Often in history, people have stated that they did not need to generate a report of their work because people needed to trust them. It sounds somewhat Biblical and maybe even a little spiritual until we dig deeper into what the real issue is.
It does sound Biblical because, after all, the writer of Hebrews says that without faith (trust) it is impossible to please God. We must demonstrate faith consistently.
Habakkuk says, “…the righteous will live by faith (trust).” Paul repeats the thought in Romans 1 and in three other places.
In these passages and others, we are encouraged to have faith in God and trust Him. There may be principles in the Bible about trusting people, but the magnitude of that trust is far different from trusting God simply because of the character of the One in whom we are trusting. God always passes the “trust” test; we seldom do.
Isaiah says that our righteousness is like filthy rags (64:6). Jesus said in John 2 that He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man. Our hearts have a tendency to drift toward sin. I am not sure that any of us do perfectly well in the absence of accountability.
We wouldn’t consider not holding our federal government accountable.
We wouldn’t consider not holding our doctor accountable.
Law enforcement people wouldn’t consider not checking up on drivers to see if they are actually going at, or below, the posted speed limit.
My board of directors wouldn’t consider not holding me accountable and they even trust me.
Bonnie trusts me, but she still has the right to know where I have been and what I have been doing? I have earned her trust but I am still accountable.
Paul says in I Corinthians 4:2, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” There is no option of blind trust when it comes to people.
When people choose not to be accountable, it is easy for them to throw out the “trust me” statement. It does have a twinge of truth, but it lacks Biblical support.
We all are accountable to God and we all need to be accountable to one another. It is not a matter of trust but a matter of accountability. Just because we live next door to “trust” does not mean that “accountability” shouldn’t live in the same neighborhood.
Listen to what the following scripture says about doing what’s right.
He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9
For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man. II Corinthians 8:21
And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right (good). II Thessalonians 3:13
God expects His people to be doing what is right. Why do I often struggle in this area? In life, I am faced with thousands of decisions to do what’s right or to do something else (not right). There are many reasons to do what’s not right but each decision usually reflects a flaw in my character. Here are some reasons I have utilize to avoid doing what’s right:
1. “I would rather do what’s comfortable.” This thought seems to run rampant in our culture (and many other cultures). To do what’s right often leads me out of our comfort zone. I have a tendency to “worship” my comfort zone. What’s comfortable does not stretch me, grow my faith, or deepen my trust in God. Once I get comfortable in life, it is extremely hard to live sacrificially in any area, but I choose not to serve the god of comfort.
2. “I would rather do what’s easy.” Someone has stated, “Nothing worthwhile comes easy.” I typically don’t like what is hard, difficult, or demanding. I want life to be easy, predictable, and easily sustainable. The god of laziness directs me toward the easy decision when I understand that it’s not the right decision, but I choose not to serve this god of laziness.
3. “I would rather do what’s popular.” It is difficult to live opposite of what’s popular. I prefer to “blend in” opposed to “stand out.” At times, I become more concerned about pleasing people than pleasing God. Speaking up for God can be socially or even physically dangerous. Seeing a need and ignoring it is convicting. Satan loves to whisper in my ear, “Someone else will do it. Don’t worry about it.” I am not suggesting that we “hunt” for opportunities to oppose the popular, but we certainly don’t want to “hide” from them. I choose not to serve the god of popularity.
4. “I would rather not be confrontational.“ Most of us, including me, do not love conflict. It is easier to ignore wrongs than confront the wrongdoer. It is frightening to lovingly address someone who I perceive to be in the wrong. It is usually hardest to confront those closest to me. It can be terrifying to step into a situation that might produce a war, but I choose not to serve the god of fear.
Obedience to God is doing what’s right. If God is moving my heart to pursue a course of action, then doing nothing or being disobedient are not options. If my fear of people exceeds my fear of God, then I am in trouble. Also, if I am willing to accept Satan’s lies, then I will never make a difference.
God did not put me on earth to please people or to be my own god. It’s about Him and bringing glory to Him. So the question that I need to be reminded of each day while on earth is, “Does this honor God?” That is the best foundation for deciding what’s right.
