Posts Tagged 'Help For Your Family'

Help For Your Family: Direction

Huh?

Huh?

Christians think they know all about God’s will.  We talk about it all the time.  But we have a love/hate relationship with it.  When times are good, we love God’s will.  When we have a new car or a new child or a new job, we celebrate God’s will.  Yet, when times get tough, all of a sudden God’s will isn’t nearly as understandable or attractive as it used to be.  Yes, God’s will seems great when life is going our way.  What about when life isn’t so good?  How do we reconcile God’s will with sickness?  Or poverty?  Or war?  How do we find out God’s will for our lives?  Just how involved is God in our daily lives?  Or is He that involved?  Let’s find out together.

1.  God has a plan.  Whether you like it or not!

God’s knowledge, Psalm 139:15, 16

You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!

Psalm 139 is incomparable when it comes to Biblical teaching on God’s omnipresence and omniscience.  God knows everything.  He knows what we think.  He knows what we say.  It’s good to know that God knows when we are hurting or confused.  It’s foolish to imagine that we can scheme to sin without God knowing.  This is something about God that either comforts us or gives us reason for anxiety.  At the same time, God knows not only our thoughts, but also our hearts and intentions.  Nobody can claim to know what’s going on in another’s heart.  But God can, and this psalm tells us why.

God’s knowledge of us is so complete because He knew us before we were even born!  People who oppose unrestricted abortion quote verses like these, and rightfully so.  God is intensely aware of us and working in us even while were in the womb.  God saw the psalmist, as He sees us, while he was being formed.  God recorded his development day by day.  Thoughtful people have long believed this:

You have made me, and yet you destroy me.  Oh, please remember that I’m made of dust—will you change me back again to dust so soon?  You have already poured me from bottle to bottle like milk and curdled me like cheese.  You gave me skin and flesh and knit together bones and sinews.  You gave me life and were so kind and loving to me, and I was preserved by your care.  (Job 10:8—11  TLB)

You may think it’s extreme to speak of God knowing an embryo so well.  But the Bible speaks of it as fact.  It’s not extreme.  God’s knowledge of us is perfect.  Given that truth, how can we fear that God is unaware of our circumstances?

Jeremiah’s calling, Jeremiah 1:1—5

The Lord said to me, “I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb; before you were born I sanctified you and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.”  (Jeremiah 1:4, 5  TLB)

The prophet Jeremiah’s ministry spanned the tenure of no less than five kings.  He had a long, distinguished, sometimes rocky career.  But it was not a career of his choosing; God had specifically set Jeremiah apart to do the work of a prophet.  Jeremiah was chosen, appointed, and sent to be a prophet to the nations.  He was not his own person.  The call of God is inescapable.  Notice how these verses are written.  God had ordained Jeremiah before Jeremiah had born.

The great apostle Paul had a similar experience to that of Jeremiah:

But the Lord said, “Go and do what I say. For Paul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the nations and before kings, as well as to the people of Israel.  (Acts 9:15  TLB)

God indicated to both of these men that He had specifically chosen them to do certain things and go certain places beforehand.  God had a plan for them, as He has a plan for you, too.  The plan for you may not involve preaching or prophesying or mission work, but God has a plan nonetheless specifically for you.

Jeremiah’s response, Jeremiah 1:6—8

Jeremiah was young when God informed him of the call on his life.  Being young, of course, Jeremiah felt unworthy and under prepared to do the work.  God knew all about Jeremiah’s fears and calmed him down.  He did the same for another young minister, Timothy:

Don’t let anyone think little of you because you are young. Be their ideal; let them follow the way you teach and live; be a pattern for them in your love, your faith, and your clean thoughts.  (1 Timothy 4:12  TLB)

Interestingly, Timothy’s call was to be manifested by what his actions; in Jeremiah’s case God would give the prophet words to speak.  In each case, as well as that of Moses, there was a co-operative effort in the working of God’s will.  Timothy, Jeremiah, and Moses had a part to play—they had to do something, but not just anything—to fulfill God’s will.  Yes, God gave them the words and direction, but the correct action(s) had to follow.

2.  Finding out God’s plan

Mercy and truth, then trusting Proverbs 3:3—5

Never tire of loyalty and kindness. Hold these virtues tightly. Write them deep within your heart.   If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.  (Proverbs 3:3—5  TLB)

This is the advice from one father to his son.  It is also part of God’s inspired Word and is therefore also applicable to us.  What we are reading here is not just good, common sense advice, it is how God wants us to live!  It is therefore God’s will for us.

