonderful to experience the miracle of eternal salvation.” The thing is that the Samaritan’s faith wasn’t evidenced solely by his willingness to follow Jesus’ directive to turn and go to the priests. No, he displayed an equally strong component of his faith when he returned to offer gratitude and to praise God. The other nine got what they thought they needed, but failed to show any gratitude for it. But only the Samaritan, through his thankfulness, claimed more than anything this world can offer—for he received eternal life.
And so we are left to decide who we will imitate: Will it be the nine who got what they wanted but never took the time to thank God for His mercy and grace? Or, will it be the lowly Samaritan who gave his gratitude and found God’s salvation in return? Stated differently, will we soon forget God’s generosity in re-opening our church doors, or will we continue to daily recognize just how fortunate we are every day for the blessings that God so freely gives to each and every one of us—blessings that we could never repay if we lived to be a thousand years old? Too few times do we even recognize those blessings. But people of faith can “see” these blessings, even during the most dire of circumstances.
Take, for example, the case of a former megachurch pastor named Ed Dobson. In the year 2000, Ed was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Gehrig's disease. ALS is a devastatingly painful degenerative disease for which there is no known cure, and he was told that he only had four or five years to live. And yet, he battled this disease for fifteen year before his death in 2015. Not long before he died, Ed wrote a book about his struggles in dealing with this disease, about his faith and about his gratitude to God. Now, you might wonder, “How could someone dying of such an awful disease have any gratitude to God?” In light of what we just learned about “seeing” things from a Christ-like perspective, it is interesting that the title of his book was Seeing through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart. In his book, Ed wrote this:
There are many things for which I am not grateful. I can no longer button the buttons on my shirt. I can no longer put on a heavy jacket. I can no longer raise my right hand above my head. I can no longer write. I can no longer eat with my right hand. I eat with my left hand, and now even that is becoming a challenge. And over time all of these challenges will get worse and worse. So what in the world do I have to be grateful for? So much. Lord, thank you for waking me up this morning. Lord, thank you that I can turn over in my bed. Lord, thank you that I can still get out of bed. Lord, thank you that I can walk to the bathroom. . . Lord, thank you that I can still brush my teeth. . . Lord, thank you that I can still eat breakfast. Lord, thank you that I can still dress myself. Lord, thank you that I can still drive my car. Lord, thank you that I can still walk. Lord, thank you that I can still talk. And the list goes on and on. I have learned in my journey with ALS to focus on what I can do, not on what I can't do. I have learned to be grateful for the small things in my life and for the many things I can still do.
Can you “see” life in that way?—the way that Ed Dobson did, the way the Samaritan leper did? Or, are your eyes still fixed on just getting back to what we might consider to be “normal”? Jesus never offered us the merely “normal”—Rather, He offers us the way of the Cross. It’s often a difficult way, but it’s anything but “normal”. In fact, the “normal” for the world that we live in is a world of ingratitude. It is a world of selfishness where so many people take and never give. It’s a world where the dominant attitude is one of entitlement and not sacrifice. It is a world filled with those nine lepers who forgot to thank God for His blessings of life. The lepers that Jesus met along that border between Samaria and Galilee were each given a new start in life. But the question was: What would they do with it? Would they just go back to life as usual, as it had been before they contracted leprosy? Or, would they re-dedicate themselves to God? Would they remain steadfast in their faith and live in the spirit of daily gratitude to Him? The same questions face you today. What will you answer be? How will you “see” life from now on?
Let us pray.
Forest Hill Baptist Church
May 24, 2020
Darvin Satterwhite, Pastor
©2020 All Rights Reserved
 Warren Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary - Be Courageous, Luke 14-24, Chapter 16, Things that Really Matter—Thankfulness (Luke 17-11-19), 2001 , Database 2012 WORDsearch Corp., pp. 244-245.
 Matthew 7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (NKJV)
 R. Alan Culpepper, The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII, The Gospel of Luke, Abington Press:Nashville (2015), p. 272-273.
 Warren Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary.
 R. Alan Culpepper, The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Vol. VIII, The Gospel of Luke, Abington Press:Nashville (2015), p. 272.
 Ed Dobson, Seeing through the Fog (David C Cook, 2012), pp. 69-70, PreachingToday.com.