Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Gratitude For the Impossible

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, 
and thanksgivings be made for all people,  
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful 
and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, 
and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  
who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 (emphasis added)

Gratitude is one of those things... it is easy to walk out when times are great or something thoughtful has been done for us or we are pleased with the results of a situation.  But walking out gratitude in difficulty... that is another story.

How do we do that?  How do we walk out gratitude when all we are thrown is curve balls?  How do we walk out gratitude when people are difficult?  Sure, I can be thankful for the discount I enjoyed at the grocery store the other day... but certainly I don't have to be thankful for the person who cut me off driving home or the lady I learned has been talking bad about me behind my back.

This past week, we, as Americans, had the awesome opportunity to VOTE.  To cast our voice out there for whomever we felt would be the best fit for our ideals and our states/country.  Maybe 'your guy' got in, maybe he/she didn't.  I know many are frustrated with how things are being ran... have been being ran for a long time.  Anger sparks.  Debates happen.  I know of friendships which have suffered over mere political differences.  Sparks fly and the news is wrought with headlines reflecting the toxicity bubbling over.

As I read 1 Timothy this morning it struck me: God, through Paul, to Timothy says here to make supplications, prayers, even intercessions AND THANKSGIVING for all people.  If we stop there we can say: well, I guess I should pray this way for the person who cut me off in traffic or that gossip spreading lies.  And, yes, that is exactly what this says.  But wait, there is more.

This passage goes on to say these same prayers and these same "all people" also includes kings and ALL who are in high positions.  Yes, even the guy/gal in charge at work as well as in local/state/federal government.  ALLLLLLLL of them.  Seem hard? 

Consider this: when these words were penned the people in charge were....?  Do you know?  Yup, the ROMANS.  I'm not simply talking just toga wearing, road building, chariot driving Romans... no, think in more detail; I'm talking persecution carrying, godS worshiping, 'only Caesar is great' believing Romans... the same guys who would feed the early Christians to wild beasts for sport, burn their bodies to light their dinner parties and persecute to the point that many had to take to living in the sewers and grave 'yards' under the cities. 

These guys are the ones God, through Paul, to Timothy said to Pray for, supplicate, intercede, and THANK God for. 

Does that turn your world upside down?

I know it turned mine upside down.  We want to complain about legislation or walls to be/not to be built, or a boss who won't give us off the time we want or a spouse who is being difficult... or that gossip or rude driver.  But the original hearer of this text would have been grateful for the simplicity of our modern problems.  And what grabs me, just as much as the command and style of prayer here, is why we are to pray.  For this we need to rewind to chapter 1:

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with 
the prophecies previously made about you, that by them 
you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. 
By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith,
1 Timothy 1:18-19 (emphasis added)

From here Paul says, in 2:1, First of all, then, I urge that....  why?  Because prayer in this way is how we wage the GOOD warfare and hold the faith in good conscience.  BUT, if we reject God's call for us to lay aside our finite opinions and perceptions and reject the path God has for us to pursue peace, well, in chapter 1, Paul says it will make a shipwreck of our faith. 

BUT, IF we pray in this way, for ALL, God has commanded here, 1 Timothy 2 says we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.  It continues in saying this is not just "good", but that it is "pleasing in the sight of God..."  You could even read more into this passage by noticing how it says He desires that ALL people be saved and come to the knowledge of truth... is this to say our prayers, supplications, intercessions and thanksgiving help people come to that place... especially people in high positions?  

I believe it does.

As prayer warriors, even for those whom we want to spout venomously about, we are fighting a battle on their behalf.  We are hoping for them and trusting for them in a way they are not capable of at the moment.  We are realizing how lost we were without others' intercessions.  How undeserving we were of forgiveness... and in gratitude for our own salvation, we can and should and ought to pray for others'.

So here I confess, I have felt bogged down by all of the political garbage lately.  I see it in the church hierarchy, I see it in the government at every level... it is unavoidable.  My attitude has grown more dower daily.  The pivoting point came when I realized how my frustrations and occasional negativity weren't staying in those realms... it was beginning to leak over into family life and perspective friendships.  I was not living a quiet, peaceful life.  My life was becoming anything but quiet and peaceful.  

I have begun making incremental changes.  I'm reconsidering my inner dialogues and adjusting my focus.  When frustrating situations arise, I'm remembering to pray better.  When someone does something I don't understand or agree with, I'm considering the alternate positive dialogue of possibilities to their drive and thinking.  Most of all, I'm learning to pray much like 1 Timothy 2:1 suggests... interceding, supplicating, and even thanking.  

If there is one thing I have learned over the years it is how even the out-of-my-control trying situations (and people) have been used by God to grow me and make me more into His image.  He gives me countless opportunities to practice grace and agape love.  Yet, when I fight it, complain about it, neglect to pray over it... the trial feels endless and, at times, I put myself into a peaceless, noisy existence which takes twice as long get out of!

I pray, this Thanksgiving season, if you hear my heart in all of this, that you would join me in supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings for all the difficult people, at every level, and situations in our lives which only God can pave the way through and help us to find peace and quiet.


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