It’s easy to take God for granted. We all do it, whether we’d like to admit it or not. I’m sure this pains our Savior much as it pains us when we’re taking for granted or when we go out of our way to help someone and we’re met with an ungrateful attitude. The more familiar we become with the things of God, the more we tend to take them for granted. Now, becoming familiar with the things of God is not the same as knowing God better. There’s a big difference. In the case of the latter, the more we come to know our Lord, the more we build our relationship with Him, the less we take Him for granted because the more we realize how far from Him we really are.
The key is not to allow ourselves to take Him for granted. It is to remember and acknowledge all He does for us in our lives, so far as we are capable. It doesn’t matter if it is a big thing or a little thing, if it’s a God thing, we should praise Him with thanksgiving. Sure there are plenty of excuses. There’s so much to do. There’s not enough time. It wasn’t a big thing to God. I could go on. But if we allow our hearts to become hardened where we don’t seek to respond with gratitude, we might respond like nine of the ten lepers did in today’s miracle:
On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” – Luke 17:11-19, NASB
The fact that Jesus calls out the fact that the leper who stopped to give Him praise was a Samaritan implies at least some of the other nine were not. They were Israelites. They were God’s people. And though Jesus healed them of their affliction, though He restored their fellowship with their community, though He basically gave their lives back, they didn’t even have time to say, “Thank you.” Now you could argue they were just following through with Jesus’ command. But that reminds us of yet another excuse, “I didn’t have time to say thank you to God because I was too busy doing what He told me to do.” I’ve seen this a lot. I’ve been guilty of it a lot. There is no excuse for neglecting to show our gratitude to our Lord for all He does in our lives. And that’s the clear message Christ is giving here.
So often through the Old Testament God asked His people to set up visible reminders of what He had done for them. This was done so the people would remember to give Him thanks and also remember that they weren’t anything without Him. It wasn’t just an acknowledgment of the greatness of God. It was also a confession of weakness on the part of His people. See, God knows that the more highly we think of ourselves, the less we will rely on Him. The less we rely on Him, the more we tend to get ourselves into trouble and sin. Humbling ourselves is how we keep out of that madness. We must remember and celebrate what God does for us. Even in the little things.
What helps is to find an incident that reminds us of how much we need Him. We shouldn’t let go of that time. We should keep it firmly in mind. This was the strategy of one of the soldiers in the documentary Restropo (a tale of an Army platoon in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan) who said he couldn’t get the image of one of his fallen comrades out of his head. However, he said he didn’t want to lose that image because it was a constant reminder of all he should be thankful for. What in your life causes a similar response for you? Was it when He saved you from your sins? Was it when you were at a time of great pain and His grace came through? Or was it when you hit rock bottom and He lifted you up? Remember it, hold on to it, and let us take our Lord for granted no longer.