But Where Are The Nine?
Read – Luke 17:11-19
Key Verse – So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But
where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17 NKJV)
Key Thought – Some thanksgiving thoughts
This past Thursday, people all across America did something that they have been doing in this land for many years now… from at least October 3, 1789, when George Washington issued this proclamation:
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country.
It’s been 200+ years since President Washington made that pronouncement, and yet this past Thursday we once again, as a nation, “united in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks….”
Some of you hosted a thanksgiving banquet in your homes. Hours of preparation, cleaning, dusting, moving of furniture, setting of tables, preparation of traditional holiday foods, inviting of family and friends finally culminated in a time of feasting and celebrating the goodness of God.
Some travelled to another’s home to participate, and so you, in addition to all the other reasons for giving thanks, had the generosity and friendship of your hosts to give thanks for as well.
Some might have celebrated at a restaurant, avoiding the labor that goes into a holiday meal, but still wanting to remember the day… enjoy the fellowship… and give thanks for God’s blessings.
Yes… this Thursday past, some in America no doubt remembered from whence their blessings come, and they genuinely and heartily gave thanks on that day.
Others, though, for a variety of reasons, may have been less grateful… perhaps even struggling to be grateful at all… perhaps feeling a rising level of INgratitude as they watched the smiles on others’ faces.
As we consider the passage we read this morning from Scripture, we see both sides – one was grateful for God’s blessings, and nine showed no such gratitude.
Even though Thanksgiving Day is now past, I would like to consider a few thoughts about both groups, while it’s still fresh in our minds. Let me share two main thoughts this morning:
- Ingratitude is a great sin.
2. We have so very very much to be grateful for.
Ingratitude is a great sin.
Our text this morning is a classic reminder of the sin of ingratitude. Jesus marvelously healed 10 lepers. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. (Luke 17:15-16 NKJV)
How commendable, and how worth emulating by those of us who have received like blessings from our wonderful God who:*… gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV)*
But Jesus noticed the missing 9. Where were they? Why did they not come to give thanks? How could they have received such a blessing at the hand of God and not have given thanks, as well? We read this, and the first thought that comes to our mind is “what a bunch of miserable ingrates!”
And yet, I submit that there is a similar spirit of ingratitude that pervades our land in this 21st century. So many have forgotten that everything we have and are is from our God. Here is a verse we ought to have underlined in our Bibles – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17 NKJV)
When my kids were young, I did not allow them to watch The Simpsons cartoon on TV. This decree caused a certain level of angst in our home, as all their friends watched it, and they thought I was an old fuddy duddy to disallow something so seemingly harmless. But I didn’t think it was harmless, and still don’t. If I had it to do over today, I would make the same decision – no Simpsons cartoon in our home. For I believed that the lessons taught by Bart Simpson were terrible. He was a polar opposite to the kind of example I wanted my children to emulate. For example, there was the thanksgiving episode. Even if you didn’t watch the program, you probably saw this clip over and over in the promos the week before. Bart was asked to give thanks before the disfunctional family sat down to thanksgiving dinner. His prayer was played over and over in the promos for that year’s Thanksgiving episode – “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nuthin.”
I wanted my kids, then, and my grandkids, now, to know better. EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17 NKJV)
Interestingly, some years ago I read the transcript of an interview with the Simpson’s creator. He indicated that once he had a young child in his home, he realized why people had been so against the influence of Bart Simpson, and he had decided to not let his own child watch his cartoon. Amazing…
Of course, ingratitude is not new… we need only consider Jesus’ words in our text, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? (Luke 17:17).
May I submit to you this morning that ingratitude is a great sin?
In Romans 1:16-32 we read of the great progression of sin, culminating in the complete apostacy of and judgement of a people. And we can’t help but notice that it started with INGRATITUDE – although they knew God, they did not
glorify Him as God, NOR WERE THANKFUL, (vs. 21 NKJV)
In 2 Timothy 3:1-5 we read of the terrible progression of apostacy prophesied for the end times. And it starts with INGRATITUDE. For men will be… UNTHANKFUL… (vs. 2 NKJV). In that passage we can’t help but notice that INGRATITUDE is lumped together with BLASPHEMY and UNHOLINESS!
