America is currently overflowing with crippling anxiety, depression, and fear. An 1886 Christmas sermon from Charles Spurgeon may just have provided the antidote.
Earlier today, Tim Tebow tweeted about looking back on the things we’re thankful for in 2019. For many of us, myself included, having a heart inclined towards gratitude is something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally.
His tweet about reflecting on all the good God has done for us in the past year reminded me of the story from Luke 17 in which Jesus heals ten lepers. The text reads, in part: “And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:15-19)
America, Christians included, tends to be a nation marked by anxiety, depression, fear, worry, and so forth. Suicide, angst, mental health issues, and more seem to be having their way with millions and millions of souls. These are complicated issues with many factors at play, but a large portion of the problem could be a severe gratitude shortage.
While looking up the story from Luke, I came across a wonderful message from Charles Spurgeon. He brilliantly articulated during a sermon in October of 1886, what ought to be commonplace is scarce.
If you search the world around, among all choice spices you shall scarcely meet with the frankincense of gratitude. It ought to be as common as the dewdrops that hang upon the hedges in the morning, but alas, the world is dry of thankfulness to God! Gratitude to Christ was scarce enough in His own day. I had almost said it was ten to one that nobody would praise Him, but I must correct myself a little, it was nine to one. One day in seven is for the Lord’s worship, but not one man in ten is devoted to His praise. Our subject is thankfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Spurgeon expanded on “The singularity of thankfulness” explaining:
Here note, there are more who receive benefits than ever give praise for them. Nine persons healed, one person glorifying God, nine persons healed of leprosy, mark you, and only one person kneeling down at Jesus’ feet, and thanking Him for it! If for this surpassing benefit, which might have made the dumb to sing, men only thank the Lord in the proportion of one to nine, what shall I say of what we call God’s common mercies—only common because He is so liberal with them, for each of them is inestimably valuable? Life, health, eyesight, hearing, domestic love, the continuance of friends—I cannot attempt a catalog of benefits that we receive every day, and yet is there one man in nine that praises God for these? A cold, “Thank God!” is all that is given. Others of us do praise Him for these benefits, but what poor praises! Dr. Watts’ hymn is sadly true, “Hosannas languish on our tongues, and our devotion dies.”
It is convicting, at least it is for me, to think about these common mercies from God that I have failed to turn back and praise him for so freely giving. So take this opportunity, before looking ahead to 2020, to look back on 2019 and thank God, with a loud voice “magnify the Lord who has dealt so graciously” with us!
Why is it so easy for us to fall into the lack of gratitude trap? When the going gets tough, we fall to our knees in prayer and beg God for help. When God sees us through the situation, we rarely if ever stop and turn back. It’s easy to read the Bible and scoff at the seemingly arrogant and ignorant behavior of some. We never envision ourselves as one of the nine, getting our blessing then running off without so much as a thank you.
But in reality that’s exactly who most of us are. Because we’re sinners. We’re selfish. In our fallen state, we immediately revert back to our own desires and worries and fears.
So as 2019 winds down, let’s take this opportunity to thank and praise God for the simple things. The air in our lungs, the roof over our heads, our family and friends, our churches, the food on our table, the opportunity to worship God freely.
And in 2019 let’s vow to make it a habit to stop and thank God every step of the way. Let’s vow to not be like one of the nine. Let’s grow and foster a heart of gratitude and praise for God.
As gratitude grows, fear, anxiety, worry will begin to melt away. Because the more we turn to thank God, the more we will recognize that he’s always there and always around us, carrying us through every trial we face. And the more we will start seeing a pattern that shows God is faithful and will never abandon us.
He may not always give you exactly what you expected or thought might happen. But he’s always faithful to keep His word. His word is always true.
Are you one of the nine? The odds would indicate the answer is most likely yes. But we don’t have to be — start (today!) making it a habit to list all of the things you’re grateful for and how God is working in your life today.
Here’s to NOT being one of the nine in 2020.