How to Close 2016: Lessons from Esther’s Husband and Israel’s Prince
During a sleepless night in the faraway city of Susa, King Ahasuerus of Persia ordered that “the book . . . of the chronicles” be read to him (Esther 6:1). What he learned that late evening warmed his spirit to great thankfulness.
An important event had somehow escaped his notice. Earlier in his reign, the Jewish man Mordecai, uncle to Queen Esther, had warned of a sinister murder plot and saved the king’s life. Moved to gratefulness by this revelation, the Persian sovereign called for Mordecai to be publically honored (Esther 6:4-11).
Nine hundred miles due west of Susa, a royal prince brooded in lust-filled discontentment.
His father was David. The city was Jerusalem. And the scene occurred some five hundred years before Ahasuerus’ restless night.
Turning to Amnon, subtle Jonadab posed this probing question: “Why art thou being the king’s son, lean from day to day?” (2 Sam. 13:4).
Yet rather than take to heart the profound blessings of his regal position, Amnon continued to vex and later wickedly violated his own sister (2 Sam. 13:6-19).
Lessons from Amnon and Ahasuerus: Count Your Blessings and Rejoice!
These two episodes from history offer an important lesson as we close out the year: the need we have to count our many blessings.
Though our every desire may not have been met over the last twelve months, we have much to be grateful for. Yet in our flesh, we’re apt to act as Amnon and focus on what we don’t have, rather than on what we have. We’re prone to forget all the undeserved blessings we’ve received as children of the King.
Instead of tossing and turning in an Eeyore-like pity-party as the year ends, we would do well to follow King Ahasuerus’ example and carefully review the events of the past.
We began this process two nights ago as a family. After gathering that evening, we went around the room recounting the things from 2016 that each one of us is grateful for. Similar to Ahasuerus’ review, this exercise brought to mind unheralded blessings that we had either never fully recognized or that we had forgotten about over time. We were amazed in remembering all that God has done for us!
A Suggested Template: Remembering God’s Blessings as a Family
Here’s a suggested template on how to carry this out.
First, if there are any relevant family “records” on hand (Esther 6:1), review them. Some in our family keep journals. Others do not, but we’ve found that simply scanning our planning calendars jogs a host of memories of how God has blessed us.
Second, take time to summarize the noteworthy blessings in writing from the last twelve months so that you can not only praise God for them now, but so you’ll have a record of gratitude you can look back on and be thankful for, far into the future.
Third, make it a point to say “thank you” to the Mordecais who have kindly blessed you in some way during the year. You don’t need to parade them “on horseback through the street of the city” (Esther 6:11) to adequately convey your gratitude. Call them on the phone, write them a personal note, give them a special gift—decide on an appropriate gesture and pursue it.
Fourth, offer sincere and heartfelt thankfulness to God for His many blessings. True thankfulness is the antidote to selfish discontentment. Do not make the mistake committed in the Garden of old: “A discontented Christian repines in the midst of mercies as did Adam who sinned in the midst of paradise” (Thomas Watson).1
While our life may be harder than that of our first parents, we’ve received daily mercies we don’t deserve (Lam. 3:22-23). Consider the Psalmist’s words:
Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered. (Ps. 40:5)
A Heartfelt Thank-You Gift: Download Two Free mp3 Messages
Among our family’s greatest blessings which cannot “be numbered” is the friendship we’ve enjoyed with many of you. We’re grateful for the opportunities God has given us to visit with your family in your homes, churches, and at various gatherings around the country over the last twelve months, as well as for the joy of having some of you in our home this year as our guests.
As a small token of thanks, we’re pleased to offer our two newest audio messages as free downloads through January 7: “The War Where No Dragon Flies: Five Overlooked Vices that Will Destroy Us” and “Reality Check: Hard Kingdom Challenges and Christ’s Ultimate Triumph.” You can download these mp3 messages at the links below. And if you know someone else you believe might be blessed by either of these presentations, feel free to let them know about this special offer.
Happy New Year from the Strackbeins!