Dear First Baptist Family,
Yesterday I preached on that beautiful verse in Ephesians 5 that encourages us to speak to one another “with psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit” (5:19, NIV). I then thought of one of the greatest hymn writers in the history of Christianity. Her name was Fanny Crosby.
She lived from 1820-1915. An American mission worker, poet, and composer, Crosby wrote more than 8,000 hymns and gospel songs, with more than 100 million copies printed.
But perhaps the most interesting fact about her life is that she was blind.
In her autobiography, Crosby wrote, “It seemed intended by the blessed Providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank Him for the dispensation.”
The doctor who injured her sight in her infancy never forgave himself, but there was no room in Crosby’s heart for resentment.
“If I could meet him now,” she wrote, “I would say ‘Thank you, thank you’—over and over again—‘for making me blind.’”
Crosby accepted her blindness as a gift from God with a special purpose. “I could not have written thousands of hymns,” she said, “if I had been hindered by the distractions of seeing all the interesting and beautiful objects that would have been presented to my notice.”
For over a century, the church has reaped the benefits of one woman’s thankful heart as we sing such hymns as “To God Be the Glory,” “Blessed Assurance,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”
You Can Choose Gratitude
Sometimes the bad things that happen to us are the consequences for bad choices. Other times bad things happen simply because we live in a sinful world. Other times we can’t discern a good reason why something happens to us.
But we always have a choice for how we respond.
In every circumstance that comes your way, you can choose to respond in one of two ways: you can get bitter and spend your days complaining, or you can have the courage to offer praise and give thanks in all circumstances — the good and the bad.
Did you know that half of the Pilgrims died the first year they were in America? That first winter was incredibly cold, and they were underprepared. Dangers lurked everywhere, but they didn’t let their circumstances obscure the blessings of God. Together they thanked the Lord for the blessings they had received.
Sometimes we need to list our assets alongside our losses. Yesterday in my message I shared the truth, “No matter what challenges or setbacks you may face, on the ledger sheet of life, God has given to you much more than anything you have suffered.”
Give Thanks Now
Maybe the most important thing you do today is bow your head and remember the good things God has brought into your life. You can give thanks wherever you are, no matter what you are doing.
One of the most well-known stories of giving thanks in the Bible is the story of the ten lepers. Jesus encountered 10 men who had leprosy as they called to him from a distance, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (See Luke 17 for this story.)
Leprosy is a terrible condition where a person’s skin begins to deteriorate and even fall off. Many lepers lose all of their fingers and toes because of the disease. It is obviously very painful.
In Jesus’ day, leprosy wasn’t just bad for a person’s body, but it was also terrible for their ability to enjoy friends and family. Lepers were excluded from going to the Temple. They lived often alone. Sometimes lepers would get very lonely and seek out other lepers to live with.
When Jesus saw this group of ten, He said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they went, they were healed.
Only one of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Luke also shares that this man was a Samaritan. He was an unlikely hero, as Samaritans were despised by Jewish people.
Jesus asked the man, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?”
Luke included this story to teach us an important lesson about returning thanks to God. It’s an all-too-human reaction to fail to give thanks, even for the best of blessings. The other lepers likely felt thankful but didn’t do anything about it.
When we don’t give thanks and praise to God, the result is often pride. We think we deserve something, or that we bring about our own blessings.
But when we give thanks to God for every good thing, quickly and with a grateful heart, we can experience even more of God’s blessings. So start right now. Give thanks today and throughout the day.
The Circuit of Blessing and Power
After the one leper fell down and worshipped and gave Him praise, Jesus said to him, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19, NIV). The word there means “Your faith has saved you. Your faith has healed you.”
What this suggests is that in the act of giving thanks — completing the circuit of Jesus’ power that is first given to cleanse, then returns back to Jesus in worship — something more happened to this one person with leprosy.
We tend to think of thanksgiving as thanking God for something that has already happened to us, and that’s good. But what we see in this story is that the real purpose of giving thanks is to effect an even greater blessing — our salvation. We express our trust in God to heal and save us and thank God for setting us free.
Could it be that when we don’t turn it back into praise and thanksgiving, we miss an even bigger blessing?
Here’s the challenge. Are you more like the nine who didn’t return thanks or the one who did? Do you want to be like the one leper who turned his blessing back into praise and thanksgiving?
Let’s make this a season of gratitude. Let’s give thanks for everything, in all circumstances, at all times. Let’s keep the circuit connected and full of God’s power for our lives.
I am thankful for you! Hope you have a wonderful week.
With love and gratitude,