How To Make A Real Impact In The Lives Of Others

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Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them… RO 12.6

We all have gifts and these gifts are varied and different. God gives his children ALL KINDS of gifts. Some gifts are public; some are done behind the scenes. Some are used when the church gathers; many are used outside church meetings. Our God is so great, so creative, so generous, so wonderful, we wouldn’t expect him to give only a few gifts. The God who created Monarch butterflies, Tiger lilies, cactuses, memosa trees, hummingbirds and hammerhead sharks is lavish and overflowing and gives a multitude of varied and wonderful gifts.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. JA 1:7

God’s gifts are gifts of his grace. Undeserved, free, unmerited. God gives gifts because that’s his nature. He gives every one of his children at least one gift, and usually more than one.

All our gifts are gifts of the Spirit – they’re spiritual gifts. Even gifts that seem to be natural or “unspiritual.” Many days last summer a member of our church, Frank, would be out on a riding mower joyfully caring for the church property. He loves it. He reminds me of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire: “When I run I feel his pleasure.” I can almost hear Frank saying, “When I mow I feel his pleasure.” And Frank doesn’t just cut the grass – he meticulously trims around each and every one of about a dozen birch trees that line the road on our church property. Frank’s gift may seem to be natural – he just loves to cut grass – but it is a gift of serving from the Holy Spirit.

So let’s use our gifts.

God gives us gifts to serve others. They’re not for ourselves. If someone has the gift of serving it isn’t so he can serve himself. If someone has the gift of giving it isn’t so she can go out and buy herself presents. God gives us gifts to USE to bless others.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 1 PE 4.10

Let us use our gifts to serve one another. We all have work to do. We all have a contribution to make. We are all called to serve each other. It’s not just the pastors’ job.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. EPH 4.11-12

The leaders don’t do all the work – they equip the saints for the work of ministry. It is the saints who build up the body of Christ.

from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (16)

What if I don’t know what my gift is? Just start serving wherever you can and God will make it clear. Serve wherever there’s a need. As you serve, God will make it clear. Other people will confirm it. When I was a young believer, one of my friends needed some body work done on her car. I knew nothing about body work, but she needed help, so I went to the auto parts store, bought the necessary materials and fixed the dent in her door. I just wanted to serve wherever I could. And it became clear that day that auto repair was not my gift.

Don’t limit yourself. Don’t say well I have the gift of teaching so I can’t serve as an usher or a greeter. I’ve had people come up to me and tell me it’s their first Sunday and they have a ministry as a teacher. My first thought is, so you have a gift of teaching? How about helping us set up chairs?

Let’s use our gifts IMMEDIATELY

To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. MT 25.15-16

Serve in any way you can. If you can serve in any way in the church, great. But you can use your gifts in many ways outside the church. You can give someone an encouraging word when you run into them in Walmart. You can pray for someone over coffee at the local coffee shop. You can give money to the church and the poor. You can serve in a pro-life or campus ministry. Every tiny act of service is pleasing to God. If you give someone a drink of water in Jesus’ name you won’t lose your reward.

Sometimes life circumstances may limit us. If someone suffers from a sickness or other physical condition, God doesn’t expect them to be out washing cars. But they can pray for someone.  Spurgeon’s wife Susannah became an invalid at age 33 and could rarely attend her husband’s services after that. She was confined to her bedroom for long periods of time, yet she encouraged her husband, raised godly children, and started a fund for supplying theological books to clergymen and ministers too poor to buy them.

You have a spiritual gift. USE THAT GIFT! Serve in any way you can, wherever there’s a need, big or small. Even if it seems “mundane.” As you serve, God will make your gifts clear and he will use you to bless others.

My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal For This Year – It’s Not What You Think

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In 1994 Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, a book which encouraged every company to come up with BHAGs, or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals, which they would attempt to accomplish in a certain time frame.

A few years ago a pastor friend of mine once told me that he and his leadership team had set a BHAG for their church for one year. I believe it was to double in size. They planned how to attract more people, how to double their small groups, double their small group leaders, children’s ministry, etc. I believe he encouraged his leaders and church members to have individual BHAGs. I can’t remember if they encouraged giving BHAGs. Of course he had at least one personal BHAG.