Jesus said, But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (Luke 6:35 NKJV) – note that INGRATITUDE is linked there with EVIL.
Ingratitude is a great sin, and if we consider these teachings from scripture this morning, we see that it is the beginning of a progression that leads to greater sin, and that leads away from God.
Shakespeare wrote, “I hate ingratitude more in man than lying, vainness, babbling, drunkenness, or any taint of vice whose strong corruption inhabits our frail blood.” “Blow, blow, thou winter wind – thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”
That great preacher R.G. Lee said, “We condemn the nine lepers who came not back to thank Jesus for their healing – and yet put ourselves in their company of cold and unfeeling ingratitude. Ingratitude is a great evil – a most common disease of humanity. Many fail more often in gratitude than in any other Christian graces.”
May we hear the words of the Savior this morning, “were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”
My brothers and sisters, let us not allow thanksgiving to be a one-day-only attitude, forgotten and put on the shelf along with the fine china after Thanksgiving Day. May we hear His words, and learn from them. Let us not be ingrates concerning the great blessings of God in our lives. Let us not be unthankful. Let us not be the nine. Let us be the one who returned to give glory to God. Let us be the one who when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. (Luke 17:15-16 NKJV)
Yes… ingratitude is a great sin, for we have much for which to give thanks. Let’s consider that thought now, in the minutes that remain this morning:
We have much for which to give thanks.
(And not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day.)
I always hated the little “let’s go around the table and have everybody share something you’re thankful for” exercise. My mom used to do this sometimes, and it was excrutiating, for we had been waiting through the morning hours of preparation, the house filled with the glorious aroma of turkey and dressing, and now we were seated at the table where we not only sensed it with our noses, but saw it with our eyes. We were like Pavlov’s dogs, salivating over the anticipated joy of the meal, only to be stopped in our tracks and told we must wait until everybody had shared their thoughts of thanksgiving.
Yet, it is a good exercise to pause and consider all we have to be thankful for, isn’t it? Maybe we should do it BEFORE we sit down at the table! And certainly we should do it often… not limiting it to one Thursday a year.
We have much for which to give thanks. There are several things for which I, personally, am thankful. May I share them with you?
I am thankful for salvation, for the ultimate victory and the eternal life that is mine.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV)
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NKJV)
So many of the problems of this life pale when we put them in the perspective of eternity. I have been BORN AGAIN. I will never face the judgment of God for my sin. He has put it behind Him and will remember it no more. I am a child of the King and look forward to an eternity of health and happiness in His kingdom. I have, as a present and unlosable possession ETERNAL LIFE!
The leper returned and fell down at Jesus’ feet giving thanks for the healing of his body. How much more so ought I to fall down giving thanks for the healing of my soul?!?! I am SAVED. Glory to God!
Spend a little time remembering that thought, Christian, and it will help you with the other issues of this life. It will help your perspective to be right.
In his extreme old age John Quincy Adams was slowly and feebly walking down a street in Boston. An old friend accosted him and shaking his trembling hand asked, “And how is John Quincy Adams today?” “Thank you,” said the ex-President, “John Quincy Adams is quite well, I thank you. But the house in which he lives at present is becoming quite dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundations. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it, it’s roof is pretty well worn out. Its walls are much shattered, and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is quite well, quite well.”^[Thesaurus of Anecdotes, by Edmund Fuller, p. 119]
Such a perspective is only possible when we are saved… when we have the promise of eternal life in Christ… when we know that all the troubles we go through here and now are temporary and will one day be gone forever.
How I thank the Lord for my salvation.
I am thankful for God’s revealed truth.
At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. (Matthew 11:25 NKJV)
Is it not amazing that God reveals His truth to us? And since He does so today via the Bible, is it not then an amazing thing that God has given us the Bible? The older I get the more I cherish it and thank God for it.