So, living right is what God wants Christians to do.  Living right means living the way Scripture tells us to.  It only follows, then, that a Christian needs to know what the Bible says.  If the Word is in our minds and in our hearts, it’s truths will be manifested in our actions.

As we live like this, trust in God is essential.  We cannot trust ourselves because we are not trustworthy.  Even the saintliest among us is still a redeemed sinner, contending with his sinful nature.  Sin is always looking for way to jump in and get his attention.  This is why we cannot trust ourselves and why we must trust in the Lord.  Sometimes His ways may not make sense to us.  That’s why trusting the Lord is essential.

Healthy fear, Proverbs 3:7, 8

Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom. Instead, trust and reverence the Lord, and turn your back on evil; when you do that, then you will be given renewed health and vitality.

Fearing, or revering the Lord, is healthy.  A lot of people miss the point of these verses.  If you are trusting the Lord you will do your best to avoid evil.  The result of this—avoiding evil—will be good health.  We can see how this is possible.  And trusting in the Lord also brings about a certain healthy benefit.  It’s wonderful to learn to trust Him rather than yourself.

Paul advised Timothy:

“A person who calls himself a Christian should not be doing things that are wrong.”  (2 Timothy 2:19b  TLB)

“Doing things that are wrong” is simply getting into sin.  If you are a Christian, it is God’s will that you stop doing things that are wrong.

God’s will, Romans 12:1, 2

And so, dear brothers, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living sacrifice, holy—the kind he can accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you.

When Paul tells his Roman friends to “give their bodies to the God,” he is actually referring to the whole person (see Romans 6:11—13).  Chrysostom’s thoughts are helpful here:

How can the body become a sacrifice?  Let the eye look upon nothing evil, and it has become a sacrifice.  Let the tongue speak nothing shameful, and it has become an offering.  Let the hand do nothing unlawful, and it has become a burnt offering.  Nay!  This is not sufficient; we need the active practice of the good.  The hand must do alms, the mouth must bless them that curse, the ear must give attention without ceasing to divine lessons.  For a sacrifice has nothing impure, a sacrifice is the firstfruit of other things.  And let us therefore with our hands, our feet, and our mouth, and all our other members, render firstfruits unto God.

Since our actions descend from our thoughts, Paul makes it clear that we must change our habitual ways of thinking.  This is God’s will!  When we love Jesus, our thought life must necessarily change and be brought into line with His.  This is not an option, and it is something we ourselves must do.  God won’t do it for us.  It is our responsibility to make a conscious effort to change the way we think.  If we want to please God, and if we want to walk in God’s will, then we have no choice.  Of course, God will help us, but our part is to appropriate that help through prayer, Bible reading, and even things like wholesome fellowship with other believers.

3.  Live according to God’s will

It’s one thing to know God’s will, but it’s another to actually live according to God’s will.  Sometimes what He wants isn’t what we want.

Life in Christ, Philippians 1:20, 21

For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that will cause me to be ashamed of myself but that I will always be ready to speak out boldly for Christ while I am going through all these trials here, just as I have in the past; and that I will always be an honor to Christ, whether I live or whether I must die.  For to me, living means opportunities for Christ, and dying—well, that’s better yet!

Paul was keenly aware of his witness for Christ.  He didn’t want to do anything in his life that made Christ look bad.  Would that all believers had this attitude!  John, in one of his letters, mentions that when Christ comes to take His church home, some believers may stand with Him in embarrassment.

And now, my little children, stay in happy fellowship with the Lord so that when he comes you will be sure that all is well and will not have to be ashamed and shrink back from meeting him.  (1 John 2:28  TLB)

Verse 21 is really the philosophy of life all believers should adopt:  to live Christ, do die gain.  What does that mean?  If to live is Christ, then to die would be more of Christ!  The most important thing any believer has in his life is not his family or his career or his bank account; it’s Jesus Christ.  The most important thing a person can do in his life is having fellowship with Him.  That leads to a powerful and accurate witness, which is what Paul wanted more than anything.

Knowing Christ, Philippians 3:7, 8

But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile—now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone.  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have put aside all else, counting it worth less than nothing, in order that I can have Christ…

Paul lived a deliberate life.  He was educated.  He was dedicated.  He was a hard worker, whether he was persecuting Christians or making them.  He had an impressive resume.  And yet Paul considered all of his achievements as less than nothing in comparison to knowing Christ better.  In fact, he would dump all of his life before Christ because it amounted to nothing.

