What Do You Say?
April 6, 2003
As a kid, my parents used to drag me to Laurel, MS, to visit my relatives. I have fond memories of sitting around those old tables and eating one of Aunt Ida’s famous Velveeta, Spam and Jell-O salads. You probably have an Aunt Ida. After I choked down a couple of bites, my parents would say, “Ed, what do you say to Aunt Ida?” I would say [Ed whispers], “Thank you.” They would say, “Ed, we can’t hear you.” I would say [a little louder this time], “Thank you. Thank you, Aunt Ida.”
Thank you — two powerful words. Thank you — two trajectory-changing words. Thank you — two shots of espresso. At the time, I didn’t realize the power of that phrase. But now, I think I do. I believe God, in a real way, is asking us, “What do you say? What do you say for my blessings?” God is asking, “What do you say for your relationships? What do you say?”
When you woke up this morning and you comprehended God’s awesome creation, what did you say? When your taste buds first experienced that coffee or that espresso, what did you say? When your vocal chords made sounds that people interpreted as words, what did you say? God, in a real way, wants to teach us how to say, “Thank you.” He wants us to live lives of true and deep appreciation.
One day, the Bible says, Jesus was walking into a town. The Scripture records in Luke 17 that when he hit the outskirts of the town, ten lepers called to Jesus from afar. Leprosy was, and is, a horribly disfiguring disease. It’s where nerve endings die. Limbs totally fall off. It had a horrible stench about it. It was highly contagious. Lepers had to stand about 50 yards away from others. They wore bells on their clothing to warn people that leper colonies were in the area.
These ten lepers asked Jesus, “Jesus, heal us. Jesus, have mercy on us.”
The Bible says that Jesus said, “Guys, run and show yourself to a priest. You are healed.”
Dr. Luke says that as these lepers were running to the priest, they looked down and their limbs had been restored. Their skin was perfect. They had experienced a healing.
Just for a second, put yourself in Christ’s sandals. Here we have Jesus, the Son of God. Here we have Jesus, the man who just healed these people. Now, he is watching them run toward the horizon. What do you think he was saying to himself? Do you think, as he looked at those ten healed lepers, he was asking, “What do you say? What do you say for my healing? What do you say for getting in touch with me? What do you say?”
The Bible says that one leper stopped in his tracks. He looked down at his healed body, did a 180, took his eyes off of himself and put them on Jesus. He ran to Christ. It says that he fell at Christ’s feet and thanked him. He said those two trajectory-changing words, those two words that can move the heart of the Lord and did move Christ’s heart.
He said, “Thank you. Thank you, Jesus.”
Jesus looked at him and you could feel the hurt in his heart. Christ asked, “Weren’t there ten? Where are the other nine? What’s the deal?” Then, Jesus looked at this healed leper, this man who thanked him, and said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Now, before we dog pile on the nine ungrateful lepers, let’s do what we talked about during our first installment. Let’s make sure, before we dog pile on them, that we yank the plank out of our own eye. Because Jesus said, “Don’t criticize others. Don’t point out the speck of sawdust in other people’s eyes, when you have a big honking 2 x 4, a redwood tree, a crossbeam, in your own eye. Don’t go there.”
Don’t go rude on people. Look at your own life. Take inventory. Think about your level of appreciation. If the bold reality was truly revealed, we would see that most of us are not as appreciative as we should be. Most of us don’t really understand the power and the trajectory-changing force of that two-word phrase, “Thank you.” It’s easier to be critical, isn’t it? It’s easier to go rude on others than to really be appreciative.
Jesus says, though, the moment we invite him into our life, he places the person of the Holy Spirit there. He says that the Spirit works from the inside out. Christ says that he is committed, the Bible says, totally committed, to turn people who are ungrateful into people who are grateful and to turn thankless people into “thank you” people.
Let’s say that you decide to defer to Christ and allow him to work from the inside out, to turn your life into one giant “thank you.” What does that look like? What would that be about? How would my life be different if I really “espressoed” myself in that realm?