“Did your church achieve the BHAG?” I asked.

“No,” he said laughing, “of course not. We didn’t even come close.”

Maybe BHAGs work for companies and even for some churches. But I would submit that the Bible encourages a different kind of BHAG. Here’s the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal that I am going to shoot for this year: to be faithful. Better yet, I want to be faithful in a few small things.

The Bible doesn’t encourage us to pursue greatness, but to be faithful servants. To be faithful in small things.

A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. PR 28.20

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” LK 16.10

And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ LK 19.17

Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, who planted numerous churches and advanced the spread of Christianity in much of the known world of his time, didn’t consider himself to be great. He regarded himself as a servant, a steward and said the following:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 CO 4.1-2

Paul wanted to be faithful. Sure he made plans – he planned to visit certain cities in the hope of spreading the gospel. But often his plans were thwarted. He wound up in prison. Yet even in prison he sought to be faithful and spread the gospel in the prison.

So this year my Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal is to be faithful in little. The works God gives most of us are ordinary and mundane. Caring for our children, pastoring a small church, teaching sixth graders, working on an assembly line, being a secretary – these certainly don’t feel glorious. But God isn’t impressed with talent or “great” accomplishments. He’s looking for faithfulness.

If you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d encourage you to be faithful in a couple things. First, in taking in God’s word. To me, this is one of the most important habits to cultivate. If only for a few minutes each day, read or listen to the Bible. Secondly, prayer. Again, if you’re not in the habit, take a few minutes each day to pray. Spend a couple minutes in thankfulness and lift your requests to him. Of course you can pray throughout the day as well.

Seek to be faithful where God has placed you. Faithfulness is more important than talent or gifting. If we’re faithful in small things, God will increase us and cause us to be faithful in more and more. We don’t have to set Big, Hairy, Audacious goals. Besides, who wants to do something that’s big and hairy?

4 Reasons To Work, Bless, Pray and Serve Your Guts Out

red-plain-colour-imageSometimes we feel it’s wrong to do things because we’ll get a reward.

It seems so selfish. So mercenary. We should just serve people for the sheer joy of it. Well, good news. It’s not selfish. It’s not wrong to want to gain as many rewards as we can. God says to go for it. He says, “Your time is limited here, don’t waste it going after things that won’t last. Go for as many eternal rewards as you can.

4 reasons to run after rewards

Jesus commands us to seek rewards

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and ruste destroy and where thieves break in and steal,20but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven MT 6.19

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens…LK 12.33

Jesus tells us “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Send your treasures ahead. Go after rewards. Get as many as you can. Make it a focus. Don’t put all your energies into gaining this world’s wealth. Put your energy into gaining eternal wealth.

God rewards every single good deed we do as believers, no matter how small.

And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” MT 10.42

knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. EPH 6.8

We have hundreds of opportunities every day to send treasure ahead. Any small act of serving – giving a little one a cup of water. Serving your children. Making a meal for a new mom. Doing your job.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. CO 3.23-24.

Every act of service, every prayer, every gift to the poor, every dish washed, every task at work – every single thing we do for the Lord will be rewarded.

God stores our rewards in his heavenly vault where they are safe and secure.

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. MT 6.20

Our rewards in heaven are safe and secure. Not subject to market fluctuations or national economies. So go for it! Send them ahead.

God is waiting for the perfect time to reward us

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. GA 6.9

You may not be rewarded immediately. You may not see your hard work pay off right away. But you will eventually. You will certainly. Often in this life – we see our diligence and sacrifice pay off in the lives of our children. We see our church benefit. But even if we don’t receive our rewards in this life, in due season we WILL reap.

SO: Be zealous for good works!

who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:14

Be zealous for good works. Remind yourself that you will be rewarded. Ask Jesus to give you opportunities to serve him. Ask for opportunities to share the gospel. Be zealous to serve your family when you get home from work. Be zealous to give your money to the poor. Be zealous to serve in your church. Serve wherever you can. Set up chairs for the Sunday meeting. Welcome new people. Look around on Sunday morning – is there someone by themselves, someone with no one to talk to? Are there positions in Children’s Ministry where help is needed?

