For years, Bryan Williams had told a story of incredible survival, but each time he told it grew in mythical status.
The first time he told the story it was probably the truth.
He went to Iraq to cover the war as a reporter for MSNBC and took a helicopter ride. When he landed, he found out that a helicopter an hour ahead of his was shot at from the ground.
Over the next few years as he retold the story, the helicopters distance grew closer, until finally it was his helicopter that was the one that was shot at. At one point he even described seeing the shooter on the ground and described his emotional state as he saw his life flash before his eyes.
Eventually, some of the guys who had been there during the time couldn’t handle hearing him be introduced as a guy who was shot at in Iraq, and they told the truth about the story. Soon after that, Bryan Williams lost his job and became the butt of every joke dealing with exaggerating stories.
As I have thought about Bryan Williams, I’ve thought about the temptation in every heart to live incredible experiences. We all want to be able to tell stories of survival that would make us look good in the eyes of others around us. We’re all tempted to exaggerate stories and to make ourselves look better that we actually do.
And yet, as believers, we have a story that we can tell as often as we want that cannot be exaggerated. We have experienced something far greater, more unbelievable, and more supernatural than anything anyone can experience on earth. We have been given a new heart.
And yet over time, unlike Bryan Williams’ story that grew more and more untrue, our story dwindles. We can become less excited to talk about it. When we think about our salvation, it becomes a great day among many, and our understanding about what happened that day gets fogged up with the worries of life.
The fact of the matter is that if we are saved, then we are walking miracles and it is impossible to over-exaggerate just how desperate our situation was.
Ephesians 2:1-3 paints the picture perfectly. It describes our situation as the worst it could possibly be; we were dead. It wasn’t a bad situation, we weren’t drowning, we weren’t “in trouble,” we were completely dead. “Mostly dead” only works in the movies. And that’s when God, in His great love, intervened and saved us by making us alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5).
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we are reminded of the woman in Luke 7:36-50. As Jesus was eating with Simon the Pharisee, a woman came and began to cry over Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair and anointing them with expensive perfume. Simon was scandalized by the fact that Jesus would let a prostitute touch Him. So Jesus said, “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, He graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?” Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have judged correctly.”
The question we should ask ourselves this thanksgiving is, “how much have I been forgiven?”
The Bible tells us that we deserve God’s wrath (John 3:36), that our hearts are desperately evil (Jer. 17:9), and that we were dead spiritually and unable to please Him (Rom. 8:8). And the more we tried to dig our way out of our situation with good works, the more we brought God’s wrath on us. Perhaps we struggle with thankfulness because we have forgotten how much we have truly been forgiven.
If you are someone who tends to under-dramatize your salvation, let this thanksgiving be an opportunity for you to once again refresh the wonder of your salvation. Let’s talk about and once again be amazed by how great our salvation is.
The Bible states that man falls short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and the more we recognize the gap between us and Him, the more thankful we will be. The reality is that the gap between us and Him is eternal, and the more we comprehend the vastness of the gap the more thankful we will be. In other words, we should be eternally thankful because we have been forgiven an eternal debt.
Let me encourage you this thanksgiving to share your testimony. Most Christians have unbelieving friends and family who will be present. Many stories are told at the thanksgiving table–some true, some embellished, and some flat out lies. Let’s not forget about the one story that we have experienced that is the most incredible of all. At some point, this Thanksgiving, take some time to share the story of your salvation. And remember that you can embellish it as much as you want because you will never be able to exaggerate just how amazing and dramatic it is.