When Paul experienced the risen Lord on the Road to Damascus, that conversion was life changing!  It literally changed everything about Paul.   When a person has that level of devotion to Christ, living to please Christ is of primary importance.  Living to please Christ is simply living according to His will.  It has been said that 95% of God’s will is revealed in His Word; the rest of it He expects us to seek after and discern.  It’s not always easy or popular living according to God’s will, but it is always smart.  Paul had perfect perspective and that helped him to live right.  David Brainerd wrote:

We should always look upon ourselves as God’s servants, placed in God’s world to do His work; and accordingly labor faithfully for Him.

On this, Paul would agree!

Direction in life; for the Christian it’s a whole lot easier to discern than some of the crazy signs out there.  But knowing is not the same thing as doing.

Given a choice...I'll take the fine.

Given the choice…I’ll take the fine.

Help For Your Family: Facing the End

main_retirement

We call old age “the golden years,” but sometimes they are anything but golden!  Many seniors, looking forward to traveling and a life of leisure in retirement, end up finding sickness, pain, and a lack of resources.

For the Christian old age is a good opportunity to glance back, over your shoulder, and see how God has moved in your life.  Hindsight is 20/20 they say.  Many times we miss God’s interventions in our lives at the monent they happen, but as we age, we gain perspective and looking back, we see how involved God really was.

General Douglas MacArthur once told the people of the Philippines, “I shall return.”  Well, he did return in his latter years, and this time he told them, “The deepening shadows of life cast doubt upon my ability to pledge to you again, ‘I shall return.’”  That’s perspective.  All of us will eventually come to an end.  Rich and poor, famous and infamous, healthy or not, death is waiting for every human being.

No matter how you came into this world, you may leave it with honor.  How a Christian faces his death is at least as important as how he lived his life.

1.  Growing old with God

a.  Remember your Creator, Ecclesiastes 12:1—5

Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come—when you’ll no longer enjoy living.  (Ecclesiastes 12:1  TLB)

It has been said:  Youth is a mistake, manhood a struggle, and old age a regret.  There may be some truth in Lord Beaconsfield’s words, but life doesn’t have to be that way.  Old age, for example, doesn’t have to be filled with regret.  Solomon, after telling his readers that nothing under the sun can satisfy the human heart, advises:  Get back to God.  It’s far better for us if we make our decision to follow God while we are young.

The picture of old age painted by Solomon isn’t pretty, but it is accurate.  The older you get, the more funerals you attend.  Friends and family leave you.  You lose your health.  You may lose your mind.  You’ll probably lose your hair; the hair you have will likely turn white.  Life itself slips away from you, but God never will!  Don’t forget about God in you’re old age; He might be all you’ve got.

b.  The end of life, Ecclesiastes 12:6, 7

Yes, remember your Creator now while you are young—before the silver cord of life snaps and the gold bowl is broken; before the pitcher is broken at the fountain and the wheel is broken at the cistern; then the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. 

Solomon is really talking about the breakdown of the human body in these verses, in a poetic way.  The “silver cord” is the spinal cord; the “gold bowl” is the head.  Our minds slow down as we get older.  The “pitcher” refers to our lungs and the “wheel” is the heart.  At some point, it stops pumping blood around the body.  Yes, our bodies deteriorate; life cannot go on when out organs slow down and stop working.

At some point, we will return to the dust from which we came; we essentially return to our beginning.  The soul, which does not sleep, goes to be with God at death.  Our bodies, as taught by Solomon, are absolutely temporary.  Your body is nothing more than an outer covering for your spirit and soul.  President Adams knew this to be true, and he said shortly before his death:

I’m doing just fine, but this ‘house’ I live in is growing very feeble, and I think I’ll be moving out of it before long.

c.  Be fruitful to the end, Psalm 92:12—15

But the godly shall flourish like palm trees and grow tall as the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own garden and are under his personal care.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit and be vital and green.   This honors the Lord and exhibits his faithful care. He is my shelter. There is nothing but goodness in him!

This marvelous psalm is full of gratitude to God, recognizing His firm, dependable, and steadfast love and unending faithfulness.  This group of verses, in particular, points out that those who trust in God prosper.  The righteous are like mighty trees growing and flourishing in the Lord’s presence—a perfectly tended garden.  Even in old age, the righteous are still growing in the Lord and bearing fruit.  Ralph Browning said:

Trees have their seasons at certain times of the year when they bring forth fruit; but a Christian is for all seasons.

