By PAUL J. SCHARF, M.Div.
Editor in Chief
(Read Part 1)
However there was one man who, as he went, was overwhelmed with conviction. Perhaps he realized the magnitude of the thing that happened to him—also sensing his own inadequacy and unworthiness. We infer that he also realized who this One who healed him was: the Prophet, the promised coming One, the Messiah, the Savior and the king of Israel.
He realized, as much as he wanted his healing to be proclaimed by the priests, that he must go back and say, “Thank You!”
Thankfulness is the display, the evidence, the outworking of true, Biblical faith. An unbeliever cannot ultimately display it because he or she has no relationship with the God to whom thanks is owed. But for a believer, gratitude is the response that flows out of God’s work of grace in one’s life.
Certainly there are varying levels of thankfulness among believers in terms of their obedient responses to New Testament commands such as:
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18).
Yet, at the most basic level, thanksgiving is a vital demonstration of one’s faith.
Jesus showed amazement at the lack of thankfulness displayed by the other nine men.
. . . because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened (Rom. 1:21).
Paul also reminds us how the lack of thankfulness will spread as we move toward the end of the age:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy (2 Tim. 3:2).
In verse 19, Jesus told this Samaritan leper that his faith had literally saved him. We learn from this that he was not saved because he was thankful, for no one can work to earn salvation by their own efforts of any kind. Rather, it appears that this man savingly believed upon Jesus as his Messiah, and his newfound faith bore fruit in thanksgiving.
The Life-Saving Crew was not the product of university planning or any great initiative; rather, it grew out of the spontaneous response of students to one of the greatest disasters recorded in the annals of sea-faring craft. On September 8, 1860, the steamer Lady Elgin collided with the schooner Augusta on Lake Michigan a few miles north of Evanston. Of the 385 passengers on board, 287 were lost. A tugboat saved 98, while the remainder washed towards shore. Thirty castaways made it through the breakers to within swimming distance of a number of students from the university and the Garrett Biblical Institute who had amassed on the shore.
Among the group was Edward Spencer who, with a rope tied around his waist, dove into the water and over the course of six hours, rescued 17 passengers. After hauling the seventeenth person to shore, he was heard to repeatedly exclaim, ‘Did I do my best? Did I do my best?’ . . . Spencer’s exertion left him a semi-invalid, however, and he withdrew from his studies soon after the ordeal.
The life-altering experience of Edward Spencer was the basis for the writing of the old gospel song, “I Wonder, Have I Done My Best for Jesus.”
But there is something even more fascinating to the story:
According to the website, WordWiseHymns.com:
Spencer is honoured by a plaque in the gymnasium of Northwestern University. But there are a couple of sad footnotes to his story. He was so badly injured that apparently he spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. And when visited in later years he said with tears, “Not one [of those rescued] ever came back and even said thank you.”
This Thanksgiving Day, may we not be like those ungrateful people rescued by Spencer, nor like the nine unthankful lepers; but may we demonstrate hearts overflowing with gratitude in response to God’s work of grace in our lives.
Editor’s Note: For more on this topic, you can listen to a related message by Paul Scharf by clicking here.
Copyright © 2017 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 “Wrecked: The story of Northwestern’s first ‘varsity sport,'” <http://www.northbynorthwestern.com/story/wrecked-the-story-of-northwesterns-first-varsity-s/>; Internet; accessed 12 November 2016.
 “Have I Done My Best for Jesus?”; © Copyright 1924 by Singspiration Composer (ASCAP). (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Composer Publishing, Inc.) “Have I Done My Best for Jesus,” <https://wordwisehymns.com/2010/05/08/today-in-1689-christian-von-rosenroth-died/>; Internet; accessed 12 November 2016.
This article was first featured on November 24, 2016.