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.


Wisdom Is Better Than Riches - Proverbs 3:13-14

What Would You Ask For?

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered God, “You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. … Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” – 2 Chronicles 1:7-8, 10 NIV

In the first chapter of the book of 2 Chronicles, Solomon is offered by the Lord anything he wants. Solomon’s response is that he would like the knowledge and wisdom to rule over Israel. Let’s take a moment and think about what just happened in this exchange. If the Lord, the most High God appeared to you and asked, ““Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” (2 Chronicles 1:7 NIV), would knowledge and wisdom be the first thing on your lips to request? Would you be more concerned about doing well at your job than health and wealth for you and yours?

It might help to understand where Solomon is coming from if we look at his response to learn about his frame of mind when the Lord asked this question. In verse 10, Solomon says, “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10 NIV). The key phrase here is, “for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” It doesn’t say what exactly he’s feeling right now. What I do know is that when I use phrases like that, I’m feeling overwhelmed. When I look at the work ahead of me and say, “Nobody could get all this done in time!” or “I have no idea how this is going to happen! I wish I could make a copy of myself.” The days that I feel inferior or not up to the task, those are the days that I can most relate to what Solomon is saying here.

Knowing that Solomon is feeling woefully inadequate also shows us a peek into God’s heart, as well. God knew that Solomon felt unworthy of the task. God also knew that Solomon walked with Him and honored Him. God’s heart to bless Solomon stepped it up right when the need was feeling overwhelming.

When you are feeling at the end of your rope, what do you request of God? When your heart is burdened and hurting, what would you have God give you? Does the heart of a servant come out, or does selfishness take the first step? When we feel overwhelmed, we can learn a lot about our true heart by seeing what actions we take. Learn to be a humble servant before the Lord, even when you’re up against the wall. God will always step up and bless those who ask in humility.

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. – Proverbs 3:13-15 ESV


Blessed Is Hope In God - Pslam 146:5

What I’m Most Grateful For

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. – Psalm 146:1-7 ESV

I have so many things to be grateful for; I could spend several blog posts on how much I love my life! However, I won’t (as interesting as I find my life, it’s never that interesting to anyone else… 😀 ). instead, I’m going to focus on gratitude for the only thing that matters: my relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.

I’m so grateful that He came to this earth and died for me (John 3:16) that I might know Him and spend forever with Him (John 17:3). I’m learning more about Him all the time and I can say that my relationship with Him is deeper than I used to know was possible and it’s getting better all the time. By the way, it’s that way because of Him, not because of me (Psalm 145:18). I’m a low-down selfish sinner. Excuse me, I WAS a low-down selfish sinner. Now, I’m a child of God (1 John 3:1), joint-heir with Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17), and I reflect His divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

For this, I have not earned it, but I have been gifted this grace. Only by Christ’s sacrifice have I been offered this amazing relationship (Ephesians 2:8).

Have you accepted this relationship and are you living with Him daily? It’s worth it, believe me.

The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 146:8-10 ESV

You Have Wholly Followed the Lord - Joshua 14:9

Be the Losing Voice

In Numbers chapter 13, we see Caleb, a strong man of God among the Israelites who left Egypt, choosing to be the losing voice in a pressure filled situation. Caleb was one of 12 men who were sent to scout out the land of promise after leaving the slavery of Egypt. They were told to look over the land God had given to them and report back to the Israelites. After their spying trip, they met up with the people and delivered a report: it’s good, but not that good. They agreed that it was bountiful land flowing with milk and honey, but it also happened to have big cities and big dudes in it (Numbers 13:32-33).

Imagine, if you will, standing in the stead of Caleb. Not only do 11 of the leaders of the Israelites disagree with you, the people are most likely going to side with them. Who wants to face giants and walled cities? Think of the most peer-pressured situation you’ve faced and how it felt to be up against it. Imagine the adrenaline and the physical pressure and stress of wanting to go against what the others are saying. If you go with the flow, no troubles. If you stand against it, even your own body reacts, sweating and shaking. There’s the fear of what others will say or even do if you don’t agree with them. I imagine that Caleb felt all that. He not only had the peer-pressure of the situation, but he’d seen the threats first-hand. He knew how big the cities were and how strong the enemy looked.

In spite of all that, he chose to be the losing voice and stand up for what the Lord had promised. He not only voiced his opinion, he made sure the whole crowd was quiet before he started speaking, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” His response showed no fear and sense of urgency. He wanted to go right now and occupy the land. The giants? The cities? No worries, we got this!

Caleb was the reminder voice. Caleb was God giving the Israelite a final choice to obey him. In spite of all the blessing of God and Caleb’s dissenting opinion, the Israelites chose to take the deceitful path that seemed safer, but really took them away from blessing. How heartbreaking for Caleb! His words make him sound like a passionate type of person and I can’t imagine how frustrated and disappointed he was that they’d chosen so poorly.

It’s easy to think that the story stops there, but it doesn’t. God isn’t done with his faithful servant. We find Caleb again in two places, Deuteronomy 1:35-36 and Joshua 14:6-15. First, in Deuteronomy, Moses tells us something special about Caleb.

‘Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the LORD.’ (Deuteronomy 1:35-36 NKJV)

God had seen the faithfulness of Caleb and he’d remembered him and let him enter the Promised Land when everyone else who had been his peer was condemned to die.

The next time we see Caleb, the Israelites have entered Canaan and started claiming the land. They’ve reached the part of the land that Caleb helped spy out and he goes to Joshua (the only other person who was allowed to enter the Promised Land from that generation).

“I [was] forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as [it was] in my heart. … “So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the LORD my God.’ “And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.” As yet I [am as] strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength [was] then, so now [is] my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. (Joshua 14:7, 9-11 NKJV)

What a crazy life! He’s now 85 and he’s just as strong as he was at 40. Granted, people in this part of the Bible are living a little longer than we live, 100 – 120 years. But even with that slightly longer lifespan, 85 is still pushing the higher end. And to say that his strength is the same, and he’s ready to fight? Amazing!

I wish I could know the sweetness and victory in this moment for Caleb. He had to endure 40 years of wandering in the dessert with the faithless generation. But here, finally was the answer to the prayers he’d been praying, and he wasn’t going to miss out at all!

When we have to wait for blessings that we know God is holding for us, sometimes we can feel that it won’t be as good or we won’t be able to enjoy it as much, if we’re too old. But when God promises something he’s faithful and He doesn’t go half-way. He blessed Caleb and, on top of the blessing, he gave him the strength and energy to do what he was willing to do all those years before.

God is good and His blessing are amazing! It’s always worth the cost of obedience and God will never, ever forget His servants.