A Christian never retires.

2.  Losing loved ones

a.  Abraham and Sara, Genesis 23:1—4

Sara stuck by Abraham from his days back in Ur, when he was still known as Abram.  One could say this couple lived a life of high adventure!  The very fact that we have a record of her death and burial shows us how significant a figure she was.  Not every experience she had was a good one, however.  Her journey with Abraham was not an easy one, yet she never abandoned him.  No wonder he “mourned” her when she died!   Vance Havner wrote,

You haven’t lost anything when you know where it is.  Death can hide but not divide.

It’s painful to lose a loved one.  Even Christians, who intellectually know all about the glory of life after death, still have to deal with memories and the feelings of loss and grief.

b.  Comfort in mourning, Matthew 5:4

Those who mourn are fortunate! for they shall be comforted.

People mourn for all kinds of reasons:  pain, suffering, loss of any kind, etc.  This verse, though, is specifically addressing those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy and are seeking help from God; these people will find comfort.  But, there is a wonderful sense that the comfort extended to such repentant persons is not limited just to the strict context in which the statement is made.  One of the reasons why Jesus came in the first place was to offer comfort to those who needed it, first to His people, of course, but then to all who have come to Him in repentance:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the suffering and afflicted. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, to announce liberty to captives, and to open the eyes of the blind.  He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of God’s favor to them has come, and the day of his wrath to their enemies.  To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.  (Isaiah 61:1—3  TLB)

Comfort is ours right now through a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ.  That comfort, though, is eternal:

He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.  (Revelation 21:4  TLB)

c.  Hope in Christ, 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14

And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.

The members of the Thessalonian church, many only recent converts from paganism, were concerned about what happens to those who died in the faith before Christ returns.  Will they miss out on the glories of His kingdom?

To help his friends understand what happens at death, Paul began by giving the proper attitude a Christian should manifest toward death in verse 13.  When a believer dies, those left behind should not be “full of sorrow,” meaning a prolonged period of grieving.  The idea Paul is giving is that we should in no way be filled with a sense of hopelessness when a loved one dies in the faith.  In fact, Christians should be filled with hope even in the death of a loved one.  How is this possible?  Jesus is our example!  His resurrection is the basis of our hope.   Paul, in addressing their concern, made it clear that as far as the Thessalonians were concerned, if a believer died in Christ, then they were already with Christ in glory!  Their fear—that their deceased loved ones would miss out on His glorious reign—was unfounded because those deceased loved ones were experiencing the fullness of Christ’s glory now.  And our deceased loved ones are experiencing the same thing, if they died in Christ.

There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am. If this weren’t so, I would tell you plainly.  (John 14:2, 3  TLB)

3.  Leaving a legacy

a.  Service in old age, Psalm 71:5, 17, 18

Earlier we noted that a Christian should never retire from service to the Lord.  They’ll be plenty of time for rest and relaxation in Heaven.  Besides, for all those seniors thinking they can miss church, stop fighting the good fight, and stop finding avenues of service for God, there is this to contend with:

Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you.  For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it.  (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20  TLB)

Seniors have a moral obligation to continue working for the Lord until the very end because up and coming generations need to know the Truth from mature believers and they need to see it modeled from those who have lived it.

Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, your power to everyone who is to come.  (Psalm 7118  NKJV)

b.  Victory in death, 2 Timothy 4:6—8

I say this because I won’t be around to help you very much longer. My time has almost run out. Very soon now I will be on my way to heaven. I have fought long and hard for my Lord, and through it all I have kept true to him. And now the time has come for me to stop fighting and rest.  In heaven a crown is waiting for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And not just to me but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again.  (TLB)

Talk about perspective!  Paul certainly had it.  He was well aware of his circumstances and he knew that the days ahead were far less than those behind.  With infinite pathos Paul wrote about his coming death and separation from those he loved.   Verse 6 has in it the imagery of a ship weighing anchor and leaving port.

Paul found comfort in the thought of his death.  He offered that comfort to Timothy.  That same comfort is for all believers who, just like Paul, have that same assurance that at death.  All of Christ’s followers will enjoy eternity in His glorious presence.

dsc_0221_to-be-with-christ

Help For Your Family: Hardships

Real hardship:  surviving the Dust Bowl years in America.

Real hardship: surviving the Dust Bowl years in America.

