A thankful disposition has more to do with our character than our circumstances.
In 1860 there was a shipwreck off the coast of Lake Michigan near Evanston, Illinois. Students from the nearby Northwestern University came to the rescue. One of them, Edward Spenser, saved the lives of 17 people that day, permanently damaging his health in the process. Years later a reporter asked the elderly Spenser, “What one thing stands out about the incident in your mind?” Spenser replied, “I remember that of the seventeen people I saved that day, not one of them ever thanked me.”
Samuel Leibowitz, a criminal lawyer, said he saved 78 people from execution; not one thanked him.
Art King had a radio program, “Job Center of the Air.” He said he found jobs for 2500 people, but only ten ever thanked him.
Jesus Himself experienced about a 90 per cent thankless rate. Luke 17:11-19 records the account of ten men whom Jesus healed of the dreaded disease of leprosy. Of the 10 healed only one returned to thank Him.
In sharp contrast Martin Rinkert (1586 – 1649), Lutheran pastor and prolific hymn writer, exhibited a consistent spirit of gratitude. Raised in poverty, he worked his way through school to prepare for ministry. He became the pastor of his hometown of Eilenburg, Germany. A year later, the 30 Years War broke out, and his town was caught in the middle of it. Two decades later, the Black Plague swept across Europe; again Eilenburg was hit hard. Thousands died, including Martin’s wife. His 32 years of ministry were filled with war, plague and funerals. But Rinkert didn’t become thankless or bitter. He continued on, exhibiting faithfulness and hope in spite of all the pain and sorrow. In the midst of it all he wrote the hymn he is best known for, “Now Thank We all Our God.”
Getting back to the one thankful man healed of leprosy, when he returned to show gratitude, Jesus asked him, “Weren’t ten men healed? Where are the other nine?” His response, if he had one isn’t recorded. My response is that I’m not concerned about the thankless nine, or even the thankful one; my concern is with myself, would I have returned to give thanks! More to the point, do I give thanks?
A thankful disposition has more to do with our character than our circumstances. What kind of character are you?
“Let the peace that comes from Christ control your thoughts. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
— Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church