February 20, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.”
Philippines 4: 6, C.E.V.
“Gratitude to God makes even a temporal blessing a taste of heaven.”
Today’s Study Text:
“My cup brims with blessing.”
Psalm 23: 5, The Message Bible
Psalm 23 Part 22 C
“Gratitude – A Heavenly Lifestyle”
“The (one) who forgets to be grateful has fallen asleep in life.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
Have there been times in my life when so many problems have confronted me that I felt as if I really didn’t have anything to be thankful for at that moment?
If I made a list right now of the things I’m grateful for, how long do I think that list would be?
“A true Christian is (one) who never for a moment forgets what God has done for (them) in Christ and whose whole comportment and whose activity have their root in the sentiment of gratitude.” - John Baillie
“It happened that as He made His way toward Jerusalem, (Jesus) crossed over the border between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten men, all lepers, met Him. They kept their distance but raised their voices, calling out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ Taking a good look at them, He said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priest.’ They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank Him enough – and he was a Samaritan. Jesus said, ‘Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?’ Then (Jesus) said to him, ‘Get up. On your way. Your faith has healed and saved you’” (Luke 17:11-19, The Message Bible).
Leprosy. Just the thought of the disease was enough to cause terror in the lives of potential victims. In the time when Jesus lived on earth, both religious and social laws held to the idea that this incurable blight was caused by the individual whose body was infected with the cursed disease.
Sadly, those who had been declared to have leprosy were immediately separated from all they held dear – family, home, friends and business – as they were relegated to live out their lives in “colonies,” filled with other lepers. What’s more, as in the case of the ten lepers, described by Dr. Luke, these carriers of divine punishment were forced to scream out, as a warning to oncoming and unsuspecting passersby, “Leper, leper, leper.”
Just imagine how you might have felt living a life away from those you cared about. Talk about a hopeless existence. Who could blame a victim of this disease for asking the question, “Why me?” And this may be exactly what led ten men, all lepers, to try and find some solace and companionship as a group – linked by a disease they felt they would have for the rest of their lives.
On the particular day which Dr. Luke writes about in Luke 17, Jesus came upon this shouting group of men. “Leprosy, Leprosy” they cried out. However, we find that the disease caused absolutely no fear in Jesus’ world. Instead, He confronted the group of men and gave them a specific instruction, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” Most likely, it was the priest that had banished their blighted bodies to a life of disassociation from society. And now, Jesus told them to return to the priest for inspection.
Interestingly, the Bible makes a point that as they returned to the priest, while they were on their way, they began to note a change in their physical well-being. Who knows how long it took for them to recognize the change, however, we read that at least one of the men, as soon as he began to comprehend what was happening, he immediately returned to his benefactor, and with an overflowing heart, bursting with gratitude, he knelt at Jesus’ feet and not only rejoiced at the miracle which had transpired in his own life, but he also began to glorify God.
However, there’s one more detail in this story which turns out to be more than a small item. It is the fact that the leper who returned with his “cup overflowing” was, in reality, an outsider, a despised Samaritan. He didn’t belong to the religious “club.” He was, like the prostitute Rahab, a person who was designated to be placed “outside the camp.”
Why is this important? It’s because when we begin to make a list of the problems this man faced, simply stated, he had plenty to grumble about. He had leprosy. He was separated from all he held dear. He was stuck with people who treated him as a “religious” outsider. Talk about a tough life. And yet, it was from a heart overflowing that he not only poured out gratitude, but he, without question, knew “Who” he wanted to bring glory to in his own life, no matter the challenges he faced. As Harold S. Kushner points out, “Gratitude is more than remembering to mumble ‘Thank you’ when someone has done you an act of kindness. It is more than an obligation, a ritual of politeness. Gratitude is a way of looking at the world that does not change the facts of your life but has the power to make your life more enjoyable. The grateful heart understands that gratitude is a reciprocal process, giving and receiving at the same time. We accept a gift; we give thanks for it. We bless the giver with our appreciation even as the giver blesses us with his or her kindness.”
