Friday, November 27, 2015

Beautifully Grateful


Society looks at weakness as something tragic and hopeless. Weaknesses are problems for losers. However, every person in every age, race, and social class struggles with some weakness. The beauty of the Christian’s story is that God crafts these weaknesses into powerful tools to accomplish God’s design and purpose for our lives!

 

I brought a drinking glass today. If you look at the contents, it will remind you of the debate: “Is this glass half empty or half full?” The optimist says, "The glass is half-full." The pessimist says, "The glass is half-empty." And while they are arguing, the pragmatist takes the glass and drinks it. Is the glass half full or half empty?

 

The Plumber says, “You've got a leak.”

 

The IT support person asks if you've tried emptying the glass and then refilling it.

 

The boss expects the half-empty glass to be filled in half the time it took to fill half the glass, at half the going rate.

 

The drill sergeant says, “Make the glass do push-ups until it sweats itself full!”

 

The auditor designs the audit procedures to obtain sufficient evidence to conclude that the glass is indeed empty.

 

The nurse says, “We are monitoring your fluids, so you should drink all of that.”

 

The Insomniac will be up all night wrestling with the question.

 

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, you may be expecting a sermon on the importance of viewing our lives like a glass half full instead of a glass half empty. However, I am not going to do that today.

 

Even so, some will think of people in our lives who will view this glass as half empty. Usually, these people have experienced an acute awareness of their weaknesses and struggles. Perhaps you think of this glass as half empty. You feel your emptiness and lack in your life right now. Your marriage, relationships, finances, or job may be in trouble. You just wish that God would pour more good things into your life right now.

 

Today, I want to challenge you to look at life differently. Don’t worry about the contents so much. When times are great, it is tempting to evaluate the contents of your life and be grateful. When things are not going so well, you are not so grateful.  If you could think less about the contents and think more about the glass, you would be much better off! How could this be true?

 

Think about the glass. Jesus holds our lives together.

 

Jesus is the container and sustainer of our lives. 

 

Jesus defines and gives meaning and purpose to the content of our lives. When we are struggling with our weaknesses, Jesus gives us purpose.

 

I love Paul’s story. He was a man who once terrorized Christians. The Risen Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, Syria. On that road, Paul became the most passionate leader of the Christian movement. He was a great scholar, organizer, and leader. However, when he can boast, Paul does something unexpected; he boasts about his weaknesses. Paul, once proud and judgmental, had a change of heart and referred to himself as “less than the least of all of the Lord’s people” (Eph. 3:8) and “the worst of all sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15).

 

God honored Paul by giving him heavenly visions to encourage and guide him. Along with these unique visions, God grounded Paul by allowing pain and weakness to invade his life. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about how God allowed him to have a “thorn in the flesh” that caused him pain. Let’s read about it.

 

2 Corinthians 12:2-10 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses— 6 though if I should wish to boast, I would not be a fool, for I would be speaking the truth; but I refrain from it, so that no one may think more of me than he sees in me or hears from me. 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

The Greek word for thorn does not leave us with the image of a thorn you discover on a rose bush. The word “thorn” means a “sharp stake used for torturing or impaling someone.”[1] God permitted something evil to affect Paul’s life to “harass” or “buffet” him. “Buffet” or “harass” means “to beat or strike with the fist.”[2] The original language gives the impression that the difficulty Paul experienced was constant.

 

What was this “thorn” that caused Paul his suffering? Scholars have debated this for centuries.  Some believe that it was a physical disability like poor vision, epilepsy, or speech trouble. Others suggest the “thorn” was the constant barrage of opposition he faced during his life from people who wanted to stop him from talking about Jesus. Could the thorn have been a spiritual struggle such as bouts of anger or bitterness? We do not know for sure.

 

I love this story that Paul shared about this thorn in the flesh—a harassing presence in his life. The reason this story is appealing is the honesty of it. Paul felt the ache of having a half-empty glass. We look at Paul’s life, and we see all of these positive qualities, yet, he was aware that his glass was far from being filled to the top.

