This is the season for saying thanks, for having an attitude of gratitude. For many, being thankful can cause quite an internal conflict. I’m talking about many of us who find it difficult to accept a compliment. On the other hand, there are many of us who seek the approval of others for validation. The strange thing is that in most cases, this is the same person. Regardless of who we (or others) think we are, being able to express true gratitude won’t happen until we have validated our self-worth by surrendering to our true identity that has been established by our Heavenly Father.
We can spend hours discussing why so many Christians try to find their self-worth through outward means. For some, it’s growing up with critical, negligent or abusive parents, spouses, teachers, coaches, friends, etc., hoping to gain their ultimate approval, but never really measuring up. There will always be something we could have done better or someone who just outshines us. Even when we are more capable than others and may have made the best contribution, someone else ends up getting the “glory.”
There is always something or someone out there to confirm the unworthy feelings we have inside. The reality is that life just isn’t fair, although, we are wired to survive. So we spend our lives trying to establish our value and work harder to prove ourselves competent, successful and worthy of approval.
The End! : (
Sadly, that is how it does end for so many people, even Christians. Yes, even those who have confessed Christ as their Savior and have spent their lives doing their best to honor Christ with the hope that when all their efforts are accounted for someday, the words from our Lord will proclaim over them, “Well done good and faithful servant…” Sounds good to me, but the problem is that we are not 100% sure we will be able to live up to the expectations of a Holy God (and others) in order to be acceptable in His eyes. Every time we fail, we are reminded why we have these doubts about ourselves. Every day we are tested in how we speak to our spouses and children, how patient we are in traffic, how careful we manage our finances and resources, the amount of time we spend in God’s Word and presence, with the results of our shortcomings never seeming to end.
We try to do better. Maybe we are doing better. Maybe better than some others we know, at least enough to feel OK for a while. But the truth is that we cannot bear the weight of our own identity. We will fall short when we are tested, and Satan’s active cosmos in this world is always there to remind you that you are not worthy of God’s love, or anyone else’s for that matter.
“No matter what you do, what you acquire or how popular you try to become, you know what’s inside your heart—you are a sinner who will never be good enough!” speaks our accuser.
I’m sure by now you are enthusiastically overwhelmed with gratitude and joy! Don’t worry; you will be, as you follow along with me for a moment, back in time when Satan himself confronted Jesus.
This journey takes us to a time before Jesus had done anything worth acknowledging in his public ministry. If you have a deep sense of calling to live out your life-mission, then take note of our Christ-model as a prerequisite in moving forward in your God-given commission.
Just before Jesus launches into His public ministry-mission, God gives us a picture of Jesus’ understanding of who He is.
“When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17)
At this point, Jesus had not performed any miracles, He had no followers, nor had He completed his mission to subject Himself to dying on the cross for the sins of the human race. He was human and still had to accomplish His mission, which He had not even publically begun. It didn’t matter; He still received his Father’s affirmation that He was deeply loved and that He brought His Father great pleasure.
From this point He is led by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tested by Satan in how well He truly believes this unconditional passionate affirmation of who He is. The satanic tactics were geared up to destroy His identity and belittle His worth —the same three temptations that Satan uses through our culture to threaten us with.
Temptation-Threat-Tests (T3 Tactics): Matthew 4:1-11
Tactic #1: Performance (You Have to Perform to Be Approved)
Satan tells Jesus to prove himself.
“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” At this point, what real achievement had Jesus accomplished? What impact had He made to the world? He didn’t have a single follower. In the eyes of our culture, He was a loser who had nothing. In addition, He was starving after fasting 40 days—not really poised to defend a status of strength. So what does He do?
“But Jesus told him, ‘No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Basically, Jesus reminded Satan that our value is based on our Father’s affirmation that has already been spoken to us, regardless of our lack of performance!
Tactic #2 Position (Your Value is determined by Your Position)
Another attempt is made by Satan to undermine Jesus’ position as a son who is dearly loved by His Father. Satan plants seeds of doubt by attempting to provoke Jesus to prove that His Father would come to His rescue when needed—a tactic that could be used against Him later when facing the Cross, since Jesus knew that the Father would have to turn away while He bore the weight of our fallen identity. “Father, Father why have you forsaken me?” We no longer have to bear this rejection and should be very grateful for our position as sons and daughters of Abba Father, which Jesus illustrated during his pre-test in the wilderness. Jesus puts Satan on notice to never challenge His position with His Father! “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God!’” (Verse 7)
Tactic #3 Possessions (You Are What You Have)
“Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’” (Verses 8-9)
It’s understandable to be drawn towards the “glory” of good stuff that has material value and hard to settle for the humble things of lesser value, but Jesus’ response shows us that it really comes down to where you place your source of validation.
“’Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘For the Scriptures say, you must worship the LORD your God and serve only Him.’” (Verse 10)
We must truly accept the reality that we will never measure up to the perfection and holiness required by God, and surrender to His preemptive passionate love for us. Our Heavenly Father has validated us, knowing that His perfect Son would bear the weight of our imperfect identity. Upon acceptance of this truth, we will be in a position to be truly grateful, regardless of how we fall short. The Father knows we are going to mess up. That’s why He reminds us that His Love and Grace are sufficient, giving us great cause to be indebted with an attitude of gratitude this season of Thanksgiving and beyond!
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was His plan from before the beginning of time—to show us His grace through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:9)