Let me talk to you a little bit about that. Number one — if you decide to live a thank you life, if you allow Jesus to live his life through you, here is what will happen. You will take your eyes off of yourself, off of your agenda, and you will put them on God. That’s what living a life of thank you does. I have discovered something. I’ve discovered that I go where my eyes go. If I look this way, I am going to go this way. If I look the other way, I’m going to go that way. I rarely walk or move where my eyes don’t take me, where my eyes aren’t focused. You are the same way. Where is your focus right now? Are you on yourself, what makes you look good, what gives you pleasure, and what gives you that buzz, or do you have your eyes fixed on Christ? If we have our eyes fixed on Christ, we have this vertical thing down cold. We’re right vertically. There is no way that we can be right horizontally until, first of all, we are right vertically.
The problem with most of us is we live horizontal lives. Everything is horizontal. If we live a horizontal life, it’s a formula for frustration. We tend to see people as objects, objects to be used for our advancement, and objects to be used for our deal. We also feel like the world owes us something when we live horizontal lives.
“Yeah, the world owes me. I deserve this. That’s not fair. It’s all about me.”
So often, we see ourselves above others. “I’m up here and you’re down there. Because you’re down there, I’ll criticize you and go rude on you because, after all, you don’t matter and really, God doesn’t matter, either.”
Others of us who live horizontal lives, see ourselves in the subterranean type fashion. We’re down here and others are up there. Because others are up here and we are down here, we have no self-respect. So, we rip others apart, we criticize others, and we go rude on others to bring them down to our level. That’s what happens when we have our eyes on ourselves and we don’t put them on God.
The moment, though, that we begin to put them on God, things happen. Parts fit. Everything gets in sync with one another. Suddenly, we are saying, “Thank you” to God regularly and strategically and now we are saying, “Thank you” to others regularly and strategically. We are right vertically and we are right horizontally.
Whenever I think about people who are self-centered, I think about the children of Israel — God’s chosen people. The Bible records one of the most graphic accounts of human behavior imaginable when it talks about Israel’s trek out of Egyptian slavery into the Promised Land. The trip was supposed to take a couple of weeks, but it took them 40 years. They were there 40 years because they were consumed by criticism and ravaged by rudeness. They were there 40 years because it was all about them. They were orbiting around themselves. Check it out. They had seen real “acts of God” stuff. They had seen God part an ocean so they could cross on dry land. They looked back in their rearview mirror and the ocean consumed their pursuing enemies. They saw God’s cosmic GPS system. A cloud guided them by day and a fire guided them by night. They got in contact with God’s heavenly catering service. Read about it in the Bible. Manna fell from heaven and quail just dropped out of the sky — quail fajitas right there for them. Let’s put ourselves in their sandals. One would think that they would stand there in the midst of all these blessings — in the midst of this manna and quail, in the midst of God parting an ocean, and in the midst of this cosmic GPS system — and you would think they would say, “Yeah, God! Thank you, God! We appreciate you, God. God, unbelievable. We worship you. We adore you. We love you. You are so great!” But, they didn’t say that. Don’t hold your breath. Do you know what they said?
“God we miss Egypt. We miss the whip. We miss the chains. We miss the sorry food. We miss slavery, God.”
Then they began to criticize Moses and the leaders. They went rude on others and they went rude on God. Are you believing that?
But, again, before we dog pile the lepers, before we dog pile the unappreciative Israelites, let’s think about our own lives. There’s no way we can show appreciation to someone publicly unless we are showing appreciation to someone in the private sector. That someone is God. That’s why it’s so important for us to spend time in private worship everyday with the Lord. A high percentage of our prayers should be “thank yous.”
“God, thank you for your grace. God, thank you for your mercy. God, thank you for the cross. God, thank you for my family. God, thank you for relationships. God, thank you for my career. God, thank you for this awesome nation. God, thank you for our troops. God, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
We should live on a “thank you safari.” That’s an earmark of depth, an earmark of spiritual maturity. Are you worshiping God regularly? Are you recalibrating your life? Do you see the cross as the big “T” in thank you? Living a life of thank you is important. Living a life of thank you takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them on God.