 

Whatever this thorn was, Paul spent three seasons in prayer, asking for God to perform surgery and remove it. Just as Jesus prayed three times in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Father would spare him the cross, Paul prayed three times for the thorn to be removed. Paul spoke in glowing terms about how this thorn had made him a better man. This thorn forced Paul to be dependent upon God. Even though God did not answer his prayers for healing the way he wanted, Paul went on to be an incredible leader for the Church.

 

If Paul had not experienced this “thorn” in his life, he might never have become the man who wrote thirteen letters in the New Testament. Without the thorn, Paul would have been too flawed to launch twenty-one churches in Asia Minor. Paul would tell us, “If God can use a man like me, he can use you! Jesus used me through my weaknesses, not in spite of them! Success is really about finding Jesus Christ’s strength, not our own. The strength is in the glass, not the contents of the glass.”

 

I enjoyed community group this past Sunday. We had a smaller group than usual due to family schedules. One of our members, who is a glass-half-full kind of guy, shared a personal story of how God did something remarkable in his life. I asked him if I could share it.

 

A few years ago, he landed a dream job with benefits. God was blessing his family it seemed. He worked hard. Life was good and he felt like this job would be a long-term, stable situation for him. However, he found himself in a situation that was miserable. God was testing him. It was if the situation was a pressure cooker and he was the entree roasting inside.

 

He became depressed. This depression caused tension in the home, affecting his wife. I am sure that he prayed on many occasions for God to remove the thorn from his job so that he could stay and remain in his comfort zone. However, that was not God’s will.

 

It became a fight for survival. On one side of the ring was his bread-winning job and benefits, and on the other side was his heart and soul that was being drained of life and peace. His dilemma had absorbed his life and marriage. His glass was looking empty.

 

God called this man to step out of this situation and trust him. I know for a fact that a husband’s security and identity is often in his job. This was a terrifying leap of faith for this man. I know this individual pretty well. I know that he is not a perfect man, but a very sincere person. He would not lie to us. What happened next was remarkable.

 

The man had two weeks off to decompress. During that time, according to his wife, it was as he came to life again. He applied for two or three jobs. After two weeks, he was offered a job in a better situation. God had tested this man and rewarded him for choosing to obey God instead of clinging to the security in his job.

 

This man’s plight of feeling glued to a job that was tearing apart his peace of mind and hurting his marriage reminds me of something Paul said. In verse nine, Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

 

When our glass is looking half empty, we should become thankful that we have a glass at all! Jesus is the container holding our lives together.

 

If you have nothing to be thankful for today, be thankful for your weaknesses. I know you must be thinking, “Pastor Chris, that is absurd. It makes no sense.” I promise; I am making sense. Your weaknesses are opportunities for Jesus Christ to demonstrate his power through your life.

 

Your weakness may be a struggle that keeps you on your toes. For some, weakness is a struggle with an addiction that keeps you attending meetings regularly. Weakness may be an emotional weakness that makes you prone to anxiety or depression. Weakness could be a physical problem or disability. Weakness for many believers is a battle against temptation, anger, judgmental feelings, or some other sin. In all of these struggles, God can use them all for good.

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

The Bible also says it another way.

 

2 Corinthians 4:15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

 

Paul teaches us that being a Christian is not always about being the strong one. Instead, we can be the weak one who is made strong by God. We can become whole by recognizing our brokenness and vulnerability.

 

I like to remind the church from time to time about the struggles of the great characters of the Bible. Noah got drunk. Moses stuttered. Jonah ran from God. Elijah was burned out. David’s armor didn’t fit. John Mark deserted Paul on a mission trip. Timothy had stomach troubles, probably ulcers due to his anxiety. Aren’t you glad that you have good company in your weaknesses? The Bible reminds us of God’s love for us in spite of our weaknesses.

 

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

 

Today, you probably have some thorn in the flesh. I am not asking you to stop praying for God to remove it. However, I am asking you to live with your brokenness and vulnerability. Why? Because living through your brokenness challenges us to let go of what people think and cling to God’s mercy and plan for your life.

