Giving up means giving thanks.

Homily 571 – 27 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
December 10, 2023
Epistle – (233) Ephesians 6:10-17
Gospel – (85) Luke 17:12-19

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

The beginning of self-denial is being thankful.

It is perhaps a bold statement – nevertheless, a true one.  When we are thankful, we are acknowledging, powerfully, that whatever has transpired is not of our doing.

The 10 lepers are healed, and one returns to give thanks.  That one – the one who returns – recognizes and acknowledges that the healing wasn’t self-created.  He recognizes that he did nothing, and that the one he thanks did it all.

It is critically important that when good things come our way, when we are blessed with anything, we give thanks for it.  Even the mundane things.  When we eat, we give thanks for our food – we offer a blessing.  We recognize that God is the one who provides for us.

There are so many things that we take pride in – that we believe we have accomplished on our own.  Career accomplishments.  Sports excellence.  Our own attractiveness.

That isn’t to say we haven’t had something to do with it – we have!  We have put ourselves into everything we do.  We work hard, with diligence and endurance.

But we can never, ever think that we accomplish anything alone.  God is always there.  Everything we do – everything we are – cooperates with God.  We can still be pleased with ourselves and our efforts.

As long as we acknowledge God’s ultimate control, and God’s ultimate origination.

When we rise in the morning, we thank God for giving us another day for His purposes.  When we set off to accomplish some task, we thank God for providing us the transportation we use.  When we arrive at our destination, we thank God for bringing us there safely.

Throughout the day, we thank God for the opportunities to serve Him.  We thank God for our clients, our customers, our co-workers – yes, even our supervisors.

When we give thanks, we remind mostly ourselves that everything comes from God.  We need that reminder.  It is way too easy for us to cruise through our day and week and think what we have accomplished, and forget that God makes it all possible.

But not only the good things.  We should give thanks for the things we encounter that we call “bad.”  The painful things, the uncomfortable things, the tragic things.

We give thanks for these things, even when we aren’t really thankful emotionally, we give thanks because the Scriptures tell us that all things are sent by God, and they are sent for our salvation.

So, by definition, they are good things!  Even the painful, even the tragic, are good things, because they are sent by God for our salvation.  We have to stop evaluating them, and give thanks for them.

We have to stop calling them good, or bad, and start recognizing that if the thing turns us toward God, it is a good thing.  If it turns us away from God, it is a bad thing.

We could win the lottery, which most would consider a good thing, but if we turned away from God, believing that now we are self-sufficient, that now we no longer need God – it becomes a very, very bad thing for us.

If we lose our employment, which most would consider a bad thing, and as a result turned to God for help, turned to God for our sustenance, then it becomes a good thing.

The thing itself is really a neutral thing – neither good nor bad.  It just is.  If we turn toward God, it becomes good; if we turn away from God it becomes bad.

And turning toward God in every event and every circumstance begins with recognizing that everything, both pleasurable and painful, joyful and tragic, comes from God.  And giving Him thanks for that.

We don’t have to feel any particular feeling or emotion.  We are not being disingenuous when we tell God thanks while we are feeling quite angry or scared.  We offer Him thanks, in part, to remind ourselves that the events we experience will result in our salvation – if we let them.

So, as we go through our day, as we go through our week, be conscious of the things that happen, and offer thanks to God.  Recognize God’s presence in your life, and the lives of the people around you.

Be thankful for everything.  St. Paul said it in the first letter to the Thessalonians.  In everything give thanks – not just the pleasurable or joyful things.

In everything.  Be the one of the 10 who returns and gives thanks.  Don’t follow the crowd.  Start with giving thanks.

When we start with giving thanks, we will find out that our lives slowly change.  We begin to give up our expectations.  We begin to see that expectations are revealing our will to us, not God’s will for us.

But in giving up that desire to control, we can breathe again.  Our stress level drops, because instead of working toward an outcome, we can relax, and enjoy the moments we have, knowing that whatever comes our way is from God.

Even the painful things are from God?  Probably not – they are probably from the evil one, but they are most certainly allowed by God.  Read the book of Job, and how God allowed Job to experience the things of the evil one, and how Job maintained that he wasn’t in any position to question God.

Even when he did question God, he did it with thanksgiving, never giving up and never believing God somehow no longer loved him.

Be like Job.  Don’t give up – give thanks.  And find the love of the Creator in everything that comes your way.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.