For Humbling Us
Of all the things that get in our own way, pride is our own biggest obstacle. Why? Because it’s entirely unjustified. We are not good. We have nothing good in ourselves. We can produce nothing objectively good. Only God can do that. Only God can make us good. Only God can help us. Only God and his blessings are worth being proud of. When we start to have pride in ourselves, we need to be humbled.
Like Joseph. Joseph had gotten a bit of a big head. Dad liked him best of all his brothers. He had dreams that his family would bow down to him someday, and he was a little too happy to talk about that. And so, God humbled him. God took Joseph from his cushy place as Dad’s darling and sold him into slavery to remind him that he had no power of his own, that everything worth anything comes from God alone.
And so when we get too proud of ourselves, too confident in ourselves, we thank God that he takes the effort to humble us again, to take our power away, to show us how little we have on our own, so that we can return to the source of our real strength, God alone.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.” 21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. 23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing—24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. 25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
For His Own Timing
In an age of microwaves, the internet, smartphones, and other marvels, life has not gotten easier because of the conveniences, it has gotten more hectic. We expect everything immediately. I sent you a message an hour ago! I can’t believe it’ll take a full day before this is ready! These expectations only make life harder on us, we only contribute to it when we expect the same of others. And even moreso when we expect it of our God.
But God has his own timetable. With a perspective of time that we can’t match and wisdom beyond our understanding, God knows exactly when the right time to act is. And despite our best efforts to advise God, the time is not always what we think it should be, which would usually be “now”. God says be patient, I have better in mind for you.
Joseph had to understand this. He probably had hopes that he could be released from prison after helping one of Pharaoh’s own. But the time was not right. We’ll see shortly, he needed to stay where he was for now so that he could be in the right place to deliver a message from God to Pharaoh and in doing so save entire nations starvation.
For Daily Bread
The land of Egypt and surrounding nations were about to be in trouble. There would be seven very good years of harvest, but they would be followed by seven years of drought and famine. Imagine being lulled into the security of seven years of abundance, growing wasteful, and suddenly it’s all taken away from you. Maybe you don’t have to imagine. Maybe you’ve had that moment in your life where it felt like all was lost. But the God of grace and mercy promises to provide. Even to people who did not know him or worship him as God. So God put Joseph in the right place at the right time to warn Pharaoh of what was coming.
We thank God for providing. We are utterly dependent on our God in all ways, but sometimes we forget just how much we depend on him daily, even hourly. We need food and drink. Shelter and clothes. And our God provides daily. We don’t earn it. We don’t deserve it, but our God gives it to us all the same. It doesn’t always come in the way we expect, but our God never lets us down. And for that we give thanks. And we show our thanks by offering part of his gifts back to him.
For Joseph, things seemed to turn out alright. Yes, he had difficulty, but now he was second in command of Egypt. Not bad for starting as a slave. Joseph could have let the power and authority go to his head, but instead he recognized that he was only where he was by God’s hand and that God had only given him this honor in order to serve a greater good, the saving of lives.
It was this attitude that allowed him to face another challenge with a godly attitude; the reunion with his brothers. He had it within his authority to have them jailed the moment he saw them, even executed if he saw fit. But he didn’t. He recognized that he was as much a sinner as they each were. He recognized that through their sinful actions God had worked a greater good as he always does. Such understanding allowed him to face his brothers without anger and instead with forgiveness.
We give thanks to God that he allows the same in us. That by his spirit he creates hearts within us that are able to forgive just as he forgave us. We give great thanks that we are pardoned by the blood of Jesus, but we also give thanks that by his power we are able to release old hurts and grudges and live at peace with those who have wronged us. What a great gift to not need to be burdened and burned up from within by anger and rage but rather to be at peace, knowing that our God worked good for us even through the hurts, and knowing that the blood of Jesus paid for the crimes against us even as it paid for the crimes we ourselves committed. We give thanks that we are able to forgive.