Garland Bare is a friend of mine and he has been for twenty-five years. I first met Garland at Rock Lake Christian Assembly. We were faculty members for High School Week. Over the years we have connected in a variety of settings. I don’t know if God blessed him with great faith or his great faith was learned in the “trenches.” He is a former missionary, a retired medical doctor, and faithful follower of Jesus.
When we had Garland speak at campus ministry retreats, we would have him begin on Friday evening by giving his testimony. It was powerful! He would share how he grew up as a missionary kid, how he walked away from God for a while, and how God brought him back. He would speak of the phenomenal things God has done in his life. Things like:
and many other examples.
He would end his presentation with this statement: “Our God does not lead through open doors; He leads through stone walls.”
Garland’s example of great faith has impacted my faith tremendously. Isaiah 22:22 says:
I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
This passage is repeated to the Church in Philadelphia in Revelation 3:7. We derive from this passage that God can open and close doors for us. He most definitely can, but it stirs my faith to picture God leading through stone walls.
Jesus said to the father of the demon possessed son in Mark 9,
“Everything is possible for him who believes.”
He also said after the rich young ruler left in Mark 10,
“With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”
There are at least three benefits to living as if we have a God who leads through stone walls.
1. God has the freedom to use us in broader ways for His purposes
2. other Christians will be inspired to live with greater faith
3. unbelievers will want our God
God receives glory in every case. Wow! Our God is big and He is powerful!
Here is the application.
What stone wall is sitting in front of you?
Bonnie and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary last month and our children gave a surprise wedding anniversary party last Sunday. It was an amazing time with family and friends.
Our son, Ryan, and our daughter-in-law, Reka, asked me a rather significant question over the weekend that really impressed me. They asked me for the secret for 40 years of marriage. I first responded to the question by stating that family must come first over anything else. I definitely know that God has worked on my heart in that area over the 40 years of being married to Bonnie.
After thinking about the question for a while, I gave them a more specific answer. The success of our marriage, or any marriage, is selflessness. Our natural tendency is to be selfish. I believe that many people think that the purpose of marriage is to make us happy. I really think that God’s purpose of marriage is to make us holy.
We live in a “happy” driven culture. “Do what makes you happy” is the bottom line for many people. Forget about responsibility. Forget about commitment. Forget about doing what is right. Forget about honoring God.
Randy Gariss is a friend of mine. Randy preaches at College Heights Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri. I thoroughly enjoy his insight on marriage. He states that we typically enter marriage with one of three definitions of love connected with the three Greek words for love:
1. phileo: I love you because of who you are. The problem with this foundation for marriage is that we change after entering marriage and we soon become someone other than the person our mate married. These marriages last a few years and they are done.
2. eros: I love you because of what you do for me. The problem with this foundation for marriage is that life gets busy, we become occupied with careers, children come along, and we stop making our mate our number one priority. When my mate stops doing everything for me, my love wanes. These marriages last even less time than phileo marriages.
3. agape: I love you and I always will. This love says that I will love you regardless of what life brings along and I will model God’s love for me with you. These marriages last a lifetime.
When I first heard of this truth, I realized that Bonnie and I had started out with an eros or phileo love. Through God’s grace, He has led us into an agape love over the course of our marriage. We are in this marriage for life. An agape-based marriage is a God-based marriage. His marriages work. That requires selflessness. I am still learning how to apply selflessness to our marriage. It helps me when I am regularly reminded that I married up…way up.
Life flies by us. Many of us experience days at the speed of sound. The urgent shouts at us and the distractions beckon us. On the spectrum of life, we range from workaholics to being spiritual lazy. For many, life is a blur with not much to show for it at the end of the week, month, or year. It would be great if productivity and effectiveness increased directly with our speed of life. It doesn’t. In fact, they seem to move inversely with our NASCAR lifestyles. It takes natural disasters, funerals, and sickness to slow us down, at least temporarily.
The mindset of OPO brings life into focus and a “sorting out” of what’s really important. Without it, I am confused and with it, I am intentional. OPO? It stands for “one primary objective”. When I open my eyes in the morning, I have OPO for the day that lies ahead. I normally have a bazillion secondary objectives (BSO’s) but I have only OPO. The magnitude and urgency of my BSO’s often overwhelm and eliminate my OPO.