It does something else, though. Number two — living a life of thank you, and you will love this, moves the heart of God and it positions us for blessings. God has feelings, too. I know that might shock you, but the Bible says it. Scripture records it. God has feelings too. What makes God’s heart beat fast? What? Appreciation is one of those things. Think about the healed leper. He showed appreciation to Jesus, and it moved His heart.
I received a letter, a little note, recently from one of my children. I discovered something. Children are not naturally grateful. Have you discovered that? I mean, kids don’t come up to their parents and say, “Hey, Mom and Dad, thank you for bringing me into the world. Mom, by the way, thank you for carrying me in your womb for nine months. I really appreciate that. Hey, Dad, thanks for making the money so that I can buy these Alan Iverson basketball shoes.”
No, that usually doesn’t happen a lot. Now, when your kids do show you appreciation, it moves your heart, doesn’t it? Here’s what Laurie wrote to me.
“Dear Dad, I love you very much. Oh, yes I do. You’re the best to me. Oh, yes you are. Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad, thank you for everythink (t-h-i-n-k). I love you, Dad. Dad, Dad, Dad, you are the best to me. Thank you for everythink. I love you vary (v-a-r-y) much.”
I did some research on the word “thank.” Did you know the word “thank” comes from the word “think?” My child is a genius! It does. So, if we are thinking on the things of God when we think, it should draw us to thank. So, if you are not thanking, then you are not thinking. If you are thankless, then we would say you are brainless. I hate to be that bold, but let’s just put it where we can eat the food, okay? Think and thank — they are synced up. God thinks about you and me. He thinks about you and me 24/7. Isn’t it amazing to realize that God of this universe has you and me on his mind? That’s how crazy he is about us. And, he is thankful for us. He says, “I’m thankful for you. Be thankful to me.” Once you add that, you will be thankful to others. Being thankful moves the heart of God and it positions us for blessings.
A lot of people say, “I’m not really blessed like I think I should be. I feel like I’m kind of missing on the full potential. What’s wrong? Is something skewed? Is something out of whack?”
You have got to be in the right position to get the best blessing. Let’s talk about basketball. I think there might be a basketball game on right now. Let’s check it out, okay? [A basketball game is shown on the side screens.] ESPN Classic. This is live television. You’ve got North Carolina State playing North Carolina. Those schools are awesome basketball schools. That’s where I’m from, North Carolina. That’s real basketball. Let me tell you why they are great. They are great because little kids in North Carolina cut their teeth on being in the right position. When you are in the right position, what happens? You are going to be the best player. [Ed tells the people in the media booth…] You can turn it off now. Everybody is starting to watch television instead of listening. When you are in the right position, the right spot, things happen. Great players are people who understand great positions. The same is true in the Christian life. If you are out of position, you are not going to be blessed. Good things will not happen like God wants them to. It’s not going to happen for you or for me.
Well, once I understand appreciation, once I am right vertically, once I automatically give God and strategically and intentionally give God worship and appreciation, then that segues into the horizontal domain. Then, I am in a position to receive the mighty blessings of God, because God wants to bless our lives. I want to bless my children’s lives and you want to bless your children’s lives. When we are appreciative to God, it moves his heart and it softens our heart. We can absorb God’s blessing. If I am not appreciative of God, my heart is hardened. Blessings bounce off of my hard heart.
Do you know what is so fascinating about the Bible? Do you know what is so difficult about many of things of the Bible? You see, the Holy Spirit gets into our kitchen. The Holy Spirit gets into our motives.