 

You are human. You are flawed. You make mistakes. You struggle with various issues. Your glass is half-empty. You can be honest about this.

 

I want to ask you a few deeply personal questions to help you understand the need for gratitude.

 

Why are you always in a hurry? Why are you so impatient?

Why are you so anxious?

Why are you overly concerned that others tell you that you are okay as a person or coworker?

Why are you devastated that someone criticized something you did or said?

Why are you flooded with fear about a meeting or conversation that you will have?

Why are you over-concerned about success?

Why do you avoid confronting difficult people?

Why do you feel the need to return immediately all calls, texts, and emails? Why do you avoid returning certain phone calls texts and emails?[3]

 

Our answers to these questions reveal our lack of trust in Jesus Christ. When we spend time with Jesus, praying for his will to be done, we find that God desires to give us peace. Jesus will give us rest in the midst of the hectic, unpredictable happenings of life.

 

Blaise Pascal wrote, “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”[4] My feelings and thoughts in my most quiet moments reveal a lot about my trust in Jesus. Sometimes, when we are sitting quietly away from our cell phones and televisions, we think about the problems we face. We think about our lives as a half-empty glass. Our bodies change and get sick. People disappoint us. When we focus on the contents of our lives, we find it difficult to be thankful.

 

However, when I think about Jesus—the One who holds my life together—I am grateful. When I look at my life, and I see that it is like a glass that is half empty or half full, I have missed the point. I should focus on Jesus. He is the container and sustainer of my life. Without Jesus, I fall apart.

 

“My grace is sufficient for you.” Jesus’ answer to Paul’s prayer was, “My grace is enough.” Jesus is all that we need to keep our lives together. We do not need all of the answers to the “why” questions. We do not live on explanations; we live by God’s grace. His grace is sufficient.



[1]Warren Wiersbe, TBEC, Vol. 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 674.
 
[2]Ibid.
[3]Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010), 82.
 
[4]Scazzero.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I Allow My Strengths to Become my Weaknesses


Claudia Shelton wrote, “Every personal strength when overused has the potential of becoming a personal weakness.”[1]

 

Our strengths are our gifts. Strengths have the potential of becoming weaknesses if we are not careful. We may believe that our strengths are best and that others are inferior.

 

Like fruit salad, each fruit brings flavor and texture to the salad. The apples, oranges, grapes, and pears bring their own flavor. If the apples wanted to turn the oranges into apples, that would not be good. If the different fruits collided and were smashed together, that would not be good either.

 

John Trent said, “Differences are not to defeat us; differences are to complete us.”[2]

 

God has called us to be exactly who we were created to be. He gave us our God-given strengths for a purpose. We are to use those unique strengths to enhance, not diminish, the value of other people. The Bible reminds us of how we are all like different parts of a body that work together.

 

In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he is addressing their lack of unity. Each person seemed to believe that the others should become like them. Paul reintroduced the concept of diversity. We are all different and bring something special to the table. Each person plays a significant and important part in the big picture. In the previous verses to our text, Paul established the importance of the unity of the church. Here, Paul wrote of the diversity within the unity.

1 Corinthians 12:14-26 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

So, each person is blessed with gifts and unique qualities. These gifts present no reason to boast because they are gifts from God. These gifts present no reason to despise others because everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. We should thank God that everyone is unique! No one else is like you!

God has arranged us in the body. In the original Greek, the word used here for how God “arranged” the body is the same word used to refer to a jeweler. The jeweler crafts each piece of jewelry with precision and artistry. He or she places the perfect stone in the setting of the ring. In a similar way, God has taken you, a beautiful jewel, and placed you where he wants you in his Church. Your uniqueness brings beauty to God’s design.

1. Your approach to life is unique to how God created you.

Everyone has their own approach to life—their strengths. The frustrating reality is that God almost always places us in relationships with people who approach life differently. We are around others who feel and express love differently. We have to focus on the positive qualities, or we can become antagonistic toward those who are different.