For Our True Home
Despite all the good that happened with Joseph’s life, there was still a problem at the end of it. He wasn’t where he was supposed to be. Egypt was fine, and his family was provided for, but this wasn’t the place that God promised his great-grandfather. As fine as the living was, Joseph knew they wouldn’t stay. And he didn’t want them to stay, it wasn’t what God had in mind for them. Sure enough, down the road that would become very clear when the time came for Moses to lead the people out.
Despite everything that we have to be thankful for here and now, all the blessings God gives us, it is not perfect. It is far from it. Every day has its own pains and heartaches and troubles. Sometimes they pile on so deep and so quickly it could lead a person to despair. And so, we give thanks to our God that we are not staying here. This is not our true home, that is still to come.
There is much to be thankful for here and reasons to be happy while here. But we give thanks that God keeps our eyes down the path, in good times and bad, looking ahead to our true home that he has promised us. It is our greatest encouragement in all parts of life, that by the blood of Jesus we have an eternity with God to look forward to.
For the Savior
You might be surprised to hear that for as much attention as Joseph gets in the Bible, he’s not actually part of the line of the savior. That was his brother, Judah. Still, his life did serve one very important purpose. His actions and intervention during the Egyptian famine ensured that his family did not starve. His brothers lived, and their families lived. And through Judah, down through the line, was eventually born David the King and through David’s line was the ancestry of both Joseph and Mary, and from them, Jesus.
God made a promise in Eden, that someone would come to crush the serpent’s head. Jesus has done this for us. By Jesus we are saved. By Jesus are sins forgiven. By Jesus is the eternal home opened to us. Without him, this would all be meaningless. All the other things we might be thankful for are just dust in the wind, here and gone. Without Jesus the eternal gifts would not exist. Without Jesus we would have pale comforts for a short time until an eternal death.
And so more than anything this evening and every day, we give thanks for the Savior. We could lose everything, have all our earthly possessions taken from us, our family dead or gone, our health destroyed and be in pain every moment the rest of our lives and we could STILL be thankful, because it will end and Jesus will take us home. Above everything and at every moment, we give thanks for the savior Jesus.
I have this theory about Thanksgiving. It might be a conspiracy theory, but it’s a theory nonetheless.
The theory? Thanksgiving Day was invented by moms.
Because moms love for their kids to be thankful.
When you get a piece of pie, say “Thank You.”
When someone says, you are looking ‘so big,' say “thank you.”
When you get a gift, sit down and write a Thank You card…
Thank you SO MUCH for the socks. I love them! They fit my ankles perfectly.
Thanksgiving must have come from moms. “Let’s invent a day in which everyone is reminded all day long to say thank you for the things I do and make – ALL YEAR LONG.”
But you know what’s sad? That we even have a Thanksgiving Day. If we had listened to our moms, we’d be thankful each day of the year. 364 days of Thanksgiving!
Instead, it’s more like 364 days of complaining, begrudging, and bemoaning.
One day of mom enforced, halfhearted, turkey basted, “football-is-on-so-let-me-get-it-out-of-the-way” thankfulness.
Today we want to focus in on a section from God’s Word in which a group of men learn an important lesson about giving thanks. As we look at the lesson from Luke 17, we’ll be reminded that mom was right. Giving thanks is super important! Before we do that, join me in a prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Ten Healed…One Thankful
It was a strange version of a Thanksgiving dinner.
The men sat around a fading fire. Each had a make shift seat from the surrounding landscape.
A pile of leaves.
The fire was slowing roasting the last bit of quail that they had taken down with a slingshot. Divvying it up for a group of ten hardly removed their hunger – in fact, it was just enough to get them thinking about how they were hungry for more.
But…what could they do?
They were quarantined.
These men had a terrible, ancient disease called leprosy. Leprosy was a skin disease that slowly ate away at your skin from the extremities inwards. Leprosy caused your skin to grow deathly pale. It started to flake off. They’d lose finger tips and tips of ears and the cartilage on their nose.