There are tons of opportunities to earn rewards we’ll enjoy forever. Go for them today.

How To Serve The Lord In The Way That Pleases Him

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You can tell a lot about a company or a company?s leader by observing its employees.

If the employees are cheerful and helpful, you think their company or ?boss must be great to work for. If Christians are discontent, grumble and act down-in-the mouth like Eeyore, what does that say about our Master? If we?re doing the right thing but our heart isn?t in it, it says God isn?t a good master, that he doesn?t take care of us, satisfy us or make us glad, that we didn?t make a good decision by calling on his name.

God tells us in Ps 100:2:

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

When we sing to God we should do it with glad hearts. How does God feel if we say, OK, I?ll worship, because I have to, but I won?t like it. In Malachi, God rebuked the priests because of their lack of joy in serving him:

But you say, ?What a weariness this is,? and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the LORD. Malachi 1:13

The priests were doing their duty – they were offering the sacrifices – but they didn?t bring their best and rather than serving the Lord joyfully they said, ?What a weariness this is.?

How often are we tempted to have the same attitude. When that difficult brother or sister needs for the hundredth time, when we must tend to our kooky children or care for a sick parent, when we must serve our spouse – we too can think ?What a weariness this is.? I know because I have done this.

Yet Scripture calls us to do all things as unto the Lord:

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. CO 3:23-24

Whether it?s working on a spreadsheet, shoveling manure, changing a diaper or doing the dishes, we are to work heartily as for the Lord – ?you are serving the Lord Christ.? And we are to serve the Lord with gladness. God rebuked Israel for failure to serve him joyfully:

Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, because of the abundance of all things, therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger and thirst, in nakedness, and lacking everything?.DT 28:47-48

We have every reason to serve the Lord with gladness – he saved us, washed our sins away, and made us joint-heirs with Christ! So what if we have to deal with a difficult brother, we?re saved! So what if our job is boring, nothing can separate us from God?s love! I?m not saying it?s easy to serve the Lord cheerfully. But if we will pray and ask for grace to serve him joyfully he?ll pour it out.

The gladness of servants speaks volumes about their Master. Let?s serve the Lord with cheerful, glad, joyful hearts today and show the world what an incredible Master we have.

God Prepares Our Works, Motivates Us, Then Rewards Us. What’s Up With That?

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Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Php 2:12-13

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

God is the ultimate ?worker,? the great worker of ?good works.? He deals bountifully with us (PS 119.17), he is good and does good (68). In fact he rejoices to do good to his people (Je 32:41) and he purposes to bring good to his own (Zech 8:15).

God did the ultimate good work when he sent his son Jesus to redeem us. And Peter preached to Cornelius? household that Jesus ?went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.? (Ac 10:38).

By contrast, we are not good in and of ourselves – ?no one does good, not even one? (Ro 3:12). But when he saves us, God makes us new creations. The great worker of good makes us his workmanship, and creates us in Christ Jesus, the one who went about doing good. God creates us for good works.

Not only that, but he prepared our good works beforehand, in eternity past, long before he created the universe. All we need to do is walk in them.

God not only creates us in Christ for good works, prepares the very works we will walk in, but gives us the desire to do those works. He works in us both to will and work for his good pleasure. We who once lived only for ourselves, who worked only evil, and loathed the light, now long to please our heavenly Father, to act like him and his Son. God not only gives us the will but he supplies the strength and energy to do good.

But wait, there?s more. The great Giver gives us gifts to use in the service of others. Mercy, administration, helps, giving, faith, prophecy, teaching, sewing, cooking, artistic gifts and skills in every craft (see Exodus 35), musical and medical skills – every kind of gift. God not only gives us the works to walk in, but the talents to execute them.

But God doesn?t stop there. He rewards us for using the gifts and doing the works he gave us.

What kind of God is this? A wonderful God. A good God. A lavish, generous, amazing, creative, surprising, loving God. It would be enough if he only saved us. But he transforms us, then rewards us. Unbelievable.

And God won?t forget to reward us. He sees every work, no matter how ?insignificant? in our eyes, and records it for the last day. Not a single cup of water given to a disciple will go unrewarded. Not a single visit to a sick person, a piece of bread given a hungry one; not a tiny act of kindness done to a child – none will be missed or forgotten.

