TWO POWERFUL WORDS
By Jeannette Haley
“There are not found that returned
to give glory to God, save this stranger.”
– Luke 17:17
There is great power in words. Words can communicate and express our deepest feelings, aspirations, longings, griefs, hopes, fears, loves and dreams. Words can soothe our fears, calm our emotions, bring hope and healing to unseen wounds, and encourage our hearts. Words can also bring division, cause anger, bully people to the brink of suicide, start unfounded rumors, and stir up anarchy. And, words can and do start wars. Concerning written words, how true the old saying is, “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
As soon as we learn how to talk we toss words around our entire lives like New Yorkers toss confetti on New Year’s Eve. Words are flying everywhere, not only audibly but through worldwide wireless communications. The human race has returned to Babylon, except this time it’s through technology that the ancients would have never dreamed of. Sometimes we may feel as if no one is really listening to what we have to say, but rest assured, God hears every word. In fact, the Bible tells us that He knows all of our words. “O LORD, thou has searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me” Psalm 139:1-5. Nothing is hid from the Lord.
At this point, I want to share an interesting scientific finding with you, and hope you find this discovery as fascinating as I did: From Science News, 5/27/00, pp. 344-346, “Building Blocks of Talk.” “The Bible tells us that everyone on Earth spoke the same language until God confused the languages of rebellious people at Babel. ‘Foreign-accent syndrome’ suggests that many of the detailed characteristics of language may have been originally wired into the brain. It also helps us see that language is more than just noises to which we have given meaning. Language is God’s gift. Genesis 11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. The Bible teaches that until several centuries after the Flood all people on Earth spoke the same language. The fact that many supposedly unrelated languages have similar sounding words with the same or similar meanings supports this teaching. Some language researchers say that this is simply due to chance. Now some language researchers say that they have developed another line of research that supports the belief that all humans once spoke the same language.
“Language researchers have spent years listening to babies in many different language groups babble. Babies younger than four months make a variety of sounds as they learn to use their voice. Speaking is a highly complex activity, requiring the coordination of 70 different muscles as well as several different body parts. By seven to ten months of age, babies typically begin making sounds that alternate vowels and consonants. Researchers found that there are three distinct patterns of alternating sounds that are universal among babies in English-speaking households. Then they found that these three patterns are also common among infants from a wide range of language groups around the world. Researchers comparing infants from varying language groups then identified a fourth pattern among all groups. These findings have been interpreted as independent evidence that all people once spoke one language.”
Undoubtedly none of us can remember the first word we ever spoke, but the Lord does. In Matthew 12:36, Jesus said, concerning our conversations, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” “Idle” in the Greek means “useless.” Just try to imagine all the useless prattle that, no doubt, we have all uttered in our lifetime! How are we going to explain that to the Lord? I pray that He will kindly “blow it all away” on my part so I don’t have to face Him on Judgment Day to give an account, because there aren’t any words I can think of that would be able to explain it, except to say, “O God! Have mercy on me, a sinner!”
How wearying it is to find yourself in a situation you can’t escape from where everyone is spewing out vain rhetoric! (A neighborhood meeting we recently had to attend comes to mind!) The only words going through my head after we had been there for what seemed to be an eternity were, “I want to go home!” I hate to admit it, but I’ve sat through many a sermon in churches where those same words echoed through my mind as well. If you’re honest, I bet you have too!
This brings me to the main subject of this November article, “Two Powerful Words.” They aren’t by any means the most powerful words, or the only powerful words, but they are powerful words because of the lasting effect they can have on the heart of a battle-worn, weary soldier of the cross. These two words also tell a lot about a person’s level of understanding, spiritual maturity, and personal relationship with the Lord. In addition, these two words also reveal the heart condition of the one who uses them, his or her true level of humility and love for Jesus.