In our midweek prayer meetings we often pray for the persecuted church around the world. We support a ministry called the Voice of the Martyrs, which was founded by Richard Wurmbrand who was, himself, persecuted for his faith and imprisoned by the socialist communist regime for years solely because he preached Jesus. Here is an excerpt from his book “Tortured for Christ” that ought to make us grateful for our Bibles:
They (the communists) published books called “The Comical Bible” and “The Bible for Believers and Unbelievers.” They tried to show how stupid Scripture is and, to do so, quoted many Bible verses. How we rejoiced over it! The book was printed in millions of copies and was full of Bible verses, which were unspeakably beautiful even when the Communists ridiculed them. The criticism itself was so stupid that no one took it seriously. In the past, “heretics’ burned by the Inquisition were taken to the stake in a procession, dressed in all kinds of ridiculous clothes with hell-flames and devils painted on them. And what saints were these heretics! In a similar way, Bible verses remain true, even if the Devil quotes them.
> The Communist publishing house was very glad to receive thousands of letters asking for reprints of atheist books that quoted Bible verses to mock them. They did not know that these letters came from the Underground Church, which had no other opportunity of receiving the Scriptures.(Tortured for Christ, p. 100)
Wurmbrand related another incident, telling of a member of the underground church who managed to obtain a single copy of a brand new Bible. He told how the pages were cut out of that single Bible and passed out to the members of the church, and then exchanged secretly amongst them so that all could read it.
And here, in America… in our homes… we have multiple copies of God’s glorious Word – the Bible… so often unread… so often taken for granted.
How I thank God for the Bible!
I am thankful for answered prayer.
Jesus, when preparing to raise Lazarus from the dead, prayed… and in His prayer He thanked God for hearing prayer – Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. (John 11:41 NKJV)
I know some of you probably get tired of hearing me encourage attendance at our midweek prayer meeting. But I have noticed something – if I talk about prayer meeting, people attend it. If I stop posting to Facebook about it, or stop sending out emails, or stop mentioning it, attendance goes down. I don’t understand why that is, but it is a fact that 12 years of ministry bears out, and so I’ll keep beating the drum for prayer meeting because IT IS SO VERY IMPORTANT that we pray for one another… that we pray for the work of God in this place…. It is so important that we pray.
Thank God for prayer… for ANSWERED prayer.
I am thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Paul was thankful for his brothers and sisters in Christ – And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us….When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. (Acts 28:15 NKJV)
May I share a very personal thought? I have learned to love this church! I do not just say that. I mean it. I had a bad experience in my first pastorate, so much so that when I was asked to pastor here, one of my great fears was that I no longer had the heart for it… I no longer had a “pastor’s heart.” But in the years I’ve been with you, I have really learned to love you guys and gals. You are my brothers… my sisters… my best friends… you are my family, and I love the fact that God has brought you into my life, and me into yours. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, (Philippians 1:3 NKJV)
Every year the month of October is pastor appreciation month. I don’t know who first decided that (undoubtedly Hallmark), but it has been customary for some years now. I am always touched by the generosity you show to me and Kathy each year during that month. I thank you. But throughout the month each year the thought occurs to me… I appreciate so much being your pastor. Pastor appreciation month is meant to express your appreciation to me, but with each passing day it becomes more about my thanking God for you.
I am thankful for God’s daily benefits.
Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah (Psalm 68:19 NKJV)
There is no end to the blessings of God! And so I’ll just sum up my list with this last one which includes everything I’ve left out – God’s daily benefits are unending. He daily LOADS US with benefits.
Let me quote from our sixth president, John Quincy Adams once again, who once prayed, “May I never cease to be grateful for thy numberless blessings….” NUMBERLESS blessings!
Christian, do you have a similar list of things for which you are thankful? It would be a good exercise even now that the thanksgiving holiday is behind us to meditate on that list… keep it in the forefront of your mind always, and not just on Thanksgiving day.
