Grateful in all Things - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Tainted Gratitude

And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” – Esther 5:11-13 ESV

In the story of Esther, the villain is a man named Haman. His selfishness and ambition have him fighting against anyone he doesn’t like; his ultimate nemesis being Queen Esther’s uncle, Mordecai. After Mordecai doesn’t bow or defer to him in anyway, Haman goes home to pout to his friends and his wife.

Haman starts listing all the great things in his life: money, large family, and promotions in the royal court. If the story stopped there, it would almost sound like Haman is doing a wonderful job of practicing gratitude. Isn’t that what we’re told to do when we’re struggling with a problem or perspective issue? We’re supposed to stop and count our blessings and keep things in perspective. Haman, however, is a very evil man. All this focus on his blessings only leads him to hate Mordecai more and agree to his wife’s awful plan to kill him. Why does him listing blessing foreshadow murder when we’re told it’s helpful for us?

Gratitude isn’t about focusing on what you have, purely for the sake of recognizing how awesome you have it. It’s not about listing what you’ve accomplished or how the world sees you. All those things still keep you at the center of your own attention. It is easy to use our view of our blessings, even the ones we fully give God credit for, and then to use that to be about us. We make it about what we’ve accomplished, or how hard we worked, or what we did for those people, or how much we’ve earned what we have.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Gratitude is supposed to be about a perspective shift to focusing less on yourself and more on God. It should be about seeing God in all our circumstances and blessing him for who He is. 1 Chronicles 16:34 says, “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” Give thanks why? Because God is good. Not because I accomplished good things, and not because I’m comfortable and not because I have more blessings that most of the world.

Haman’s listing of his accomplishments was to add fuel to the fire that he deserved the homage he wanted from Mordecai. He wasn’t being grateful, he was puffing up his own ego. His own sense of self had poisoned his perspective to the point that he didn’t even have a shred of real gratitude left in him.

Most of us, of course, aren’t that depraved or selfish. We don’t use our blessings to bloat our sense of self-worth. However, just because we aren’t as extreme as Haman doesn’t mean that we always have pure motivations in pondering our blessings.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy that I live in a wonderful home with hot, running water and live only minutes from several well-stocked groceries stores. I’m thankful for His abundance, but I don’t want my comfort to be the ultimate source of my gratitude. I want my knowledge of God to prompt awe and love and gratefulness because I know Him and who He is brings me to my knees with heart overflowing with gratitude. Then all the blessings in the world will become more and more beautiful and my heart will become more and more aligned with Him.

 


A Future And A Hope - Jeremiah 29:11

Peace During Troubles

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. – Jeremiah 29:10-11 NKJV

Jeremiah 29:11 is very commonly quoted scriptures. Searching the internet for images of this scripture brings up many fancy and beautifully made images of it. It is a wonderful verse of hope and promise. Often this verse is looked at without the context of the passage around it. In and of itself, it’s a good verse, but by adding in the context of what’s happening around it, we find this promise to be extra special in the context of troubled times.

This verse is given to the Israelites after the Babylonians had come in and taken their people captive. They were in exile in a foreign land and they were looking for hope that they would be able to come back home. Jeremiah receives this message from the Lord and it’s a message of peace to the people who have just had their entire lives upturned and uprooted (Jeremiah 29:4)

In the first part of the chapter, we hear God telling His people to settle into the land of Babylon. They are not to fight or rise up or listen to people who encourage anything other than this (v. 5-9). God also says in verse 4 that this exile has been allowed by God.

The comfort from this passage is this: no matter where you are or how hopeless your circumstances seem, God has not forsaken you. He knows where you are and how you got there and what’s going to happen to you tomorrow. God is always bigger than our circumstances and He is working for our good and His eternal plan.

Verse 10 begins God promise to Israel: your captivity will end, I know the day and I will keep my Word that you will come home. But it also contains an unpleasant truth, this captivity will last 70 years.

The hope we can glean from this is knowing that God knows the exact passage out that we need. He knows when to bring it and He will, because He is good. We can trust Him and live in peace knowing that He’s the ultimate authority in our lives.

Now, we come to the verse of promise. Verse 11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” This promise is even sweeter when we know that it’s God reminding a lost and hurting people that they won’t be lost forever. God is working toward the good of all of his people, not simply the people in one time or in one place. His plan for a future and a hope is good and trustworthy. No matter what we feel like or see around us, we can rely on that.

What’s your captivity right now? What’s your struggle that feels like it’s overwhelming you? God has an appointed time for you to step into His blessing. Lean on His word and live in peace while His plans come to a beautiful conclusion.