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Pointers along the way #203

Why aren't we thankful to God?
- Jacob Ninan

Most of us know the story of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, and how only one of them returned to thank Him (Lk.17:12-17). Jesus asked him, "Where are the nine?" We can imagine the sadness in His voice. It was hardly possible that He was surprised, because He knew our nature so well. We rarely give thanks to God spontaneously, because we rarely feel really thankful. Civilisation and Christian preaching have taught us to say, "Thank you." But for many of us those are just formal words, or at best those we wish to mean. When we get answers to prayer or even miraculous interventions from God on our behalf, we seem to take them for granted. When we are in the thick of trouble, we are conscious of the need for God's help, and we pray. But when the trouble has passed, we may not even think of God.

David was different. Whenever he realised that the Lord had taken him through nets, oppressive burdens, men riding over his head, floods, or fire, and finally brought him out to a place of abundance, he took time for burnt offerings and to give to God what he had vowed (Ps.66:11-14). How come David didn't feel relieved that the pressure was off, and go on to new activities? I think of two reasons.

He was a man who knew hardship and difficulties, and he also knew God as a reliable help in times of need (Ps.46:1). Whether he killed a lion or a bear with his hands, or Goliath whom everyone else feared, David knew that God was his help (1Sa.17:34-37). And so it was that whenever he came into need he spontaneously cried out to God for help, and when he received that help he could immediately acknowledge that it was God who had helped him. How is it with us? Is our confidence based on our strength - our intelligence, skill, knowledge, experience, wealth, the number of influential people we know, etc.?

The other reason I think of is that David was a man whose life revolved around God. He did not go to God only in times of need, or when everything else failed. He had fellowship with God all the time. He earnestly sought to get to know God more and more. When we read his psalms we see his heart's true longings, we see that they were nor after wealth, power or pleasure, but after God. As a result, whether he was going through good times or bad, he kept communications going on with God. He could recognise when God intervened, as well as when He seemed far away; when he was in trouble as well as when things were going well. Even though there was a time when David left God's paths and went his own way, on the whole he was indeed a man after God's own heart.

We cannot become thankful to God in our heart just by disciplining ourselves to give thanks. Thankfulness is a matter of the heart and not how we behave externally. God is altogether lovely, and not just a help in times of need. The more we get to know Him, in our understanding as well as in our experience, the more we will become thankful to Him.