For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do (Heb 6:10).

Last night I joined some members of our church who conduct a monthly service in a personal care facility. Patients were wheeled in and handed large print hymn books. The folks from our church went around cheerfully greeting the patients, shaking their hands, making small talk. Then they led the service, playing and singing some good old hymns, Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. Then one of my friends gave a short talk about the love of God from Romans 8. A couple more hymns, then our folks helped wheel patients back to their rooms. These members of our church have been serving the residents of the home every month for years. Last night I thought what a reward they are going to in heaven. Month after month, singing The Old Rugged Cross and What A Friend We Have In Jesus. Loving these people who can?t give much back. Year after year of doing good to the weak. I thought, I want to be there applauding them when Jesus says ?Well done, good and faithful servants.?

Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Let?s thank God for his incredible goodness in giving us works to walk in, the will, strength and gifts to do them, and then rewarding us. What an incredible God we serve!

Me, Bob Wiley, And Getting The Grace To Be Cheerful

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Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: …the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:6, 8)

I?ve seen lots of people doing acts of mercy lately. My 95-year old Dad, JJ, fell on the ice last December, fractured his ankle on both sides, had surgery, spent a week in the hospital then several in a personal care facility, then had a small heart attack 3 weeks ago which landed him back in the hospital. Lots of people showing my Dad mercy. Many with cheerfulness. Some not so cheerful.

Being the son who lives in the same town as Dad, I?ve gone to the hospital and care home more than I ever want to again. Of course, I love Dad and want to do all I can for him. But trudging to the hospital every day gets old. So does helping Dad with bodily functions, wiping his mouth and chin when food is caked on, getting him a drink, turning on his TV, etc. None of this tiny acts of mercy are hard. I don?t share this to evoke admiration or pity. I share this because I don?t always do these simple acts of mercy with cheerfulness.

Sometimes I do. You?d think I could always do them cheerfully. I mean, it?s my dad. He?s always been a great dad. It?s the least I can do. And I know others with immeasurably bigger challenges than me, who have cared for a disabled spouse or child for years with smiles on their faces and gladness in their hearts.

I have seen anew and afresh how much I need Jesus. I need his grace. I need his joy. I see that I am so week that I need him to help me do even the most peewee acts of mercy with cheerfulness. I?ve seen yet again the truth of Jesus? words ?Apart from me you can do nothing.? And I?ve also experienced the truth of ?Ask and it will be given to you.? Jesus fills me with joy in serving when I pray. Day after day I come back to Jesus, like Bob Wiley to Dr. Marvin in ?What About Bob? and cry out, ?I need, I need, I need, Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.? I need grace. I need joy. I need strength. ?For even the smallest things.

I know that Jesus was tempted in every way I am, yet without sin. He probably didn?t always ?feel? cheerful when the crowds were pushing in on him. It?s hard for me to imagine that he felt cheerful the night before his crucifixion when he thought about washing the disciples? feet. Yet I believe he sought his Father for strength and joy. He regularly prayed throughout his ministry. I would imagine he prayed for God?s grace to preach and heal and put up with his disciples with cheerfulness.

I?m happy to report that Jesus answers my prayers. He helps me. ?He gives me joy in mundane acts of serving. He gives me enough grace for this hour. He doesn?t give me several days? worth or even several hours? worth of grace ahead of time. He gives me enough to be cheerful now. I?ll have to pray again soon, because I seem to leak. But I?m confident he?ll fill me again.

When You Do Good And It Comes Back To Bite You

After we were brought safely through, we then learned that the island was called Malta. The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. (Acts 28:1-6)

Paul was trying to serve others ? he was gathering sticks for a fire to help people warm up. And what happened? He got bit. Sometimes you try to do good and it comes back to bite you.

Years ago I counseled a struggling couple for months. Many evenings I drove to their home after receiving a desperate call to intervene in a major blowout. After a couple years the wife left her husband. And who did he blame? Me. Me. All I did was try to help and it came back to bite me.

A fellow pastor spent hours and hours trying to help a different couple, and our church helped them financially. The thanks my friend got was they left our church and told people he was a Satanic high priest. He did good and it came back to bite him.