Yes – ingratitude is a great sin, for we have so much for which to be grateful.
Let me close now with a word to those of you who may have had a difficult year, and don’t feel very thankful at all. Maybe thanksgiving this year was a hard day for you… a day you preferred not to celebrate… a day that brought up all the unpleasantness of the past… a day you’d rather ignore than celebrate.
If that describes you, may I say that regardless of where we are in our lives, and regardless of what God requires of us and reqardless of the pleasure or pain that He brings our way, we still have every reason to be thankful, and will benefit greatly from cultivating a thankful heart.
Jesus, our greatest example, was thankful in the midst of the worst night the world has ever known – the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had GIVEN THANKS, He broke it… (1 Corinthians 11:23-24 NKJV)
Commenting on that verse, R.G. Lee said “That night with the shadow of the cross looming darkly and immediately ahead, He ‘gave thanks.’ With a song on His lips He went to His agony in Gethsemane – and to the cross.”
Jesus taught us by that example that we can give thanks when in trouble… when in pain… when facing uncertainty and fear…. We are not to give thanks only for the good things that come our way. Thanksgiving is a Christian duty for every day and every circumstance… for good times and for bad.
IN EVERYTHING GIVE THANKS; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV)
Did you catch that? IT IS THE WILL OF GOD THAT WE GIVE THANKS. Not just when things are going well… not just for the mountaintop experiences of life… but IN EVERYTHING.
giving thanks ALWAYS FOR ALL THINGS to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 NKJV)
I’ve quoted from R.G. Lee several times this morning. He was a southern Baptist preacher that was greatly used of God. He is best known for a sermon entitled “Payday Someday” which he preached here for us on Old Fashioned Sunday 2 years ago. Brother Lee had this to say aboutgiving thanks always for all things…
You are to give thanks even though a panic of emotions has seized the
world and malice torments mankind. Give thanks though the pestilence
of hate walketh at noonday and dreadful uncertainties and crises keep
life turbulent and hectic. “Be ye thankful” – even though you are fed
daily on the aggravating news of horrors.
> “Be ye thankful” when barns are filled with plenty and when fields are
barren – when the cup of woe is bitter; when money is suffient and
when riches take to themselves wings and the world of want howls at
the door. “Be ye thankful” when for the affairs of life brain and
brawn are at the full and when you, prostrate on the earth, cannot
rise and toil; when tides of health are their full and, also, when all
muscles are highways for the running to and fro of pain.
> Give thanks in health and in sickness – when friends despise and
forsake you – when the crepe is on the front door and the coffin in
the house. Give thanks for the gall with the honey, the martyr’s fire
with its sufferings as well as the hearthstone fire with its comfort;
for hailstorms that ruin fruitful fields as well as for rains that
quench drought; for tribulations severe as well as for triumphs sweet;
for good-bys that break hearts as well as for greetings that cheer
hearts, for desert places as well as for gardens.
> You are to give thanks when bereaved of loved ones, when you find
traitors among friends, when sickness brings you prostration, when
hopes wither, when you have only summer clothes for wintertime, when
only scraps are on your plate – yea, in everything you are to give
thanks.(R.G. Lee’s sermon “Are You Thankful?”, Great Preaching on
Thanksgiving, pp. 88-89, compiled by Curtis Hutson)
Is that you, my friend? Are you thankful to God for anything that He brings your way? Be anxious for nothing, but IN EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (Philippians 4:6 NKJV)
Dwight L. Moody said that that last verse could be stated “Careful for nothing; prayerful for everything; and thankful for anything.”
Another person commenting on that same verse pointed out that the very reason we can be “anxious for nothing” is because we are “thankful for everything.” Thanksgiving is the antidote to worry and concern.
Yes – ingratitude is a great sin… for we have much to be thankful for… and God wills that we give thanks no matter our circumstances… that we give thanks in everything… that we be as the one leper who, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. (Luke 17:15-16 NKJV)