 

Some scholars have mentioned that the problem of the Corinthian church was not their rejection of unity. Certainly, most of them, if you had asked them, would have believed that unity was important to the church. Their failure was their ability to embrace the diversity of the church. Failure to embrace diversity could be one of the greatest problems among Christians in our day! We want unity, but we want everyone to be like us!

 

Diversity is present in many ways. Paul talked about spiritual gifts, although he alluded to much more. We all have different gifts. When we became believers, God opened up a spiritual treasure chest and blessed us with gifts. Some examples of the gifts are compassion, administration, teaching, encouragement, discernment, and wisdom. Our individual spiritual giftedness makes us unique.

 

Another layer of diversity involves our personality or approach to life. Often, our personalities are tied directly to our gifts. Rarely are these things in conflict. Usually, our gifts flow out of our personalities. Some of our gifts place us more “front and center.” Others are “behind the scenes.”

 

I observe some who are always pushing through life aggressively. John Trent calls them “lions.” These men and women are achievers by nature. To them, every point in the journey is just a stop along the way to something greater and better. Achievers can undervalue deliberation and patience in others. They can be abrasive at times.

 

People-persons or the friendly crowd impress me too. These are the “otters.” They never meet strangers. When they talk, they share their energy with others in the room. Sometimes, they do not listen well or may procrastinate. However, they always seem to be the life of the party.

 

Many are the sensitive, caring types. The “golden retrievers” are compassionate. They want unity, love, and peace. Golden retrievers are so lovable and laid-back. However, sometimes they are hard on themselves and have trouble saying no to others. We need them to make the world a better place.

 

I know a few perfectionists. These men and women, Trent refers to them as the “beavers,” know how to improve any situation. They plan, organize and scrutinize every detail. Perfectionists are the people you want in charge of keeping the rules and guidelines in your organization. They are reliable. They may miss the forest for the trees, but they play a vital role.

 

What about those creative types? I love how they can bring a stroke of genius to a project. The creative types sometimes get branded as being too spontaneous. This is not always the case.

 

Every personality type is critical to the function of the family, workplace, community, and church. Understanding your personality type and the personality types of those in your life is helpful. Personality and character are often byproducts of our struggles and triumphs earlier in life.

 

Think about the personalities of a few Bible characters. Moses became a lawgiver but once struggled to be able to speak. Mark wrote one of the Gospels but had deserted the Apostle Paul earlier in his ministry.  Timothy was a trusted church planter and pastor but was nervous and had stomach issues. Elijah was a bold prophet but later experienced crippling fear and the characteristics of burnout. Jonah was a devout Jew but ran from God’s call and struggled with racism. These are just a few examples.

 

2. God shapes you the way you are for a reason.

We should not be jealous of another person’s personality or gifts. The world may assign greater value to certain abilities and personalities, but God does not! God loves diversity. We can see God’s love for diversity in the stars, in nature, and in people. We should not expect everyone to have the same gifts. God has assigned and distributed gifts according to his own pleasure.

 

We must be aware that God has fashioned each of us as we are for a reason. I am reminded of the prayer of the unknown soldier:

            I asked God for strength that I might achieve,

            I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

            I asked for health that I might do great things;

            I was given infirmity that I might do better things.

            I asked for riches that I might be happy;

            I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power when I was young that I might have the praise of men;

            I was given weakness that might feel the need for God.

            I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

            I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

            I got nothing that I asked for,

            But everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

            I am, among all people, most richly blessed.[3]

 

God shapes each of us through our DNA and life experiences in a way that the Bible calls “fearful and wonderful.” God’s design in our lives should make us humble about our strengths and more accepting of our weaknesses.

 

Psalm 139:13 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

 

When you understand your own strengths, you can be set free from negative patterns. You can use those things that you do well bless others, instead of being frustrated by the differences others possess.  When we become secure in our uniqueness, we can take greater risks in life and see greater rewards.

