“Finding God on Flight 232” was the caption of an article that appeared in July of 1989. “232” was the ill-fated flight of a commercial aircraft that lost power from one engine, then had its hydraulic system fail at 37,000 feet. At that moment most of its passengers knew that a crash was inevitable.
That’s when people found God on Flight 232. Survivors talked about reading the Bible, prayed, and clutched crosses in their trembling hands. They were keenly aware of the need for God’s help as they circled the cornfields of Iowa.
One wonders, did they also find God once they had landed? When they escaped the horrible wreckage, did they also remember Him with a prayer of gratitude? One expects so. Yet, it is entirely possible that these same people could have forgotten about God moments after their dilemma had passed.
Few take God for granted in times of trouble; unfortunately, most take Him for granted when things are okay.
As Jesus passed through the area one day, no one had to remind a group of lepers that they should seek God’s deliverance. Leprosy was a dreadful disease that slowly and painfully brought isolation, loneliness, and ultimately death. The lepers needed no prompting. No one had to tell them: “If Jesus ever comes through here, remember to ask Him for help.” Very naturally they cried out: “Jesus, Master, have mercy upon us!”
Nor is it likely that we forget about God when life is freighted with problems. It’s when life hums smoothly along, however, that feelings of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction often set it.
Our Merciful God
Ten lepers were healed. One leper returned–a Samaritan at that! Jesus’ question is a piercing one. It still hangs in the air after all these years: “Where are the nine?”
That makes you wonder: what does God do when people take Him for granted? Does He give them their leprosy back? Does He withdraw all blessings from them until they learn a few things about being thankful? No. It is not our thankfulness that determines His blessings.
The reason Jesus had come near to that leper colony was that He was headed for Jerusalem to suffer and die as our Substitute. We don’t know the end of the story for the lepers–we do know the end of the story for Jesus.
And His story underscores one astounding fact: God’s grace toward fallen mankind doesn’t depend on our gratitude or anything else we might do. It depends entirely upon His love. For the very people who rejected Him Jesus willingly went to Calvary’s cross. For those who never stop to thank Him and who so easily forget about Him, Jesus laid down His precious life. For His very enemies Jesus paid the ultimate price. Yes, Jesus paid for the sins of all ten lepers, for all 296 passengers aboard Flight 232, and for all of us.
Our gratitude is never the cause of God’s love for us, but it is a result, isn’t it? It is a precious fruit of saving faith that every Christian should cultivate.
The way to become more thankful? Only by realizing that God never takes us for granted but deals with each of us in love and mercy.
–Pastor James Albrecht