With the Thanksgiving holiday, it is fitting that God has given me the subject of gratitude for this week’s post. More than just taking one day to give thanks for the people and things we have in our lives, I’d like to go deeper and discuss on going attitudes of our hearts.
For years as a young wife and mother I had deep internal struggles. Besides the sex addict lurking within; I lived with constant discontentment, envy, resentment, and anger just to name a few. As a family we were attending a large Southern Baptist Church. We were learning a lot of biblical doctrine but not how to put God’s Word to work in our lives. We were fortunate to be living in our home town of Odessa, Texas near long time friends and extended family. I had a loving husband going to college in order to provide a better future for our quickly growing family. We were very poor but our basic needs were being met. But for me all I could see was what we didn’t have… more money to get a nicer house, clothes, and a car.
Even after Bill graduated from college and we started having all those ‘things’ I was still unhappy. I resented his college education and his corporate job with an important title that allowed him to travel and meet people. I was always comparing myself and our lives to others. The grass was always greener in some one else’s life. From the outside I put on a good show. Oh yes, I was a happily married Christian woman, Sunday School teacher, choir member and dutiful home school mom. But on the inside I was completely miserable. The saddest part was I didn’t know how miserable I was.
Fast forward 15 years… Summer 2004… My evil twin, the lurking sex addict within, had been in control for 7 years. I had destroyed life as I had known it. I had allowed the enemy to steal my faith, my marriage, my family, my job, my home, my car, my cell phone privileges and finally my freedom… I was in jail.
All the things I had once thought important were now gone with no hope of returning any time soon. The Bible says it is the goodness of God that calls us to repent and that is exactly what happened to me. First I had to get to the end of myself; to the end of what my ‘flesh’ wanted, before I could see what God wanted for me was good. Finally, I surrendered. I gave up trying to do anything in my own power. I decided no matter where I was, whether rich or poor, I can do it, but only with God’s help.
In one of my favorite Old Testament chapters, II Chronicles 20, the nation of Judah’s enemies were the Ammonites and the Moabites. With news of impending war with these surrounding nations, King Jehoshaphat became terrified. Instead of being overcome by his emotion he ordered all the people to fast as he sought God for guidance with this simple prayer:
“O our God, won’t you stop them? We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” — II Chronicles 20:12
Our enemies aren’t like the Old Testament enemies. We aren’t at war with other nations and peoples. It’s sometimes difficult to recognize our enemy even when it’s staring us in the face. Yes, our main enemy is Satan and his dark forces, but our enemy can be anything that keeps us from living God’s best life for us… poverty, lack, depression. We can’t get sucked into a mind set that just because we’ve always been poor that we’re supposed to stay poor. Our enemy may be marriage problems, uncomfortable living conditions, health issues, etc…
What about self? When we put our selfish desires before God’s will for our lives we become our own worst enemy. We think we have the best plan. God should remove this hardship. Do it our way. But sometimes we must go through difficulties. God may be trying to teach us something in these hard times. That’s when we must ask Him to teach us quickly what He would have us learn! What distinguishes a mature servant? One who can be content with what they have!
Even today, God convicts me…
Ugh… the toilet seat is up again… don’t complain be thankful you’re not alone!
Huff… can’t get comfortable on this small double bed… don’t complain, you have a bed!
Sigh… still living in a hotel room… don’t complain, you have a roof over your head!
We alone are powerless over our enemies, but whatever our enemy, it is not bigger than our God! God told King Jehoshaphat and the people to march toward the enemy’s camp singing and shouting praises on their way:
“Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” – II Chronicles 20:21
Notice, they didn’t worry they worshiped! They didn’t sit around waiting for God to deliver them. They went to the battle. They pressed in to the enemy. This is a wonderful lesson for us today in the midst of our battles. Are we living in misery or contentment? Can we find reason to praise God even in the midst of troubles? Are we grumbling and complaining, just sitting around saying what we see all day long or are we marching forward into the battle singing and shouting praises to our King?
Many Christians are unhappy; entranced by things of the world, they are looking for satisfaction in things apart from Jesus. Zig Ziglar says, “The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise man grows it under his feet.” As believers we don’t have to look far for happiness, we can find it in Jesus who makes his home right here with us.
If you read the rest of II Chronicles 20 you’ll see that God went before them as they marched into battle praising Him. When they arrived the battle had already been won. God had caused the enemies to fight amongst themselves killing them all. God wants to fight our battles for us. But it is up to us to let him.
Let’s have an attitude of gratitude. Let’s not give more power to our enemies by focusing on them. We must thank God for delivering us our enemies.
Remember, Praise always proceeds the victory!
He is Faithful! Forever!