The Grace Of Gratitude

The Grace of Gratitude

Luke 17: 15, 16

Here we find our Lord commending one leper out of ten that were healed, and came back
to say, "Thank you."
Our Lord approved of him because gratitude is a good thing.
Not everyone has believed this.

Aristotle said many years ago that there is a sort of servility about being grateful, and that
the really high-souled man will be at pains to avoid any circumstances in which he has to say,
"Thank you," to anyone else.

Nietzsche, the philosopher from whom Fascism drew much of its inspiration, would have said
that the kind of sermon that I am preaching shows that Christianity is what he said
it was -- a religion for slaves and weaklings.

I do not believe that anyone of us would share those sentiments.
But I do believe that there are a lot of people who find it very difficult to say, "Thank you."
If you haven't learned to say "Thank you," then you're improverishing
the world you live in and you are improverishing your own soul.

This leper who came back to thank Jesus was, by that simple act, was putting something
gracious into life and, at the same time, was enriching the quality of his own soul.
This is why our Lord was pleased at what he did, and why He regretted that
the other nine had failed to do it.

Let us see what the grace of gratitude contributes to the lives of others.
Gratitude will soften and regenerate human nature.

Dr. Hans Lilje, who was a prisoner in a German concentration camp, told of how a simple,
"Thank you," affected his guards.
He thanked them for his meager rations.
He even thanked them when his chains were fastened on him at night.
This caused his guards to have an expression of shame on their faces.
One night, the guard who had changed him came back and said,
"Why do you thank me for a thing like that?"

"Well," Dr. Lilje replied, "You have just done your duty, haven't you?"
The guard went away shaking his head and murmuring to himself.
If there was one point that caused the guards to become kind to this prisoner, it was at that point
when the doctor gave the grace of gratitude.

We need to think of those who we owe a debt of thanks.
Then we need to find a way to express our gratitude.
When we do this, we will be contributing grace to life.
We might be surprised at the effect that it has on others, when we express to others our gratitude.
What it really affects is our own souls.

The one leper who turned back -- like all, who have the grace to express their gratitude
was truly enriching his own soul by giving thanks.
Let's take some sicknesses of the spirit, and see how the remedy for each lies
in remembering the reasons we have for thanksgiving.

One is self-pity!

Dr. Sangster tells that before a worship service, he learned that some elderly folk
from a home for the blind were attending the service.
He wondered if they would like to choose a hymn.
One of the elders went to find out.

As he waited, Dr. Sangster wondered what their choice would be.
"Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom"?
Or "As darker, darker fall around the shadows of the night"?

Something like that seemed appropriate to their unhappy lot.
The Elder came back.
Yes, they would like a hymn. Which one?
This is what they chose:

"When all thy mercies, 0 my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view I'm lost
In wonder, love and praise.

O how shall words with equal warmth
The gratitude declare
That glows within my thankful heart?
But thou canst read it there.

The preacher went into the pulpit feeling that he was going to proclaim the gospel
in the hearing of people who would know what he was talking about.
People whose eyes were sightless, and who might well have been sunk in the
deeper gloom of self-pity, but had learned to see how full life is -- of things
for which to thank God.

Close to self-pity is the spiritual sickness of anxious worry.

Remember what Paul said: "Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer
and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known unto God
."
"With thanksgiving"!

A psychologist has said that this verse contains some of the soundest psychological advice
that could be given to anxious people.
He also stated, that Paul does not simply give them the futile advice, "Don't worry,"
nor does he fall into the opposite error of sympathizing with them, and thereby, concentrating
their attention even more upon the thing they're worried about.

It is a psychological truth, that contrary states of mind expel one another, and Paul's advice
is so good because, where thanksgiving arises in any human heart, anxiety tends
automatically to be dispelled.
The remedy is one of displacement.
Even doubt is dispelled by gratitude.

Rossetti says that the worst moment for the atheist is when he feels grateful
and has no one to thank.
The novelist, Katherine Mansfield, who had rejected Christianity, went to Switzerland
and marveled at the natural beauty surrounding her.
She wrote to a friend, "If only one could make some small grasshoppery sound of praise
-- thanks to someone. But who
?"

This is an aspect of human experience which we are inclined to overlook.
We talk so much about the things which challenge and disturb faith.
But what of those things about which a person wants to say, "For this I'm grateful.
For this I thank God
"?
People do want to say that; even people who have turned away from God
find themselves wanting to say it at times.

When other ties are tense, strained, even broken, the bond of gratitude binds us to God.
Especially, if we turn our eyes to the cross of Christ.
Amid all the doubts, there is this certainty: the Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.

George Matheson told of how he was prey to many doubts in his ministry, and was at the point
of abandoning his ministry altogether.
But he found that the bond of thanksgiving which bound him to God was so strong,
when he thought of the cross of Christ, there was nothing that could ever sever it.
And he wrote the hymn: "0 love that wilt not let me go..."

Above all else, we must express our gratitude to our great God for our loving Saviour
who will never let us go!

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White
Email Dr. White at hleewhite@aol.com