Your gifts can take you somewhere, but you need character to keep you there.
When a person, especially a minister, is very gifted, others often flock to that person. However, he or she must have Godly character in order to remain humble, so that the ministry won't turn sour.
If you have great gifts and you are waiting for God to promote you and wondering why He doesn't, check your character. Examine your Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Do you walk in love with others (John 13:34-35)? Do you purposefully look for ways to bless others and reach out to people (Luke 10:30-37)? Do you try to serve and put others first (Mark 9:35)? Do you keep your word and do what you say you will do (Psalm 15:1-5, especially notice v. 4)? Those are the key elements of character necessary for successful, lasting ministry.
Integrity, excellence, and faith are the only things that can keep you steady in the storms of life. If you lack those, then you lack Godly character.
If you lack character, then you may end up doing more harm than good to the name of God. Although your gifts may take you somewhere, you need character to keep you there.
Be willing to let your schedule be altered if knowing God better requires it.
How can you know God better? Read his word, pray, listen for his voice, worship him. Notice that all of these things require time. In fact, improving any relationship with other people or with God requires time.
However, far too many people find themselves too busy to spend any time getting to know God better. They've filled their calendar with pursuits of money, wealth, success, and status. However, as Solomon discovers in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, all of these pursuits are meaningless. Solomon built many houses, vineyards, gardens, and parks; he had many, many slaves and countless pieces of gold and silver, and he was the most prestigious man ever to live in Jerusalem. Indeed, he could buy anything his heart desired. However, Solomon comes to the realization that all of these things are worth nothing in the perspective of eternity: Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
Therefore, don't worry about any of these earthly things; instead, seek to know God better (see Matthew 6:25-34).
This poem is a good reminder of what's really important in life.
I had always been taught
to ask God for what I needed
and that he would give me
whatever I ask for in his name.
So, I asked God for
prosperity, power, popularity,
good grades, safety, success,
good friends, health, and wealth.
In all these things,
I asked God for more of what I wanted,
but he gave me more of what I needed:
If all these earthly things are hindering your relationship with God, alter your schedule: get rid of some things so that you can spend time knowing God better.
Let your life match your lip.
There are far too many Christians who live two different lives: one on the inside, another on the outside; one Sunday morning, another the rest of the week.
Such people are hypocrites, phonies, Christian liars; they live wrong lives. Why? Because they have a wrong heart. We must be very careful that our heart is clean and pure (see Psalm 51:10).
We are told in Matthew 12:34 why our heart is so important: For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. In other words, your heart affects your mouth.
Since our lives, and especially our words, are being examined by unbelievers, we must be careful to have a clean heart so that we will have clean words; and if we have clean words, then our lives will show good fruit. In other words, a good (spiritual) heart will bear good fruit.
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).
Therefore, be careful that your words are clean and pure and that your actions are equally clean and pure so that the world will see that your life matches your lip.
Private obedience leads to public blessings.
The Bible promises that if we obey God, then He will bless us. In Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Moses told the Israelites, "If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God." The next fifteen verses list all sorts of blessings that God will give His people.
It sounds really good to be radically blessed, but notice that there is a condition: you must "fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands."
Obedience can be difficult, but if you consistently obey God in secret, then "your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matthew 6:4).
You may freely choose between obedience and disobedience, but know that "a man reaps what he sows" (Galatians 6:7).
Obey the Lord in all things—private and public. Then you will see "all these blessings ... come upon you."
What advertising agencies do for their clients, we're called to do for Christ.
You've probably heard these slogans: "Just do it," "Drivers wanted," and "It's everywhere you want to be." And you've almost certainly heard of Nike, Volkswagen, and Visa; however, you probably have never heard of the advertising agencies that coined those slogans: Wieden & Kennedy; Arnold Communications; and Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn.
In a lot of ways, we're supposed to be like those advertising agencies. We are called to proclaim the name of Jesus to the entire world; we're not called to proclaim the name of our denomination, our ministry, our church, or our pastor.
Compare how often you talk about your church or your pastor versus how often you talk about Jesus.
When unbelievers see Christianity, I can't help but wonder how many of them simply see a bunch of denominations fighting about petty issues: Contemporary vs. traditional worship? Drums and guitar vs. organ and hymns? Powerpoint slides vs. hymn book? Jeans and tee-shirt vs. suit and tie?
Instead, wouldn't our testimony to the world be so much better if, with one voice, we proclaimed "Jesus!"? In Romans 15:9, Paul writes, Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name. Paul's singular focus was on making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.
It's not about your church, your ministry, your Bible study, your small group, or your denomination. Your single focus should be on shouting the name of Jesus to all peoples. Your life should be a walking advertisement for the hope, peace, and joy that's available to all people in Christ.
In every situation, there are always two stories—the story you see and the story God sees.
Sometimes life seems to be taking us down a huge detour and everything looks like it's not going our way. In those situations, our life and our story seems to be a disaster.
This is exactly what happened to Joseph, whose story is found in Genesis 37-50. Joseph's brothers jealously hated him and sold him into slavery. Joseph was wrongfully put in prison for raping Potifer's wife, when really he refused to compromise his integrity by sleeping with her. Then, Joseph helped get the chief cupbearer out of jail; however, when the cupbearer had an opportunity to return the favor and get Joseph out of jail, the man forgot about Joseph. Joseph ended up spending thirteen years in jail for something he didn't do.
At this point Joseph's story was going haywire, but God's story was right on track. That's because God had an amazing plan for Joseph's life; God was going to use Joseph to save Egypt and the surrounding lands for seven years of devastating famine. What looked to Joseph like a huge detour was really a great plan of God to provide food for countless people, including the very brothers that had sold Joseph into slavery.