Hardship is defined this way:

1.  a state of  misfortune or affliction;

2.  something hard to endure

3.  something that causes or entails suffering

That’s how WordBook XL defines “hardship.”  How do you define it?  Sam Cooke wrote a song about it:

Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Nobody knows but Jesus
Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen
Glory, Hallelujah
 
Sometimes I’m up, sometimes
I’m down, ohh, yes Lord
Sometimes I’m almost
To the ground, oh yes, Lord

Hardships are a part of life no matter who you are or where you live.  They come in many different forms and they always come at inconvenient times.  The Bible is not only a book of comfort during times of hardship, but it gives some very basic, common sense, practical advice on dealing with a variety of hardships.

1.  In sickness and in health

(a)  By his stripes, Isaiah 53:5

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

This is a magnificent chapter that deals with the vicarious suffering of Jesus for our salvation.  Both this chapter and Psalm 22 give us a more vivid picture of the Crucifixion than is found anywhere else in the Bible, including the Gospels.  Looking at Isaiah 53:5 phrase-by-phrase shows us how broad and deep the Atonement is:

“He was wounded for our transgressions.”  This speaks of vicarious expiation.  The Hebrew meholal, “wounded,” really means “nailed to” or “transfixed.”  He, Jesus, was nailed to, or attached to, the Cross on account of our pasha, our purposeful rebellion against God.

“He was bruised for our iniquities.”  This covers our “inward crookedness,” our awonoth.  In other words, Jesus was crushed—shattered—to take care of our sinful, perverse natures.

“The chastisement for our peace was upon him.”  His punishment led to our peace.  His punishment was rightfully our punishment.  The word really means “disciplinary suffering.”  Imagine that!  Jesus suffered terrible discipline so we could experience peace.  That word, “peace,” means more than just the “absence of strife,” but it means “wholeness” or “completeness.”

“By his stripes we are healed.”  The main idea here is that by means of His stripes (all of His suffering), there is complete healing for all of us.  Jesus’ sufferings are not only vicarious, but also redemptive and curative.  Yes, healing is included in the Atonement.  Though not to the same extent as salvation, healing is part of Christ’s work for us.  It’s unfortunate that so many denominations neglect or downplay divine healing as it is clearly taught in both Testaments.

(b)  In His name, James 5:14, 15

Is anyone sick? He should call for the elders of the church and they should pray over him and pour a little oil upon him, calling on the Lord to heal him.  And their prayer, if offered in faith, will heal him, for the Lord will make him well; and if his sickness was caused by some sin, the Lord will forgive him.

Are these verses teaching that it is God’s will for every single believer to be healed of every single sickness?  Some Christians teach this and many believe it.  However, if it were true, then Christians would never die.  Sickness and disease are things that come along with living in a sinful and sin-cursed world.

So what is James saying here?  Actually, he isn’t really asking a question, he is declaring a statement of fact:  there is someone sick among you.  That being the case, what are we supposed to do about him?  The answer is simple:  the sick person, or someone acting on his behalf, needs to call the elders of his church, and those elders need to visit him, anoint him with oil, and pray over him in the Name of Jesus.

There is an important word used here.  In the Greek language, there are two words translated “anoint.”  One of them is a word used of “religious anointing,” chrio, from which we get the word “Christ,” the Anointed One.  When one is anointed in the religious sense, special oil is used.  That word is used only 5 times in the New Testament and always of Christ being anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit.

The other word is aleipho, and it has nothing to do religious ceremonies whatsoever.  It simply means “to rub with oil.”  It is often used of medicine.  When Hezekiah was sick, they rubbed his head with oil in a medicinal sense.  This is the word James is using here. He is not suggesting we anoint a sick person with oil in the religious sense, but in a medicinal sense.  So James’ advice is immensely practical, which is what we would expect from James.  When you are sick, call for the elders of your church to come and pray for you, but take your medicine, too.  James was a man of prayer and a man who saw no conflict between medicine and faith.  Pray for healing in Jesus’ Name; He is the One who does the healing.

(c)  The link between confession and prayer, James 5:16

Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results.

Christians are to confess their faults to one another, but our sins we confess to God.  Confessing our sins to each other is not what James is teaching here.  Why would we do that?  We cannot forgive each other!  But if I have hurt you in some way, then I am bound to confess that to you.  This is important; nothing should hinder our prayers—not ill will or bad feelings.  When our consciences are clear, our prayers will be focused and earnest.  These are the kind of prayers God notices.