By now you may have guessed that these two powerful words are “thank you.” Two basic, simple words that we need to learn to never demand or expect from others if we would be at peace; yet these are two powerful words that we should be quick to express to others. If we had decent, upright parents we hopefully learned these two words in early childhood, and planted them within our hearts, carrying them with us through our lifetime, and graciously using them in every situation and circumstance that calls for them. Sometimes we use words and phrases such as “thank you” or “I love you” out of politeness or sheer habit, but to say “thank You” to God as only lip service to Him is speaking words in vain. When we worship God in the only acceptable way, which is “in spirit and in truth” then our thanksgiving to Him will be genuine, heartfelt and powerful.
We experienced three instances recently where those two powerful words or the lack thereof, made a lasting impression on our lives. In one instance, a certain individual who was greatly blessed failed to consider the hard work and sacrifice made on their behalf, but in due time, finally managed to communicate a certain appreciation that was totally unexpected. In the second situation, a person indicated they needed help in different areas of their spiritual life, so time and expense went into trying to meet that need, only to have the individual viciously turn on us, returning evil for good. The other instance concerned a realization on my part that I had to let go of two young people whose spiritual lives this ministry had greatly invested in throughout their growing up years with solid biblical teaching and counseling. They have gone on with their lives without any sign whatsoever of thankfulness or appreciation for all the love, commitment, training and work provided for them. All we can do is pray that someday they will look back and give thanks to God for His faithfulness on their behalf.
Not being a parent or grandparent, I can only imagine the stinging, aching heartbreak they experience when their wayward and rebellious children, after having been greatly cherished, provided for, instructed in the ways of the Lord and righteousness turn to the ways of the world. When your heart is melting because of the lost state, blindness, unbelief, rebellion and, yes, ingratitude of others tears can freely flow. But, we have this promise, and I repeat it to myself often: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” Revelation 21:4.
We know we are in the last of the last days for many reasons. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 reads like today’s news: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” (Emphasis added.)
It‘s interesting that when Jesus entered into a certain village ten leprous men met Him, and cried out “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us” Luke 17:13b. They knew who He was, they knew He had the power to heal, and they believed His Word as they all turned to go show themselves to the priests. But, only one, a Samaritan, when he saw that he was healed, returned to Jesus, glorified God with a loud voice, and fell down on his face at the feet of Jesus, and gave Him thanks. And Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” Luke 17:17-18. It’s hard to understand how nine men who had been healed from the horrible devastation of leprosy could fail to give thanks to God, and those were the Jews, the chosen people.
Jesus told the Samaritan to go his way (not to the priests) because his faith had made him whole. This wholeness was more than physical healing; it was complete wholeness of body, soul and spirit for his faith was manifested when he returned and glorified God, loudly and publically, falling down on his face at Jesus’ feet. His actions bore witness to the fact that this “stranger” knew who Jesus was; that is, God Incarnate, and he worshipped Him. A person may be physically healed by God, and still not be made “whole” if his or her faith lacks true reverence and acknowledgment that Jesus is God in the flesh. The only thanksgiving that is acceptable to God will come out of a heart of faith that is offered in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24.) Matthew 15:8 says, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”
It’s been my experience that those who have very little of this world’s goods, and those who suffer extreme poverty in third world countries are often the most thankful and joyous people when even just their basic needs are met by those in the family of God. In most Western countries we all take food, water, shelter and clothing for granted; and, when we take things for granted, we have a tendency to overlook being truly thankful. It’s a sad commentary to realize that the more we get, the less thankful we can be. Yet, without God we not only have nothing, but we are nothing. Jesus is all in all, the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending” Revelation 1:8a.
I’ve told this story before, but for those who have not heard it, I’ll repeat it here. Before the Lord merged Rayola Kelley’s ministry with mine (back in the late 80’s), I was struggling to come higher in God. I wasn’t happy to settle for nominal, mundane Christianity, and came to a point where I confessed that one of the things that seemed to be lacking in my life was genuine thankfulness. So, I simply prayed to the Lord to give me a thankful heart. As the saying goes, “Be careful about what you ask God for” because not long after that I found myself in an old empty farmhouse with next to nothing. I will never forget how thankful I was when I found an old wood kitchen chair for 75 cents at a yard sale. Other yard sale items were weekly added to that, and I discovered true thankfulness for what the Lord provided.