Jesus is the supreme example of suffering for doing good ? he went about healing people, delivering people from demons, and teaching the truth, and he wound up nailed to a Roman cross.

2 things to remember when you do good and it comes back to bite you:

Suffering does not mean we have done something wrong.

We can think, what did I do wrong? Is God punishing me? Suffering doesn’t mean we’ve done something wrong. Very often we’ve done something right. Satan isn’t happy when we serve the Lord and often he resists us and afflicts us. And because we live in a fallen world, we sow good seeds but along with our crop, thorns and thistles come up. Don’t be surprised when you sow good deeds and some weeds pop up alongside.

Our reward is from God, not those we serve.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

When we try to do good and it comes back to bite us we can think what?s the point, why bother? We feel like the preacher in Ecclesiastes: all is vanity. If this life were all there is, our labor would be in vain. But we know differently. We know that ?in the Lord? our labor is not in vain. Our reward is from God, not those we serve. That child you adopted (or your own child) may never thank you. Those neighbors you reach out to may never be saved. That man in prison you visited all those months may never appreciate it. You may never see the good your giving to the poor does. But your labor in the Lord is not in vain. Even if it feels like it.

When we do good and it comes back to bite us, we can feel giving up. Don?t. Your suffering doesn?t mean you?ve done anything wrong. And your reward is from the Lord, not those you serve. Do you have a viper dangling from your hand? Shake it off and keep serving. Jesus is pleased with you, even if things didn?t work out like you hoped.

Being Epic Is Killing Us

These days everything is “epic” (insert one to fifteen exclamation points). Every movie is an epic story of heartbreak, love, and survival. Every book is the most epic tale since Homer’s?Odyssey. Every sports rivalry, no matter how lame or inconsequential (“the Altoona Curve take on their epic rival”) is the epic game of the century. The Super Bowl is epic. The World Series is epic. Those wings I ate last Thursday were epic.

We Christians are epic junkies as well. The books that sell and the blog posts that spread are those that portray the Christian life as an epic journey of thrills, excitement, and crazy adventures, all for the glory of God. And don’t get me wrong, there will be times in our lives when we will do big, difficult things for God, like go on a mission trip, adopt a child, or plant a church. I am ALL for those things. Praise God if you have the opportunity to be a part of something big.

But, to paraphrase the movie?The Incredibles, if everything is epic then nothing is epic.

Does God really want all of us to be constantly living epic, exciting, thrilling, over-the-top lives? If so, where does that put those of us who simply read our Bibles, go to church, take care of our kids, and serve those around us? I would put myself in that category. Am I missing out on something? I don’t think so.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-3 Paul says:

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…

Wait, what? Peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives? Where is the epicness? Where are the crazy adventures for God? Where are the thrills? Where is the radicalness?

Maybe we’ve got this epic thing all wrong. Maybe God wants us to live epicly quiet lives. And maybe, just maybe, living a quiet, godly, dignified life truly is epic.

I think this is what Jesus meant when said: “And?whoever gives one of?these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42) Most of the Christian life is ordinary, at least in the world’s eyes. We go to work. We take care of our children. We serve those in our neighborhood. We take care of the new mom in our small group. We reach out to the sick in our church. We pray for one another. We instruct our children in the fear of the Lord. We change diapers. There is nothing epic or extraordinary about any of these things.

But the reality is, serving the Lord in any way truly is epic.

When we serve the Lord in any way, big or small, quiet or loud, at home or abroad, we are storing up rewards in heaven. We are laying up treasures in heaven. And when we get to heaven the real epic life will begin. Heaven truly is epic in every sense of the word. Everything we do, see, say, and enjoy in heaven will be epic.

If you feel discouraged because your life doesn’t seem very epic for the Lord, maybe you need to redefine your understanding of “epic”. All service to Lord is epic. Serving your children can be epic. Cleaning the bathroom can be epic. Creating a spreadsheet can be epic. Every day of the Christian life is meant to be quietly epic. Because a day is coming when life truly will be epic in every sense of the word. Let’s live for that day.

+ original photo by Curtis Fry

Put Down The Cheetos, Read This Post, and Stop Being So Lazy!