It was severely painful.
And there wasn’t any cure.
And it was fatal.
And it was contagious. Extremely contagious. That’s why they were quarantined. When it had been discovered that each man was leprous, each of these men were sent away – from their families — from their spouses – from their kids – from their parents – from their friends.
As a result, they had become their own hodgepodge, strange, death expecting colony.
As they quietly chewed their meat and were mesmerized by the crackling of the fire – something – anything to take their mind off of the loneliness and sadness of their estate. They heard a crowd coming.
There off in the distance was a large line of people. They appeared to be chatting and listening to a leader – a man who commanded respect. A man who looked full of love. A man who seemed to be very popular.
Wait…Guys…Do you think this is that…Jesus guy?
They took a few steps forward and looked from a distance.
Yeah, I think so.
Suddenly they started shouting. Which isn’t that uncommon for lepers when they saw others coming. They were supposed to shout out: “UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! Don’t come near us; we’re UNCLEAN!” It was supposed to be a warning – a human siren to let them know they were getting to close to the deadly, contagious disease.
But that’s not what they shouted this time:
JESUS! MASTER! Have pity on us. (Luke 17:13)
The man stopped the crowd. He turned and looked toward them. Then, he called back to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” (v.14)
Now the priests were important in ancient culture. The priests were kind of like doctors. They were educated and were able to determine health of individuals better than others. They were the ones who determine if someone was sick. They were the ones who determined if someone had leprosy. They were the ones who determined if someone should be quarantined – or if they were cured.
But…Jesus hadn’t done anything. He simply told them to go to the priests.
And yet, there something about his voice.
The men turned – all ten of them – and began to walk away from Jesus. They began to walk toward the priests.
Would this really work? Did this Jesus just need a second opinion? He hadn’t come near them. Maybe he needed the priest to confirm that they indeed had leprosy before he could cure it. That wasn’t very impressive. If he was the Son of God that many said he was, shouldn’t he have known?
One of them was so upset by this that he beat one of his hands into the other. If only we hadn’t listened, if only we hadn’t…wait.
He had felt that.
For the first time, in a long time, he had felt his fingers.
He looked down. No longer were they missing skin at the tips.
No longer were they a pale white.
No longer were they leprous.
Avram – Avram – check it out!
The excitement soon spread as each one of them realized what had just happened.
As they all realized that they had been healed.
As they all realized that they were no longer sick!
An energy overcame them like never before. Partly because of their new found health and partly because of adrenaline. They rushed off to the priests. He inspected each of them. They ran away from the temple. They immediately began celebrating – one found his mom and gave her a big hug. Another went to the local bar and ordered a round for everyone. A third found his lifelong crush – We can get married now! I’m healed.
They all began to celebrate. They all began to move on with their lives.
Except for one.
When he found out he was healed, he turned around.
He headed back towards the hills.
He wandered around until he found Jesus.
He came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet—and thanked him. (v.15-16)
He helped him to his feet.
He gave him a hug.
But then, Jesus stopped.
He looked around.
He pulled the man back.
Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner? (v.17-18)
The non-Jew? The one who doesn’t know any better? The one who wasn’t taught to “Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; his love endures forever?” (Psalm 118:1)
Rise my friend and go…your faith has made you well. (v.19)
II. Adding to that One
This story fits so well on Thanksgiving. In it, ten men receive an incredible blessing. But only one of them remembers what his mom had to say – only one of them returned to say Thank You.
But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that this one guy is the strange one.
Because the Bible gives the impression that they had gone a ways before they realized they were healed. And it doesn’t record that Jesus made a plan to meet up with them afterwards. Plus – this was so incredibly exciting! They had been healed! It was time to do the things they couldn’t do before.
But this guy says --
I know it’s a long walk back.
I know I don’t have any idea where he is.
I know there’s a ton of other things I probably could be doing.