Jim and I happen to live very close to a beautiful creek that runs down through a geographical location called Oak Creek Canyon. Once, after a very strong cloudburst during the summer monsoon season, we decided to take a drive up the curvy canyon road and what a sight awaited us. I had never been in the canyon after such a strong rain shower. As we proceeded around each curve, from high above the valley floor, pouring waterfalls cascaded down the cliffs with such force that the springs at the bottom of the mountains became as full of water as Oak Creek normally is. The entire extravaganza became a lesson on how a normal size creek can become an overpowering river as the “overflow” from above raises a creek above its banks, providing a wealth of water down stream. To me, this was a visual reminder in nature, of what it is like to have an overflowing cup of gratitude in my own life.
In almost romantic language, author F. B. Meyer describes how an overflowing cup can happen to us, often when we least expect it, even during times of great affliction or immense sorrow. And then, as he so beautifully describes, “glad moments (will come) to the saddest and most weary hearts. At the close of a prolonged strain of anxiety, when lying exhausted on the desert sand…angels spread the refreshing banquet…we cannot always tell where such experiences come from; this is all we know: that the step is more elastic, the heart swells with buoyant hope, song breaks from the lips, and the whole being thrills…when the Lord turns again our captivity, the mouth is filled with laughter, and the tongue with singing…then we may say, “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad” (Psalm 126: 3).
I’m certain that it was most likely a day like any other when the leper, who gave praise to Jesus and glory to God, awakened only to face the same challenges which he normally had. He still had leprosy that infected his body and the same pain he had to endure, along with the loneliness that plagued every moment of his day. But within his heart, he chose to look out for the blessings of heaven. And the more he looked, the more he saw until the moment when he looked into the eyes of his healer, who said, “Your faith has made you well.” In the words of William Law, “Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not (the one) who lives most, but it is (the one) who is always thankful to God, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.”
As Harold Kushner so astutely sums up the essence of three simple words, “My cup overflows,” he comes to this conclusion, “Reading between the lines, we can infer that the author of the Twenty-third Psalm did not have a life free from pain and problems. He has had to confront enemies. He has known the feeling of finding himself in the valley of the shadow of death. He can praise and thank God for all that God has done for him, not because his life has been easy but precisely because his life has often been hard and God has seen him through the hard times…for the Psalmist, the issue is not whether the cup is half full or half empty: he has learned to see everything in his life, including life itself, as a gift, his cup of blessings overflows.”
When just a young child, Don Moeller began reciting an evening prayer and he continued this practice into adulthood. When a severe sinus infection nearly took his life and caused him to lose his sight in one eye, he continued serving God, and expressing the gratitude found in the prayer from his childhood.
“Jesus Savior, gentle Shepherd
Bless Thy little lamb tonight.
In the darkness be Thou near me
Keep me safe ‘till morning light.
And this day Thy hand has led me
And I thank Thee for Thy care.
Thou hast warmed me, clothed me fed me.
Listen to my evening prayer.”
“Lord God, how full our cup of happiness!
We drink and drink – and yet it grows not less;
But every morn the newly risen sun
Finds it replenished, sparkling, overrun.
Hast Thou not given us raiment, warmth, and meat,
And in due season all earth’s fruits to eat?
Work for our hands and rainbows for our eyes,
And for our souls the wings of butterflies?
A father’s smile, a mother’s fond embrace,
The tender light upon a lover’s face?
The talk of friends, the twinkling eye of mirth,
The whispering silence of the good green earth?
Hope for our youth and memories for age,
And psalms upon heaven’s moving page?
And dost Thou not of pain a mingling pour
To make the cup but overflow the more?”
“Let many thirsty lips draw near
And quaff* the greater part!
There still will be too much for me
To hold in one glad heart.”
Charles Wharton Stork
*quaff – to drink
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
P.S. During the coming weeks, gifts which are sent to Transformation Garden will help us honor requests for God’s Word, as shared through our bookmarks, with God’s children in India, Russia, Pakistan, Australia and here in the United States in women’s prisons and for Domestic Abuse Shelters. I thank you so much for the gifts you have chosen to send – Praise God! Your generosity is helping us share God’s Word in countries where the bookmarks are accepted as beautiful artwork but they carry the message of God’s saving grace. Thank you again!!
My book, When A Woman Meets Jesus, is available wherever books are sold and on the internet at www.amazon.com, and www.Christianbook.com, or by calling toll-free, 1-800-Christian. You may also call Transformation Garden at 480-349-8619.
* Transformation Garden is a non-profit 501-C3. This means all gifts are tax-deductible. You will be receipted for any gift you send. Thank you so much.
For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.