"For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich"—"Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."
The story of the ten lepers cleansed by Jesus with only one returning to express gratitude is an indication, not only of the ratio of grateful people in the world, but also might well reflect the ratio of ingratitude in our own hearts. The story in the 18th chapter of Matthew tells of a king who forgave a servant a $10,000,000.00 debt. The ungrateful servant, however, refused to forgive a fellow-
Our blessings so overwhelm our lives that we begin to take them for granted and cease to be grateful. Not only is this so, but many people receive blessings from others for a long period of time and when they cease, not only fail to be grateful that they received them for so long a time, but even are scathingly critical of their former benefactor, because such blessings no longer continue. Such depths of ingratitude, so common to man, brought forth from Shakespeare this oft-
VIRTUE OF GRATITUDE
In contrast to this, the refreshing beauty of real gratitude is seen in a brother who gave assistance to his sister in need. She was so filled with happiness over the gift that she said, "Oh, Eldon, liberality is the biggest word in the dictionary." He replied, "No, Hally, gratitude is." Such an attitude of heart has caused another to say that "gratitude is the most fragrant flower that blooms in the garden of virtue." All offering of thanks, of necessity, involves a benefactor and a recipient in which the recipient expresses a sincere gratitude for gifts received. The atheist cannot be thankful. In his mind there is no benefactor. If a fellow atheist shared his material comforts with a needy unbeliever, at best it could be only a sharing of natural resources, to which each felt equally entitled. Gratitude can come only where there is knowledge of and faith in the benefactor. Therefore, the stronger a person's faith is in God, the greater will be his degree of gratitude to God.
COUNTING OUR BLESSINGS
For us to enumerate God's blessings is not a difficult task. Yet the mere enumeration of them would hardly suffice for the purpose of this occasion. For better understanding I would refer to our blessings in three classes: (1) physical blessings (2) blessings of our age and (3) spiritual blessings.
We are thankful for physical blessings which could be enumerated as life itself, food, shelter, and clothing. The very fact of being normal and being in God's world is sufficient cause for genuine expressions of gratitude. Had you ever thought to be thankful for the common place things of life? Are you thankful that you can see? Are you thankful that you have two hands; that your body is comparatively normal? I am confident that none of us would sell an eye or a hand, but had we ever thought to be thankful for them? Our attitude toward these commonplace things further illustrates that the tendency of mankind is to take blessings for granted. We need to offer sincere thanks for our abundance of material wealth given to us in the form of food and natural resources.
We are also thankful for the distinctive blessings of the age in which we live. We are thankful for scientific advancement, for the great contribution of modern medicine, for skilled surgeons. We are thankful for our modern gadgets designed to make life easier so we can have greater time for service to God. We are thankful for modern transportation that makes possible obedience to our Lord's command "to go into all the world." We are thankful for modern communication that makes possible the preaching of the gospel in every language and around the entire world. These are merely suggestive of the great host of such blessings for which we need to express our thanks.
OUR BLESSINGS IN CHRIST
The realm of spiritual blessings constitutes the one area in which the Christian is most grateful. These blessings may be expressed in great words. They fall into a natural progressive order: REDEMPTION, RECONCILIATION, FORGIVENESS, JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION, MEDIATION, PRESERVATION RESURRECTION, and GLORIFICATION.
These great words could be enlarged upon with great profit. We stand awed by the benevolence they contain and say in deep humility that we are indeed thankful for spiritual blessings, for Christ and all he means to us. We are grateful for redemption, for forgiveness, for sanctification, for justification, for meditation. We are thankful for the Christian hope based on the death of our crucified Savior. We are thankful for the joy that comes as a result of our relationship to God through Christ. We are thankful for the peace that passeth all understanding that the children of God alone can experience.
When we begin to think of blessings that accompany our salvation we are made grateful for a clear understanding of undenominationalism in a confused age. We are thankful for great men who have delivered unto us a heritage of faith in an age of doubt. As Christian individuals, we are thankful for the opportunity to wield our influence for right in this age of crisis. With Christ as our Lord, we have a guiding light. Our world is indeed confused. There is uncertainty on every hand, but in Christianity, there is no confusion of purpose or uncertainty of answer. Jesus is the answer to every problem, and for His guidance out of confusion we are thankful.
We are thankful for an understanding of some of our basic problems and we are thankful we can wield our influence in whatever degree it may be felt toward a more genuine acceptance of that which is permanent and of greatest value. In this connection, we should be thankful for the opportunity for hard work. It is a mistake for parents to desire that their children be relieved from the responsibility of hard work. Hard work is the cure for weakness both of soul and body. We should be thankful to the Lord that he has left work for us to accomplish.
We express our thanks to God not only in words but also in deeds, and the highest manifestation would be in genuine sacrifice for others. In plain words, we can well say that we show thanks for what God has done for us through what we do for others. When Jesus pictured them final judgment scene He pronounced blessings upon those who through ministration to others ministered unto him.
F. W. Mattox, Harding Lectures 1947