2.  Earning a living

(a)  A 2-fold request, Proverbs 30:7—9

O God, I beg two favors from you before I die: First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs!  For if I grow rich, I may become content without God. And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

Proverbs is a great book of the Bible for shaping godly character.  These three verses address character issues.  The writer, Agur, wanted to  avoid liars and lying.  As the saying goes, “The company you keep makes the difference,” and this person wanted to maintain good character.  Elsewhere in the Bible we read:

Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.”   (1 Corinthians 15:33  NKJV)

The other thing the writer wanted was balance.  He didn’t want to be so rich that he might forsake God, but then he didn’t want to be so poor that he might resent God.  What he wanted enough.  Agur was a  man of character who knew himself well!

(b)  A 3-fold admonition, Titus 2:9, 10

Urge slaves to obey their masters and to try their best to satisfy them. They must not talk back, nor steal, but must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy. In this way they will make people want to believe in our Savior and God.

Slavery was part of Paul’s culture, and so he was addressing those who were slaves.  Broadly speaking, the slaves of Paul’s day could be considered the employees of today; people who exchange their time for someone else’s money.  Paul raises three points about employee-employer relations:

Deportment.  A slave, or employee, must willingly comply with his master’s, his employer’s, wishes.  He must submit to what his boss wants him to do.

Disposition.  That same employee must not whine and complain.  He must conduct himself in a professional and courteous manner.  It’s one thing to do as you’re told, but Christians should do more than just “do the job.”  It’s an attitudinal thing.  Our attitudes are important.

Dependability.  Christian slaves or employees should be completely dependable in every way.  He should do his job well whether his boss around or not.  He should be honest.

The reason for this exemplary behavior is stated:  God will look good when we perform well.  People will want to know the God we know if we live and work well.

Masters, employers, are not without obligations toward their slaves or employees.  Here’s how they should behave:

You slave owners must be just and fair to all your slaves. Always remember that you, too, have a Master in heaven who is closely watching you.  (Colossians 4:1  TLB)

3.  Suffering loss

(a)  Comfort, 2 Corinthians 1:3—7

Who suffered more that Paul?  Reading through the book of Acts we are struck the trials and tribulations (not to mention shipwrecks) he endured for the sake of the Gospel!  Through it all, though, he was able to write this:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…  (verse 3  NKJV)

To “bless” God is to “praise” Him.  David knew how important it was to praise God no matter what:

I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will constantly speak of his glories and grace.  (Psalm 34:1  TLB)

God’s comfort is multifaceted.  It has nothing to do with sentimentality or sympathy.  The Greek word for “comfort” is parakaleo, which means “to call alongside of.”  The Holy Spirit is referred to as “the Paraclete,” because He is always right there beside us, no matter what.  This is why God is the “God of all comfort.”   Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, He is always “alongside” us.  He is the One who helps us, strengthens us, gives us wisdom, and He is our Advocate.  As the “God of all comfort,” He is there for us during times of trouble.  He makes it possible for to get through the hardship.

God comforts us for two reasons:  for our good and so that we may comfort others.

(b) Deliverance, 2 Corinthians 1:9

We felt we were doomed to die and saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us, for he can even raise the dead.

Paul was a man of faith, but on some occasions the hardships were almost more than he could bear.  He was only human, after all.  One time, for example, he felt as though he had been sentenced to death.  However, in spite of his feelings, Paul learned that his “powerless” state served to prove the greatness of God.  Paul’s reasoning is actually profound.  If God could “even raise the dead,” then He could easily deliver Paul from whatever hardship was short of death.

Here’s a real lesson for we who find ourselves in such dilemmas:  never give in to our feelings!  We may feel there is not hope, but there is an objective reality we must acknowledge:  God is always in control; He is never unaware of our situations.  That objective truth is what we must act on.  We must  never yield to our emotions.

(c)  Be strong in the Lord, Philippians 4:11—13

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want; for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.

When Paul wrote these verses, he was not sunning himself on a Mediterranean beach!  He was in prison.  Yet, he was able to tell his friends that in each turn of his life, he was never in need. Even in prison, he had no needs.  How could he write this?  Did he actually believe it?  Of course!  In Christ, Paul found everything he needed.  He found that in Christ, he was able to serve God in good times and bad.  Key in understanding Paul’s attitude here is that it relates to serving God.  God enabled Paul to do anything as it related to serving God.  A good commentary on these verses might be Galatians 2:20—

I have been crucified with Christ: and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

It’s a tough lesson to learn for independent people!  Trusting in the Lord is what enables us to do great things for Him.  Serving Him in our own strength will result in a hit-and-miss situation.  But when learn to yield ourselves to Him—to trust Him fully—we will find our service simply excels. 

