Sometimes, for one reason or another, we find ourselves trying to run ahead of the work God has planned. We begin to pick out our dining sets while He is still putting on the roof. We may be rushing headlong into a service that He has not even called us to! And once we get so far ahead we may no longer be able to discern God’s direction on how to move forward (Probably because He is telling us to go back!) so we begin to make the decisions ourselves. They may seem small and may be based on good intentions, but in reality they are still leading us further from God’s plan and without His guidance we will eventually veer further and further from His teaching until God is no longer present in our plans at all. We must not get so carried away in our serving that we end up leaving God behind. If you find that you are having trouble figuring out how to move forward, perhaps it could be time to move back.
“Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG
“When God elects and calls, it is to obedience and holiness, and these fruits… faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, love… confirm their divine source. Those who in this way give evidence of their faith will never cease to persevere.”
“For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8
We cannot become complacent in our faith. We must regularly examine our own hearts and lives, not only for the evidence of these fruits that give evidence to our faith but also for evidence that they are present in ‘increasing measure’. We do not want only our knowledge of God to grow because knowledge in and of itself is unproductive and ineffective. Our love and godliness and self-control and kindness and faith should all be growing along with our knowledge as the knowledge roots in our hearts and souls and bleeding out in our behaviors. You and those around you should be able to see the changes Christ is making in you as you walk together and grow closer. Look for the evidence in yourself, can you see it? If you cannot, neither can the world around you.
So there were three things that stood out to me here.
1. We already have everything we need to do the good works God is calling us to. All that’s left is for us to make the choice to be obedient despite the fears or feelings holding us back.
2. He will make us rich in every way so that we can give freely of our finances, time, emotions, skills, etc. to help those who are struggling.
3. He wants to bless us so that we can spread that blessing on every occasion we come across. He doesn’t want our generosity to be limited so He promises to provide abundantly.
Being willing, while an essential part of accepting our calling, is not enough in itself. We must put action to our willingness, take steps toward the goal & carry it through to completion. Being willing to give does nothing for Christ’s kingdom or body without the gift being actually given. You will not grow without the sacrifice it will inevitably require of you. If it costs you nothing, it means nothing. Let us dive into 2019 with a determination to put actions to our willing spirits and complete the work the Lord has set out for us!
How do we view tithes and offerings? As something to avoid? As something to grudgingly give because it is asked of us? These believers in Corinth begged for the privilege of giving, even when they had little. Why? Because their hearts were full of God. They knew that everything they had belonged to Him and their hearts overflowed with compassion, their eyes were focused on others rather than on themselves. God’s Love flowed through them giving them a genuine desire to help. Do we see our offerings doing that, helping the saints, or just something we do because God asks it of us? We have been given the privilege of helping in God’s work by helping those doing His work. Set your heart on others, not self, and find the joy of serving through giving.
We should not feel fear and guilt over calling fellow believers out on their chosen paths when those paths are leading away from God. Yes, they will most likely not take it very well, react in anger or hurt, but those emotions could be the very thing to spark change in their heart; to wake them up to the voice of the Holy Spirit that has been ignored so long that He is no longer heard at all. We should hope that the confrontation upsets them enough to make them return to God’s way. They become upset because God is convicting them, He wants them to feel the remorse and turn so we must not fear their reaction nor feel guilty for causing it.
When we become believers in Christ, we come to see Jesus not as a man but as the Son of God. So too, when we are saved, should our view of the people around us shift. They suddenly become more than bodies that surround us, people we can use too our gain, there to preform a service or simply there. At our salvation our eyes have been opened to the truth of eternity. We should no longer look at people without seeing an eternal soul destined for either paradise or suffering. Those who refuse Christ are being murdered, slowly but surely, by the deception of the enemy. Their souls cry out in agony and despair causing their minds and their bodies to seek out some form of relief. We, the army of believers, are here to rescue those souls. It is our given responsibility to carry the truth of the only One who can give them the relief they don’t know they seek, the only One who can prevent their deaths. We are asked by our Father to show them that truth, like a lifeline, so they might take hold of it and He can begin to heal them. Just as we should be unable to walk away when someone is being physically harmed, we shouldn’t be able to walk away from their spirits that are groaning for salvation. They aren’t just people, they are refugees under attack.
Sometimes we get the idea that God’s word, or even God Himself, seems a little harsh or a little too intense; especially for people who are new to it all. As a result, we might try to smooth over it, to lure people into it with only the pretty promises of love and eternal life freely given to anyone. But that isn’t the truth of it, at least not the whole truth. Love calls for sacrifice & that freely given eternal life is only available through a single avenue: Christ Jesus. Choosing it means abandoning many of the things we were doing before choosing Him. It will not be a life of simplicity and roses. God never promised it would be, in fact Jesus said it would be the opposite. He was bluntly honest with us, and so we should be with those around us. We don’t need to deceive people to bring them to God. If we do, they will eventually figure us out and may come to resent us or, worse, God. We simply need to tell them the truth, all of the truth: that it is hard & it is worth it. Allow God to bring the salvation work to completion. We must trust in Him to save people, not our own words.
Our lives are a letter, written out as plain as day and open for all to read. The people we encounter every day can see through our pretenses and catch glimpses of what message is really written on our hearts. So what is our letter saying to them? Is it calling to them from Christ, showing them His love and pointing the way toward the peace and salvation He offers? Are they seeing the ink bleed through to the surface from having the Spirit of God inked so heavily onto our hearts? Or are they reading a different message? One that says we are no different from everyone else, no less petty, no more patient, no more kind, no less jealous or angry? Would we be embarrassed for the letter of our hearts to be opened up and displayed before our friends, family, & community if it were actual ink and paper? Because we can be assured that it is no less concealed within us. What is bleeding through into our lives, the ink of the Spirit or the ink of self?
Satan’s sly ways appear to be closely linked with our personal grudges. Unforgiveness opens us up to his ‘mischief’ & schemes. Forgiveness releases us from a burden that we have placed upon ourselves when we are wronged by another. If we cling to that wrong, it will fester within us and leave us wide open for the enemy to plant seeds of resentment, ideas of vengeance, lies of justification. When we refuse to give our injury to God, the enemy is able to creep through the cracks in our godly armor that have been left there by a wounded pride or a wounded heart. Once he is in, he will begin his schemes of deception, the biggest one being that we have the right to be angry and therefore refuse to let go because they were the one in the wrong, that they now owe us something. Give that debt to God, rest in knowing that they will have to answer to Him and that it is His job to make things right. Trust Him, release that debt to Him, and be at peace.