This is a post about laziness, so you?d better pay attention. That?s right, you: put down the Cheetos, turn off the TV, and listen up! Here?s what the Bible says about laziness. It?s bad. So stop being so lazy! End of post.

Are you still reading?

All right, I admit: that?s not what the Bible has to say about laziness. But be honest: it?s about what you expected me to say, isn?t it? If laziness actually crosses our mind we assume that A) it applies to someone else, someone with Doritos stains on his undershirt; and B) the solution is for Mr. Doritos to suck it up and work harder. If only it were that easy?.

Here?s the rub when it comes to laziness: you can be the busiest person you know?and still be lazy. I know what you?re thinking. Hang on, time out ? lazy people don?t do anything. Busy people do lots of things. So busy people can?t be lazy. It seems to make sense ? but unfortunately it?s just not true. Here?s why: laziness isn?t defined by mere lack of activity. Laziness is not doing the tasks God has given you to do. It doesn?t matter whether you fill the void with hours of Star Trek reruns or with answering work-related emails. If it?s not what God has called you to do, then it?s laziness. So you can be perpetually busy and chronically lazy.

I know, I know ? this post is getting worse by the minute. Hang with me, because there?s good news coming. Before we get there, we need to be convinced that laziness is indeed something the Bible condemns, not just a cultural taboo concocted by the workaholics among us. Proverbs has much to say on the topic of the ?sluggard?, as in:

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. (Proverbs 13:4)

And Paul also addresses the topic:

For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

Now then. If laziness is a sin and isn?t limited only to the couch potatoes among us, how does the gospel address this perpetual tendency to avoid the things we should be doing? Here?s how: the gospel calls us to be people of significance. The God who saves us also gives us eternally meaningful tasks to do ? not as the way to earn our salvation, but as a privilege flowing from our salvation.

Consider Ephesians 2:10: ?for we are [God?s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.? Do you see it? Before he acted in time to save you, God had already prepared a heritage of good works to give you ? neighbors and family members to share the gospel with, encouraging words to speak, children to raise, a vocation to pursue. We were made to walk in those good works to honor God, love our neighbor, and bring good to our souls. After all, no one wants an empty, wasted, meaningless life. By saving us, Jesus has secured for us a life of true significance. He intends for our actions, even the mundane, fold-the-laundry ones, to matter in the world.

So Christian, fight laziness. Fight the temptation to turn away from God?s call on your life by reminding yourself of the good news: in Christ Jesus my good works matter. When we faithfully plod along, fulfilling God?s call on our lives ? whether it?s the day at the office or a day at home wiping runny noses ? our actions count for eternity.

Photo by Cindy Funk

 

Let Love Set The Agenda

“The Love Agenda”…it would be a great name for a mid-90’s Contemporary Christian Music band. I could see them being the opening act for “Geoff Moore and the Distance” or “Carman”. They’d probably have one or two albums, then fade into history along with “Earthsuit” and “Burlap To Cashmere”. Every once in a while someone would say, “Do you remember ‘The Love Agenda’? They were awesome! I saw them at Creation ’95!” Then everyone would recount their favorite “Love Agenda” moments. But enough reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

“The Love Agenda” also encapsulates what it means to love as a Christian. In his book?Loving the Way Jesus Loves, Phil Ryken says:

This is what love does: it lets the needs of others set our agenda, rather than letting our agenda limit how much we are willing to serve…Whatever limits we decide to place on our service should not be determined by our selfish desires but by the will of God, by our other legitimate callings, and by what is truly merciful for the people who are asking for our help.

Dang. That hurts. When I’m putting my kids to bed, and I just really, really want them to go to bed without throwing a fit, and I get angry when they keep coming up with excuses not to go to bed, what is really determining my agenda for that night? Love or selfishness? When someone asks me to serve in a particular area, do I only serve if it fits my agenda or giftings? Or do I let love for God and others determine when I serve? Do I only serve those who are easy to serve and who can repay me in some way? Or do I let love lead me to serve those who are lowly and can’t give anything back?

So often I serve only when it fits into my agenda for the day, or week, or my life. I want to grow in letting the needs of others determine my serving.