Help For Your Family: Finances

tired-woman-paying-bills

 

Money, they say, can’t buy happiness.  Of course, like so many axioms, this one is also false.  Money can buy happiness.  And depending on how much money you have, you can buy a lot of happiness.  The downside is that happiness, like money, is hard to hold onto.  Being happy is addictive, and it isn’t long before it takes more and more of your resources to feed that addiction.  The problem, you see, is that happiness is terribly temporary; it’s not a permanent state of being.  Most of us have a mistaken idea that our happiness depends on our circumstances.  Or a relationship.  Or a job.  Or even the weather.  If you are a Christian and think this way, hold onto your hat and read these verses:

Be delighted with the Lord. Then he will give you all your heart’s desires.  (Psalm 37:4  TLB)

God blesses those who obey him; happy the man who puts his trust in the Lord.  (Proverbs 16:20  TLB)

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.  (Proverbs 14:13)

For the Christian, happiness—abiding happiness—is not found anywhere but in the Lord.  It is not found in the blessings of the Lord, although they can make you happy.  Certainly lasting happiness is not found in money, even though prosperity (and money) are blessings from the Lord.

What is your attitude toward money?  Do you think you achieved your prosperity and success by using your talent and hard work?  Did you know that you own nothing?  Let’s see how we should be thinking about money.

1.  Having the right perspective, Matthew 6:19—24

(a)  Treasures, verses 19—21

Don’t store up treasures here on earth where they can erode away or may be stolen. Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value and are safe from thieves. If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there too.

Jesus said a lot in these verses that would have hit His listeners right between the eyes.  Back in those days, “treasures” included fine robes and costly garments.  We haven’t changed much in the intervening 2,000 years.  Our treasures today may include fine clothing, but also big screen TV’s, new cars, social position, and so on.  Jesus taught that acquiring these kinds of treasures was pure folly.  Why?  Because all those things are temporary; they can be destroyed, lost, stolen, or they just wear out.

Jesus gave His listeners, and us, an important principle:  “If your profits are in heaven, your heart will be there also.”  What did our Lord mean?  He simply meant that if all you want are earthly, temporary treasures, that’s all you have.  But if we live our lives with one eye on Heaven, then we will give to the work of the Lord.  Believe it or not, your preacher is doing you a great service when he gives you a chance to give your offerings every Sunday morning, because where your money goes, there also your heart will go.  It’s a Biblical principle that can’t be avoided.

(b)  Light and darkness, verses 22, 23

If your eye is pure, there will be sunshine in your soul. But if your eye is clouded with evil thoughts and desires, you are in deep spiritual darkness. And oh, how deep that darkness can be!

Jesus taught that a good eye brings light—goodness—into the whole body but an evil eye leaves the body in darkness.  Jesus’ point is sometimes lost, yet it’s a very simple one.  Only singleness of purpose, or purity of intention, can keep the inner man in the light of God’s truth.

It’s about a proper perspective.  If your spiritual vision is out of focus and blurred, your understanding of the truth will also be out of focus.  This is why it’s so important to see the importance of service to God as a pathway to happiness.

(c)  Two masters, verse 24

You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.

Verse 24 is all about money.  God claims absolute loyalty from those who claim to be serving Him.  A true child of God cannot have a divided heart; he cannot divide his loyalty between God and the pursuit of worldly possessions.

2.  Make wise financial choices

(a)  Honoring God brings blessing, Proverbs 3:9, 10

Honor the Lord by giving him the first part of all your income, and he will fill your barns with wheat and barley and overflow your wine vats with the finest wines.

These verses come as part of a package of teaching on being faithful, which began back at verse 5:

…trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself.

When we trust the Lord, we can’t trust ourselves.  This is a long-standing Biblical idea:

The heart is the most deceitful thing there is and desperately wicked. No one can really know how bad it is!  (Jeremiah 17:9  TLB)

The rest of the admonitions build on this foundation.  To trust the Lord means to avoid evil, which is hard to do because we are all inclined toward evil; it always looks good to us.  But we can’t trust ourselves.  Also part of trusting God is giving back to God some of your wealth as a way of showing Him that you understand that He gave it to you in the first place.  Your heart may tell you, “I can’t afford to give an offering this week,” but we know that you can’t trust yourself—you can’t trust your heart because it’s deceitful.