In the years that followed there were lean times and times of plenty, and through it all I experienced what Paul meant when he said, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Philippians 4:11. The key is in the word “learned” which implies that a person doesn’t suddenly “arrive” in a place of contentment, but that there is a process involved. That process can mean different things for different people depending on how they naturally respond to their particular situation, but regardless of the situation or circumstances, contentment is a result of a deep, abiding faith in God and His Word which humbles us, causing us to rest in the reality of Spirit and Truth. It is then that, with Paul, we can declare with thanksgiving what he said in verse 12, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” Note that Paul was “instructed,” and who was his instructor? Jesus Christ.
Charles Spurgeon said, “He who would serve God must begin by praising God, for a grateful heart is the mainspring of obedience. We must offer the salt of gratitude with the sacrifice of obedience; our lives should be anointed with the precious oil of thankfulness. As soldiers march to music, so while we walk in the paths of righteousness we should keep step to the notes of thanksgiving. Larks sing as they mount, so should we magnify the Lord for his mercies while we are winging our way to heaven.” A. W. Tozer said, “The constant tenor and spirit of our lives should be adoring gratitude, love, reverence, and thanksgiving to the Most High.”
The question is how could anyone ever thank God enough for all He has done for us in drawing us to Himself, convicting us by the Holy Spirit so that our hearts would answer the call of the Savior to come to Him? We can never repay the debt that we owe. “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” Hebrews 13:15.
2 Thessalonians 5:18, says “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” This Scripture brings to mind Job who said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Such a statement in light of all that Job lost and suffered could only come out of a thankful heart because no one can truly glorify God with a thankless heart! Romans 1:21 says, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Thankfulness is what God desires from His children. It is a disciplined heart attitude that we must choose to develop in our inward character, regardless of how difficult or painful our circumstances may be. It must be cultivated, practiced and guarded as part of our Christian testimony of faith in the sovereignty and goodness of God. Interestingly thankfulness is not a fruit of the Spirit, nor is it one of the virtues listed in 2 Peter 1; yet like a ribbon interwoven within the fabric of godly Christian character, it colors and binds together the gifts of the Spirit, and Christian virtues into a perfect whole that is pleasing to God.
Thankfulness and contentment go hand in hand, but like the delicate wings of a butterfly, they must be perfectly balanced in order to work properly. Therefore, if we become caught up and ensnared with the things of this world, failing to obey Colossians 3:2, which states, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” we will fall into the insidious, destructive trap of covetousness. Luke 12:15, “And He said unto them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Covetousness, lust and greed to not a thankful, contended Christian make.
It should be noted that there are different degrees to thankfulness, and all correspond with the amount of love a person has for the Father and the Son. In Luke 7:36-50 we read the beautiful story of the Pharisee and the sinner woman and how each treated Jesus. In verse 47 Jesus said, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.” Love and thanksgiving go hand in hand, and when I see an ungrateful, complaining, miserable and unthankful Christian, I am tempted to wonder if that person has ever really humbled themselves, repented of sin, and been forgiven by the Lord.
I thank God that He has given me so much that I don’t deserve, and has not given me what I do deserve! Oh God! You are so good to me, a sinner!
If Adam and Eve had been thankful for the special relationship they had with the Lord God, and for all the other blessings they did have, would they have ignored the enemy’s lies? One can only wonder. But, this we do know: self-serving people who are tormented with covetousness, lust, greed, and the desire for power over others can never be truly thankful because no matter how much they have it is never enough. The same goes for those who think more highly of themselves than they ought to think, because such people think they deserve more than they need. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
This Thanksgiving may the peace of God fill all of our hearts with joy and gratefulness for all we have been given by God in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming in power and great glory to gather us to Himself, so that where He is we shall be with Him forever. Hallelujah!