The Bible talks a lot about something. Let me be specific here — money. I can talk about money now, because we have already received the offering. So just chill. Why does the Bible talk so much about money and the motivation of money? Money is not evil. The love of money is root of all evil. Not money. Money is neutral. Money could be great. For some reason, though, when we make money, we think it’s ours, don’t we? Well, God says, “It’s not yours. It’s mine. I blessed you with it. I gave it to you.” One of the ways, a litmus test of our maturity, our faithfulness and our generosity is this whole thing with money. Money and blessings are inseparably linked. If I am stingy with my money, then I am not going to be blessed. If I am generous with my money, then I will be blessed.
This is what God said in Malachi 3:8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” What’s a tithe? Ten percent. The first 10 percent of everything you make or I make.
[The Scripture continues], “You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me.” The Israelites were bringing this weak stuff to God. They were not really tithing. It goes on, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house. Test me in this.” This is the only place in the Bible where God says to test him. [The scripture concludes], “And see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
God said it. I didn’t say it. But, let me say again, what God said, “If we are not giving a minimum of 10 percent (I’m talking to Christians now) to the local house of worship, then we are not going to be blessed to our full potential.” I’ll just tell you, that’s just the way it is. So, don’t wander around going, “I wonder why I’m not really blessed. I wonder why I am not experiencing the power of God,” when you are throwing little pocket change God’s way. It’s not going to happen.
Lisa and I, since we have been married, have been giving 10 percent to our local house of worship for 20 years. Now we give a lot more than 10 percent. I cannot tell you the blessings of God. One of the reasons I believe that we are such a blessed family is because of that situation. But, again, it’s your deal. I can’t make you do that. I have just got to tell you what God said. I told you it is very convicting.
Let’s go ahead and change the subject. A while back, I was in the Northwest, and I saw this beautiful river. I watched the current of the river. Rivers are very relaxing, aren’t they? I was just watching that river just flow. A guy walked up to me and I began to talk to him. He told me that he spent a lot of time on the river.
I said, “I don’t really know a lot about the river. Why don’t you explain to me just kind of the basics of the river?”
He said, “Okay. What’s your name?”
I said, “Ed. What’s your name?”
He said, “Bob.”
Cool. Ed and Bob standing on the bank of the river, just checking it out.
He said, “Ed, do you see that water right there behind the rock kind of swirling?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “The water is going round and around, isn’t it?”
I said, “Yeah.”
He said, “You know what that is called?”
I said, “No.”
He said, “That’s called an ‘eddy.’”
I thought, “Bob, that’s pretty funny. Ed and eddy.”
He said, “You know, when I go down the river, I want to be in the current. I don’t want to hit an eddy. Because, if I hit an eddy, then I go around and around, and it’s not a good thing.”
I thought, “What this guy is saying is all about life, isn’t it?” That’s the way we should live our life. That’s what the Bible says. The Bible says we should be rivers. We should go with the flow. God flows blessings and love to us and he wants us to allow it to flow through us to others and to the church. He wants us to leverage our time, our talent and our treasure for kingdom stuff. That’s what God desires. But, too many times, we live in an eddy where we just go around and around in this spin cycle of selfishness and sin. That shouldn’t be.
Appreciation – we take our eyes off of ourselves and we put them on God. It moves the heart of God and positions us for blessings. There is a third thing that occurs. Living a life of thank you increases our spiritual depth and it advances the cause of Christ. Is that cool? It increases our depth and it advances the cause of Christ.
Let’s go back to the healed leper colony in Luke 17:15-16. “One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.” I call that devotion — praising God in a loud voice.
“He threw himself at Christ’s feet.” He displayed it. So, he was devoted and he displayed it.
“And thanked him.” He described it. That is 3-D depth — devotion, a display of the devotion and a description of the devotion. That is what the healed leper did, and that is what we should do. God wants us to live 3-D lives. He wants us to increase our depth and advance the cause of Christ.
Let’s talk about devotion for a second. Psalm 100:4 says, “Enter his gates (or his presence) with thanksgiving.” As I said earlier, a high percentage of our worship and our prayers should be “thank yous” to God.
“God, thank you. God, you are so awesome. I should enter, God, your presence, I should enter your church, and I should enter life everyday with appreciation. I’m devoted in worship.”