(b)  Honorable work brings prosperity, Proverbs 13:11

Wealth from gambling quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows.

Solomon well understood that steady and wise work and investment produces prosperity.  This is a warning against gambling and speculation.  The “hard work” of The Living Bible comes from the Hebrew “hand by hand,” stressing slow and diligent work or growth of one’s investment.  In other words, wealth that comes too quickly, or with little effort often disappears in the blink of an eye.

(c)  Debt equals slavery, Proverbs 22:7

Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.

Anybody who has ever had a mortgage or a car loan understands the wisdom behind this verse!  The reason is simple:  debt (or poverty) makes you dependent upon others.  Borrowers are quite literally subservient to the lender.  Now, contextually, this verse probably has a reference to the practice of the Israelites selling themselves into slavery in order to pay off a debt.  But what’s the difference between that and paying out 30% of your paycheck to your mortgage company?  Debt of any kind puts you at a distinct disadvantage.  As A.L. Williams once said, “Nobody is free until they are financially free.”

(d)  Faithfulness brings reward, Luke 16:1—12

This is the called “the parable of the unjust steward,” and is often misunderstood because it seems like Jesus is actually commending a crook.  But Luke often used these kinds of parables as a way of contrasting something with something else.  Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, use Jesus’ parables to show a comparison.  The point of the parable of the unjust steward is not that “greed is good” or anything like that.  It’s that very often worldly people—unjust stewards—are more consistent with their beliefs and practices and work harder to achieve their ends than do Christians.  They aim low but they aim better; they work hard at making the most of their opportunities and doing the hard work that is needed to succeed and prosper.

The key word is probably found in verse 8:

The rich man had to admire the rascal for being so shrewd.  And it is true that the citizens of this world are more clever in dishonesty than the godly are.

Believers need to learn to be as clever in honoring God as a crook is in finding ways to be dishonest.

3.  Become a generous person

(a)  Help others, Proverbs 11:16, 24, 25

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself.  (vs. 24, 25  TLB)

This seems like a real paradox!  But Jesus said essentially the same thing:  if you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly.  It’s another divine principle that can never change and works for anybody.  The general principle is that if you are generous with the resources you have, you will have more resources.  This certainly applies to giving to your church and giving to the work of the Lord.

Ironside wrote this:

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses—

A man there was, though some did count him mad,  The more he cast away, the more he had.  He that bestows his goods upon the poor shall have as much again, and ten times more!

You can never lose out in helping others.  What goes around, comes around. You really do reap what you sow.  When you bless others, you will be blessed.

(b)  Give cheerfully, 2 Corinthians 9:6, 7

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much. Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.

These are powerful verses.  Notice that the Christian giver is like a farmer:  he sows.  This is a remarkable statement.  A farmer plants seeds to reap a harvest.  A Christian is supposed to give for the same reason.  Proper Christian giving will NEVER result in poverty or destitution because proper Christian giving will always result in a harvest.

The world gets richer by taking from others.  But the Christian enriches himself by giving to others and to the work of the Lord.  The key is to be generous with what you have.  It’s not only the rich that are able to be generous, “everyone,” according to Paul, is to give generously.  And God especially loves those who give “cheerfully.”  The Greek puts the emphasis on “cheerful” and “God.”  Hilaron is the Greek word translated “cheerful,” but we get our “hilarious” from it.  God loves hilarious givers!  They impress Him greatly.

(c) God will be generous with you, 2 Corinthians 9:8—11

God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  (vs. 8 TLB)

Yes, God will give you much so that you can give away much, and when we take your gifts to those who need them they will break out into thanksgiving and praise to God for your help.  (vs. 11  TLB)

God is able to give you both the motivation and the means for generous giving.  If you want to become a generous giver, if it’s truly your heart’s desire, God will give you the ability and the resources to be that kind of giver.  It’s a grace from God.  The Christian who has the grace to get along with less has more for others!  And God can and He will give that giver all that he needs, both spiritual and material blessings.

Verse 11 describes a kind of single-minded spirit of generosity from which comes selfless living so that the needs of others may be met.  This kind of giving—real money in the form of offerings collected from the church—would result in God being praised.  When Christians behave like Christians, when we give generously as we are able, and as we give with a smile on our faces, God is the One who will be praised.

It was Daniel Webster who famously observed—

The most serious thought that has ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.

How seriously have we considered our responsibility to God in terms of our giving?  We should all think about this because we will all be held accountable to God.

 

 

 

 

 


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