At the end of this, Joseph realized that God had a bigger plan for his life, and after his brothers come to him for food, he tells them: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).
All along, God's story was right on track.
This same principle is also true in the life of Jesus. To the disciples, it looked as those Jesus would be a great king who would rule Israel and return the nation to greatness. They hailed him as a great leader. So, when Jesus was being crucified, the story they saw looked like a major train wreck—this great leader whom they had followed for the past three years was suddenly dead. However, God's story was at its peak—God was in the process of connecting humanity to himself.
There's what you see and what God sees.
When your life seems to be a major disaster; know that God has bigger plans to use your life for great things. The story you see may not reflect the long-term story God has planned. Therefore, trust God, knowing that he works for good in all circumstances (Romans 8:28).
Thankfulness depends on what is in your heart, not what is in your hand.
Most people have no trouble finding things to complain about: traffic is slow, gas is too expensive, the weather is bad, prices are too high. Yet in every single situation, that same person also has a lot to be thankful for: he can drive, has a car, has a shelter to be protected from the weather, and has the money to purchase necessary items.
Your circumstances may not be all that great, but wherever you are it is God's will that you give thanks in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As a Christian, that is possible because no matter what your circumstances are, you can always thank God for deliverance through Christ (see 2 Corinthians 2:14; Romans 7:24-25).
Indeed, the Israelites knew that thanksgiving was so important that part of the official duty of the tribe of Levi was to thank God: They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord (1 Chronicles 23:30). They had heart of thankfulness and were instructed to be thankful regardless of what happened that day.
The psalmist wrote: Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name (Psalm 100:4). Notice that we can't even enter God's gates unless we're thankful.
It certainly is possible to live giving thanks to God the Father for everything (Ephesians 5:20), because thankfulness depends on what is in your heart, not what is in your hand.
The type of seed you sow determines the type of harvest you'll reap.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously (2 Corinthians 9:6). This verse clearly states that whatever seed you sow determines the harvest you'll reap. In other words, you can't expect to reap good rewards if you sow bad seeds.
Proverbs 11:18 says, The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward. Likewise, he who sows wickedness reaps trouble (Proverbs 22:8).
Even when things may appear to be going poorly and it doesn't look like you'll ever reap a good harvest, this principle of sowing and reaping remains true. If you Sow for yourselves righteousness, then you will reap the fruit of unfailing love (Hosea 10:12).
You may have to wait a bit to reap that harvest; in fact, you may even need to wait a long time -- maybe many, many years -- for a harvest. As Galatians 6:7-8 says, you will reap what you sow: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
This Biblical principle of sowing and reaping is nicely summarized by Obadiah 1:15: As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.
Therefore, sow good seeds; then, after you wait upon the Lord, you will reap a far better harvest.
Every action you take is a seed you sow, and every seed you sow is a harvest you'll reap.
Have you ever had a thought like this: "Nobody would ever notice"? Or this: "It's just a little thing"? But to God, every action -- big or small -- is important, because every action you take is a seed you sow.
For example, say that you tell your boss you worked eight hours when really you only worked six. But on the other hand, it's only two hours, and "nobody will ever notice." However, you're sowing seeds of dishonesty in your life that will reap a harvest of the very same thing.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8) Don't think that you can lie to someone (i.e. sow a seed of dishonesty), but yet expect to reap a harvest of truth in your life.
Proverbs 22:8 warns that He who sows wickedness reaps trouble.
Therefore, be very careful about how you act in every area of life, because every action you take is a seed you sow, and every seed you sow is a harvest you'll reap.
Simply by being in your presence, non-Christians ought to be able to tell that you have spent time in God's presence.
In Acts 4, Peter and John were brought to the rulers and elders of the people (v. 8) to be questioned by them. But when Peter and John came to those people, who were Jews, they were astonished [by Peter and John] and they took note that these men had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). In other words, the Jews could tell that Peter and John had spent time with Jesus simply by the way they lived.
Indeed, Jesus had so changed their lives that an "aroma" of God was coming from them. Having that "aroma" requires being like Christ, and the only way that we can become Christ-like is if we abide and dwell in God's presence--and doing that requires a conscious decision. You must decide to practice His presence!
Also, by being in God's presence, we will bear good spiritual fruit. In John 15:5, Jesus promises, "If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit." In other words, by spending time with God you will develop valuable spiritual fruit. Then, the world will see your fruit and recognize that you have been with Jesus.
In addition, when you spend time in God's presence, you will experience an increase in your joy, contentment, peace, and satisfaction. Specifically, David told the Lord, in Your presence is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11, AMP). Clearly, God will pour joy into your life when you spend time in His presence. Then, you can take that joy and show it to those around you.
There are great changes that can occur when you spend time with God. In God's presence is the only place where you can become more like Christ. Then, once God has changed you, the world will be astonished and see that you have been with Jesus.
Joyful living requires giving.
Most people are selfish and self-centered, focusing only on what benefits them. Such thinking claims that the more you have, the more you accumulate, and the more attention you receive, the happier you'll be.
Yet, most of the time, such selfishness only makes a person more depressed than ever. This is because when all you focus on is yourself, you'll always want more, and you'll never be satisfied with what you have. On the other hand, if you live focused on how you can bless others and serve them, then God will give you joy.
It is no surprise, therefore, that Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35).
Likewise, in John 13:1-17 Jesus is seen washing his disciples' feet; he sets an example by humbly giving himself to his disciples. Then, in John 13:17, Jesus tells them, "Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them." In other words, you will be blessed, which in the Greek has the meaning of being happy, if you give and serve others. The Bible makes it clear that joyful living requires giving.