 

3. Don’t try to force people into the mold God created uniquely for you.

God wants unity, but not uniformity. The Fall has impacted each of us. There is no perfectly balanced personality. No one has all of the gifts. Because there is no perfect person, there is no perfect personality. Only Jesus had a perfect balance of all the gifts and character traits.  

 

For the rest of us, God has made each of us unique. The closer we get to becoming like Jesus, the more we appreciate the strengths and unique qualities of others. We lose the sense of superiority or disdain for those who appear to be weaker or less honorable. When we become more like Jesus, we try not to devalue others who are not like ourselves.

 

Because of our uniqueness, we have to be aware that we see others through the lenses of our personalities. Wisdom is tempering our strengths so that they do not hinder our relationships.   Our personality strengths can have a negative side.

 

Often, the things that draw us to another person can drive us apart, if we are not careful.

 

One of the best applications of the teachings of strengths and weaknesses is in our marriages. Our marriage relationship is analogous to Christ’s relationship with the Church. A verse from Revelation comes to mind about the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was a good teaching church. The church was strong in many areas. However, they had gotten away from their original passion.

 

Revelation 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

 

The word for “abandon,” or “left,” is a nautical term used to describe a rope that was used to tie a ship to the dock. When we abandon our first love, we untether the rope and drift away. For many of us, we have just slowly gotten away from our passion for Christ and our love for other people. We aren’t running away from authentic relationships. We are drifting slowly from what we know is right and true.

 
What do we do when we realize that we have drifted? We remember. We realize the effort and intensity that once made us care for others and love Jesus Christ tangibly and fervently. We paddle back to the dock and secure ourselves


[1]Georgia Shaffer, Avoiding the 12 Relationship Mistakes Women Make, (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2014), 139.
 
[2]John Trent, Marriage Coaching, (Forest, VA: Light University, 2010), 37-39.
[3]Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church, (Grand Rapids: MI: Zondervan, 2010), 135.

Friday, November 13, 2015

I Think the Rules Don't Apply to Me


If you are like me, you look back on situations and wonder why you didn’t listen to friends who were trying to help you. You think, “How could I have been so dumb?” We believe that it happens to everyone else, but not us.

 

For example, a person may not feel they need to be cautious about their health. Even though their family history or genes are not working in their favor, they still make unhealthy choices by eating the wrong foods or not exercising.

 

Another person has a string of short tenures on her resume. For some reason, employers tend to let her go. Instead of thinking about her job performance, it is always someone else’s fault.

 

So many of us struggle with seeing ourselves in reality. No matter what others say, what God’s Word reveals, or what the facts may be we all want to think that the rules don’t apply to us. We are just too good, smart, careful, or amazing for these types of problems!

 

Yogi Bear used to say, “I’m smarter than the average bear!” However, Yogi was always in trouble with Ranger Smith. Many of us think we are smarter than the average bear. We believe that we can get ourselves into stressful situations and find our way out. We believe that consequences won’t happen to us. Some of us think that the rules do not apply to us.

 

Three Reminders for When We Believe We are Better Than Others:

1. Thinking that you “wouldn’t,” “couldn’t,” or “won’t” do what others do because you’re “too good” is letting your guard down.

 

Galatians 6:1-3 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

 

Here, Paul reminds us of one of the key phrases in the believer’s vocabulary: “one another.” We are to love, edify, prefer, use hospitality toward, and pray for one another. We must also bear one another’s burdens. However, it is hard to help our brothers and sisters out when we are preoccupied with ourselves.

 

When we have an inflated sense of who we are, it is easier to look down on others. We may look down on our spouse because we think we do more or care more. We may look down on our coworkers because we feel they are not contributing to the workplace. We may look down on our fellow church members because we don’t believe they pull their weight. However, could it be that we are overestimating our own importance?