That’s why it’s important to have the private worship and, also, the public worship. If I am right privately, I am going to be right publicly. Are you a worshipper of God? Are you showing appreciation to him? Because, if you are, I guarantee you that you are showing appreciation to others. Show me a positive person, show me someone who is enthusiastic, and I will show you someone who is a person who knows how to express “thank you.” On the other hand, if you show me someone who is negative, whining, complaining, consumed by criticism, and going rude on others, then I’ll show you someone who doesn’t understand the power of appreciation. I’ll show you someone who chokes down on giving compliments. So, we need to be devoted.
Psalm 92:1says, “It’s good to give thanks to the Lord, and sing praises to Your name, O most high.”
Teenagers think they are mature, but in reality they are immature. Have you noticed that? When I was a teenager, I thought I was mature. I thought I knew what was going on. I thought I knew the deal, but, in reality, I was immature. Because, as a teenager, I thought mostly about myself.
“That’s not fair. Why did Ben get that and I didn’t get this? What about me? I don’t like that.”
It’s just the way it is with teenagers. It’s okay, teenagers. It’s cool. That’s just the way you are. You think you are mature, but you are really immature. You are mature in some areas. But basically, you are immature.
The same is true spiritually. People who think they are mature spiritually, are really immature. If you think you are mature, I guarantee you that you are immature. Immature believers are the first to whine, the first to complain. “What about me? I’m not getting this and they got that. What’s wrong? How come they got blessed and not me?”
Mature believers are people who are appreciative and who understand the power of “thank you.” They are always saying, “Yeah, God.” A high percentage of their prayers is about thanking God. They are thanking God in worship, thanking God with their money, thanking God with their time, and thanking God with their abilities. Everything is a giant, “Thank you.” That’s maturity. They are really thinking, and because they are really thinking, they are thankful. That’s being devoted.
Mature people have another aspect of this 3-D living. They are people who display their appreciation. God is a gift giver. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
We have a desire to give and receive gifts. It’s given to us by God. Are you a gift giver? You should be. It’s a good thing. It’s a God thing. We should give gifts — gifts of meaning, gifts of power — to others, because it energizes them. It’s one thing to say, “Yes, I’m devoted,” but show it. Are you giving to others? Because, when we give to others, it helps to loosen our grasps on the things that we think are ours.
How about description? That’s the third part of the 3-D life. Do you describe how you feel to others?
“Well, they know how I feel, Ed. She knows how I feel. I don’t have to tell her. If I told this person, they might get the big head and go on an ego trip. Man, I can’t do that.”
I have never met someone who said, “You know, Ed, I’m on an ego trip because people have displayed their appreciation to me and they described it to me with email and letters. That’s why I have a whacked out ego.”
I have never met that person. People are on ego trips because they are just selfish and sinful. It’s not because people give them too many compliments. It’s really that they are insecure because they don’t receive the stuff. The right words, man, are so potent. God knew this. That’s why we have the Bible. He’s gone on record in black and white, “Here’s what I feel about you. Here’s how much I appreciate you.” Do you do that to others? Writing those notes and writing those “thank yous.”
“It doesn’t mean that much.”
Yes, it does. Several months ago, a pastor in his seventies wrote me a letter. It just ambushed me with the appreciation, the grace and the mercy of what God is doing here at Fellowship Church. It meant the world to me to read it. He just jotted a couple lines on a thank you note. There is power in a “thank you.”
Two trajectory-changing words, two words that are like two shots of espresso. What is “thank you?” “Thank you” is basically a present action for a past transaction. When we say, “Thank you,” it’s a present action for God’s past transaction. What’s the transaction? The fact that Jesus was nailed to this cross, the fact that he died, and that he spilled his blood so we can know God. We can to confess our sins, turn from our sins, ask Christ to come into our lives, and we can know God.
So, against the backdrop of all these blessings, do you know what I believe God is saying? Against the backdrop of this cross, do you know what I am thinking that God is saying? He is saying, “What do you say? What do you say? What do you say for all of this?”