But I’ve gotta find Jesus. I’ve gotta thank him.
Jesus gives the reason behind this man’s thankfulness.
He gives the reason behind this man’s decision to delay his new life.
He gives the reason for this man’s marathon back to him.
Here’s the truth. Thanking God is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
Think about that again: Thanking God is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
Was God not faithful to the others? No. They were healed. Jesus even draws out that point. But…were they faithful to him? Not so much.
Which is so interesting, because when everything was going poorly, when they had no other choice, when they needed his miraculous healing power – they all turned to Him!
But the moment they were healed – See ya Jesus! I’ve gotta get on with my life.
They had a faith problem.
What about you? Are you faithful to the Faithful? Of course – I’m here at church, aren’t I?
Yes – but that doesn’t mean your thankful. It could just mean that someone else dragged you out of bed to get here. Which isn’t that impressive.
Do take note – it wasn’t the lifelong churchers that impressed Jesus. It was a Samaritan. A guy who didn’t grow up learning about God. A guy who didn’t grow up with stories of God’s goodness. A guy who didn’t grow up a part of God’s people.
Yet his thankfulness outshined all those who did!
What’s interesting about Thanksgiving is that it really is a secular holiday. It wasn’t necessarily started by the church. As a result, there will be all kinds of people who don’t believe in God – who barely believe in God – giving thanks to him today.
What about you?
Will unbelievers out thank you today?
Will non-church goers give more heartfelt thanks than you?
If so, there’s a faith problem.
If you’re only showing thanks just to try and beat the unbelievers at giving thanks – there’s a faith problem.
In fact, if I could diagnose you for a second – you may be sick.
With something much worse than leprosy.
Something that no doctor can cure.
Something that is so contagious every person on earth has it.
Something that is fatal – eternally fatal.
Something called sin.
But Jesus lived perfectly, when you could not.
He died innocently in your place.
He rose triumphantly for the of forgiveness of all your sins.
Essentially healing you! You will not die, but live!
You don’t need to sit in your sinful, God hates many, leper colony of loneliness anymore.
God loves you.
You are in his kingdom.
Thankfulness is the response of the faithful to the Faithful.
So, dear faithful; be faithful.
There’s a lot of different ways to do it.
This man – put his life on hold – he ran all the way back through the wilderness and searched for Jesus until he could throw himself as His feet.
How will you be thankful? There’s a lot of ways:
Faithful attendance at worship.
Belting out the next song as loudly as you can.
Saying a special prayer today before you eat.
Quiet time with God tomorrow morning after the tryptophan wears off.
Telling others – at your meal later today – at the shopping mall tomorrow – that Jesus has healed you and inviting them to church to hear the same thing.
However, you choose to do it, do it daily. Listen to your mom’s words and be thankful to your Dad. Amen.
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. –Philippians 4:11-13
How thankful are you this year?
Maybe, you are feeling really thankful. You made lots of money. You got a new house. You added to your family. You got a boyfriend! This is an all caps, big THANK YOU with turkey stickers on the front Thanksgiving.
Maybe it hasn't been your year. You don't have a lot of money. You lost your job. Your meal isn't going to be much more than Ramen noodles with a few Ketchup packets of contents as topping. For you, this is a "Meh. I guess I'm thankful," kind of year.
Oftentimes circumstances determine exactly how thankful we are at Thanksgiving—and in everyday life.
Yet, in today’s lesson from Philippians 4, the Apostle Paul claims to know the secret to being content--no matter the circumstances. He says in verse 11, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret to being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
There are really three types of circumstances that we find ourselves in --
1) Without Need.
Paul calls it, "living with plenty." Really it means that he doesn't have a single need.
This is the feeling you might get at the end of a two hour epic Thanksgiving meal. The turkey is in your belly. The triptophan is at work. The cranberry sauce is dribbling between the spaces in your tummy left by the stuffing.
To be without need means that one is truly blessed! Oftentimes, this is the circumstance we find ourselves in. We are clothed. We are full. We have a roof over our head.