My OPO is to spend quality time with God. It usually includes reading from His Word, talking to Him, and listening to Him. It doesn’t have to be formal, long, or at a particular time of the day. It just needs to happen. It offers a foundation for me to live in obedience, faithfulness, and boldness. His wisdom, power, and love exude from the life where OPO’s are reached regularly.
There are two kinds of BSO’s: necessary and unnecessary.
Necessary BSO’s would include:
Unnecessary BSO’s would include:
becoming successful at anything unimportant
If our unnecessary BSO’s are eliminating our OPO, then we must re-evaluate our objectives and elevate the importance of our OPO. Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…”
God has not called us to busyness but to faithfulness.
He did not call us to a lifestyle of indulgence but of sacrifice.
He did not put us on earth to make us happy but to make us holy.
I believe that for 99.9999% of us, we have the time for our OPO.
Obviously the news of Osama bin Laden’s assassination has produced an emotional response from many people. I guess that I should not be surprised at how people are celebrating his death, especially by those who were impacted by his actions. I am not disappointed that his madness has ceased but I am disappointed in the response of many people for two reasons.
1. THE AMOUNT OF HATRED FOR HIM WAS IMMENSE. Mr. bin Laden was living out his belief. He did not care what others thought of him or his actions. He didn’t care who he offended or angered. He was fully committed to his beliefs and everything in life was dedicated to them. Unfortunately, his beliefs and resulting lifestyle are totally inconsistent with the truth of God’s Word. Christians should be as committed in their beliefs.
Mr. bin Laden was used by Satan to hate and he instilled hatred in others regardless of whether they were with him or against him. He was “gifted” at raising the level of hate in people. Can we, as Christians, learn something from his life? Shouldn’t we allow ourselves to be used by God to love and to instill love in others regardless of whether they be with us or against us? Shouldn’t we be “gifted” (by the Holy Spirit) to raise the level of love in people?
We seem to justify our actions of non-love because of people’s behavior when actually we are directed by God to love people in spite of their behavior. If I allowed Mr. bin Laden to instill hate in my heart, then his lord was successful and I failed my Lord once again.
2. THIS IS A SPIRITUAL WAR. I am underwhelmed at people’s lack of hatred toward hatred itself. Hatred demonstrated should invoke a condemnation of hatred. I don’t see that happening. I see a clear condemnation of the person opposed to a condemnation of his behavior. Focusing only on the person makes this a physical war. Focusing on the behavior allows us to see this as a spiritual war. By the response of people to Mr. bin Laden’s death, I can see that most people thought that we are engaged in a physical war with no comprehension that this physical war is simply an outgrowth of a much bigger spiritual war.
Seeing life from the context of being engaged in a spiritual war leads us to be praying for our enemies instead of hating my enemies. It is extremely evident that most people have no concept of the spiritual war we are facing. We may be at war against al Qaeda but this is a very small part of the overall war we are fighting against Satan and his propagation of evil. While hating Mr. bin Laden’s actions, I found myself led at times to love him enough to fast and pray for his salvation. His passion, if lived out for Jesus, would have made an impact for kingdom of God. My hope is that he made a decision to be a Jesus-follower before his assassination.
Let’s just focus on hating evil in the midst of this violent spiritual war we face daily. We can change this world through love.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
Most of us do not like to wait on anyone or anything, and that includes God. Most of us love control but waiting means we do not have control over a situation. Most of us love action, but waiting typically means non-action. A very wise woman, Kathy Long, said once in my hearing, “The toughest place to live is in God’s waiting room.” By nature, we do not like “waiting rooms”.
God’s power to change us is manifested in our submission to wait patiently on Him. Normally He has something to teach us in the midst of waiting. So if we wait impatiently, our lesson from God will be obscured. From my experience, God gives us power to change in the midst of waiting on Him. Here are three areas:
Character: Waiting patiently on God grants Him the power to change my character. God obviously wants us to be conformed to the image of His son, Jesus. Whether the character quality is surrender or patience or self-control or something else, waiting puts gentle pressure on us to develop these qualities and more.
