“You have spoken arrogantly against me,” says the Lord.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
“You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What do we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly evildoers prosper, and even when they put God to the test, they get away with it.’ ” Malachi 3:13-15
It is so easy to grumble. As we’ve seen before in Malachi, the Israelites keep complaining because God seems to be blessing the ones who don’t even follow him, and not blessing them, the ones who do serve him.
Of course, the Jews weren’t serving him very well. But still, it’s clear that they think a lot of the “sacrifices” they make for God, and they think God should bless them because they take the trouble to do some good things for him.
We can get so puffed up about ourselves. We forget that God doesn’t owe any of us anything for serving him. As Jesus pointed out in Luke 17:10:
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
So we shouldn’t get bad attitudes. But we do. All of us get that twist in our gut, the envy, the anger, the discouragement, the frustration.
But the question really is, do we keep going with the bad feeling?
I was having a discipleship time with my friend Lauren yesterday. We read James 1:12, and it really convicted me: “…Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” James 1:12
That is so what happens! We let our bad feelings drag us into sin! I guarantee, that bad feeling is a strong motivator. It’s a siren call. We want to give into it. We want to go with it.
We have to hold on against the current, instead of letting go!
We have to hold onto our convictions that God is good! Hold onto positive scriptures.
It is so hard!! I confess that I’ve let myself get carried away way too much in the past week. Ugh. It feels like being in a dark place, menaced on every side by my own unsavory thoughts.
It’s a good thing that Malachi offers a view of those who do hold on:
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.
“On the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty, “they will be my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as a father has compassion and spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Mal 3:16-18)
These verses give me inspiration on what to do instead of giving into the grumpiness and discouragement. Here are some takeaways from them:
Fear the Lord. I’m concerned about the consequences of my negativity. God doesn’t like it. It works in opposition to him. It does scare me to live like that.
One verse I had an insight about lately is Luke 8 when Jesus is sleeping during a big storm, and the disciples are terrified and wake him up. Luke says this is what Jesus did: “He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples.” When I read that, I realized that it wasn’t just faith that Jesus wanted his disciples to have. He wanted them to realize that they had power. They could call on God. I think they should have been rebuking the storm!
Are we rebuking our temptations? Do we realize that they are not pleasing to God? “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back” Hebrews 10:38
Talk with one another. Confess the bad attitudes. I’ve done this several times this week, and it was so helpful. We need to help one another find the faith that is lacking. We do need to sympathize with the tough situations our friends are in. But they are lost in dark distress. Give them verses that will be a light for them. Tell them stories of overcoming!
Write a scroll of remembrance! Okay, it may be that God is writing a scroll of remembrance here, not his people. But it’s still very helpful in fighting negativity.
Do you remember all the things God has done for you? I keep a gratitude journal. It has 1800 entries right now. It has been one of the most helpful things to me that I have. Just writing in it every day is helpful. Looking back over it calms all my little steaming vents of discontent.
There are other things we can do to help us remember. We can take pictures. We can put reminders up around us.
Here is a picture I took of the last of our peaches.
And here are reminders I’ve put on the refrigerator of how God blessed us with our trip to Tokyo.
In conclusion, it does my heart so much good that God ends this passage with the declaration that he will have compassion. Whew! We get dragged away by our bad attitudes sometimes, but God is ready to welcome us back into his arms.
The Jews said, “It is futile to serve God.” We also feel futility. God gave the Jews ways to combat this.
But we have an even better way than they of fighting off the temptation to give into the feelings of futility. We know that Christ died for us, personally
Ken and I watched the movie “Risen” this past weekend. It reminded me once again what Jesus went through, what the early disciples went through. It reminded me of how valuable I am to Christ.
Remembering this daily helps me so much. (The picture is from the movie.)
So let’s fight! Let’s hold on to the good. Let’s rebuke the temptations. Let’s confess and encourage one another. Let’s be intentional to remember the good.
I leave you with the words of Shane and Shane’s song, “Though You Slay Me:”
My heart and flesh may fail.
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes
I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high upon that day
Behold the Lamb who was slain
And I’ll know that every tear was worth it all.
And though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need.