Yet, when this is our circumstance, how often are we content?
While I was preparing for this sermon on Thanksgiving morning, my cell phone buzzed about 6 times. No, it wasn't last second text messages trying to determine what time Thanksgiving service started. They were emails. Emails from Best Buy, Amazon, and a host of other businesses letting me know about things that I needed and could get a good deal on!
With the world constantly in our face telling us what we need, how long is it before we begin to believe that we are in need!
This leads to the second circumstance we might find ourselves in:
2) Perceived Need.
“I need an iPad. I need a Fiat. I need a Starbucks coffee in the morning and a treat receipt for the afternoon. I need all 8 seasons of the Office on DVD. I need to be first in line to see the Hunger Games sequel!"
Kids do it too: “I need a cookie!" – as if they will faint without the nutrition contained within the chocolate chip. And "I need the Lala Loopsy," because Christmas will be ruined, if she doesn't have it.
Of course, the truth is that we don’t need this stuff. Yet our minds do such a good job of convincing ourselves of this need that we aren’t always so thankful in perceived need. We aren't thankful because our house isn't as nice as our neighbors, our family isn't as polite, and our job isn't as fun.
And if we aren't that thankful when we have perceived need, what does that mean for when we have...
3) Real Need.
You need help in order to pay the rent. You need transportation. You need food. Thanksgiving for people in real need may be a bowl of Ramen with some Heinz Ketchup packets ketchup on top and a can of cold meat.
It is very difficult to be content when you are in real need. When your stomach is growling from hunger, when your legs are tired from walking everywhere, when your eyes are bloodshot red from staying up and working hard.
What kind of circumstance was Paul in when he wrote the letter to the Philippians?
One would expect him to have been 'without need.' It's easy to talk big about being thankful when you have everything you need.
He was in jail.
In other words, Paul was in real need!
Yet, you saw how he reacted. If these verses don’t convince you, read Philippians 4:4 when you have a chance. That says, “Rejoice in the LORD always, I will say it again rejoice!”
How could someone in jail be so thankful?
It wasn’t because he was looking back. Dwelling on memories of times past with the Philippians. While that may temporarily put a smile on a face, and certainly it will for ours too, it only lasts so long as life doesn’t happen!
At some point, you have to realize that you no longer own that 84 Mustang convertible that you loved so much. Remembering a full belly food coma from a Thanksgiving past will not fill your belly in this year’s Thanksgiving.
The secret to contentment is not looking back. Nor is the secret to contentment looking forward.
Paul didn’t just think: “I’m sure I’ll be out of this jam soon. Chin up!” That works for awhile, until a soldier jingling some keys snapped him back to the reality of his situation.
To be fair, there is something to be said for positive thinking in the future. It’s good to have goals. “I plan on having my own house. I plan on having my debts paid.” Good things.
But if that’s our source of contentment, what happens when we never get there? At some point you feel worse off than you are now!
And if you do get there, don’t be surprised to find the “perceived needs” to kick in. “Actually, I need a bigger house.” “Actually, I want to be out of debt and rolling in money.”
The secret to contentment is not looking forward either.
Listen to what Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
In other words, Paul found contentment from looking up.
Because what do you find when you look up? The God who provides all things. He takes care of our earthly needs. He takes care of our earthly wants. He has an endless supply of food, drink, clothing, and shelther.
Beyond that, he gives us what no one else can: forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and the promise of spending eternity with him in the glorious riches of heaven!
When your focus is upwards, it doesn’t matter where you are int his life. Whether whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want…in any and every situation, you are content.
Content to be forgiven.
Content to be God’s child.
Content to be in God’s good graces.
So, how will your Thanksgiving weekend play out? I suppose it depends on the circumstances.
As look up, you will be reminded of your circumstances: Jesus loves you. You have a Savior. You are blessed.
Circumstantially, you couldn’t be in a better place.