Trust: Waiting patiently on God grants Him the power to build my trust in Him. The writer of Hebrews states that it is impossible to please God without faith (trust). God wants us to trust Him explicitly. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 3:5 that we should “trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Trusting God means that He really is Lord over us . Not trusting Him means that I am really acting as “lord”. I was driving down Okemos Road recently and had to stop for the traffic light at Kinawa. The thought raced across my brain that waiting for the light was a waste of my time. In the silence of my SUV, God reminded me that it was His time, not my time, and that if He wanted me to wait at a traffic light, it was His time that was being wasted. That modified my perspective on trusting Him.
Preparation: Waiting patiently on God grants Him the power to prepare me for His next move. Sometimes in the midst of waiting on God, He expects me to be preparing myself for what is coming. Nehemiah was given the call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but needed to wait until God opened a door. He apparently prepared (and prayed and fasted) for the right opportunity and some months later God orchestrated a conversation with the King and Nehemiah knew what to request. You might say that Nehemiah was actively waiting.
I must take advantage of the opportunities to wait patiently on God. He is either building my character or building my trust in Him or he is giving me more time to prepare for His next mighty move. In any case, I must wait with His power in mind.
As some of you know, I fell down a flight of stairs in February. I simply missed the first step which led me to miss the next fourteen. The pain the first few days was significant. I did crack my pelvis and pulled a couple muscles around my right hip. I spent the first couple weeks on crutches and the next two weeks walking with a cane.
One of the things that I pray daily for me and my family (and a couple other families) is a hedge of protection. Specifically I pray for a hedge of protection that is spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, social, and financial. If I could think of another category, I would pray that also.
We have a couple instances in the Bible where a “hedge” is mentioned. In Job 1:10 we find Satan telling God, “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” This hedge symbolizes protection. It appears that Satan is somewhat limited on what he can do with Job.
In Hosea 2:6, God says of Israel (and I believe of Hosea’s wife Gomer), “Therefore I will block her path with thornbushes; I will wall her in so that she cannot find her way.” I have heard people suggest that praying a “hedge of thorns” around a wayward mate or child can bring them back. I have seen such things happen.
After my fall, I bring up before God the idea that He didn’t really protect me physically. He seemed to assure me that He did and then he softly speaks these five simple words into my brain: “It could have been worse.”
Since then, God has confirmed His short message with people telling me a variety of stories about others who have fallen down stairs and have:
broken their neck
received a concussion
needed hospital stays
So my attitude began to change from one of “complaint” to one of “gratefulness”. I seldom consider how well God takes care of me. In reality, God was answering my prayer for a hedge of protection by keeping me from really doing some serious damage to myself. I now see it.
I am not trying to promote a “wellness” gospel but a “my God is in charge” gospel. If I could have brought more glory to Him from a hospital bed, maybe I would have ended up there. I desire to arrive at the place where “whatever God decides” is fine with me.
In the meantime, I will continue to pray for a hedge of protection.
Jesus did not say, “Be successful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” I wonder if many of us think that is what He meant.
Have you ever noticed that our culture tends to push all of us toward success. We need to be successful on our jobs, successful with relationships, successful in our finances, etc. This crazy drive for success often nudges us towards self-centeredness. We act out selfish desires at the expense of others. We develop volumes of pride at the littlest of accomplishments. We constantly compare ourselves with whoever we perceive to be somewhat less successful than us. Our infatuation with success moves us through life at a hectic pace and we expect everyone else to support our insatiable and addictive fix for success.
Certainly one issue with our bent toward success is that we are seldom successful on our own. We need the help of others. I cannot be a successful parent without some cooperation from my children. For the most part, life is a team sport.
Jesus did say, “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” Revelation 2:11b
Maybe in stead of aiming for success, we should simply focus on faithfulness. I can be faithful in spite of those around me. Aiming for faithfulness allows me to reach for something over which I have significant control. My faithfulness is pretty much totally dependent upon me and the choices I make. My faithfulness may not look successful but being faithful means I made the most out of what God gave me. So I aim for being being a faithful dad, a faithful husband, a faithful minister, a faithful encourager, a faithful coach and any other role that I fill. Overall, I want to be a faithful lover of God and a faithful lover of people. Those two things are significant to God and paramount to me if I am going to show up faithful. What does that leave me with? I will work at being faithful in my small little kingdom and I will trust God to be faithful at being Lord of the Universe. I do not want His job.