 

I know that I have felt, on occasion, that certain people have been unappreciative. Perhaps I did not think they returned the favors I had done for them. On the other hand, I have noticed that often people do not express their appreciation in the same ways that I do. Sometimes it is just hard for me to notice. Also, people may have good reasons for behaving or responding the way they do that I don’t understand completely.

 

Peter, the disciple of Jesus, had an inflated ego. He overestimated himself.  Remember, Peter told Jesus that he would not fail.

 

Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”

 

The solution to a lot of the negativity in our lives is to stop being wrapped up in ourselves. We should try to look for others who need us and want our encouragement and try to lift them up. We have to be open to the realities that God shows us about ourselves, willing to learn what God is teaching us.

 

When our fellow Christians have done something wrong, we are to be there to help them, not kick them while they’re down. Remember, the Bible tells us our approach is to be one of grace.

 

1 Peter 4:8  Above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins.

 

Jesus teachings reveal that it takes a lot of kindness, self-examination, love, and courage to help someone who is making unwise choices. Jesus compares it to eye surgery. He said, in essence, “Remove the plank from your eye before you try to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

 

2. Looking after your own business leaves little room for judging others.

 

Galatians 6:4-5 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

 

Each person here has a primary responsibility of keeping their own business and choices in order. We are to test our “own work.” Most of us are not as good or bad as we believe. Paul said that we must examine our own work. We need to evaluate ourselves and not get caught up in what our neighbors are doing.

 

In my own experience, I have overestimated my contributions to the team. I put hours into something. I pour my life into the cause. I never said that I was more valuable than anyone else, but certainly, in retrospect, I have acted this way. When I have found myself in that frame of mind, I have a tendency to think of others as less than spiritual or capable. I can discount others as being less wise or flawed.

 

When I listen to the Lord, I discover that when I feel better than others, I am prideful and not teachable. When I am prideful, I find myself displaying negativity about others. I find it easier to get pulled into problems and issues. However, when I am teachable, life goes more smoothly, and relationships are healthier.

 

Proverbs 8:32-35 And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. 34 Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.

35 For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.

 

3. Sowing goodness leads to reaping blessings.

 

Galatians 6:6-10 Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

 

As I read this section, I am reminded that we are all supposed to work together. We are each a part of a “household of faith.” We are working as a team for the harvest and “we will reap, if we do not give up.” “There is no place for competition in the work of God, unless we are competing against sin and Satan. When we see words like ‘best, fastest-growing, biggest, finest’ applied to Christian ministries, we wonder who is getting the glory.”[1]

 

Did you notice in the text that God’s Word teaches us that when we are generous with our church leaders and staff, that God honors that blessing? God has ordained that we reap what we sow. This is cause and effect. Since we reap what we sow, we should be cautious where we sow. We should always sow generously in God’s work.

 

He sums it up by saying that the members of the church should take care of one another.  We are to do good to one another, as opposed to doing evil.

 

How people treat each other . . .

We all have a responsibility to live Godly lives before others, no matter how corrupt the world becomes. Loving unlovely people is what Christians are called to do. I suggest that when you are dealing with difficult people, the first and most important step is to pray for those people.

 

Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

 

·         Some return evil for good.

For those without Jesus Christ, it is common to hurt those who have done nothing wrong. Innocent people suffer every day because of the greed and hardheartedness of evil people.

 

·         Some return good for good.

Those who may be considered upstanding citizens are quick to return a favor. We think of them as good neighbors. They do good to those who are good to them.

 

Luke 6:33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

 

·         However, the Christian is called to return good for evil.

Believers in Jesus Christ are called to a higher standard. We are called to love our enemies. We are to be sensitive to the needs of others. We realize that the only opportunity that some people have to encounter the message of Jesus Christ is our love and grace.

 

Romans 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

We should come to the place in our lives in which we understand that our failures drive us back to the grace of Jesus Christ time and time again. We should be refreshing in our honesty, admitting our faults. We cannot expect to look down our noses at others and lead them to experience Jesus Christ!



[1]Warren Wiersbe, TBEC, Vol. 1, (Colorado Springs, CO: Victor, 2001), 722.