Fighting My Way Toward Gratitude

Last week, my husband Warren posted a blog about “Christian Fight Clubs” that definitely carried with it a male perspective on how to battle sin. Since then, I’ve been thinking how I might follow up on his line of thinking. I guess I’d like to suggest that starting a Christian Fight Club isn’t just for the guys; we girls can and should be living lives of transparency and – here comes that dreaded word – accountability with each other, helping each other to battle the sin we see in our lives. Like everyone else on the planet, I am blind to my own sin and have strategically placed other women in my life to help me see what I am missing. We all need others to be honest with us without fearing some sort of “relational penalty.”

Yesterday’s sermon at The Crossing – “Temptation” by Dave Cover – has emboldened me to reveal a destructive – and I think, common – sin that I see in my own life, namely that of grumbling, or discontent.

GratitudeIt’s my understanding that in 1 Corinthians 10:6-13, the Apostle Paul is alluding to the grumbling of the Israelites in the desert during the exodus. And of course it’s true that the Israelites complain quite a bit about the hardship they find in the desert. I have to think that trudging through sand for days on end wouldn’t be much fun, but nevertheless I tend to read through these passages with a judgmental attitude toward God’s people. I mean, come on; they had just seen God do many amazing things right before their eyes as He worked ten powerful wonders in Egypt as part of His design to release Israel from Pharaoh¹s grip. And then, afterward, each of these same people walked through the Red Sea on dry ground as God Himself provided a miraculous way out of an impossible situation. With Egypt’s army bearing down on them and nowhere to turn, God provides an escape, and destroys the enemy of the Israelites without them doing a thing. One would think this would leave a lasting impression, right?

It doesn’t seem to.

God, through Moses, leads the Israelites out of slavery. Within days they are complaining about being thirsty, hungry and – after food has been faithfully and miraculously provided in the form of manna – they complain because they are bored with the limited kind of food. I can just imagine them stepping over the miracle of God’s provision of bread laying on the ground to go in search of something more interesting to eat.

Wow. What a bunch of entitled twerps! ​Surely I​ would never do such a thing.

​Oh, but I do. I am an entitled twerp, ​too; I am far more discontent with the circumstances of my life than I care to admit. I am discontent with the quality of some of my relationships. I am discontent that I even have to be in relationship with others. I am often discontent with how busy I am, but when something on my schedule gets cancelled, then I’m discontent about that. Yesterday I was discontent with the way my hair looked. Today I am discontent with the bitter cold weather. I am often discontent with the upward trend in my weight and the lack of an upward trend in my savings account. (I am especially discontent with that last one…more than I know I should be.)

There is something in Paul’s exhortation to the people of Corinth to watch out for idolatry that really got my attention yesterday morning: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Yesterday, Dave pointed out that the word “temptation” in Paul’s writing can also mean “testing.” So whenever we come up against something that tests our faith, Paul says that God has faithfully provided a way to overcome that testing or trial.

I’ve always thought of these verses and their allusion to the “temptations of idolatry” as things bigger than grumbling, but it seems to me that when I am tempted to “grumble” about anything that seems in any way “less than” in my life, I am “willfully forgetting” God’s faithfulness. God is asking, “Do you trust Me?” and in my grumbling my answer is “No, not really. I need something more than what You’ve provided to be happy.”

And right there is the idolatry in my life.

My discontent over the way I look reveals that I have an unhealthy preoccupation with how I look on the outside, rather than a godly concern over what God sees in my innermost being. My discontent over the balance of my bank account reveals that I am looking to money for security, rather than looking to God as my Protector.

Our complaining reveals that we are blind to the all the ways in which God has been faithfully providing for us as He leads us through the “desert” of a larger world that seems to care little for His precepts. Even when we can’t see it, we know He is caring for us because He is faithful; and after all, if we’re still breathing, then God is actively showing faithfulness in our lives.

For me, anyway, the first step away from a life as “entitled twerp” is to look around and see all the manna lying on the ground around me. Gratitude is the act of acknowledging all the ways in which God has provided; it’s a strong weapon in the battle against grumbling. Gratitude is in itself a gift from God, as I have proven over and over that I cannot conjure up contentment in my own heart. This may be God’s way of providing a way out of this particular testing – this temptation to think of my life as “less than” – and to help me flee from idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10:6-13
Now these things took place as example for us, that we might desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were, as it is written, “the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to place.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

One Comment

  1. Sarah Gilliam said:

    Michele; a good start is Ann Voskamp’s 1000 Gifts
    It teaches about having a thankful heart.

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